*Editor’s Note: This post should have posted last Sunday, but my autopost feature is giving me the fits. So, extra posts this week! Thanks for your patience.
A key part of a PCT’s first weeks in their host country is the First Site Visit. FSVs allow volunteer trainees the chance to get their feet wet (literally) and try a few days of supervised village life with a currently serving volunteer. Or, as Iike to put it, to see if we can poop in a hole and like it for the next two years.
First site visits take place in the provinces neighboring the capitol city. In the case of Zambia PC, our two job sector groups (LIFE & RAP) were divided into smaller 3-4 person groups and sent out into the neighboring provinces of Central, Eastern, and Southern. We were each assigned a real live currently serving volunteer to act as a host, teach us the basics of village living, and hopefully show us a little bit about assigned jobs. My group was fortunate to have Jaime and Bryan as hosts (Bryan was visiting from another province to help Jaime out during the site visit), and we did our best to ask at least a bajillion questions, scream at the sight of giant wall spiders (which, I was then informed, were actually on the “small side”), and generally have a wonderful time.
To cover the highlights, we:
– Visited a selection of the fish ponds Jaime works with, and learned about the different challenges of fish farming in her area
– Learned to cook over charcoal and a braiser
– Visited Jaime’s outstanding garden and learned about the challenges and benefits of the African climate for organic gardening
– Witnessed the relationship between pets, livestock, and “nuisance” animals in the Zambian home
– Heard first-hand how there is no such thing as the “right” way to have a successful Peace Corps service
That last one is important. Jaime and Bryan are about as opposite as can be, both in personality and volunteering style. Jaime is more hands-off, while Bryan has twerking competitions (if you don’t know what twerking is, just carry on. Your life is better off this way) with his village children. Yet, despite their differences, both are tremendously successful and happy volunteers. They also demonstrated to our group something we as new trainees are just beginning to truly appreciate: the value of our fellow volunteers. I know I’ve mentioned in past posts the importance of my Zamily to my service, but three days in the village with three volunteers I barely knew bonded us together in ways that will carry us through the hardest times when friends and family back home just aren’t able to empathize. It’s comforting to know that when I need someone to dig a bot fly out of me, my ZamFam has got my back (and a pair of tweezers).
Having finished First Site Visit, we are now in our training centers working through the first third of our training – technical, language, and culture. My new host family is the best. More on host family living to follow.