Friday, May 29, 2009

More on Training

Peace Corps training in Nicaragua based in communities and is designed to be a kind of miniature version of our coming service. Which is great because it seems like we will be really well prepared by the time we get to our sites. It is also completely crazy because we are essentially cramming two years worth of work into twelve weeks. During this time we are expected to plant a large garden, start a tree nursery, work with a youth group to create a saleable product from local resources, read 20 books, and become proficient in Spanish. In our spare time we are supposed to complete reports, do homework assignments, and have talks with local people who can provide information that we aren’t able to cover in class. We also have technical training for three full days out of every week on topics ranging from food preservation to meeting facilitation to organic gardening to agribusiness techniques.

I shouldn’t complain because I am really excited about everything I am learning. Yesterday was the best day so far. We spent the whole day making food products. We made peanut butter, soy hamburgers, and pickles, among many other things. I got really excited to work with people in my community figuring out how they can augment their health and commercialize untapped food resources.

There are five people in my training group, all of whom are really great. I have a feeling we will become really close over the next three months. It’s great having a cohort of people with whom to share the craziness of total immersion in a foreign culture. We are living in a small town that is very poor by US standards but is probably doing okay by Nicaraguan standards. Everyone here seems to have enough to eat, and the houses are generally very well kept. The town is wired with electricity and running water. Because the water is rationed, most people keep the taps open. That way when the water is on, it goes into barrels or other vessels for future use. The system is generally okay, except in the case of one of the trainees in my group, whose family keeps a turtle in their pila. (A pila is the cement sink that all homes here have for washing hands and laundry.) He has decided to skip bucket bathing on the days when the water doesn’t flow from the shower head, though he said his host brother has no qualms about bathing in the turtle water.

A couple of nights ago my training group went to a meeting of the local GPC, a sort of governmental council that all towns in Nicaragua now have thanks to the work of the new administration. It was certainly interesting to see how a meeting is run here, and I could tell from the experience that meeting facilitation will probably be a challenge here. We listened to two straight hours of men (and it was all men talking, even though women were present on the council) pontificating about the problems of alcoholism, delinquency and violence in the community. Not one suggestion for action was presented, and every oration with punctuated with phrases like “Let me repeat that…” and “I return to say…” and “As I mentioned before…” On top of that the meeting was held at the local cock fighting ring, so there was also the issue of roosters cock-a-doodle-doodling at random intervals throughout the entirely of the meeting.

Things I am thankful for this week: my inflatable camping mattress (an excellent decision to bring it, since my mattress is about as thick as a folded sweater), my mosquito net, and the fact that I am not yet tired of rice and beans even though I eat it three times a day.

Things I could live without: the latrine, moquitos and chocorrones (the local equivalent of the june bug), open garbage fires.


Cathy said...

Your blog is wonderful---almost like talking to you. You have a great attitude and I think it will serve you well in this whole Peace Corps experience. What's the story of the photos. I can't tell what I'm looking at.

Laurie Pickard said...

The first is of the pila, the cement sink where we wash our hands and our clothes. The second one is, believe it or not, my shower.

Cathy said...

Your shower? Actually, I'm glad to hear it. Dad thought it was your bed!