Oh Peace Corps Why?! 08 August 08

Personal note first: Mom thanks for the care package with the pencils, erasers, candy and the Pedro bobble head. I know how hard it was for you to buy red sox memorabilia! I made peppermint tea from some of the candy you sent. Have shared and will share the rest with other PCTs and local kids. thanks bunches!


Today was a very very frustrating day. I don’t know if I have mentioned much about the actual training I am going through.  Monday through Thursdays we have technical and language sessions for 4 – 6 hours through out the day in our homestay towns. So we get a break between sessions. Language, at least, is fun!  Friday and Saturdays we come together at the hub site and we all have sessions together. It’s two very long days of sitting in plastic lawn chairs listening and talking, listening and talking oh yes and waiting and waiting.


First frustration. Bank application forms. One of our tasks to do on site visit was to get bank application forms. I was not able to get mine because of delays with the bus. I decided to get my forms on the way home since my bank would be in a town 1 hour away. I really didn’t want to travel there using up half a day or more of my short site visit. But as things do go here my bus into the larger town was late so I had to rush to make my next connection and could not go to the bank. I of course stressed out about not doing all my assigned tasks. I worried that the PC could not open an account for me with out the forms. Other people said that they had a hard time getting the bank to give them the form. A couple of people had to go back twice.


So today at the start of the sessions we were asked to fill out a list with our names, the bank and the location of the bank. I kept quiet about the forms but someone else said “Do we hand you our forms with the list?” oh we don’t need forms just the bank and the location. Big up roar. Trainees right and left saying “but our TDA (Trainee Directed Activity) said to get forms.” Trainers “no it did notl It said only to get the bank and the branch location.”  back and forth back and forth. I am not sure we ever convinced the trainers but I am convinced because I looked at the TDA and it said get the bank application forms. For once I didn’t do what I was supposed to and I didn’t get bitten in the butt!


Today we, of course. debriefed our site visits. Debriefing is huge in Peace Corps. We had six flip chart papers hanging around the summer house.  Each paper was a different topic about our site visit. How was the journey? What surprised you? How did your language help you? etc. We all put a few words up at on each paper then two trainers read our responses. They asked up to elaborate on some of the responses. This took 2 plus hours.


In the review three people said either they were surprised that the people at their site didn’t speak the language they were learning or a very small percentage of people spoke the language. They were basically told oh yes the people there do speak the language you were taught. The beaurocratic mind at work. If Washington says this area speaks so and so language then the area does speak that language dispite reports to the contrary from the field!


Then we had a snack of biscuits and juice box. Today I got the sweet biscuits instead of the cracker like biscuits. It made the morning!


Then language for 2 hours. I prepared for my language test. We have been hearing about this test for weeks. And given pep talks assuring us we will pass it. Its a very big deal. Its the one thing that can keep you from going to site. Again this is a sign of the beaurocracy in Washington that runs the Peace Corps since as teachers in Ghana to do our main job we will speak english. I am highly motivated to learn the local langauge and will. Those who are not highly motivated to learn the local language will memorize the correct phrases to pass the language test then never get beyond that. Passing a test does not indicate that the PCT will continue learning the language.


Lunch for at least one hour and a half. It’s a good time to catch up with the people who have homestays in other towns. This week there was a ton of sharing about our site visits. The consensus is that we are al READY to live on our own. Set our own schedule. Cook our own food. Basically settle in somewhere.


When lunch unexplainably goes beyond the hour and a half we do begin to get antsy. We have so little unscheduled time that it’s frustrating when the scheduled time bleeds into our unscheduled time. We also have so much studying to do that even our unscheduled time isn’t exactly free. Add to that the fact we have to find time to hand wash clothes. Take at least one most likely two bucket baths a day. And we want to visit with our homestay families as well with each other. So we really don’t have much time to ourselves.


When we complained that Peace Corps often wastes our time. A PCV  said “Peace Corps will waste your time less than anyone else in Ghana.” Oh well.


After lunch today we had a nutrition session. Trainers laid out local foods. It was surprising how many were familiar to us. They briefly described the foods then let us come around and ask questions about preparation etc. This went on for two hours but actually at the end of one hour everyone was pretty much finished asking questions so we sat around until after 4:00.


At 4;20 we are called together again. It has been raining all day and I actually had goosebumps I was so cold.  My feet were tired from sitting. My butt was tired from sitting. And I really felt like I could not absorb another idea. Lotsu, education training leader, tells us that tomorrow we will be having the technical proficiency interviews. The groups are on the board and we will be graded on these things. I said “What! I never heard anything about this exam and grading etc.!”  Remember I said previously how much they have talked about the language test. On our schedule it says technical proficiency interviews. I imagined interviews like the ones we had for mid term evaluation. Grace finally said maybe you should tell them the areas this test will cover. So he did. I admit it. I am type A all the way when it comes to tests. I want to prepare at least two or three days ahead of time. I want to ace it. So telling me at 4:30 the afternoon before I have a test at 8:00 am the next morning puts me over the edge just a bit. FYI I was not the only one to be surprised that this was a graded test. I think everyone but the trainers was surprised.


Then he went on to Monday and Tuesday’s events. I again raised my hand and asked  a question. No one had covered cooking from 3:00 – 6:00 on Saturday. So I wanted to know  about it.  When we got to it we are supposed to cook something using ingredients found in Ghana. We will also be graded on this. The time is changed to sunday 11:00 – 2:00 because the other time was family cooking time. They will give us money to buy ingredients. Then judge us on four categories. etc. And we have to haul stuff to one location and all people in my town will cook together. So we will haul coal pot stoves, utensiles, food etc. Many of us have not even fanned a coal pot stove let alone cook on one!


I wish if Peace Corps were going to surpise us with something that they would do it in the morning when I not so tired and cranky!


But what I think happened today is that we had a taste of managing our own time and lives and it was hard to come back to training. i remember coming home from college and adjusting to living in my parents house with their rules. Even though my parents didn’t have tons of rules for me I had been on my own and it was hard to be  a child again. On site visit we got a taste of what it would be like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer and it was very hard to come back and be a Peace Corps Trainee again.


So I went to the For You Chop Bar/Spot tonight with the rest of the gang. Drank orange Fanta. Oh Fanta is big here in Ghana. They have  lemon Fanta I have not seen in the US. I ate some chop and played cards.  I had a full tummy. I had a few laughs while playing cards. So now I can almost believe that the frustrations of training are part of a master plan to make us want to move on to become PCVs.

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