Saturday, February 21, 2009

Queretaro, Mexico Team Feb '09

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The first full day in Querétaro for the group of twelve volunteers. Since most of us had come from colder weather, our introduction to this beautiful city was like settling into a warm bath. A dry bath.

An 8 a.m. breakfast at our Hotel Hidalgo was followed by an orientation session, which put us on the spot as we told each other our names in Spanish. In between brain freezes and momentary lapses, we did it.

Life stories were revealed and once again Global Volunteers has attracted an accomplished group.

The philosophy of Global Volunteers was elaborated upon to the servant-learners. Conversation, not teaching, and establishing a friendly relationship were stressed.

Carl Granger, our team leader, welcomed Carolina Ezeta at noon; she had come in on her day off, to thank us. She stressed that, because of Global Volunteers, students have progressed further in their comprehension of English at UTEQ. Carolina is Director of the Language Department at UTEQ.

Tomorrow, our first day at UTEQ. The adventure begins.

Monday, Feb. 9

Our first day at UTEQ

We are warmly welcomed by English faculty in their brand new headquarters. While sharing a delicious breakfast with us, faculty members emphasize the many benefits that Global Volunteers have brought to their program.

After breakfast there is an orientation to school facilities and overview of the various majors of study. An excellent presentation of specific activities in the Comercialización (marketing) department demonstrated the professionalism of the teachers and the exciting results of student work.

We are ready to begin! Very soon we are in classrooms conversing with students in their second language. Also very soon we must prove that we really can be flexible and patient as some of us experience unexpected changes in our schedules!

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Some observations after three days:

Our scheduled work assignments call for working in one-hour increments with various classes throughout our work day. The classes have all been attentive, motivated, respectful and have been a pleasure to meet. The main variable among them has been their English fluency.

We need to remember that the fruits of these one-hour lessons are not immediately apparent.

Friday, Feb. 13

We started the day with a very early breakfast in the dark.

We had two classes at UTEQ and then a two-hour break. I still can’t get over how nice and polite the students are. At times some of us have problems hearing in the classrooms because of the acoustics, the groups talking at once and the fact that a lot of our students are very shy.

The campus is a buzz today because the first-year Merchandising students are having a fair to sell the things that they had made for Valentine’s Day. The stands set up next to the cafeteria showed a lot of creativity and hard work.

While I was writing this entry, a group of boys came up and asked if I would practice English with them. I find the students’ motivation very encouraging for their future as well as ours.

Monday, Feb. 16

The second week begins with a light-pink sky and Arturo pulling up to the curb to carry us off to school. As the GV crew walks the campus we are greeted by the students we’ve met the past week.

Our nervousness has been replaced by the joy of working with the students. It was a shorter work day than usual for us – punctuated by the flash of Carl’s camera.

Thoughts of the day:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Tuesday, Feb. 17

By sitting near the cafeteria between classes we have the chance to greet students and to feel like part of their lives.

During the 12 o’clock period, seven of us went to the Peugot Center where students made presentations on the various components of the center. We were joined by the rest of the volunteers near the end of the period.

On the evening we walked to the Villemot Creperie where we discussed the goals of the Global Volunteer Team during dinner.

Wednesday, Feb. 18

The early start, no sweat for us
We even manage to laugh on the bus
Another day, but never the same,
New faces, new challenges,
New ways to explain
The second week is better than the first
Each day it is easier for us to converse.
From, “teacher, como se dice?”
To “Where are you from?”
The minutes fly by
How can this not be fun?

Thursday, Feb. 19

After an hour of class, which most of us spent conversing outside in the morning light, teachers, students and “globals” convened for a good-bye celebration. We were treated to a gift in the form of song as the UTEQ Rondalla played and sang five traditional canciones with passion and pride. We offered a meager melodic gift ourselves, as Tom valiantly led us through the UTEQ version of “South of the Border.” As the embracing sun started on its way toward muy caliente, many were the hugs, smiles, dances and well-wishes. Many of us felt we should be giving, not receiving, the thanks for this experience.

Tomorrow, for the last times at UTEQ, we will tell of our favorite Mexican food, our grandchildren, our travels, our zodiac signs and our experiences with déjà vu. What is offered in these exchanges is very little, but what is received by all involved is so much more: the blessing of the abiding truth that borders, language and culture cannot change that we as people are all the same.

We may be looking forward to returning to our own pillows, our friends, our lives. Some part of each of us, though, remains in Querétaro, Mexico, and some part of each of those we’ve met here will travel with us.

Querétaro es mejor.
Viva la México.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2008 in review

A year ago, I lead my first team of Global Volunteers. During this year, I have had the privilege of working with 7 teams of truly committed and generous volunteers. I have come to realize to what extent the quality of the volunteers is what makes these programs work, and without a doubt, the contribution has been outstanding:

In 2008, we have provided a total of 2,265 hours of English conversation to some 4,500 students at the the Universidad Tecnológica del Norte de Guanajuato, the Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro and the Universidad Tecnológica de León.

But, the numbers only tell part of the story. Each one of these students has been given an opportunity to speak and feel a sense of friendship with their neighbors from the north.

From a development standpoint, there are now an additional 4,500 educated young people entering the workforce who are better prepared to support local industry, whose lingua franca is English. They will undoubtedly contribute to their local community's development - and Mexico's development - and do so with a positive view of their main economic partners.

I am truly thankful for the opportunity of being part of this valiant effort and for the opportunity to work with an amazing team at Global Volunteers and equally amazing teams of volunteers.

Carl Granger
Mexico Country Manager