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.

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