Monday, July 04, 2005

The First Month

We came into our homestays on June 4th, just a couple days after arriving in Guyana. I've written a little about my homestay parents in another entry, but it was very little. This is because I'm strictly limited to what I can say about them as individuals in this very public space. They are very nice people, however, and have made the homestay experience as smooth as is possible.

We began training inn earnest on June 6th, a Monday. We were picked up by a facilitator -- four local Guyanese men and women who have been hired to be our escorts and go-to people for information on Guyana. There are two from each of the villages where volunteers are staying. They are young, being in their twenties, and have been incredibly helpful to all us Trainees. In fact, they've worked for a couple years with the Peace Corps, and so these facilitators have helped out several generations of PCTs over the years.

Our facilitator walked our group down to meet with the others, and all of us walked the mile or so to the training site. Again, Peace Corps restrictions keep me from being a little more explicit, but I can say it is a local community center in a neighboring village, a two-story wooden building with a large cricket field out front. The lower level is a library, while the upper level has a large open room designed to house community gatherings and various functions. It even has a small snack-food stand upstairs manned by a local woman and her daughters, which can provide us overheating volunteers with some inexpensive bottles of Coca-Cola, Busta, Soca, or I-Cee (local soda brands). The room itself wooden, like the building, the interior painted turquoise. We sit in a large U-shaped semi-circle on plastic lawn chairs and take notes on a spiral-bound Steno pad given to us on the first day of Training. Mine is about 1/3rd full of information on a host of topics, which I'll share below. We have to wear casual/formal clothes to Training, which is to say, slacks and a collared shirt for the men, dresses or skirts with blouses for the ladies. Sandals, like Tevas or Chacos, are okay. Shorts would be much cooler, but we have to maintain a professional image with the community, so a dress code is necessary. That doesn't comfort much when one's cotton slacks are clinging to one's sweaty legs or one's button-up shirt is soaking in back where the backpack is resting. Three fans blow back and forth across our group during training sessions, cutting down on some of the heat, and often during the day the sky will cloud over and the rain will start coming down in buckets -- the old familiar tropical downpour I remember from both Hawai`i and Florida -- and that helps cool down the air for a little while.

Other days, usually two or three out of the week, we will be shuttled down to Georgetown instead of going to the community center. Here we go to the National Library or the Peace Corps office, alternatively, for more lectures. Why the two other venues are used instead I don't know, but none of us complains about it, since both places are air conditioned. The training sessions at the Peace Corps office (more on this place in a future post) are especially nice, because they have a kitchen with a microwave and I can reheat the lunches my homestay mother packed for me. Plus, sometimes we watch CNN Worldwide on the television, or various movies.

We usually take lunch around noon. I plan to write much more about Guyanese food in a separate post, so I'll be a little short here, but I do enjoy the food. Often I receive chow mein, roti, or cassava with dasheen. Rice and peas is very nice, but my hands-down favorite is the roti, especially with curry potatoes. Ooh, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Sometimes they separate the Education and I.T. volunteers for morning sessions, taking the I.T. folks out to the University of Guyana. I have no idea what they do during those sessions -- one instance I heard about they had to take apart and rebuild a desktop computer! -- but we stay back and do education sessions with a Guyanese educator. He is a great guy, an Indo-Guyanese who has worked in the education system for 30 years. Funny story: he's taking a distance-learning class through a college in the states, working to get his B.A. (he never needed a higher education degree to teach in Guyana). Problem is, he has never written a college-level paper in his life. When he found out I was a college teacher for composition the last few years, he claimed God Himself had sent me. We've been working together on improving a 20-page paper for his class and I've seen real improvement. I'm also hoping he can do help me out when it comes to placement for the assignment -- they'll be asking his opinion on where to place Education volunteers and I reallyreallyreally want to work with the University or a college in Georgetown. We'll see.

So most of this month we've had classes, five days a week. We have also gone on a couple interesting trips, which I'll elaborate upon in my next few posts. The good news is, we're now halfway through Training and the classes will start to slowly be replaced with other things, like a Site Visit, where we'll be spending a whole week with our Counterparts in the site where we'll be placed. That's starting July 10, and I'm a little nervous about that... it's coming up soon!

No comments: