Written Saturday, June 19, 2010
My Peace Corps Pre-Service Training Manual states PST "is a time to test your assumptions about being a volunteer, assumptions about Americans and Tanzanians, assumptions about what is right and what is wrong, and the differences here."
Boy, is that an understatement.
At 30-years-old, I have gained a lot of professional experience and, without meaning to sound completely conceited, I took pride in knowing I was someone my co-workers and peers could rely on to know my job and for advice if ever needed. It's crazy how much a few thousand miles can change one's self-perception as those abilities are certainly not how I would characterize myself in this moment.
Two flights, a missed connection and an afternoon spent in an airport instead of important initial meetings got me to Philadelphia on Monday. I did get to meet the other Peace Corps Trainees, PCTs, that night for supper. They are all totally fabulous and have wonderfully unique stories of their own.
Tuesday was another early morning as we had to be on the road to get our first immunization shot (yellow fever) by 6 a.m. We then boarded two group tour buses (seriously, I just can't get away from these things!) and headed to NYC. I really do try to hide my inner-country-hickness but driving through Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan even had me at the edge of my seat. Funky pizza parlors, the New York Times office and even a park I swear to have seen on Sex and the City had me seriously wanting to stay at least a day.
But we were quickly at JFK and not so quickly onto the plane. Who knew moving 41 people each with two bags not weighing more than a total of 80lbs or total dimensions of more than 107in could take so long? Three flights with stops in Zurich and Nairobi, 21 hours of travel and an eight-hour (CST) time difference got us all to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa. Needless to say, I slept very little and was a bundle of nerves once we finally landed in TZ!
Our home until next Wednesday is at a convent in Dar. Training started bright and early at 8 a.m. the next day but I think my "assumptions" were tested as soon as we arrived at the hostel. We were grandly welcomed by the PC Tanzania staff and almost immediately given our malaria pills. Then we were shown to our rooms. Granted after three days they do not really seem that bad but, at first arrival, I was thrown off guard a bit. The room is small with the bare necessities and a 4'x 5' open-floor-plan-bathroom with a working toilet and a shower with a drain.
I never understood why everyone at home was so surprised that I would want to do this, especially as it was my first time out of the US let alone an under-developed country. But at that point of exhaustion and being a bit overwhelmed by it all, I was quickly understanding the surprise and how a previous trip could have helped me prepare for the voyage.
Now after three full days in TZ, I am finally feeling back to my old self. The past three days have been a blur of five of 10 more shots, lessons on the Tanzanian culture, religion and language. As comfortable as I was in my old life, it has been a sharp change that I knew was coming but still a surprise. I have really been struggling with the language more than others in my class, but they have all been really helpful. So much stress is put on being wary of the high petty-crime rate that I have not been really talking to many of the locals who live and work at the convent that our hostel is located inside. But they are good people and very friendly. They are thankful to have PC here in TZ and want to make sure we enjoy our stay, which really describes most of the people in TZ.
Next Wednesday we move in with our host family for the remaining eight weeks of training. I am really excited to meet them and get to experience their daily routines first-hand. During this time, there will be three others living in the same village with their host families, and we will continue to meet up for educational sessions with a Language and Culture Facilitator.
Oh, and the curiously strong toilet? Having an open bathroom with no shelves, I have had to sit my shampoo and soap on the back of the commode. When I went to flush the first morning, my entire, newly-opened bottle of facewash fell in the toilet! Before I realized what had happened, it had been completely flushed down!! Luckily, I have two more bottles with me and a supply at home that my family is suppose to send me. I have not even had any problems with plumbing since then….