Its that time of year here at Colegio Nacional Saquisilí, exams are finished and teachers are wrapping up grades. Exam week ended about a week and a half ago and I’ve only been to school once since then. The kids take exams for every class one week, they’re graded and the kids who don’t pass come back for recuperación. They have a few extra classes to help them before they take the second round of tests and try to pass. I’m not really sure how the whole process works since I don’t really have a need to be involved. The teachers are finished July 13 and I think there’s a graduation ceremony next week so they must be getting close to finishing everything.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on my CAT Tools (Community Assessment Tools Tools, yeah you technically repeat Tools twice…not really sure either). CAT Tools are basically surveys that every Peace Corps Volunteer does in their first few months of service. As a TEFL Volunteer I have it pretty easy compared to Volunteers in other programs who literally have to go door-to-door collecting information. My CAT Tools consisted of me handing out about 75 surveys to random students during recreo and explaining to them in broken Spanish that I need the information to get a better idea of some projects I can do at the high school. This week I’m handing out surveys to all my English teachers and setting up interviews with my vice-rector and head English teacher to go more into depth about the high school and what types of things they want me to do. After I’ve collected all the information, I have to come up with a 15-minute presentation in Spanish about my dear ol’ Colegio Nacional Saquisili, what they see as their needs, and my plans to address them. At the end of August, all the volunteers from my Omnibus have a conference in Quito where we all get to hang out with each other for the first time since April and we will no doubt bore ourselves with all 35 of our 15-minute Spanish presentations about our sites and future projects. Lookin’ forward to it!

Most of my time the last few weeks has been spent working on the biggest group project of my life with the other TEFL Volunteers in our lovely Cotopaxi cluster. In late July/early August, all the English teachers with nombramiento (tenure) are required to take the TOEFL exam as an evaluation from the Ministry of Education. The TOEFL is the test all foreign exchange university students have to pass before studying at universities in the U.S. and it is HARD! Seriously, it’s like GRE level English and the GRE was written for native English speakers. Anywho, let’s just say there’s a lot of work for the teachers to do if they want to pass this exam. So, being the TEFL Volunteers in the area, we decided to hold week-long workshops for all the teachers in the Cotopaxi province…that’s 138 people we’re trying to give a TOEFL crash course to. We have 3 week-long, 20ish-hour workshops each with about 40 people in them. Our “reward” is going to La Maná, a city in the coastal region of Cotopaxi about 3 hours away, to give a serious 2-day crash course to the teachers in that area in mid-July. That’s like 10 hours a day of TOEFL! Knowing almost nothing about the TOEFL exam before last week, we’ve spent the last week making ourselves experts on all the nitty-gritty details of the 4-hour exam, researching endlessly, making PowerPoint presentations, handouts, vocab practice, organizing practice exams etc. All four of us literally sit at a table for hours and hours and pass flash drives and send countless e-mails to each other. No idea it would be this much work to organize something like this, honestly the most work I’ve done in Ecuador and probably one of the bigger projects I’ll do while I’m here. Butttt, if anyone out there has any questions about the TOEFL exam, I’m your girl.

Other than living, eating, and breathing TOEFL, I have more Peace Corps paperwork to complete. It. is. endless. The lovely Volunteer Reporting Form (VRF) is the form that Peace Corps uses to assess volunteers and make policy changes in Washington. Peace Corps Volunteers world-wide can probably tell you stories about the hours they’ve spent trying to fill this thing out. Anywho, it’s looming and I need to take a few hours at some point soon to try to quantify everything I’ve done so far as a volunteer at site. How many people have I talked to? How old were they? Male or female? How many teacher workshops have I given? Did I think they were effective? How integrated into my community do I feel?

So that’s how my summer is shaping up. I have some lovely cross-country Ecuadorian travel to look forward to in July, all the way up to Esmeraldas for July birthday celebrations and down to Cuenca and Loja to see friends. I need to start preparing for the 10+ hour bus ride from Loja back to Latacunga. : /

I hope you all are warmer than I am and enjoying a lovely American summer…I currently sleep head-to-toe in fleece every night and crave a good hamburger just about that often.

Miss y’all!

Don’t forget to send me postcards from your summer adventures 🙂

on the latest jaunt

Main Cathedral, Riobamba-Chimborazo