Gloomy and post-precipital on the deck today. DC has been unseasonably cool, and I’m far from hating it, even though it makes chilling on the deck chillier than it ought to be.
It’s getting down to it, folks. In twenty-two days, I’ll be flying out of DC and into the sun, stumbling around Mexico City International, hopping a bus with “carry-on snacks provided by Peace Corps Mexico staff,” and heading to Querétaro. Emails about PST, Pre-Service Training, have been flying thicker and faster, and the number of acronyms has skyrocketed. COTE, for example, is the Calendar of Training Events, although I like to think I’ll call it the ‘calendar.’ Ditto my TAP, or Training Advisory Packet. Maybe I’m being too hasty.
I know I’ve described this whole ramp-up to many of you like camp. I idolised my saxophone teacher in high school, and when he said I ought to go to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (the very same band camp they spoofed in American Pie), I informed my parents that I’d be going. When the week before arrived, I was nervous and desperate to finagle a way out of the commitment (both times). But after the awful site-read madness of auditions, I always had a great time. While my anxiety is piling up along with the emails, I know things will settle out once I get there.
What’s helpful is that all of the orientation materials read like they did before I shipped to Spain, and the process feels familiar. Today I had my moment, the one where I realize it’s going to happen and soon. I was smoking and speaking Spanish to myself, because that’s what I do when I’m alone and about to go to Mexico, and I got done and was chuckling to myself, and I said: ‘Well bud, looks like we’re going to Mexico.’ It would be hard to overstate how important that dumb admission was. I’m pumped, I’m excited, I want to know what my Adult Experiential Education Spanish Interview Proficiency Level is, and more than that, I want to start using it. We’re going to Mexico.
Spain is the biggest part of why I’m feeling more comfortable now. So many things are parallel, though it looks like the trip from DC to Querétaro is going to be less onerous than the journey from Cleveland to Salamanca. The pre-orientation, the placement with a host family, the return to comida at two and the siesta hours in the middle of the day, all of that puts me back. Plus the all-in-Spanish bit of it. I know that the first couple of weeks of classes in the Facultad de Historia e Geografía were rough, and the Peace Corps training, at least outside of language classes, should be easier to digest. The minimum Spanish proficiency to graduate training is ‘intermediate-low,’ and while I bet many of my fellow trainees will have better Spanish than me, if the general training courses are supposed to be potable to minimal level speakers, they’ll be a help in getting my Spanish back up to snuff.
That the language classes are supposed to be ultra-tailored, both in terms of proficiency level and towards colloquial use has me excited. By my second month in Salamanca, I could speak about the philosophy of French history and the nature of Spanish fascism and the parties around at the start of the Civil War, but trying to have a conversation with my dad about tennis was a chore. Racket, volley, play, serve, all beyond me, and the same difficulties cropped in any nonacademic discussion. I can’t even say typewriter, and God knows I’m going to have to explain about that more than once.
The last thing for today is that the PST materials made it clear that I should not bring any significant quantity of currency with me, and that as much as I can, I should abjure any reliance on funds in my US bank account in favor of subsisting solely on the subsidy/allowance that the Corps will be providing me. Which means that, since I’ve been socking away all summer and don’t want to risk a mattress bank against the next two years of currency fluctuation, I might be going on a bit of a spree here soon. I’ve got to pick up some clothes and other bits and bobs, but otherwise I’m free to dispense with the waiter cash I’ve been hoarding. Get excited folks.