Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bringing Everyone Up To Date

20 September 2007

I decided to use this blog entry to summarize what our first ten weeks of training were like. First of all, we arrived at night in Dar es Salaam and went straight to the hostel. Basically the first week in country was spent traveling from compound to compound. First, the hostel, then Peace Corps HQ Dar, then MATI Ilonga (the Kilosa training compound), and finally homestay which was still somewhat insular. Being dropped off by the Peace Corps car at Mama Chacha’s house in Kilosa was one of the strangest and most awkward feelings I’ve ever experienced, but looking back on that house in Kilosa, I miss the comfort of familiarity. With us speaking almost no Kiswahili and Mama Chacha refusing to speak any English, we communicated through contextual pantomime and our small photo albums from home. We were told by other PCVs(Peace Corps Volunteers) that this is a great icebreaker, not to mention that the pictures do all of the talking. The biggest adjustment we made to the Tanzanian way of life when we were at homestay was in the form of dinnertime. In the U.S. we usually ate dinner around 5 or 6 p.m. Here, most people don’t eat until at least 8 or 9, and there were many times we wouldn’t eat until 9:30 or 10:00 or saa tatu na nusu au saa nne (3:30 or 4:00 Kiswahili time). Don’t ask me why, but the Tanzanians thought that Western time was too confusing, so they changed it by six hours. Oh, did I mention that all of the clocks and watches in the country still show Western time, which means that Tanzanians are constantly doing the math in their heads.

For ten weeks our routine was to start language classes at 8:00 a.m. - Carla’s classroom was right in the courtyard of our homestay house and mine was a 5-10 minute bike ride away in Manzese-B. This was our life Monday through Friday. Saturdays were spent at MATI in nearby Ilonga where we were presented with loads of technical and bureaucratic information by Peace Corps personnel. Sundays were our day of rest, which most of spent doing laundry…outside…by hand…in buckets. Saturdays were great only for the fact that we were able to reconnect with our fellow trainees whom we would not have seen otherwise. Our group of 25 was divided into five CBTs(Community Based Training modules): Manzese-A(Carla’s), Manzese-B(mine), Mbumi, Magomeni, and Msalambani. Each CBT has one LCF(Language and Culture Facilitator) who lives in the same village as his/her students, and after five weeks, they rotate to different CBTs. The breakdown of CBTs, LCFs, and PCTs(Peace Corps Trainees) was as follows:

Manzese-A: Jumapili/Petronilla(LCFs) Carla, Jerusha, Caitlyn(Pendo), Linda, Rashad

Manzese-B: Paul/Peter/Vicki/Petronilla/Immanuel (LCFs) Tony, Steve, Keenan, Lacey, Bibi Jan

Mbumi: Petronilla/Jumapili(LCFs) Mike, Nancy, Saraben, Kate, Carolyn

Magomeni: Peter/Vivian aka Big Boy(LCFs) DeeDee, Wyatt, Stephanie, Jimmy, Mick

Msalambani: Vivian aka Big Boy/Paul(LCFs) Jess, Charlie, Amy, Ben, Mannis

None of the CBTs were more than a one hour bike ride away from another. Over ten weeks we all became very close, but especially so within our respective CBTs.

Each week during training, a current PCV would come to Kilosa to be our PCV of the Week and they would hang out with us, come to our CBTs, organize tech sessions, and give us some idea of what to expect when we got to site. Mostly they were around to encourage us through training and to give PC administration an idea of where we would best be placed.

By the end of the ten weeks of training, we were all ready to be done with the rigorous schedule and to be set free in a sense and we were all anxious to know where we'd be living for the next two years. Of course, we'd miss our homestay families and farewells are always difficult, but being American, we were missing our privacy, too.

I will probably write more on the subject of training, homestay, and the swearing-in ceremony as time goes by and I remember details worth mentioning. This will need to suffice for now.