Counterparts Conference and Swearing In
Peace Corps loves to have conferences, so we attended our last one before actually taking our oath and becoming official United States Peace Corps Volunteers Sept. 11-15. This conference was for us to wrap up the very end of our training (since we arrived in L.A. 10 long weeks ago) and to meet our “counterparts” – the Filipino teacher, for education volunteers, we would be working with for the next two years. Many of us were really really ready for training to be over. The actual language classes had been great, I could have easily continued those. The technical part, working in our training school, had been completed and we had said a tearful goodbye to the teachers and our host families. There is a very interesting video online showing us trainees playing musical chairs at our goodbye party and two trainees broke a chair fighting for a spot, one of them is me J. I saw my very first lechon at the party, a whole pig roasted on the table. Anytime a group of people are put together for 24/7 under a bit of stress, cliques and poor personality clashes are bound to occur. I was tired of the petty and flirty games that certain trainees were playing, many people were extremely immature despite being over 30, sometimes I felt like I was chaperoning a youth group trip – I will give all the benefit of the doubt and believe that stress sometimes does not bring out the best in people. Never the less, I am proud of my behavior and can say that I did my best under the circumstances. There is a litany of items written about the PC training experience and I won’t bore you with more details. I made some life long friends who have sustained me during the lonely and culturally crazy times.
The counterparts conference was very rewarding, I have to say that PC staff read our evaluations of the previous conference we attended and made some welcomed and beneficial changes to this one. My counterpart is a very dedicated male teacher who loves young children, works very hard and is respected by the community. We got to know each other over the few days and had to practice teaching together.
|Eric and I demo teaching|
I also got to know other counterparts in Batangas Province and they were all so welcoming and nice. My supervisor, the principal of our school, was so considerate that she hired a private van to come and pick us up and take us back to Batangas, she did not want me taking public transportation the first time with all of my luggage.
The day for Swearing In arrived and my friend Ali and I decided to be brave and take public transportation for the first time in Manila and go to the Peace Corps office that morning. There is a wonderful resource center there and we wanted to see it before leaving for our post. It was a little scary venturing out by ourselves, we managed two buses and a few jeeps, a very long walk and finally found it. Everyone at the office kept saying, why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be swearing in today? We selected some resource books that Peace Corps kindly will send to us to use and then found a quicker bus back to our Swearing In location in plenty of time. The hotel ballroom was nicely decorated and each of four training groups provided entertainment. Our group from Dinalupihan, Bataan sang a medley of Filipino folk songs.
The Honorable Leslie Bassett, U.S. Deputy Chief of Missions, administered our oath, the same oath taken by ambassadors and I think even congressmen/senators, to uphold the constitution etc……
|My life long dream has finally arrived, I am a Peace Corps Volunteer!|
We got our official Peace Corps Philippines pin, a much coveted item. They shot off cannons of confetti, it was very exciting, a nice reception to follow.
|My great teacher and friend!|
The best was that many of our host families from Dinalupihan hired a private van and drove almost 4 hours one way to come and see us!! Wow, I felt so loved and appreciated; it was so great because none of us had our real US families in attendance.
|Wonderful Filipino family|
So we are official United States Peace Corps Volunteers, a very special group of people, a kindred family of thousands since 1961, whom you bond with and you never leave. Even after service, you are forever a Peace Corps Volunteer, although you are called a RPCV, returned PCV and can communicate and join with other groups around the U.S.
So let the real adventure begin, no more hand holding by the Peace Corps staff, we are set off on our own now (still with many safety and security measures in place) to our permanent posts for the next two years.
P.S. If a 55 year old single mom of three wonderful grown sons can achieve her dreams, then you can too! Dare to dream big and watch what God can do!