July 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - Cape Verde: Blogs - Cape Verde: Training: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Sarin Va in Cape Verde: Peace Corps Training

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cape Verde: Peace Corps Cape Verde : The Peace Corps in Cape Verde: July 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - Cape Verde: Blogs - Cape Verde: Training: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Sarin Va in Cape Verde: Peace Corps Training

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Peace Corps Volunteer Sarin Va in Cape Verde: Peace Corps Training

Peace Corps Volunteer Sarin Va in Cape Verde: Peace Corps Training

"There isnít that much to do as I donít have a lot of free time. Itís either study kriolu, watch American subtitled movies, drink beer, listen to my iPod or hang outside and watch passer byers. Even on the weekends I canít sleep later in the morning as Sao Dao life begins at the break of dawn. This realization helps me realize that I will never have a day off the same way I would have a day off in America so I just have to stay on my toes. I even plan my weekends to go out instead of trying to catch up on sleep that will never come."

Peace Corps Volunteer Sarin Va in Cape Verde: Peace Corps Training

28 July 2005
Sao Dao and Peace Corps Training

I arrived at Sao Domingos two weeks ago for Peace Corps training. It is a small town off center in the Island of Santiago. There is one main road that runs through all of town and virtually everybody walks on the same road that all the public vans speed through. There is also no traffic or stop lights, just like a lot of Cape Verde. Peace Corps may have chosen this location because it is relatively safe, small, and has good enough resources to sustain its rural location.

Sao Domingos (from which now on I will call ďSao DaoĒ) is a typical town on Santiago Island. Sao Dao is moderately rural with roosters and pigs in most peopleís homes. People here are poor but not on the extreme. Here, everybody knows everybody and then each otherís moms. At any point, I never feel isolated. I walk down random streets and people know where I live because theyíve seen me and they know my host mom. Itís just that small town feel, from the small market to the bar that everybody goes to. A lot of Sao Dao reminds me of being a kid. I eat what my host mom cooks, I get dragged to family functions, and I play a lot with the other neighborhood kids.

Many claim that Santiago Island is the most ďAfricanĒ of the Cape Verdean archipelago. So itís not surprising to see women carrying buckets on their heads, or that the locals here are better at running than Iíll ever be. There are certain liberties here that may or may not apply to the rest of Cape Verde that Iím still in shock of acknowledging. In this town, every male can publicly urinate without embarrassment. One time I was walking back home for lunch and a couple of guys were pissing off the side of a bridge, but more shocking is that it was high noon and right behind them was the town police station. And thereís more than just public urination, you can walk around with an open beer container and walk in and out of businesses. Shocking, yet I donít think itís time for me to start practicing it.

We all stay with a homestay family for the entire 9 week duration of training, which is held at a local high school. Sessions run from 8:30 to 5 everyday with an hour and a half for lunch. On occasion, some Saturdays are booked for field trips and such. Our homestay families have provided me with my own room, double bed with a lock. Thereís always water being conserved and the bathroom faucets donít put out a lot of pressure and thereís never hot water (just like most of Cape Verde). Thereís a mother who cooks meals for the two brothers and me everyday. The 2 brothers, Kenny and Heltom are 10 and 14. They have been nice to show me around town and when I feel like studying Kriolu, there they are.

Everyday I wake up to the sound of roosters or my host mom cooking. I donít have an alarm clock so I laze around in bed till about 7:15. I wash my face and eat breakfast, (every meal is served to me where they refuse to look at me as less than a guest) which usually consists of eggs, corned hash browns and a biscuit. Instant coffee is made everyday but since itís not the drip type I generously pour lots of sugar in. Somehow, the sugar doesnít get me antsy anymore.

After watching some TV, I brush my teeth and get dressed for training. Mainly nice casual clothes that I would normally wear on casual work days. I say later to the kids and walk to the training center which is about 3 minutes away. Every morning there are locals hanging around the main road waiting to grab a public transport so I say hello to anybody in my direction. Before sessions start, I fill up my water bottle (gotta stay hydrated) and socialize with the other trainees.

Right now I am attending sessions that make up Pre-Service Training. We are not considered volunteers until we acquire the language skills and get assigned our respective sites. Training itself is a huge endeavor and never have I seen a training program where the staff to trainee ratio is as close to 1:1. No language class is bigger than 4 trainees ever. These trainers and teachers are the best the country can offer and there is no better way to learn the local language in the method Peace Corps prescribes. It may be long, but you can tell the amount of preparation and effort that the Peace Corps puts into training, in order for us to become effective volunteers.

Sessions are on a schedule that mostly involves 2 Ė 4 hours of Kriolu classes, and the rest of the day filled with either safety or cross culture workshops. Language classes are intensive; I think only one of the 8 teachers speaks good English, and mine understands some. I understand about 85% from my teacher, which is very good for a language Iíve only tried for 2 weeks and never seen or heard before. Sometimes I throw in a little Spanish, which almost translates into Portuguese, which Cape Verdeans know but donít prefer speaking. One thing about language classes is that if youíre ever coming to visit, knowing good Spanish or Portuguese will get you a long way. As far as after class goes, the teachers donít assign much homework and Iím forced to do my own type of studying.

I go home for lunch and relax a bit. Either taking a nap, or listening to music on my iPod. Sometimes there is something on TV and sometimes I hang out with the kids. I return to the training center around 2 o clock for the rest of sessions. Safety and Cross culture workshops are interesting sometimes and a lot of attention is made to improve them each time. Topics include emergency information, important health issues, cross culture adjustment and practical information.

After sessions are over, most of the trainees converge at a local bar and have some drinks before dinner. Some of us are slightly frightened at the strength of Cape Verdean grogue, a hard spirit made from sugarcane that is very eye opening with a 120 proof taste. However, we still drink a lot of it and nationalís favorite beer, Super Bock. On some days when it is not as hot, I hike up the mountain behind my house, or get some exercise with the kids. I havenít gotten used to running yet and donít think I will get really like it during training.

I return home for dinner before I take a short cold shower. When night falls, I either study some more or hang out on the spacious roof of my house. I go to bed typically around 9:30 in my hot room. Recently, they let me borrow a fan which helps out a lot. On weekends, I get out to other parts of Santiago for day trips (been up and down the Island once) and hang out at night. There are fiestas to go to at night and also the discotheques that keeps the locals busy till late. I still spend a lot of time with the other trainees as we all seem to converge at the same spot and mostly try to keep busy. Sometimes thereís dance classes at night, or Tae Kwon Do, and most recently, movie nights. The trainees donít really drink as much as us New Englanders do, and my partying habits have gotten me labeled the town drunk (which my old friends would probably think is funny).

There isnít that much to do as I donít have a lot of free time. Itís either study kriolu, watch American subtitled movies, drink beer, listen to my iPod or hang outside and watch passer byers. Even on the weekends I canít sleep later in the morning as Sao Dao life begins at the break of dawn. This realization helps me realize that I will never have a day off the same way I would have a day off in America so I just have to stay on my toes. I even plan my weekends to go out instead of trying to catch up on sleep that will never come.

Itís still only week 3 of training, but I know how the rest of training will be like. The next biggest step would be finding out our site announcements, the areas where we will spend our 2 years as actual volunteers. Announcements will be made in mid August, I believe. They say training is sort of like boot camp for the Peace Corps and everything gets easier after training. Next week the CD volunteers will be out on field trips everyday, which would be a good break from sitting in a hot classroom.

There are certain things in the US that I miss a lot, like keeping in good contact with everyone. Other things I miss are peace and quiet, late night tv, high speed internet, and somehow I miss NYC more than I miss home. Training isnít that bad, but for now, I will just look to the next step and hope every day in the Peace Corps gets easier than the last.

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