Peace Corps calls it’s training period “Pre-Service Training” (PST) and its viewed as a time to learn the language and to also confirm that the Peace Corps and the country are a fit for you and you are a fit for the country. I think it is wonderful that the process is set up this way as it gives people a chance to really re-confirm the commitment of two years of service.
Our PST time period is 10 weeks. To start off, we have language class in the morning from 8-12 at the local grade school. Our classes are based on the idea that we need to speak the language quickly to integrate into the community and that writing and reading the language are secondary. We listen to the words first, then the group repeats the words multiple times and then we each have to say the words from memory. We are learning basic everyday vocabulary- numbers, family member names, household rooms and objects, food, directions and adverbs/adjectives to describe these things. We are also starting to learn words that will help in an office setting.
After our morning classes, most of us walk home for lunch. Some of the volunteers live farther away and/or their host mother works outside the house during the day. After lunch and for the first 5 weeks, we walk back to the local school for our Tech session. For me as a COD volunteer this means sessions on tools like surveys and needs assessments as well as discussions with current volunteers about their service and their projects. (I’ll share more about COD projects at permanent site later as it is complex.)
One of first tools we practiced with was Community Mapping. We walked the village and found the major buildings, intersections and key community spaces. We had some of the host sisters join us as tour guides. We finished up at a beautiful picnic table that we found in the village.