Monday, July 04, 2005

Like High School All Over Again

I've compared this Training experience so far as like being back in High School. Consider:

• We have a curfew, usually about 10:00 p.m.
• We have to get permission to go anywhere outside of our village.
• At my homestay, I spend a lot of time in my room with the door closed, playing video games (Icewind Dale, or one of the Nintendo Emulators I have) or listening to music on my headphones.
• I come out of my room when dinner is ready, which has been prepared by my "mom."
• I go hang out with my friends every night until the curfew.
• I need to be asleep by about 11:00 p.m. so I can get up in the morning for school.
• We spend six hours taking various classes all day.
• During lunch at the community center we sit on the bleachers.
• We constantly kvetch about the rules, and talk about how great it will be when we finally move out and have our own place.

It makes me laugh just thinking about it.

I thought I'd write a little about the classes we take. There are actually seven or eight subjects that get repeated, some subjects on different days. Most of the time classes start at about 9:00 a.m. and last until about 4:30 p.m., depending on a number of factors like where we are that day and how much material the presenters have for us. The morning class generally lasts from nine to noon, and then there are two sessions in the afternoon at about one-and-a-half hours each. It's interesting to me that, unlike Training in the Eastern Caribbean, our trainers are all local Guyanese hired either as temporary lecturers or who are actual staff members. We even have a special APCD for Training.

Education classes are taught by an Indo-Guyanese man who has been in education in Guyana for 30 years. He is training us how to be teachers to the limited extent that is possible in eight weeks. So far it's been light on both theory and in practice, leaning instead more toward the structure of Guyanese schools (I'm talking K-12, or "Primary" and "Secondary" as they're called here) or toward good and bad things to do in the classroom. A lot of it is redundant to me, but at least that means I feel confident in the material. The others, almost all of whom are very young and have never taught before, must be very nervous.

We have Cross-Cultural classes, taught by an incredibly blunt and hilarious local Afro-Guyanese woman, and designed to teach us about the local culture. In this class we've studied local customs and attitudes in a number of things, including my favorite class, which was a Q&A session about the Guyanese attitude toward sex (this will most definitely warrant a separate post later, so watch for that). Most recently, she had our class go to Bourda Market here in Georgetown with a long list of fruits and vegetables, which we then took back to the Peace Corps office where she told us about each one and how Guyanese prepare them. These sessions, to me, are the most useful. Too bad they're also the most infrequent.

Safety and Security classes are done by the Peace Corps Safety Officer, an Amerindian man who used to be a police officer. These classes are difficult, not in the delivery but in the content. We cover all kinds of safety matters, from muggings to rapes to burglaries. He is trying to teach us how to stay safe in Georgetown and Guyana in general, but one unfortunate drawback is that it has made us paranoid. One message we get a lot is that women need to be extra alert, and that Guyanese men have a different perception of what "no" means. I'll get to this more later.

We have Medical sessions with our PCMO, an Amerindian woman. Her sessions are generally more interactive, and she's a fan of giving us short group projects tied with miniature presentations. Often she discusses wounds or diseases, but our latest -- and most memorable -- session was about skin problems and parasites. The discussion on intestinal worms was alarming, especially the part about the worms coming out one's mouth, nose, or anus while one sleeps.

We have had a couple sessions on the Amerindians, where an Arawak woman came to give us the history of the local First Nations people and some of their current problems. A fellow from the University came for a lecture about the history of Guyana, remarkably given from contact to present times in only two hours!

Finally, we have alternating cross-cultural sessions designed to teach us about the Muslims and Hindus, which make up a huge portion of the Guyanese population. We've learned a whole lot about these two religions from the guest speakers.

In all, the classes are valuable, but it tends to be difficult staying focused during them, and often the applicability of the material can be unclear. The best sessions are the ones where we come out the other end genuinely enlightened about something. For me, these have been mostly the Cross-Cultural classes and the Medical ones. But all classes have had some nuggets of gold buried in them. We're learning a lot.


Anonymous said...

It may have SOME similiarities to high school but I can see lots of differences... shall I elaborate? Seriously, I do appreciate getting such a good "inside" view of training. GingerLee--

Brian Reeves said...

Sure... elaborate!