Thursday marked the half-way point of training. Peace Corps service is split into 12 weeks of training and then 2 years of service. So, the milestone we reached on Thursday was that we, Ed 4 (the fourth education group to serve in Rwanda since the country was re-opened as a Peace Corps post in 2009), are half-way through training.
These sorts of milestones are an occasion for stock-taking. How are things going 6 weeks in?
First, I can say I’m really proud of our group because nobody has ET’d (early terminated) yet. You can leave any time in the Peace Corps and that knowledge (and temptation) can be sort of torturous on rough days. But, so far, we’re all still here.
Second, we also hadour “mid-LPI” today. This is the mid-point Language Proficiency Interview. During these interviews, our LCFs (language and cross-culture facilitators) guide us in an interview on topics we’ve studied so far like health and illnesses, family, daily activities, bargaining at the market, etc. After the interview, they assign us a level from novice-low to advanced-high. To be sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer we’re required to achieve intermediate-low. My interview went quite well, I think, although there were some unexpectedly complex questions which I had to think quickly to be able to answer given our limited language abilities. As an example, here’s the prompt I was given: “You’ve ound out your school will be closed for the next several days due to an event in the community. Ask some questions to a colleague to find out more details.” We get our results Monday so I’ll try to update next week with my score.
At the 6-week point I also feel increasingly comfortable with my Ed 4 cohort and in Rwandan generally. Both adjustments had their difficulties for different reasons. As an evangelical Christian, my values and choices are, in many cases, different than those of my peers who have other belief systems. This difficulty is two-fold: it means that I feel, to a certain degree, alienated from the group and scared of judgment for my beliefs and behaviors but it also means that I have a lack of fellow Christians with whom to share community in Christ. I really like my group and there are a lot of great people that I’m very glad to have met but the lack of Christian community has definitely been the greatest struggle so far.
As far as adjusting to Rwanda — well, everything was so different in the beginning that it was simply overwhelming. Now, though, I feel I’m beginning to integrate the cultural differences and make sense of them. I feel that I can make conscious choices about hwo to react in different interactions like over-enthusiastic children, overly-interested adult men, curious passer-bys and iteractions in shops. This feeling of having a wider perspective plus increasing familiarity with life here plus growing command of the language all make stepping out the front door less daunting.
So, 6 weeks completed out of the 116 that make up a Peace Corps term of service isn’t a huge percentage but it’s definitely a good start!