I’m finally here!
Today (Thursday June 28) is our second full day in Benin. So far it’s been amazing: meeting all the other PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees, we become Volunteers when we swear in at the end of training), meeting all the Peace Corps staff, speaking français, feeling the heat, learning more about what I’m going to be doing for the next few months and then the next two years.
When we arrived in Benin, there were PC staffers to meet us at the airport. After getting through the customs area, there were current PCVs who are going to be training us, who greeted us with huge “Welcome to Benin!” signs and lots of cheering and clapping. We’re staying at a facility owned by the Catholic church, and staying in dorm-like rooms. Tomorrow, after our training during the day we will meet our host families in Porto Novo and move in with them, where we will be until we go to our village post!
Our training has so far included safety and security, basic health and the beginning of a long series of immunizations, a gender session that included how to turn down a marriage offer and how to urinate on the side of the road, administrative, IT, bike and zemi (zemidjans, motorbike taxis) orientation, and language orientation. Those whose resumes indicated they had a high level of French had phone interviews ahead of time. I “passed” mine, so was given the option to study local language instead of French during our language training and immersion. Tomorrow I will find out which of the three local languages they’ve chosen for training I will be studying – Fon, Dendi or Bariba. They will try to figure out what region we will be posted to today, then choose our language for us. The majority of people here will be working on French.
It’s been incredibly exciting just to meet everyone. There are 63 PCTs from the US, plus four who were PCVs in Cape Verde, where the Peace Corps has decided that they will end the mission. This is different from the Peace Corps evacuating Volunteers – with Cape Verde, PC basically decided that the country had reached a point where they were developed enough without PC. Everyone is from everywhere. The average age is around 25, but there are two older Trainees and one middle-aged one. There are two married couples (the Cape Verde Volunteers). There are four sectors:
– TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language (my sector!)
– RCH: Rural Community Health
– EA: Environmental Action (environment/agriculture)
– CED: Community Economic Development
So far the feeling in the group is mostly excitement, mixed with a little apprehension and a lot of exhaustion. We’re all pretty tired and jet lagged but the adrenaline and the energy of the staff and Volunteer trainers are keeping us going.
In general, I feel incredibly excited but also very much at home – on the plane I had a few moments of “Oh my God, what am I getting myself into, how can I leave my family and other loved ones for so long?” but now I’m 100% sure that I made the right decision. I am incredibly excited to start learning a new language, to live with a host family, to continue meeting and talking to current Volunteers and those in my group, and to eventually get to my post and start integrating into my community. I feel blessed to be here with such a great program and am enjoying soaking up every minute of it.
*Just a few logistical things: I will have a cell phone probably tomorrow – Mom and Dad, I’ll send you my number, and I may ask other people for their number if it’s cheap to text. If you mail things to me, use USPS, and if you’re sending a package, if you can get it in a soft bubble envelope it won’t cost me money to receive it (but if you send it in anything else I’ll have to pay something to pick it up). I also have no idea how often I’ll have internet in the next few weeks – it may be often, it may be less often. As always, if you want to contact me send me an email or post on this blog!