At the end of the last school year, I remember thinking that I was yearning to do something more as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was happy to have made it through the year as a teacher, but I felt like all of my secondary projects were either small or I was just helping out on someone else's project. If I had finished my service then, I wouldn't have felt like a failure exactly, but I definitely would have left unsatisfied.
|Inside, Ioan Agripina|
I tried to think of a passion of mine that I might have in common with some students, and so I started a photography club. Now, I can look back on the first semester and easily say that this project has made me feel like a successful and happy volunteer. (Thanks to Evie and RPCV Sara for their cameras - we use them every week!)
Here are some things I have learned while doing this project:
- There is a reason that Peace Corps service lasts for two years. The first year I was getting comfortable with the language, culture, my job, my students, and my town. By the time I decided to start the club, everything was in place and it was easy to get it off the ground.
- I prefer "teaching" English in an informal setting, outside of the classroom. The students are engaged in what we're doing and we end up communicating without forcing anything.
- My students are incredibly creative and talented photographers! I think I am learning more from them than they are from me.
Every week we go on a photo walk looking for interesting images, and last week was my favorite one. It had snowed a little in the morning, so I was hoping that we would get our first shoot with snow on the ground, but unfortunately it melted. On our walk, we were milling about the town center and I was desperately looking for something to liven things up. I wondered aloud to one of the kids if they thought we could get into one of the rooms on the top floor of the hotel, just to see the world from a different perspective.
None of the kids really thought it would work, and frankly I didn't either. But I also figured that it couldn't hurt to ask. The worst that could happen is that the receptionist would look at us like we were crazy and then say no. Instead, she looked at us like we were crazy and called security.
Thankfully she wasn't calling security to kick us out. She was calling to see if they would help us. The guard actually took us up onto the roof and hung out with us while we were up there. And instead of missing out on the first snow of the year, we got to see it on the peaks of the surrounding hills.
|Gabor Sabastian Alexandru|
As we were finishing, one of my students turned to me and asked, "How did you know he would let us up there!?" I said, "I didn't know. I just thought it was worth asking, and what did we have to lose anyway? Not asking would have the same as if they had told us no." For me, it was a great moment where I got to teach the benefits of confidence and having the courage to try for something unexpected. The security guard told me that we were the first people that had ever asked to go up to the roof.
|GuitarRobo', Panainte Maria|
I hope you enjoy a few of the photographs that I have sprinkled throughout this post. To see more of their incredible work go to our Facebook page. Here's one from the hotel rooftop!