Pre-service Training (PST) essentially had three parts consisting of a week and a half of Core Issues training, eight weeks of Community Based Training (CBT), and a week and a half of Bridge to Service Training leading to the swearing in ceremony.
Community Based Training (CBT) lasted eight weeks during which time stayed with a host family and attended Technical and Language classes. Six Business/Organizational trainees and myself were sent to Salvapan, a Spanish speaking suburb of
|Walk along one of the villages|
|Black Howler monkey AKA Baboon|
Another interesting trip was a visit to the Flowers Bank Community Group that makes organic Cohune Oil for cooking, and several by-products such as soap and massage oil. Cohune, a palm tree protected in
and requires a permit to cut down. Every part of the tree is used for something: leaves are used for building roofs, another part of the tree is used for making fly swatters, the core of the tree, called Cohune cabbage for cooking a delicious meal and the nuts used for making oil. The nuts have a distinctive nutty taste with bit of a coconut flavor. The traditional laborious methods of husking and crushing the nuts have been replaced by locally made simple machines that have made life so much easier and the product more accessible to a wider market. A couple of the Peace Corps trainees worked with this group to help with pricing and marketing their products. Belize
|Traditional Cohune husker|
|Sifting after hasking|
|A neighbor stopped by to see what was going on|
A visit to the Toledo Cacao Growers Association and a trip to a Cacao farm were an eye opening experiences for me. Another Peace Corps volunteer has been helping the Association to improve their data base, set up websites and develop outreach materials. Most people I know would love a bar of good chocolate but I am not sure how many of us know “where chocolates come from?” Well it all starts with the Cacao fruit. These fruits have multiple seeds inside and each seed has a covering of slightly sweet and tangy white flesh. Once the seeds are taken out of the fruits, they are allowed to ferment and then dry for several weeks. Farmers bring their seeds to the Growers Association who in turn sells them to the chocolate makers. The seeds will then be dried in a commercial drier, ground to a fine powder and mixed with milk and other ingredients. This mixing can take as long as three days of constant whipping at a certain temperature in a special mixer to create that creamy consistency. The delicious creamy paste is then poured into molds and put in a special freezer. It is then wrapped and sealed in foil which keeps it air tight and slipped into the manufacturer’s wrappers.
|Dried cacao seeds|
The CBT ended with a bang with a visit to Xunantanich, a Mayan ruin (see images on http://www.subratabasu.com/) and then moving back to
And finally the Pre- Service Training ended with the Bridge to Service, which consisted of a number of logistic and policy types of sessions and most importantly with completing the Reflection Wall, a drawing of a huge tree. As each of us reflected on ten of the Peace Corps core expectations, we wrote our reflections on paper leaves and added them to the leaves.
Then came the day where we were sworn in as Volunteers…….coming up next.