Friday, February 29, 2008

welcome to the caribbean, love

Hello, hello!

I'm back in Internet contact sooner than I thought--some other PCTs discovered a rogue wireless signal from the courtyard of the convent we're staying at. [Note: being a rogue signal, it disappeared before I could actually post this the day it was written.] Yep, convent. It's nice, actually--showers and beds and purified water and everything! It's pretty thoughtful of the Peace Corps to have us all stay here for the first night and give us a teeny bit of training (and sleep!) before sending us all out to our host families.

Everyone seems at least a bit anxious about staying with our host families, although it seems like most people eventually become very close to their host families. But still--what if they don't like me? What if we can't understand each other? What if all they eat is miscellaneous animal organs?

But those fears aside, I'm thrilled about my experience so far. We were all stunned by the beauty of the coastline we drove past on our way from the airport to the convent. Just like a postcard, for miles and miles.

The in-country staff seems wonderful, experienced and supportive and friendly and everything we could hope for. So far I've already received part 1 of the rabies vaccine, courtesy of our no-nonsense Canadian training nurse. I believe I have nine more injections to go throughout the training period! Woo!

We also started taking our anti-malaria pills, which we have to take once a week FOREVER. Or until we leave the country. Apparently one possible side effect is particularly vivid dreams? So, I'll look forward to that.

Another thing to say about the DR is that it's HOT here. Obviously. It's cooler now, at night and sitting outside with a breeze. It's a bit stuffier inside our convent rooms, inside our mosquito nets, but definitely manageable.

Tomorrow we leave bright and early to visit our training center for the first time. We'll have, among other things, a "survival Spanish" class to go over the basics and sort ourselves out into our language classes. After talking some to one of the Spanish teachers earlier--in Spanish--I'm feeling a little more confident about my language skills. I'm still far from fluent, of course, but I'll be able to get by for now, and of course, near-total immersion will help me pick up a few words here and there.

Well--I'm off to bed now! I had trouble falling asleep last night and the 3am wakeup call came far, far too soon. Not sure when I'll have Internet again, but for now, rest assured that I have landed safely and am in excellent hands!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

greetings from washington, dc!

Hello, everyone! This is my last night in the US (for awhile, anyway)! I've completed my staging in Washington, and my training class and I are checking out of our hotel at 3:30am tomorrow. We should be in Santo Domingo by 2pm on the 28th!

Staging has been a bit of a whirlwind--after all, it's only 12 hours of training sessions to prepare us for 2 years of experience? (Of course, it's really just the appetizer for 3 months of in-country training.)

There are 36 other PCVs in my training class, and they all seem like wonderful, interesting human beings. We've all marvelled at how quickly we seem to be coming together as a group. Of course, we're all strongly united by a common sense of purpose--seeing how much of our somewhat-exorbitant per diem we can spend in our 2 days in DC. Well, that, and changing the world or whatever.

So far the biggest anxiety in training has been--culture shock? Language barrier? Malaria?

NOPE. The biggest concern has been: what is the definition of "business casual" clothing? Are polo shirts cool? How about sandals? No, but like, really nice sandals?

We all think it's hilarious, but we all NEED TO KNOW. It seems like we were all pretty surprised that development work in a Caribbean country would require business casual clothes, and we all desperately need to be reassured that we have packed appropriately. (It seems that I mainly have, hooray!)

I suppose things like language and culture are slightly more intangible concerns, things that we can sort out when we get there. But, dude, if that polo shirt isn't going to cut it, I don't even know what I'm going to wear.

I've also learned that my first three weeks of training will be center-based, and will focus on language and the basics, while the next five weeks will be community-based, and focus more on the logistics of our actual placements. There is no Internet at the training site, although there are supposed to be Internet cafes around. So, who knows? I'll try to blog/check email when I can. In the meantime, please write letters!

Hasta luego!