It's about to get real.
Holy crap! I can't believe 6 weeks of training are now behind me. I've been so busy that the time has just flown by. Let me try and give you an idea of what the last month and a half have been like.
I wake up everymorning around dawn (I actually get up at 7 pretty consistantly). After dismantalling my mosquito net and locking everything in my hut, I walk the one kilometer and change to the training site, which sits atop a mesa overlooking the town of Hamdallaye (Hamdy for short).
After breakfast on site, I have an hour and a half of language class. Then we get a half hour coffee break and snack before we have some other session (different everyday, but always a med session on a tuesday or thursday). Then we have lunch and another hour and half language class. If it's market day, tuesday, we get 2 hours for lunch instead of the usual one. Then we have another miscellaneous session, usually a "tech" session where the Ag and NRM trainees have separate sessions. Usually for us Ag's it's something about gardening. Then it's Beer o'clock (5pm) and we have an hour before they kick us out for the night. After that it's just chilling and having dinner with our host families. On Tues and Thurs we have evening language classes, which are optional.
Obviously that's the basic schedule, but on various days we have all kinds of special activities or trips that result in a different schedule. Somehow they've manage to perfect a busy schedule that still seems to result in a reasonable amount of downtime...which is usually spent mentally preparing for more grinding away at language.
The level of cultural immersion that they force us into still blows my mind. They only give us 2 nights before they thrust us into our host families with only a handful of flashcards with useful phrases to help us communicate. Every night there after they make sure we cannot hide away on the hill. The first night they loaded us into the cars to take us out to our host families I was terrified and more excited than I've ever been. I can definately see that working up the courage to go out and try to integrate yourself socially is the biggest challenge of peace corps... but it's so rewarding too. The first night I just sat there on the mat with my roomate while all the children clustered around us pointing at things and saying words I had no understanding of. I could not stop grinning.
At first it was breathtaking how fast I picked up language. I had to. My family and teachers speak very little english or they speak french at best. So I was constantly picking up new phrases and words. Also, classes are small (3 or 4 trainees per teacher) so you can't hide in the back and not participate. Now it's slowed down quite a bit. But my grammer get's better everyday as I practice talking in Zarma all the time. Classes now mostly consist of sitting around and chatting.
So yeah, that's been the last 6 weeks for me. It's been awsome. But tomorrow, it really starts. Tomorrow we all leave for our site visits. Tomorrow they take us out to our villages, drop us in our concessions, and we stay there for a week. It'll be our first taste of life in the bush. After that we have another 2 weeks of training before we swear in as real PCV's.
Last I heard, I had a house, but no latrine and no concession wall. The way houses work around here is you basically have your own little walled compound, usually fairly small, with a house or hut enclosed inside. Within that we also get a latrine and bath area with their own walls. Think of it as having a house that just doesn't have a roof, except for one or two rooms. So anyway, I'm hoping I atleast have a concession wall when I get there, as otherwise I'll be forced to hide in my house when I want privacy, and that can be hot. Anyway, needless to say I'm really excited to see my post and meet my villagers.
I'll be living in a Fulani village. The Fulans are one of many ethnic groups in Niger and are nomadic hearders traditionally. My dad is correct in that I will have the oportunity to learn a 3rd language, fulfulde. Though Zarma will be sufficient for my work. I'll also be really close to an ICRSAT research facility. ICRSAT does research on improved hybrid seeds, so I'm excited to work with them. I don't really know much more about my post than that, but I'm excited to see it.
I guess that's all for now, it's nice to actually have teh time to make a real post. Please keep sending letters! I can't tell you how much getting a letter makes my day. And if you want to send care packages those are great too. Also there are many people who's addresses I did not get before I left, so I can't write you back until you write me first.