Sunday, November 28, 2010


I think our last entry was made right after we learned about our assignment to Belize.  I managed to think about Peace Corps obligations for about a minute and a half before I had to focus on a project I started WAY back in the summer.  By the time we got the news about the Peace Corps assignment, things were in full swing for the Zumbathon, and there was no slowin' down that train.

Earlier in the year, late July, several of the Zumba instructors in the area decided we wanted to hold a Zumbathon.  We met several times, decided on our "cause" and an approximate time for the event.  We wanted to raise money for the Kids Programs of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?). We thought November would be a good time - before the holidays monopolized everybody's time.

Several people were instrumental in putting our fundraiser together, including yours truly.  Some stuff was easy, like asking people for money.  Other facets of the work were more difficult, such as finding the right venue, getting instructors to commit, and getting the Zumba legal department to approve our event.

I put together most of the marketing stuff - brochures to use when talking with sponsors, posters and reminder handouts for instructors to give their class attendees, print and on-air publicity, and a website where people could donate online.  Here's an example of one of the posters:

We had four teams of three instructors each. We all had to nail down what music to use and rehearse, figure out what our Zumbathon would look like, and round up some reliable volunteers.  We got all that done and more.  In fact, we even had a Stage Manager.  Is that professional or what?

The event was held at the Morrisvillle Outlet Mall near RDU Airport on Sunday afternoon, November 21.  We spent several hours on Saturday afternoon setting up.  Here's a picture of the stage on Saturday afternoon.  That big round thing above the stage is the Zumba logo, and STEVE MADE IT!!  He is SO good,  just looked at a picture and figured out how to make it.
We kinda had the whole family involved.  In addition to all Steve did before the event, he was also the videographer and in charge of first aid (thank goodness we didn't need it).  My son, Jeff, was the DJ, his wife, Stephanie, was a volunteer at the registration desk, and my dad and his wife attended to be recognized as "big donors."

Everything came off without a hitch - really!  When the music for the first team started, the crowd was so excited and energized it gave me goosebumps! For two full hours, people were dancing/exercising, jumping and clapping, cheering.  It's all on video (YAY!) and we're making DVDs to give to all who were involved.

Here's a picture of us after it was all over.  Maybe looking a little bedraggled, but happy!

When all the money was counted, including our online donations, we had raised about $3300. We were definitely pleased, considering it all started as an excuse to teach Zumba to a big crowd of people.  We took it from that little seed of an idea to reality.  Cool, huh?

So now, back to the real world - Spanish lessons, holidays and shopping, preparation for departure . . . .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Passports, Spanish lessons and other stuff

We have lots of work to do to prepare for our work in Belize.  First off, we applied for new Peace Corps passports.  Same application form as anybody, BUT we don't have to pay.  They hold onto our current passports.  We did have to make new pictures.  Since we did our own snaps before, we tried it again. Not too hard - 2 X 2 inches, white or light background.  Here they are:
Of course, what you can't really see very well is Steve's day-old beard and my glitter.  I was dressed to teach my Zumba class, and it was the day before Halloween.  So of course I had to dress up.  Here's the "whole" me.

Yes, I was dressed as a California Gurl and was very generous with the glitter :--)  How 'bout those fishnet tights?

The official language in Belize is English; however, only about 3% of the population speak it as their first language.  Most speak Spanish or Creole (I've also seen it written as Kriol).  Naturally, Steve and I want to brush up (HA - rescue) our Spanish-speaking skills.

Steve is going the Rosetta Stone route.  He bought the first 3 levels for $516 (including tax).  For that amount, you get about a dozen discs and earphones and microphone.  Steve has loaded about 5 of the software discs.  Don't know whether he's supposed to print out any materials or not.  The software will evaluate and give feedback on his pronunciation.  I'll let him write about how it's working.  We just bought it two days ago, so too soon to tell.

I have lots of old materials I can use - from Durham Tech (equivalent to beginning Spanish in High School), from UNC (two semesters' worth, Spanish I and II), from Chicle, a local language school here in Carrboro (only one session), and from the UNC School of Public Health (an intermediate course which I started and dropped out).  After all those classes, I still felt very uncomfortable in a conversational setting.

Gael, a woman from the Zumba class I teach at the UNC Wellness Center, told me about an organization offering free Spanish instruction to those who qualify.  She sent me the link to the Claro Initiative,, offered by  The company is part of Bilingual, and they mainly market to businesses, a competitor of products like Rosetta Stone.  For free, they offer the lessons to health care professionals, ministers, social workers, volunteer organizations, anyone involved in a social needs position who works with the Spanish-speaking community.  I wasn't sure if I would qualify, since my work won't be in the United States, but I applied anyway.

Well, they did approve me, and so now I've started their course.  The training materials are online, and I have to print them out myself.  There are also lots of videos and audio work.  I decided to purchase a once-a-week tutoring session (via telephone) so I'd have a real person to practice with and learn from.  They recommend telephone tutoring over face-to-face (of course they would) because there won't be any visual cues.  We shall see.  I had a short conversation with Yvette this afternoon to set up my first session.

Of course, Steve and I are not being competitive.  We're starting from two different places (Steve took the Durham Tech course, too, but nothing else), and I have tried to speak the occasional conversation.  He, on the other hand, is much quicker to pick up and retain language.

But I still bet I'll "win" ;;--)

Almost done with this harkey-malarkey.  We have to update our resume in the context of what we'll be doing in Belize.  The country manager and perhaps some government officials will use the information for placement and training.  We also have to write an "Aspiration Statement." I almost gagged when I saw that. They are looking for "expectations about your Peace Corps service and assigned project, your strategies for adapting to a new culture, and how you expect your service to further your personal and professional goals."

I know BS when I hear about it.  Maybe I'll change my mind over time.  More later.