Friday, May 30, 2008

Early Service Training


Twelve of the thirteen members of Group 79 met at the Peace Corps office on Monday morning for our 8 am departure time. We were finally in the van and on the road at 9:45 or so.

We all fit into the Peace Corps new van comfortably, but the ride was still nauseating for me. Samoa's roads curve and wind up and down through mountains and valleys and around the outer edge of the island. It took over an hour to reach our destination at speeds ranging from 10 mph to 60 mph. I was a little green when we got there.

When we left a week later I asked our medical officer if I could bribe her into letting us catch a ride back with her instead of waiting for the van. I was hoping I would get less carsick in the SUV. I was wrong.

On the return trip we stopped at a resort along the way where a Peace Corps from another group was getting married.

We stayed at the FaoFao Beach Fales for our training. It is too bad we had training after our Savai'i vacation. We might have thought the FaoFao beach fales were nice, but we had already been spoiled by the fales in Savai'i. The fales themselves weren't as new or as well-kept as the ones at Vacations. The mattress was slightly better than the one at Jane's. The restroom facilities were about on par with the ones at Jane's as well. FaoFao did offer a Samoan-style fiafia. They usually perform the fiafia and serve the Samoan BBQ on Saturdays, but because we were not going to be there on Saturday, they moved it to earlier in the week. Most of the dances performed were from other islands though. I caught myself frequently turning to Cale saying, "That's not Samoan," and "That's definitely not Samoan."

Overall I did not like FaoFao as much as the ones in Savai'i. I could be biased by the fact that I was sick the entire time and it was frequently overcast while we were there.

We were fed breakfast, lunch, dinner and two teas a day during our EST. The food in FaoFao was very much mea'ai (Samoan food). Breakfast may include toast, bananas, eggs, panekake (fried dough balls), papaya and coconut. Teas included biscuits and cake and twice apples. Lunch was rice, taro, vegetable stir fry, curries, fish, etc. Dinner was also rice, taro, vegetable stir fry, fish, a salad of some sort (slaw, cucumber or lettuce) and sometimes potato salad.

Overall, I was not too pleased with the food and ate mostly rice for the week. The food doesn't sound too bad on paper. It is in reality where the trouble starts for me. There is a much different quality in meat and the preparation of meat here. So I have a hard time with Samoan foods because the meats are frequently fatty, gristly and contain bones. The fish was usually a fried reef know, the entire fish from head to scales to tail.

I definitely lost weight while we were at EST. We saw our medical officer on the last day and she expressed concern over my weight. She made me weigh in when we got back to the office (110.5 pounds) and insisted that I eat more fatty foods and gain weight. I can happily say that one week later I weigh five pounds more, which is about how much I usually weight these days. EST was just a little hard on me.

The first three day's of training where HILT (high-intensity language training). Each trainer was set up at a different location and offered different topics during the day. You could choose what sessions to attend. I went to one class on complex sentences and started to attend another when the wind kicked up and I ran off to rescue lavalavas and batten down the hatches on the fale. I actually spent most of those three days in bed.

The fourth day brought a visit from our APCD (Associate Peace Corps Director), Fata, and our CD (Country Director), Dale. We talked about programmatic issues, our role in our communities and other exciting topics.

The final day was Safety and Security, Medical and Financial. I went to all of the sessions on the last two days, but constantly ran off to blow my nose.

I mentioned in the entry about our Savai'i vacation that if I had known how bad Cale felt when he was sick, I would have been more concerned and attentive to him. However, I didn't realize how unfun it was until I came down with the same thing. I started with the snot the Saturday before EST. I moved into the fever Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. I continued with the snot until the following Sunday.

The fever portion of the illness was particularly miserable. I was freezing and my whole body hurt. Later, when the fever was wearing off I was hot and droopy all the time.

On a fun note, we just received notice from our medical officer that the 2008 flu vaccines are in and we need to come in to get one. I am wondering if Cale and I have already had ourselves the 2008 flu.

—  Sara

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