Sunday, June 21, 2015

Diving in at Staging!

We survived our first full day of staging here in DC! It's been a whirlwind of training exercises, personality evaluations and even an intro to Fon, the local language in most of Benin.  

Staging Welcome Booklet
After landing at National on Friday afternoon, I made it to the hotel in Georgetown and immediately ran into a bunch of PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) in the lobby.  You could sense the excitement and anticipation in the room and I feel like I introduced myself countless times.  Before reporting for registration at 6 pm, a group of us ventured out to grab a bite to eat and found a great little pho place down the road.

What are you looking forward to?
We're excited about being terrible artists!
Rushing back to throw on business casual clothing, we all made our way to the meeting room to sign in and begin the registration process.  We were required to attest that our marital or legal status hadn't changed since we applied and we received our peace corps passports! I was looking forward to something special, but alas, it looks like your standard blue book passport.  Although they took these back for safe keeping, we all were given Visa cards with our staging allowance on them.  While everyone else made their way though the line, a couple of us found a pool table in the hotel bar and passed the next two hours getting to know each other.  When they called us back to the meeting room, they gave us a couple security tips and sent us out to enjoy a night on the town.  A bunch of us found a great little Mexican place and savored what will probably be our last margaritas for a long time.

Three Goals of the Peace Corps
This morning started bright and early with official introductions, sessions covering safety, an excise on cultural adjustment and an overview of the Let Girls Learn campaign.  We were lucky enough to meet the deputy director of the Peace Corps and the program manager for LGL, who was so excited to be presenting on this new initiative at one of the first staging events for new volunteers in the 13 countries with the program.  It's crazy that we will be working to implement this program in a few short months!
Job description in
our own words
Despite the long sessions, our facilitators did a great job engaging us and ensuring that all our questions were answered.  In addition to reviewing the history of the Peace Corps and all the core expectations for volunteers, we learned how to count to 10 in Fon.  Apparently, we will be learning Fon simultaneously with French when we land in country on Tuesday, even though some of us won't end up living in villages where Fon is spoken...

We capped off the day with a helpful lesson on the DIVE approach (describe, interpret, verify, evaluate) to cultural adaptation.  Living in Benin will certainly involve situations where being able to step back and ask questions before passing judgement will be extremely useful (and for obvious reasons, this is a very important life skill).

Dive in! And don't forget that
you can't see whats under the surface
Our first day finally concluded around 6 and we broke off for dinner.  I was able to go for a quick run before meeting up with friends for Thai food.  We were caught in an extreme downpour walking around Georgetown but hey, PCVs are hardcore (and we're two days away from the African rainy season!)

Christy and I are settling in to finish Season 3 of OITNB (no shame here). Back to another full day tomorrow beginning with a logistics talk for Monday's travel.  One more day to Benin!