Wrapping Up PST

The last few weeks of PST went by very quickly. Language classes became more difficult as the LCFs started blowing through entire sections of the book in a single lesson, whereas before we would spend at least a couple days on each section. As a result, it was difficult to keep up and I felt like I wasn’t really learning anything in a way that would allow me to remember it in the long-term.

It also really started to sink in that I would be leaving my host family soon, which was made even harden by the fact that most of them had left on a 2 ½ week trip to visit a sick relative, leaving me with just the 2 sisters and an uncle who had come to stay with us. They didn’t come back until two days before I left for Final Center Days.

The Saturday before our last week in Dereven, we had Host Family Appreciation Day. We had a picnic by the river with our host families and LCFs.

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Each host family brought a Mongolian dish to share, and we PCTs planned to share some American food culture with our families by having a hotdog roast and s’mores. Except we couldn’t exactly find all the needed ingredients in any of the stores in Darkhan: hotdog buns, graham crackers, and regular old marshmallows do not exist here. So we improvised with cut-in-half hamburger buns, Mongolian crackers that were as close to graham crackers as we were going to get, and Haribo Chamallows.

Eh, close enough

Eh, close enough

Our attempt at Mongolian s’mores actually turned out better than expected, and our host families seemed to like them.

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The hot dog roast didn’t go as well since “hot dogs” here are not exactly Oscar Meyer franks and don’t do so well when removed from their casing and put on a stick over a fire.

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Oh well. We also bought a cake, and everyone loves cake!

Even if it's a birthday cake at a non-birthday event

Even if it’s a birthday cake at a non-birthday event

On our last Tuesday in Dereven, we had our final LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) and TAP (Trainee Assessment Packet). I was nervous for the LPI, because even though I had done well on my practice LPI back in July, I knew I hadn’t been grasping the more recent material as quickly. I tried to balance studying with not stressing myself out too much, and by the time Tuesday came around, I just wanted to get it over with. We didn’t have class that day because we all had 30-minute slots for the LPI and for the TAP scattered throughout the day. My TAP wasn’t until 1:30, which meant I got to sleep in, but after I woke up and studied for another hour, I was just so ready to get it over with.

Unlike our practice LPI, where the interviewer was one of our LCFs, this time we were interviewed by a Mongolian lady we had never met before but had apparently been a Peace Corps language tester for 10 years. It’s hard enough to understand when someone speaks Mongolian to me, but then when it’s someone who I’ve never talked to before and whose accent is completely new to me, it’s almost impossible (and it doesn’t help that so many Mongolian women speak so softly that I can barely hear them even when they’re speaking English). She started the interview by asking me to introduce myself. Then she asked me to talk about my Mongolian host family, my American family, and a friend. The interview was 30 minutes long, so I was trying to eat up as much time as possible by babbling on about my family members, but my limited vocabulary prevented me from talking about that for too long. Then she asked me some other random questions, and had me ask her a bunch of questions. Finally, we did a dialogue where I had to pretend to be a teacher and she was the director at my school and I had a headache and needed to ask if I could leave early to see a doctor. Overall I think it went pretty well. We found out the first day of Final Center Days how we did, and I ended up getting Intermediate Low! Novice High is considered passing, so I did even better than I needed to! I’m not exactly sure how the scoring works though, because the two guys in our group who have amazing Mongolian (and make the rest of us look like losers) also got Intermediate Low, so who knows.

After that I had my TAP, which was much less stressful. They told me that my LCFs, technical trainers, and host family only had positive things to say about me, that I had done very well during PST, and that they thought I would be a very successful Peace Corps Volunteer. Yay!

Halfway-Through-PST Assessments

The first class day after Mid-Center Days, we were given more details about our first TAP (Trainee Assessment Packet), which is where our program manager sits down with us individually and discusses how we’ve done so far during PST, using information gathered from our LCFs, our technical session trainers, and our host family. We knew that was scheduled for the next day, but then they told us that we would also have a “practice” LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) the next day as well, which was news to all of us as we had asked and had confirmed several times before that we only had the one LPI at the end of PST. So we were given less than 24 hours to prepare for that, but I tried not to stress over it too much since I knew they couldn’t really do anything if I failed miserably (no one gets kicked out for not knowing the language well enough). And of course, I was scheduled for the very first LPI in the morning!

The LPI consisted of us describing (in Mongolian of course) 3 of 4 topics (ourselves, a friend, our American family, or our Mongolian host family); answering and asking questions (the LCF asked me 30 questions and then had me ask her a bunch of question); and then a situational dialogue (either shopping in a store or taking a taxi). It was a lot more intense than I thought it would be, but both of the LCFs said I did really well. Apparently there was only one question that I couldn’t answer, and I only made one major mistake when I accidentally said my host parents were in their seventies instead of their forties (the words sound a lot alike, ok!). So that ended up being a bit of a confidence booster.

I had my TAP right after that, which also went very well. All of my trainers thought I was doing very well and my host family had said I was integrating well. The only issue was that my practicum at the family clinic wasn’t going too well because I had a hard time taking the initiative to get involved, which I already knew was something I was struggling with and needed to work on. But apparently our practicums are kind of set up to fail so that we get some practice dealing with some of the issues we will likely face at our permanent site.

Overall, both the LPI and the TAP were very informative, and it was nice to hear them tell me that I was doing so well.