For my first few weeks in the Peace Corps I am technically a PC ‘trainee’ going through initial orientation (IO) for two weeks followed by pre-service training (PST) for another eight. To give a better idea of what I’m doing, I thought I would share a ‘standard’ day in the life of a trainee during IO:
5.30am – The sunrises early here and I have been getting up with it to enjoy a swim in the pool, a run around the complex, or some other kind of physical activity. I’m staying in a dorm-style building with one roommate and a shared bathroom, with a total of about 20 women. A couple times some of us will work out or do yoga together. This morning I woke up to torrential downpours of the habagat, the hot and humid rainy season, so I stretched, showered, and made my way to the dining hall.
6.30-8.00 – We have a nice chunk of time to enjoy the breakfast buffet… this morning I tried pineapple jam on toast, had a couple of fresh, small bananas, and some tea. There are over 71 volunteers, plus a few dozen staff and trainees from the Peace Corps who eat here, and that’s not including other visitors and staff in the site. Sometimes meals are crowded (though there always is plenty of food) and sometimes you stumbled upon the solace of quiet.
8.00-10.00 – Time for Language Lessons! It’s only day two and we already have an assessment! We’ve learned greetings, introductions, and how to ask basic questions about a person. Some fun phrases I’ve enjoyed are sikreto for when you don’t want to answer about your marital status or how old you are (though the community will find out anyway, we’ve been warned) and buhay pa, still alive, in response to “how are you?” We have two lovely local ladies as our Language Facilitators, and so far the whole group seems to enjoy the class a lot.
10.10-10.15 – Merienda aka snack time! Tea, coffee, cookies, juice, and fruit await us in the lecture hall.
10.15-12.00 – Technical sessions with our sector managers, technical cross-cultural facilitators, and the resource PCVs. This is where the three sections (Environment, Education, and Children, Youth & Families) separate for task-specific training. In Coastal Resource Management (the Environment group) there are 24 of us from a wide variety of backgrounds; fresh college graduates, experienced fisheries managers, environmental policy experts, and an assortment of educational backgrounds. In today’s session we did an ice breaker from NASA, then watched homemade movies and presentations about service by past and current CRM volunteers. It’s exciting to see the types of work and home life that we may encounter, and the variety of site placement available to us.
12.00-13.00 – Lunch!
13.00-15.00 – Technical sessions again! This time we watched a powerpoint on biodiversity and fisheries in the seas surrounding the Philippines. We touched on the conservation issues that are encountered at sites, such as overfishing, pollution, bad fishing practices, and poor management of ecological systems that have put the fishing industries here at risk.
15.00-15.15 – Afternoon merienda. This is where I had some delicious coconut and pineapple bars and a slice of dragonfruit!
15.15-17.00 – Crisis management and the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) lecture session. We start the session off with an ‘energizer’, a quick fun song or a repeat-after-me chant that gets our blood flowing before another stint sitting down. This is a really important session regarding what to do if there is an emergency, often a natural disaster, and the protocol that Peace Corps Volunteers should follow. In the Philippines, there are lots of storms, 20-25 a year result in the use of the EAP (emergency action plan), which could be anything from a warning text to all volunteers, or an order to standstill at site to avoid travel issues, or even an order to evacuate to a pre-determined safe house. At the end, Jean, the Country Director stood up to read questions from our anonymous questions box and also opened the floor to talk about the three shootings that just occurred in America. It is a somber end to an incredible week of making friends, learning, and positive thinking. We take a moment of silence for everyone in the US, our hearts hurting for home, heavy and sullen.
17.00-1800 – Finally, a little free time! I have a 22 page paper to read for a presentation next week… and a blog to write (these things take time!) but I decide to take some time to focus on my own health (mental and physical), so I work out with some of the girls in the dorm.
18.00-20.00 – Dinner! Another delicious buffet… this one had fresh veggie rolls with a selection of sauces that made my vegetarian stomach extremely happy. There was also a sweet, dark, juicy watermelon for dessert that kept me coming back for more. Our CRM resource volunteers (one’s who have been serving for a year already) held “office hours” so we could ask them more questions about the presentations they gave earlier.
20.00-2200 – Activity time! The resource volunteers have also organized a lot of fun activities for us every morning and evening. Tonight is movie night and there was popcorn, chocolate cake, and fresh juice to munch on… plus it was Space Jam, a real blast from the past! Last night was “pinoy game night” where we played goofy parlor games that had many of us crying from laughter.
22.00 – Bedtime! Well, it’s actually after 23.00. But essentially we are free to do as we please, within the rules of the grounds. There is a rec room across from my dorm that has darts, ping pong, pool, and karaoke a Filipino classic, known here as videoke!
Okay, it has been a long 18 hour day so I’m going to leave it here. Hopefully you have a better idea of what I’m doing on a regular basis (6 days a week for the next few months)!
Until next time,