I’m from Momos Central

Elder SnowOkay…despite the fact that they told us not to take pictures of Elder Cook, many other missionaries did anyway. I did not, I didn’t think it was appropriate, so that is why I have no photos of him. I’ll get some other ones next week just so you believe that we saw him.. =) BUT!!!

He came to Xela first to speak with the whole mission first. While there we took a group photo.

Here we are... all of us who arrived in Guatemala together! All of us have been leaders in the mission, and most of us are zone leaders... it was pretty amazing to be all together again.

Here we are… all of us who arrived in Guatemala together! All of us have been leaders in the mission, and most of us are zone leaders… it was pretty amazing to be all together again.

I’ll send you a letter specifying what Elder Cook talked about, but he did leave some amazing blessings upon us.

Here is the chapel on Sunday when he came to Momos. FULL! Over 1,000 people came from all over the place. It was awesome.

Here is the chapel on Sunday when he came to Momos. FULL! Over 1,000 people came from all over the place. It was awesome.

Elder Cook mentioned the story of Jesus walking amongst the heavy multitude of people, and noticing that virtue had left him because of the sick woman who touched his cloak. She was healed after 12 years of sickness. The most amazing part was seeing Elder Cook come down from the pulpit after the closing prayer, and hearing the music in the background, and the flock of people who came from the whole congregation to at least touch him before he left. People had so much faith in him, and loved him so much, that they did everything possible to at least touch him. Amazing.

During this whole shindig, my tall long gringo body caught his attention and he asked where I was from. I told him Momos central completely forgetting that I was not a missionary 2 years ago, then he asked, where are you really from? I said Vegas. He then told me, you are doing a great job Elder. Keep it up. Amazing… he took that time, despite 1,000 people trying to shake his hand and get his attention, to talk to me and say that I was doing great.

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Preparing for Elder Cook

Elder SnowBig news… Elder Quentin L Cook is coming to Momostenango this Sunday. No where else. Just Momostenango! We have been working so hard to prepare for his arrival. We expect an attendance of 1,000 people! Pretty cool, huh!

This area is one of the hardest city areas in the mission, so we are putting all of our faith in Elder Cook, hoping that he has some special promises for this part of Guatemala. Amazing things have happened every time an apostle of the Lord has come to visit this country. We hope that he can help the work here grow.

That is about it. You are loved. Have a good week. Can’t wait to tell you how everything goes!

-Elder Snow

We are now teaching some nieces of a member who lives in a really interesting part of our area. I took a picture of this crazy waterfall right next to her house.

We are now teaching some nieces of a member who lives in a really interesting part of our area. I took a picture of this crazy waterfall right next to her house.

We went to a place called San Cristobal today for our preparation day. This is us on the bus ride down. Teeeee heeeee.

We went to a place called San Cristobal today for our preparation day. This is us on the bus ride down. Teeeee heeeee.

We played futbol (pretty lame) but we ate chicken burgers afterwards. It was just okay.

We played futbol (pretty lame) but we ate chicken burgers afterwards. It was just okay.

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10 (Unorthodox) Travel Tips From My First Vacation Abroad

WildKat Formation

After my first nine months of Peace Corps service, I was ready to venture out of Albania for the first time, especially after hearing accounts from other Volunteers about how depressing Christmas (or lack thereof) can be in our Islam-dominated host country. The trouble was, I had never taken an international trip before and had no idea how to plan one. Luckily, my friend Danielle approached me about a 10-day central European voyage that would span the holiday season, so a couple other group 16 Volunteers and I jumped on board.

We hit Budapest in Hungary, then Vienna in Austria, then Prague in the Czech Republic. It was an incredible experience for many reasons. First, all the places we went were beautiful and there was something unique about each of them that amazed and entertained us. (Budapest’s was the friendly people, Prague’s was the stunning architecture, and Vienna’s was being…

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10 (Unorthodox) Travel Tips From My First Vacation Abroad

10 (Unorthodox) Travel Tips From My First Vacation Abroad.

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New Year’s birthday

Here is my birthday cake that was given to me =) it was fun! And Elder Albert actually called me on my birthday which was a nice surprise--it is his birthday too. I love that kid...

Here is my birthday cake that was given to me =) it was fun! And Elder Albert actually called me on my birthday which was a nice surprise–it is his birthday on the same day too. I love that kid…

We ate at some members house as well, and they surprised me with another cake that eventually got smashed in my face. And just because this little guy wanted attention, he smashed his own face in the cake as well. We got a picture together.

We ate at some members house as well, and they surprised me with another cake that eventually got smashed in my face. And just because this little guy wanted attention, he smashed his own face in the cake as well. We got a picture together.

For new years we all went upon our roof, made a campfire, Elder Toleafoa had his guitar, and we sang and jammed until the fireworks went off. (it was actually really impressive. Better than Vegas!)

For new years we all went upon our roof, made a campfire, Elder Toleafoa had his guitar, and we sang and jammed until the fireworks went off. (it was actually really impressive. Better than Vegas!)

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This is the zone at the new years dinner. We had a nice night together.

This is the zone at the new years dinner. We had a nice night together.

This is a foto of all the zone leaders in the mission. You might recognize some old buddies from a while ago. IDK why we are all looking to the side... but oh well!

This is a foto of all the zone leaders in the mission. You might recognize some old buddies from a while ago. IDK why we are all looking to the side… but oh well!

Check this out! The sisters in Patzitè found a family and taught them and prepared them for baptism, and me JUST doing the baptismal interview for them made three of them want me to baptize them! It was an honor! A beautiful family.

Check this out! The sisters in Patzitè found a family and taught them and prepared them for baptism, and me JUST doing the baptismal interview for them made three of them want me to baptize them! It was an honor! A beautiful family.

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Christmas report

Elder SnowSo this week, we found out that a reference that we gave to some other missionaries in Momos got baptized! We just contacted him in the street randomly one day and he got baptized 3 weeks later! That has never happened to me! It was quite an amazing experience. It was good to see that we really are instruments in the hands of the Lord. Even if it all started with a single contact in the street. I’ve gotta start contacting more.

This is a picture of McGrath and I at a member's house that gave us Christmas dinner. (we were invited to 3 dinners that day btw) They had turkey and everything. It was delicious.

Our Christmas tree with all of the gifts that we got this Christmas. It was pretty darn awesome.
Our Christmas tree with all of the gifts that we got this Christmas. It was pretty darn awesome.
9 lbs of jello that we made for a ward family night that McGrath and I are putting on. It went really well. We did not eat the jello, we poured it over the bishopric if somebody answered a deep doctrine question wrong. It was a lot of fun.

9 lbs of jello that we made for a ward family night that McGrath and I are putting on. It went really well. We did not eat the jello, we poured it over the bishopric if somebody answered a deep doctrine question wrong. It was a lot of fun.

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Merry Christmas once again!

So Elder McGrath and I are both going to BYU post-mission by the way. We took a cute picture together with our BYU sweatshirts. DAAA

So Elder McGrath and I are both going to BYU post-mission by the way. We took a cute picture together with our BYU sweatshirts. DAAA

We had our Christmas celebration today as a zone, so we all took a zone picture together with Santa hats. It was fun!

We had our Christmas celebration today as a zone, so we all took a zone picture together with Santa hats. It was fun!

The Hermanas prepared an awesome turkey dinner, we had a Secret Santa gift exchange, and we made gingerbread houses. Everyone was very content, and had a great time which is a relief because we as ZLs are responsible for the zone having a fun Christmas.

The Hermanas prepared an awesome turkey dinner, we had a Secret Santa gift exchange, and we made gingerbread houses. Everyone was very content, and had a great time which is a relief because we as ZLs are responsible for the zone having a fun Christmas.

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Good times

Elder SnowI’m having a lot of fun this transfer… its mostly because of Elder McGrath… he is great. He has been a real support.

[The following is a report we received from Elder McGrath–Aaron didn’t tell us much this week]:

“Elder Snow and I just found out that we’re going to be together for another change, so I guess it’ll be a “gringo” (as they say to North Americans here) Christmas! We’re really excited. We already bought a big lighted tree and have made the necessary changes to adjust to the holiday season. All Christmas music. We’ve been working on many ideas we have for the ward and work here that we are just starting to put into practice. It was really special the other day because Elder Snow got to witness one of his converts from one of his previous areas (I’m sure he’s told you that we share chapels with Patzite) give his very first priesthood blessing to his wife, whom he also baptized. It was awesome because first he got to teach him how to do it and then he got to witness it. I’m sure that they are going to get sealed next year! What an incredible mission experience and I’m glad I was able to share it with him! I was also able to accompany him on his first temple trip. Due to unfortunate transfers at just the wrong time, he hadn’t been able to go yet! It was only my second time so we both were really happy. The trip to Subway topped it all off! I hope you and the family that’s left there in Henderson enjoy this season of preparing for the holidays! I’m sure my family feels as you do with two kids away from home seeing as my brother left on his mission to Montana about 3 weeks ago. Don’t worry we’re going to come home and fill our respective spaces in just a small matter of time!”

[Thank you Elder McGrath–we love you and we haven’t even met you!–I think Aaron is feeling a bit overwhelmed these days–we’re grateful you took the time to help give us a good report!]

We went to the temple this week! It was amazing! What a beautiful temple... easily one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The inside is much better than the outside.

We went to the temple this week! It was amazing! What a beautiful temple… easily one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The inside is even better than the outside.

We had a surprise baptism. A little boy's dad gave him permission to get baptized, and so his member mom called us up to teach him and baptize real quick. It went well... Check out the huge family show up... all of these guys are in just one family last name. So that is pretty cool.

We had a surprise baptism. A little boy’s dad gave him permission to get baptized, and so his member mom called us up to teach him and baptize real quick. It went well… Check out the huge family show up… all of these guys are in just one family last name. So that is pretty cool.

Here we are in piñata form... we made these for a ward activity... it went really well...

Here we are in piñata form… we made these for a ward activity… it went really well…

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What Is It That I Do All Day?

They always tell us that Peace Corps is a 24/7 job, that we are always on duty as Volunteers and Americans. I’ve blogged and posted a lot about cultural differences, learning the language, Albanian friends I’ve made, traveling, and how hot and cold it can get here. But I actually do have a job that I do every day…or, rather, several jobs. Work is technically 1/3 of the reason that I am here representing my country.

So, what do I actually do as an English Education PCV?

  • My school, Gjimnazi Aleksandër Moisiu

    My school, Gjimnazi Aleksandër Moisiu

    Teaching English at the public high school: This is my “primary assignment,” or the main purpose that Peace Corps hired me. Each TEFL Volunteer is assigned a school and a counterpart–or an Albanian teacher that they shadow, teach together with, or in the stead of (depending on what your relationship with your counterpart is like). I get along great with my counterpart but she isn’t the most reliable person in the world. Sometimes, there have been days where she hasn’t shown up for one reason or another and I have to teach by myself, which is usually a disaster because I’m a young American girl and the students aren’t afraid of me like they are of her. Other times, we’ll be in the middle of the lesson and she’ll randomly walk out to take a phone call. I’m lucky if she comes back. Albanian students aren’t like American students; they have been conditioned to only respond to physical discipline (corporal punishment). Basically, they think they can get away with anything up until the teacher pinches or slaps or punches them. Different Albanian PCVs have different approaches to this problem, but I personally choose not to touch my students because I feel that it is wrong. This only adds to the lack of respect they have for me. (They like me as a person, but they know that I am pretty much powerless to punish them because I don’t have the connections that the other teachers do.) Things I have seen my students–mostly boys–do in class: choke each other, throw other students’ things out the windows, throw chairs, break chairs, stick gum on every object in sight, carve genitalia and swear words on desktops, and set various objects on fire. So, yes, my kids are a handful, but they are all really nice to me outside of the classroom! There is a big group of boys that congregates at the front gate and yells, “HELLO KATE!” as I walk in to school each morning, and I get nice Facebook messages from my students all the time. They drive me crazy but it is worth it, especially after a good lesson.

  • My MUN team. Aren't they cute?

    My MUN team. Aren’t they cute?

    Model UN: I selected nine of the best English students to compete in the national Model UN competition, and our school got accepted this year! It’s been really rewarding but a lot of hard work for me and the students, and just like in class, they tend to drive me crazy with their dramatic excuses for not doing research and their unfortunate Albanian tendency not to talk over one another, but to SCREAM over one another until I’m banging on the desk just like I do when I teach and yelling “QETËSI JU LUTEM!” We have our first mini-conference this weekend and it may or may not be a disaster, we’ll see.

  • English lessons at the Cultural Center: My sitemate Jill and I teach English at the local culture center. The first day, we showed up and found about 25 students–many from the impoverished Roma communities in and around Kavajë–that couldn’t speak a single word of English. We were stunned. It’s been two months of hard work and confusion and frustration, but we finally have two organized classes (Jill teaches the beginners, I teach the intermediate students) with rosters and lesson plans and things are going well. My kids are about 10-11 years old on average, and they are adorable. I teach about 50% English and 50% in Shqip because their comprehension is limited, but it’s actually really good for me because children a) don’t make fun of you or judge you when you try to speak, and b) they aren’t afraid to correct you when you make a mistake. So it’s good for both parties involved.
  • Small Projects Assistance Grant/Teaching at the primary school: My boss’s cousin-in-law, Orkida, teaches at the local nëntëvjeçarë–or primary/elementary school. I went to visit her and spoke with the director about getting some funding for educational materials. So, I’ll be writing my first grant ever! Every time I go to school, the teachers beg me to teach there, and I’m actually thinking about it since my schedule at the high school has calmed down. Even better, I’ve become friends with Orkida and her family and I consider them to be my second family in Kavajë.

I’m also now on THREE Peace Corps committees, because I am insane.

  • Volunteer Advisory Committee: At the end of training, each sector (English Education, Health, and Community Development) elects one person to be its representative on the VAC, which acts as a liaison between the Country Director and the Volunteers. My TEFLers chose me, so every few months the six of us (three from Group 15, three from my group) meet with the Country Director and discuss Peace Corps issues and develop action items to resolve them. I’ve just volunteered to the be the President the next fiscal year, as the new group of PCVs comes in, and I’m really excited about it!
  • Monitoring, Reporting, & Evaluation: This committee is devoted to developing tools (mostly Excel spreadsheets) to track Peace Corps programs’ official goals and provide a way for Volunteers to monitor their progress in their service. A TEFLer from Group 15 and I brainstorm ways to do this for each of the goals and then create the tools, pass them back and forth between our supervisors, then develop a final model and present them to Peace Corps. I like it because I’m a huge nerd.
  • Language & Cross-Cultural Committee: I got recruited to this one by our L&CC coordinator, because for some reason people still think I am good at speaking Albanian. Language is really important for PCVs, and progressing can be difficult if you can’t find a good tutor at site, feel pressure/temptation to speak only in English at your host agency, or are struggling to find motivation to keep studying. My goal is to help Peace Corps incorporate the belief that everyone’s learning styles are different, and we should create ways to help everyone and their individual needs.

So, that’s what I do most of the time. I do get to have fun on the weekends and during breaks, but my assignment and my secondary projects and my PC responsibilities keep me pretty busy! Now I’m looking forward to winter vacation, when I’ll embark on my first real international trip as an adult and spend Christmas and New Year’s in central Europe.

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Elder 3000

Elder SnowSo this week we had a multi-zone conference… I was chosen to speak about listening to investigators… I talked about how I can tuck my ears in, and that it has been a Snow family fable that I can hear better than the others because of it. It was pretty funny. And I tucked my ears in front of everybody… It got their attention, and I got some warm fuzzy compliments for the talk afterwards.

And, I passed mile 3,000 this week on my pedometer. You can call me Elder 3,000 if you like. 🙂

Here I am with our Assistant to the President, Elder Little. He is a good pal.

Here I am with our Assistant to the President, Elder Little. He is a good pal.

Here is some Engrish... See if you can find where it is.

Here is some Engrish… See if you can find where it is.

Hey I got your other package today!!

Hey I got your other package today!!

I LOVE the Boots... here is a comparison picture... look at how destroyed it is... the new boots and the old ones... pretty cool huh

I LOVE the Boots… here is a comparison picture… look at how destroyed it is… the new boots and the old ones… pretty cool huh

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