The First Interview
Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
18Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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The Waiting Game
After I submitted my application, by email, on February 16, I was very excited about the prospect of volunteering in Honduras. I was almost beside myself, whatever that means. I was outside myself? Maybe I had never been so deeply within myself. It seemed very much like the right thing for me to do.
I expected to hear from BECA very quickly. In fact, my perception at the time was that they might need someone right away. Jasmine had reported to her father that one of 2005-2006's volunteers had left the program and that they needed help, soon. This only added fuel to my dreams and I had hoped for a quick response from the organization: Are you interested? Because I was ready! I had visions of being available to leave the U.S. in 30-some days, if needed!
Reality slowly slid into place. It had been two and a half weeks since I had sent in my application, and I had not heard anything from anyone. So, on Saturday, March 4 I found a U.S. phone number, on the BECA Web site, a New York City number, and called and left a message to whoever might end up listening. I also found a general e-mail address, email@example.com, and sent a message, on March 5, reiterating my interest in a volunteer position. I addressed the message to Mabel Fiqueroa, the school's director, in Honduras, and hoped it would reach her. In my email I mentioned that I would attempt, again, to call the New York number the next day. The call to adventure, to teaching children, to learning a new language was strong. It was persistent.
My First BECA Contact
On March 7 I received a short email from a Jaime T. Koppel:
Dear Mr. Barber,
I am calling to determine if you have some time available this weekend to discuss your interest in volunteering with BECA. If you are available at some point, I would very much like to schedule a 30 minute phone conversation. We greatly appreciate your interest in our efforts, and I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.
Oh my God! Now I was beside myself, on both sides of me. Now there were three! Aye, yai, yai... (anybody know how to spell, "yai?")
I immediately wrote back to Mr. Koppel, explaining that I would be available both Saturday and Sunday. He wrote back, stating his plan to call me Saturday, March 11, at around 10:00 a.m., and that I should set aside about 30 minutes for the interview.
Saturday morning, laundry running, dishes done from the previous night (okay, previous week - who am I kidding), hot mug of creamy chai in hand, heart beating a little faster than usual: I was there, ready and waiting. About 10:05 my phone rang.
Oops, I Did it Again
Instantly, from her voice, I realized Jaime was a Ms. or Mrs. Koppel. I've never even been to detective school, but just like that, sharp as a three-week-old razor... I knew. She graciously accepted my apology, and conceded that this was not the first time her name had caused such a mistake.
We talked about the school, its purpose, mission, its current status, history, and future. We discussed the role of the volunteers, the demands of preparing for and teaching Spanish-speaking children in English, the size of the classes, and the classroom structures. We talked about my travel experiences in Mexico, Nicaragua, and South America. I shared my pleasure in learning Spanish, and absorbing a new culture, and attempting to comprehend a different perspective on life, someone else's perspective so different from my own.
I asked Jaime about the climate in Cofradia. She explained that it was generally very hot and humid. She told me that it had a nickname amongst almost anyone who had been there: "The sweat box."
It was an enjoyable conversation, a constructive first interview, and we talked until 11:00. Near the end of our exchange, Jaime told me she would send me a project, via email, a lesson plan for me to complete. She told me receiving a second interview would be contingent on their approval of my submission.
I was excited and nervous. Mostly excited... but still nervous...