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The Adventures of Dean and Patti in Tonga
The Adventures of Dean and Patti in Tonga
The trainees are here! The trainees are here!
Log Entry Location: East Timor
The new recruits arrived on April 17; these trainees that will be sworn in as TL02 volunteers (Timor LesteÕs second volunteer class) after their 11 weeks of training. Although all the hard work and long hours Patti has put in since she arrived was in preparation for this new crew, she hasnÕt worked with them much yet. After a week in Dili, they were whisked off to nearby villages where they are living with host families (NOT their actual volunteer sites yet). A separate staff of trainers (including current volunteers) are responsible for teaching them Tetun and introducing them to the customs and culture of E. Timor, as well as the basics of Health and Governance (the two ÒprogramsÓ the agency now has in E. Timor).
We did spend Easter Sunday with them at the ÒSecret Garden,Ó a nice snorkeling beach about 30 minutes east of Dili. It was their first weekend in E. Timor and their first trip out of DiliÉ.cleverly disguised as a water safety training session. Our first impressions of this new group were quite entertaining. They are quite a diverse group - one husband-wife pair; two other married people who are here without their spouses; one older woman whoÕs had a long career as a lawyer; and a handful just out of college. And thereÕs nothing that binds them together; no commonality. Our only perspective of agency volunteers is the 14 current volunteers. The glue that makes them one is obviously their year together in E. Timor. This TL-1 group is different in that they are all third or forth year, ÒextendedÓ volunteers - road hardened, culturally savvy, quite easy going. It will take a while for this new group to grow on us.
Patti asked Olivio, her Program Assistant, what he thought of the newbees and his response summed it all up: Òla hanesan.Ó Just not the same.
Funny recruit quotes.
"Where can I buy a cell phone? I have to call home at least every other week."
Naturally, Patti will place this volunteer in a site that doesnÕt have cell phone reception (which is still much of the country).
"Well, IÕll be back in Dili two or three times a month, right?"
ItÕs likely this recruit will be placed in a village that takes a two day bus ride and a 4 hour hike to get to from Dili - not a trek to be taken more than 2 or 3 times a year.
"Can I get the staff to drive me to the beach on Sunday?"
Funny how little they knowÉ. And how much we have to teach them.
"How come you havenÕt invited us over for dinner yet?"
Spoken by a trainee who will be lucky to get an invitation in his first year of service. PattiÕs response was "YouÕre not even Volunteers yet. Just be patient."
Saying Goodbye to TL-1
Predictably, part of the difficulty in adjusting to the TL-2 group lies in the fact that we donÕt really want to say ÒgoodbyeÓ to any of the existing Volunteers. TL-1 is a special group, in all senses of that word! WeÕve grown incredibly attached to their quirky ways - the ÒoutÓ San Franciscan who ranks PFK (PeaceKeeping Forces) soldiers according to the cut of the uniforms; the birdwatching government Volunteer who has started a head-shaving fad in his village; the fourth-year Volunteer who beams as he describes his experience planting rice with his host family; the ÒQueen of Tetun,Ó a Volunteer who was mistaken for a local Timorese by the Minister of Health; the Brazilian-educated Volunteer who made it her personal crusade to bargain hard every time she shoppedÉ..hoping to teach people that not every malae has money falling out of their pockets; the health Volunteer who shamed the First Lady (An Australian-born woman who used to serve as a translator for Xanana Gusmao) into speaking Bahasa, because the VolunteerÕs Tetun was so good; Éand all the rest.
Both of us have spent more time with them than agency staff would normally be able to. This is because the group is small and also because they have all been so actively involved in helping the agency to get ready for the TL-2 group - getting involved in site development, technical training, and almost everything else. Fortunately, we were both able to attend the Close of Service (COS) workshop with them at the beginning of May. The workshop was part retreat, part career-planning seminar, and part Foosball tournament. It was held in Maubisse, a spectacularly beautiful sub-district capital that is smack dab in the middle of the country.
The conference marked the beginning of the end for this group. As of this writing, two Volunteers have already left the country. The trickle will become a flood and the remaining eleven folks will all be gone by the last week of June.
| This Month's Issue: August 2004|
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.