Sunday, May 24, 2009
Week 1 Done
The sound of a mango dropping from a height of 20 feet onto a tin roof is startling, to say the least. I awoke in a panic on the first night of my homestay in the rural town of Fatima when one of the fruits basically fell on top of my head. But I guess night terrors are a small price to pay for fresh, ripe mangoes. They are everywhere in Fatima, the rural town where I will be training for the next 11 weeks.
I love my host family. My host mom feeds me huge meals and constantly offers me sugary fruit drinks called frescos. On a hot afternoon, there is nothing better than a cold pineapple fresco. And it is hot. Luckily my training town is at a slight elevation, so it cools off at night. I haven´t been sweating in my bed, and sometimes I even get cool enough to need a sheet.
In addition to the mangoes, I´ve also gotten to know some interesting local foods. Pipian is a squashlike vegetable I´ve been served a few times. There´s also a squash called chayote that I like. In general, the food is incredibly salty. And if it´s not salty it´s super sweet. My mom makes me hot milk with a splash of coffee in the morning, and she loads it up with what tastes like at least a few tablespoons of sugar. I keep telling her not to feed me so much, but the message must be getting lost in translation. I think after two years here I will probably be fat, diabetic, and have high blood pressure. But at least the food tastes really good. Fortunately for me, I love rice and beans. Yesterday I ate rice, beans, french fries, and cheese for breakfast.
As promised, the training schedule is rigorous. We have language classes three days a week for six hours. Another three days a week we have technical training on subjects ranging from how to avoid getting malaria to turning old tires into vegetable gardens. When we´re not training we´re supposed to be planning lessons to share with the youth groups we are supposed to be forming, planting a vegetable garden and starting a plant nursery in our communities, doing a ton of reading, and spending time getting to know our host families. It doesn´t leave a lot of time to, say, relax. Which is weird because the rest of the PC experience is supposed to be very tranquilo, as they say here.
I am really enjoying everything about this experience so far. There is so much to tell, and so much to learn, that I feel completely overwhelmed. But so far it´s all good.