Friday, September 2, 2011

Managua Retreat - Continued

Managua Retreat Continued
Right after lunch, we dove right into classes. We have classes for three days here, from 8am until about 5 or 6pm. The training has a lot of really useful and pertinent information from people living here on the ground.  It’s kind of overwhelming and there’s a lot to learn in a short time as well as tons of paperwork (it is the US government!).  A lot of the staff running the sessions (Charlas in Spanish) are Nicaraguan locals. We’ve had safety/security sessions as well as medical/health classes.  I got my typhoid vaccine yesterday; Hep A and B  and rabies to follow. I already had several vaccinations done back in the States. I also got my first dose of anti-malaria prophylaxis, which I have to take twice a week for the next 2.5 years.  Supposedly it has a well-known side effect of “enhanced” dreams, i.e. nightmares so vivid you won’t know when you’re awake or asleep. Think Matrix.
We received a sturdy medical kit with all sorts of helpful items (yaay Tylenol and antibiotic ointment!) as well as an emergency diarrhea kit with rehydration salt tablets, electrolyte mix, and a stool sample container. Apparently it’s REALLY common and taking a stool sample to the PC medical office is considered pretty routine.  And when it comes out both ends, it’s called the “Double Dragon”- spread the word.
The medical sessions are pretty extensive and it’s hard not to get a little freaked out.  Volunteers do die in service but as long as we do what we’re supposed to and follow the medical guidelines (preventative and curative) we should be fine.
Most of us took a siesta before dinner, despite the oppressive humidity. I needed a shower when I woke up but it felt like I’d just had one, eww. We sleep in book beds, four girls (or guys) to a room, on thing foam pads. There is no A/C but it does cool down some at night. We have running water and electricity on the site but there are only three shower stalls for 20 something girls and there is no hot water. An ice cold shower is no more pleasant in the tropics, but by the second night it wasn’t as bad.
So, there are a series of three language assessments and they’re a big deal. We have to meet a minimum standard to pass training (as well as other criteria). After the first assessment we are placed in groups of four in our training towns, somewhere in the Masaya region. I’m not too worried about it- some of the staff and PCVs here said they had little Spanish starting out. The country director even admitted she had zero Spanish when she began training as a volunteer. I know we’re going to learn a lot being immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment for 12 weeks. Even our host families speak no English, so our lingual trials should be a source of amusement for them over the next three months.
I don’t know how the idea got started that Peace Corps drops volunteers off in the middle of nowhere, says “Good luck! See ya in two years!” and drives off.  This is some of the most structured, informative, relevant training I’ve ever had… and it’s only been a few days!  Who knows how far we’ll come by November 25? (End of training and my birthday- a good omen?)

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