My First Month at INAOE

Submitted by Douglas David Crockett (9/22-10/28/2017)

I’m responding to Paola Cabera’s recent request for feedback to the following questions (in bold):

1. What is going well? What am I doing well?

Dr. Ansel Rodriguez, one of my counterparts, has been extremely helpful getting me relocated to the Puebla area and introduced to INAOE.  We’ve agreed to help each other with speaking in our non-native languages, so we’re learning together.  After getting acclimated to the micro-grid energy project (P-12) and team, I was able to facilitate a SWOT analysis to help us identify the internal Strengths and Weaknesses plus the external Opportunities and Threats to focus our current activities and future proposals.  The P-12 team also responded positively to a potential collaboration with the Tech Park Arizona (https://techparks.arizona.edu/) that we’re exploring with a conference call this Tues. (10/31).  I offered to edit the English for several technical research articles, presentation proposals and student theses.  One proposal was already accepted for a presentation at Cambridge, England.  Finally, we’re starting an English Conversation Club every Tues. afternoon for INAOE students with a focus on TED Talks about technological innovations (e.g. our first discussion was about crypto currency & block chains).

The cultural exchange part is also going extremely well for me.  The Sra. Victoria Herrada Tapia Family was very welcoming and helpful for my initial one month homestay in Puebla.  Because of the long commuting distance to INAOE, however, I recently moved to the Hugo Huepa Benitez Family in Tonantzintla, only 4 blocks from INAOE.  I appreciate feeling part of two local extended families, and I don’t plan to move again during the remaining 11 months of my PCR service.  I’ve also started a “Pueblog” about my adventures in México for my friends and family in the United States which is contributing to the Peace Corps’ Goal 3.

2. What could be going better? What could I do differently?

Learning, understanding and speaking Spanish is still my biggest challenge to feeling effective. During our training in Querétaro, Laura Mendez helped measure my incoming language skills as in the intermediate low level (based on ACTFL standards).  With help Ana Marie, my weekly Spanish tutor in Cholula, I hope to get to an advance low or mid level by the end of my 12 month assignment.            I’ve also been sick a few times (two short bouts of diarrhea and one case of getting a bad cold after the 4th time swimming in the unheated INAOE pool).  I’ve learned how critical it is to stay healthy and to pace myself for not over-extending.

 3. Describe in ONE WORD your service experience so far. Exhilarating!

4.  Any questions you may have or any feedback you would like to give to us.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming VAC Regional Meeting in Cholula (11/13), and glad that Paola is planning a site visit with me and my INAOE counterparts around that meeting.  Personal contact is always more effective than emails, texts or phone calls.  I’ve volunteered for the PSN because I believe that kind of personal volunteer support helps make our Peace Corps México experience stronger for all of us.

If you have any good stories and photos you would like to share with us, please send them in.

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Dr. Ansel Y. Rodriguez, Douglas David Crockett & Dr. Luis Enrique Sucar Succar at the PCR-11 Counterpart Training Session in Querétaro (9/21/2017)

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El Popo,” the active volcano near Puebla, as seen from our INAOE parking lot.

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A regular luncheon meeting of INAOE Peace Corps Volunteers, Counterparts and supporters. Pictured (left to right):  Douglas David Crockett, Marcial Jimenez, Alberto Jamarillo, Kyle Dzwonkowski & Lucia Crisanto.

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