Saturday, February 2, 2008

Routine Par

For those of you who have had the privilege of following my father and I around a golf course, you will know that we like to inspect every corner of the course to ensure it is up to our high standards. Having been employed in the grounds crew maintenance field in the past, I am always eager to know if the current crew has properly groomed around large trees in the middle of the woods, edged and raked the fairway bunkers, trimmed the grass near the creek and the pond, and properly marked any out of bounds areas along the course. To do this, I frequently play my ball directly into these areas; bouncing, crashing, swatting, chasing, and cursing my way to the flag stick. On the rare occasion, all of those lawn sized divots, errant slices, botched chips and trips to the beach still result in what my father terms a 'routine par': running this way and that, never knowing quite how you got into the mess you are in, definitely not sure how to get out, but somehow ending up in the cup with a decent score ready to move onto the next hole.

Recently I returned from a week of IST (In Service Training) that all education volunteers attended. We discussed our training, first months at site, successes, failures, challenges, future plans and more. It is meant as a transition point from early stages of our time here into the meat of our service. When we are out in the village on our own, it is easy to get caught up in all of the small things (many of which are still very important) and lose sight of the large picture. It is common to lose oneself in trying to make each and every thought and moment count, going 110% everyday. By the end of a week we are exhausted and reflect on what seems, at the time, minimal gains in our work or community integration. Knowing that our time in South Africa is short, despite having just begun, there are times where we struggle with thoughts that we will not have the time to be able to accomplish all the things we would like to during our service. It is difficult sometimes to recognize all of the great experiences we have had and positive things we have done. Peace Corps recognizes this and plans for it by setting up our week of IST.

All of us education volunteers came together as a group and realized that everyone has been bouncing this way and that through their first months. Via workshops, seminars, discussions with staff we came to see our small gains as indeed rather large accomplishments. Making friends, gaining trust in the community, grasping the language and settling in are huge factors to our success in the coming years. We began to look at the past months in different ways and reevaluate our work in ways that gave us more direction for the months ahead. Many of us had hit similar roadblocks along the way in schools and the community. Each of us tackled them in different ways and employed a variety of methods to create entry points into our respective worlds here. This gave everyone the opportunity to share as well as learn from each person in the room. Collaboration was a huge part of our success for the week.

Perhaps though, the most important part of the week took place outside the conference room. Socially we needed, and took advantage of, a week of fun and games. Just having the ability to catch a drink with friends and relax felt great. The pool table, and an actual pool, were immensely popular. Impromptu plans for each evening were always amusing and everyone participated. In short, it was just fun to be together again. We reminded each other that while we may be in the village on our own, we are in this job together and are able to support one another. By the end of the week our stress was alleviated. We had new ideas heading back to work and a renewed sense of purpose, reminded of all the reasons we love being here. I came away with a more defined game plan for the remainder of this first quarter and even more ways to try and implement my strategies.

After a crashing and careening our way into a new home, new culture and new language we are holding onto the positive strides we have made and are building off of them. Big picture we are on track to do great work in the time we are here. We continue to be optimistic and excited about what lays ahead of us. Routine par.


Benjamin said...

Well put together post Paul! This sums up our experience to a TEE. /grin/ Also nice imagery, this is exactly what it feels like sometimes in the ROUGH.

dan said...

Geez, Paul. That was worth it for the writing alone.

Glad things are going well. Take care.


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