Today is the last day of my orientation retreat and the last day I know I will have easy internet access for the next 12 weeks, maybe for the next 2 years. Today we will be going to our training towns. Mine is called Fatima. It is tiny. We are divided up into small groups based on language ability. I am with four other Ag volunteers - Aggies, as we are known. We are the advanced language group. Fatima is a really small town with only one paved road. All of us will be using latrine toilets, but we also all have running water and electricity in our training towns.
I am really excited to start training. Everything we've gotten from the PC has been incredibly high quality. I am truly impressed with this organization. It employs a great mix of Nicaraguans and North Americans. The security guy seems incredibly competent. We have four medical doctors on staff. Everyone on the training team seems to really know what they're doing. They gave us our medical kit, which includes all kinds of things - sunscreen, floss, antibiotics, pepto-bismol, you name it. I have had my first vaccine (typhoid) and taken my first dose of anti-malarials. No crazy dreams so far, but I'll keep you posted. We also were given a library's worth of books to read. We have books on how to be an effective volunteer, how to work with teenagers, how to teach adults, how to assess our communities, how to farm, how to process food, the history of Nicaragua, and on and on. Probably 20 books in all. Receiving them was like getting a Christmas present. I can't wait to absorb everything inside.
The group is interesting. As I said, there are several older people. One man is 76. I am so impressed with him. He has been married for 38 years. This is something he has always wanted to do, and his wife and family support him 100%. There is also a retired married couple and another older woman who I think is in her late sixties. I'm really inspired by the fact that these people are doing something that I think will be a challenge for me at my most robust. If all goes well, I might want to do this again in 40 years or so. The majority of the group is under 25, though.
I've been enjoying the food so far and luckily no one has gotten sick yet. The food is incredibly salty but otherwise pretty bland. Not a lot of spice, unfortunately. We drink a lot of "juice" (a.k.a. sugar water). Not sure what the food will be like once I get to my host family. I also don't know how many people will be living there. My host mom has four (or was it five?) kids ranging in age from 6 to 22. Crazy. Not sure how many still live at home. I think the oldest boy is married.
75% of Nicaragua's population is under 25, so there is a big focus on working with young people. They don't have a lot of opportunities here in Nica, so one of our goals is to help them figure out ways to augment their livelihoods in the small towns where they live, so that they don't end up moving to Costa Rica or the US.
I am really looking forward to our training projects. We will be starting a garden plot for our host families, doing a lot of composting (including worm composting. yay!), and doing some sort of commercialization project with a group of teenagers (e.g. making jam or baking bread or something like that and selling it at a product fair).