This will be a whirlwind collage of experiences in the first days of my Peace Corps Training”
flight delays brought us to the training site a day late, in the dead of night, for two hours sleep before preparing for first day of instruction which was delivered at double pace—what could they do? We’re headed to our training home-stay homes in a few days. The pace of training is furious but all the blogs warned us that. Someday we’ll get enough sleep again.
There are not enough superlatives to describe the Peace Corps staff which is large at this point, swollen for our benefit by the presence of contractors (1) to teach bike maintenance and road safety and to take us on the road, (2) to observe and make sure everyone is functional and provide magnificent humane support when the whole thing is too much, (3) to teach Thai; there are enough language staff that we work at a ratio of 1:4 and get this: the language lessons are SPECTACULAR models of SDAI with lowering the affective filter, use of manipulatives, high levels of interaction and no use of English as it’s all Thai and mime – Hey, CSUF, we should make some videos of these guys! (4) to give us our rabies vaccines, Hepatitis A and B shots, flu shots, and teach us to brush our teeth with bottled water and other health tips.
Care for our spiritual needs: okay, for some folks this was just cultural integration education, but if you wanted to enter into the spirit of it the first night’s traditional welcoming ceremony it was extraordinary, as it centers on bringing back a person’s spirit if fear has made it depart and, and on making supportive, compassionate, connections between people
Food is a joy: watermelon is in season year round, pineapple is way beyond delicious, fried rice is available with every meal (so far, we’re in the hotel for now), as is white rice and some vegetable dishes, some meat dishes, as is soup. Some folks are speculating they’ll get tired of rice, but I’m not so sure. I like grain for breakfast anyway. Um. Is there some way to get brown rice? I like whole grains.
The volunteers are the people you’d want to be stranded on a desert island with, or at an airport of two for that matter. At one point we were waiting in the company of some indoor pigeons for a delayed flight or and for rebooking for hours in a baggage area at JFK in NYC and perhaps many like me wondering what this experience would be like when the baggage conveyor started up for no apparent reason and Michelle hopped up on it without missing a beat and mimed surfing and then mimed being a pigeon. You had to be there. She set the tone of lighthearted camaraderie. Andy took me under his wing when my bike seat was too high and I fell off it trying to stop (I couldn’t reach the ground) and taught me. Hey—I’d been biking up to 6 miles at a time in Fullerton so this wasn’t supposed to be so hard, or scary. I fell again, but that just shows I got right back up onto it. Andy is just one of a passle of twenty-something and thirty-something fellows and gals who are abundantly kind, remarkably accomplished in hundreds of ways. There are the volunteers who are willing to share their tenderness both in caring and in hurting as we try to maintain our bearings as we get startled here and there or deal with some self-doubt. The first night ended with karaoke and folks, there is joy to spare here. These are people who love life, love the earth, and love people.
Okay was all that a bit giddy for you? Sorry! I’ve been up and down, that’s for sure, but I conclude that I’m in for two good years with the occasional bad day.
Post script for those of you who may be interested: I pray the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle which you can find at http://www.oikoumene.org/resources/prayer-cycle.html which takes a year to pray for people of each country of the world, with information on joys and concerns. Okay if you’re looking into this I put in the link for the page that doesn’t change each week, so once you get to that page you should look into the right column and click through to the information on the listed countries. This week it’s Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey.