Spanish Journal and Charla Feedback

Yesterday I started my Spanish journal. I’ve been writing at least every other day on my computer in English since I arrived here about my day-to-day here in Guatemala, but yesterday in Spanish class we received a homework assignment to write a short diary entry to practice using preterit and imperfect. It was easy and really helpful so I’m going to do this every day. There’s also something really different and much more real about writing with pen and paper. Computer is easier, because I like sharing these thoughts and it’s easier to edit and add things in the perfect place, and especially because it’s more neat and organized. I like organized thoughts. But for some reason it puts a huge grin on my face when I think that in 20 years I’ll be able to crack open this really tacky pastel colored striped hard-cover notebook and read, in Spanish, in my own handwriting, words that came from the ink of my own pen that I wrote when I lived for two years in Guatemala.

I know it will be worth it because I thoroughly enjoy even now going back and reading things I’ve written two years ago. I can often remember exactly where I was sitting, what book I was reading at the time, where I was living, even the state of mind I was in. Reading my own words and feelings is probably equivalent to me, and if not equivalent than nearly, as looking at photos. Yes photos are descriptive, but I could fill one page of a notebook with more descriptive feelings and memories than I could with just one photograph. And of course it’s not just the photograph that is the memory, it is all the feelings that the photograph elicits. Likewise with the journal; it’s not in the actual words that I write, it’s about reading them and picturing myself back in my little room in the corner of the bottom floor of my house, laying on my stomach on my bed while snacking on an avocado and a piece of bread I bought at a neighborhood store and writing my first entry in a journal I just purchased from a family friend. It’s about the stories, the memories, the sentiments connecting the schema in my brain to that moment and transporting my neurons back to a specific place and time. I like taking photos because the more descriptive they are the more accurately I will be able to remember that wonderful moment. I enjoy writing for the same reason. The more precise my words are the better I will be able to remember in the future this experience of now.

In a complete change of subject, I had another evaluation today. This one was with our technical trainer David. He gave us feedback on our charlas that we gave the week before and also on our overall performance and behavior in training so far. He said that my Spanish was good. I’m not totally in agreement over that, mostly because I started out at such a low level due to lack of practice and then improved rapidly the subsequent two weeks…followed by a period of slower learning which I am stuck in right now. He said that overall I seem to be a hard worker, punctual, and very organized. I think here in the Peace Corps is the first time I’ve been labeled as organized so many times in such a short time period. That’s okay with me. Now I feel a little pressure to keep up the name and I surely hope I can.

His criticism of my charla was, I think, a little superficial. He said that I had an organized outline and that I stuck to it too rigidly. That I needed to be more fluid, more interactive, more aware of how to respond to situations or answers that surprised me. What I tried to tell him was this is exactly what I pride myself in doing when I teach or help teach a class. I thrive on audience participation, and question-and-answer sessions with the class or audience. I think it’s incredibly boring to listen to one person stand and talk for thirty minutes and I would never choose to do that willingly. My whole background in teaching is about hands-on, activity-based, participatory learning. I have a feeling David has not read my resume or aspiration statement. I tried to explain to him that I have no problem doing this kind of thing in English, and I’m just waiting for the day that I am comfortable in my level of Spanish to do this here too. I liked the experience of standing in front of 22 of my peers and co-workers and superiors, all a great US/Guatemalean hodgepodge. I didn’t feel nervous at all. I look forward to preparing more charlas in the future, especially on topics more of my choosing. I feel like David didn’t hear a word I said. I tried to make sure I didn’t come off as sounding defensive, as is very easy to do when one is receiving criticism, because I wanted him to know I understood what he was telling me and that I would work on it. At the same time, I knew everything he was telling me was already true. I wanted real feedback. I wanted him to tell me something that I didn’t already know, something that would help me prepare better for the future. He didn’t get it. But I suppose it’s a good sign that the suggestions he has for me are the same things that I already know I have to improve upon. It means, as of now, I’m a pretty accurate self-evaluator and that will definitely come in handy later when I won’t have three of my superiors evaluating my charlas.

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