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Monday, March 22, 2010

PC training notes

This will be a long one. For anyone who’s curious about my day-to-day activities during training, here’s a brief rundown.

In a few days I’ll find out my permanent site, and next week I’ll meet my supervisor and visit site for 4-5 days. I’m incredibly excited.

Aside from the week of site visit, the 36 trainees live together in 4 houses in Nyanza, which is a mid-sized town. My house just might be the luckiest – we have padded furniture in our living room (we may or may not have fleas), it’s a very reasonable 8 minute walk to the center where we have classes and meals, and most of the time we are spoiled by running water and electricity.

LCFs (Language and cross cultural facilitators) live with us, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge how amazingly helpful they are. In addition to being great classroom teachers, they are always willing to take time to answer questions about language or culture, so are pretty much on the job 24/7. Plus they are all really great people and it’s a pleasure to get to know them.

A kitchen staff prepares our meals, and I understand that the previous group’s requests have paved the way for our relative variety. Breakfast is bread, butter and fruit, sometimes with peanut butter or avocados or omelets. Lunch and dinner are either Rwandan (some combination of meat or fish, greens or carrots, rice or plantains or cassava or potatoes prepared in innumerable ways, occasionally salad with mayo, and almost always with a runny tomato sauce that I love) or Rwandanized American food (onion-heavy guac with beans and rice, pasta with ground beef but no tomato sauce). From Sunday dinner through Saturday lunch, we receive an allowance to buy food for ourselves (brochettes!).

Breakfast ends at 8. We have 2 hours of class, a half hour tea break with samosas or chapatti, and another 1.5 hours of class. Then we get 2.5 hours for lunch, 2 more afternoon classes that end at 5pm, and either free time or practical lessons (e.g. how to do laundry) before dinner at 7pm. Sometimes the afternoon is set aside as “language application,” either with our resource families or wandering around town. Curfew is 10pm, and in evenings I can be found either studying, grabbing a beer, or with my computer.

We have class Monday morning through Saturday lunch. About half our classes are language classes with 3-4 students. Tech sessions inform us about the Rwandan health system and health challenges here, tools we’ll use as health volunteers, and projects such as kitchen gardens. We also have medical sessions (e.g. food and water safety, causes of fevers), safety and security sessions, and cross cultural sessions.

Other general Peace Corps Rwanda news: Our excellent PCMO is leaving, and being replaced by an expat PCMO and a local hire to accommodate PC’s growth here. The new Rwandan doctor is named Doctor Elite, so I’m clearly in good hands. The next staging class in October with have 70 (!!) education volunteers, both TOEFL and math/science. Rwanda has a huge need for English-speaking teachers because they switched the instructional language from French to English at the beginning of the 2010 school year. The health stage that follows us will be pushed back to the summer of 2011; PC doesn’t want to continue holding training during the genocide memorial period.

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