Saturday, July 25, 2009
So this is the end of training. Yesterday we attended a product fair with the youth group we´ve been working with during training. The purpose of the project was twofold. First, the youth were supposed to gain confidence by coming up with a new product, making it, selling it, and presenting it at the fair. For the Peace Corps Volunteers it was a way of getting our feet wet working with youth and helping a group to create a value added product.
The fair was our final training activity. For the next week we have some administrative things to do, and on Friday we swear in as volunteers. It´s kind of a bittersweet time for me for a couple of reasons. For one thing, four of the people in my training group have left or are leaving the Peace Corps for a variety of reasons, including the closest friend I made during training. Not that we were going to be serving in sites near each other, but it´s still a huge blow to my morale. And for another thing, I am actually very sad leaving the host family I have lived with for the past three months.
My host mom, Melida, asked me yesterday what was the most valuable thing I learned during my training. I told her that the best part of training for me (besides milking a goat) was getting to live with this family. And I meant it. When I arrived here three months ago I was kind of like a baby. Melida had to teach me how to wash my hands - no joke. Since then I have learned to love gallo pinto and beans (even after learning that the bean pot sits for three days unrefrigerated). I have made tamales (corn meal and cheese cooked in a banana leaf) and pinolillo and sorted beans. I´ve learned how to wash my clothing in a cement pila, and I´ve asked the definitions of a hundred words I didn´t know.
During this whole time I´ve been the beneficiary of an incredible outpouring of hospitality, warmth, and caring. My host family may be poor, but their generosity is overwhelming. I´ve been showered with gifts - mountains of fresh fruit, a keychain with my name on it, a wooden bracelet, a pair of shower shoes, and a grain sack to keep my yoga mat from getting dirty on the floor. But more importantly, this family has shared their home and their lives with me. My host mom has talked to me about the joys and sadnesses of her life, I´ve gotten to watch as my host sister-in-law (wife of one of my four host brothers) went from being five months to eight months pregnant, and my little six year old host sister has shared her drawings with me. My host brothers have split coconuts for me with a machete, given me rides in the family bicycle taxi, and walked me to the bodega when my host mom insisted it was too dangerous for me to walk alone. They´ve also asked me to translate the lyrics of all kinds of songs, including Celine Dion´s My Heart Will Go On and Fifty Cent´s entire catalog.
I´m sure I will form relationships with the people in my new community, but I will not forget the connections I have formed here.
Into it - almost being a full-fledged volunteer
Over it - losing members of the group