Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The training begins….

Welcome to the Peace Corps and to the world of acronyms. From the very first day when we arrived at the PC office for our PST, TM took charge of all PCT’s. We were all introduced to CD, DPT (previously known as PTO), PCMO, AO, APCD (also known as PM), SSC, TTs, LCFs, LTCs and rest of the staff who didn’t yet have any acronyms. PST started with going over the COTE, which laid out a detailed time line for the next three months of all the CBT sessions, a calendar for all TT and LCF classes, the dates for the PACA assignment, core TAP, sector TAP were due and when the initial and final TAP interviews would be conducted. TT at the CBT was all about learning how to use PACA tools, doing FREEHOP and SWOT matrices through NFE techniques with a clear understanding of RVID, always keeping GAD in mind and looking forward to SDLs. The SSC talked to us about how to scan your surroundings to look for potential trouble, helped familiarize ourselves with EAP, EP, NEMO and the roles of RSO and RSSO and required us to memorize the telephone number of the DO. The SSC also told us why the SLFs and PSPs are so important. PAC based on PDM goals worked with HCA/HCN and found suitable matching sites for the PCTs. The CD went over the policies and explained what would get us an ET, MS, AS before our scheduled COS. The volunteers were given opportunities to get involved in VAC, VAD, WID, GLOW and may soon be able to join BLOW. During your service every PCV is afforded several ISTs to make sure they are on track. If all goes well you would COS at the end of the twenty seventh month. If you are in the PC’s good graces and have the power of persuasion, you may even become a PCVL and linger for another year before you become a RPCV.  You get the idea about what I mean about acronyms, but as I do my blogs I will try to tell you what most of them mean.

Garden City Hotel in Belmopan
The Pre-service training (PST) started the day after we arrived in Belize. The first week and a half of the training happened in Belmopan at the Peace Corps (PC) office. As a note of interest, Belmopan, I am told, is the smallest national capital in the world. While in Belmopan, we stayed in the “Garden City Hotel”, a relatively new, but very cheaply built hotel owned by some local Chinese people, who seem to have taken over most of the businesses all over the country. There is no registration desk, you pick up a key from the hardware store across the street. You only get one key, even if you are sharing a room with another volunteer. If you lock yourself out after the store closes, well good luck!!! In this newly built hotel, everything from the brand names on the toilet bowls to all the electrical controls are in Chinese. This really didn’t seem to matter much, though, because most of the controls didn’t work anyways. When taking a shower you had either only hot water or only cold water; it was impossible to get a right blend of hot and cold water. If you did take a cold or a hot shower you would, without fail, flood the floor of the bathroom, which sometimes smelled strange. You also needed to be careful while in the bathroom, since people in all the adjacent bathrooms could hear every word you said. On the bright side, the hotel did have air-conditioning, which worked most of the time, as well as access to WIFI if you sat directly under the router in the hallway.     
My host family Caseres had two sons, five daughters and seventeen grandchildren. Four of the seventeen grandchildren lived in the same house that I was staying, while the other eight or so lived close enough for very frequent visits. Although the number of children running around at any given time was sometimes an issue for me, the most enjoyable part of my host family experience was my relationship with the children. When I went back later to visit, the kids were the first ones to notice my arrival and came running with great enthusiasm to give me a hug and say they missed was very touching.

My host "Padre y Madre"
Casa de Caseres
My Bedroom
And here are some of the kids....
Brandon, the terrible 
Patti with Brittney and Dion 
Imari, my favorite


It took some adjusting to get used to the lifestyle and the food, especially the food. Speaking of food, let’s just say that this is not a country where cooking has become an art-form by any stretch of the imagination. At the risk of stereotyping, I would say rice, beans, and chicken with some potato salad is probably considered the national meal. Cooked beans or refried beans with either flour or corn tortillas can be for breakfast or dinner or both. If can embellish it with scramble egg and some “queso blanco” on your beans. Variety is not the word that comes to mind when you think of food. I am in the lookout for couple of "caldo de pollo" (soup) or pork stew receipes. A dish called "chimole" ( chicken stuffed with ground beef and "recado negro") is a delicacy, but I don't really care for it. If you are really desperate for variety, then you go out for Chinese. In some areas that is the only alternative available to you.

Most people in Salvapan and the surrounding area are working class people and families spend most of their leisure time and the weekends going to farms or to the nearby “rio” for a swim to cool down, a picnic and and opportunity to do  the weekly laundry. The river is an essential part of life here.

Swimming in the river
River is not just for people
Oscar, my other favorite, lives with his grandparents

Make shift barbecue grill
Highlights of the Community Based Training (CBT) next……..

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