Thursday, September 27, 2012

Karibu New Trainees! or You Are Going to Think I Smell So Bad

The calendar of sessions has been decided, we have argued over the content of each session, we are writing and editing tech language and welcome books, and we are almost ready for out n00bs to arrive in country next week! It has been almost a year since I arrived in Tanzania, and being back in Tanga is cause for some reflection.

What I have noticed through my reflection:

I have been amongst Americans for five days now, haven't shaved my legs yet, and don't really care.

Even though its hot, humid, and I'm sweaty, I don't mind that the guesti doesn't have water and I can't shower.

The ants in the sugar bowel are just added protein.

I have no secret that would embarrass me anymore- not about diarrhea, not about menstruation, not my dancing in public, not my BO.

Dear new PCTs,

You are going to come and be afraid of the gigantic spiders and the rats in your homestay house, and not appreciate the ants on the fish that your family keeps in a filing cabinet, and you are going to be appalled at how the PCV facilitators you meet smell and uninhibitedly describe their most explosive bout of diarrhea and eat everything in site, but one day, you will learn to live peaceably with the rats, and you will get better at killing the terrifying spiders or just accept that they won't attack you, and you will relish that you don't have to bucket bathe twice a day like you did during homestay, and you too will smell as bad as I do.

Many of the instructional sessions for PST have been standardized across all of Peace Corps, so during this Training of Trainers week of planning, we had a session introducing us to these standardized packages and the theory behind them, the policies that people in Washington came up with to streamline training for all Peace Corps countries. Washington has separated topics into health, agriculture, environment, economic development... so in the field you get health PCVs, or agriculture PCVs, or environment PCVs, but really most volunteers do some of everything, or an environment PCV will mostly work on health issues, all depending on what is happening in the community. The clear lines that Washington's policies delineated get blurred and crossed in the field, and that made me think of how different policy and fieldwork are. I imagined people sitting in air conditioned offices in Washington DC, wearing suits, going to lunch at the deli across the paved street, clean, urban, while I am sitting in a room with no electricity, the cantilevered windows opened to allow a humid breeze, transitioning between two different languages to exchange information, wearing my Tanzanian kitenge dress, my feet dusty from walking through the sand to get here. The theory and thoughtfulness- and I would assume experience in the field, as well- that went into creating the policy is valid, but what it turns into while being implemented, with each person's individual personalities and environments, is completely different, and policy just doesn't matter that much in the daily lives of a PCV. Working here is challenging; you have to be flexible and calm in the face of changes and misunderstandings that don't necessarily arise while working with fellow Americans in America so the policy makers in their nice clean offices don't think about them. That makes me feel incredibly superior, if dirtier and less professional.

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