Long Time, No Internet

Hey everyone!

We have been getting badgered about not updating this blog (thanks, fam). We know, we know, it’s been well over a month without a new post. What can we say–the second half of training was all time consuming, swearing in was pretty cool, and moving to our permanent site for the next two years has been a big adjustment. Oh, and we spent at least a week and a half without cell service or internet.

We wanted to make a post about what Pre-Service Training, or good ‘ole PST, was all about. Once you’re living the Peace Corps life, you get sucked in, so we will try our best to explain our first two months in country.

August 15-18:

  • We arrive in-country at the Dili airport in Timor-Leste!
  • We meet some of our Peace Corps staff, who are now good friends to us.
  • Jet lagged and confused and unsure of what will happen the next few weeks, let alone two years, we are brought to a training center in Hera with all of our luggage.
  • We get some pre-training-training, which is a whirlwind of basic Tetum classes, vaccinations, lessons on how to bucket bathe, sleep under a mosquito net, doing laundry by hand, and using an eastern-style toilet.
  • Basic self-care and medical training included pricking each other’s fingers to learn how to test yourself for malaria (totally feasible task if you are delirious with said malaria *sarcasm*)
  • Culture night, which was a night of hanging out, learning Timorese dancing and songs, and dancing and singing ourselves. Marta played I’m Yours on her precious uke.
  • Without any further ado, moving to Railaco, meeting our first host family for the first time, and moving in with them.

August 20-31:

  • Marta gets violently ill on day 3 at training site, and misses out on the first day of training.
  • Washing a full load of laundry is hilarious to watch, if you asked any of the neighborhood kids in Railaco.
  • Chills at night, but sweating bullets in the afternoon.
  • Deskansa – the Timorese siesta – officially becomes our training group’s favorite time of day.
  • We visit the weekly big market in town for the first time!
  • A walk around our community turns into a two our hike up the mountains (Marta is still sick at this point, but because she is tired, the whole town comes to know her as the not hiker, and Shaun as the model hiker).
  • Church in Timor is so important–we experience it and come to know its influential role in the revolution and independence of this country.

September 1-30:

  • We settle in to the groove of training, which starts at 8:30AM with language class, Monday thru Saturday. From 12-1:30PM is lunch and deskansa. Then 1:30PM-5PM, Monday thru Friday, we have technical training and occasional field activities.
  • Technical training is a mix of trainings on safety, medical and health, Timorese culture and history, and giving us a full scope on what the role of a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) is. It’s a lot of information.
  • We get used to a 6:30PM curfew, because when it gets dark here, it gets DARK. The stars are beautiful and skies untouched by light pollution.
  • A little mouse sneaks into bed with us and we learned that tucking in our mosquito net really well can keep many pests out.
  • We become friends with our home’s Tokey gecko. Beautiful, mean, but keeps spiders and other bugs away.
  • We become godparents 🙂 there is a post about that story on the blog already.
  • Our first couple of field activities take place, which include being paired with a local group (Shaun with a bakery and cooking group, and Marta with a women’s agricultural cooperative). We hold meetings with them and begin to plan trainings.
  • We taught our first English classes! Shaun worked in the elementary school, and Marta in the high school. The kids were wonderful to work with.
  • We begin to call Railaco our home, and start to realize that soon we will have to hit the road again.
  • We finally learn (the day before our permanent site visit) where we will be working and living for the next two years.
  • We go on our permanent site visit, which is the village of Tibar, in the Liquiça district. We are in the hottest site among our training group, and learn that your body can sweat to no end. We meet our future host family, stay with them, visit our places of work, and begin to get restless to become PCVs.

October 1-15:

  • We start to experience the heat that comes before the wet season on a daily basis now, and rains are more frequent.
  • We are both ecstatic and sad thinking about our move to permanent site in less than three weeks.
  • Our final field activity takes place. Shaun trained his group on making an American style dish, and Marta trained her group on how to prioritize personal spending.
  • We take a final language exam and find that we’ve gone from knowing no Tetum to being intermediate level speakers.
  • We begin to realize just how much we have accomplished in only a month and a half, and how much we have already changed since leaving our home in the States.
  • We prepare for our Host Family Appreciation Day by learning a traditional Timorese dance to perform, and a few Timorese songs. Needless to say, it was a nice day.
  • After some tears and packing up our lives once more (only this time, with mosquito nets, a water filter, and tons of books from Peace Corps in tow). We leave Railaco, and go to Dili.

October 16-18:

  • At the Unio Training Center in Dili, we have our Counterpart Conference. Counterparts are one or more people in our communities that are identified to act as a guide for PCV projects. They are a leader, a cultural confidant, and help us work alongside the Timorese through grassroots development.
  • We are blessed with a couple of days with AC and the option of taking a shower–but honestly, bucket baths are the best way to bathe 🛀
  • We practice our Timorese dance some more, as we are to perform it at the US Embassy as part of our swear in ceremony.
  • We enjoy the last we can with our training group all together. We have grown close and there is a sense of camaraderie you won’t find anywhere else.

October 19: Swearing In as Volunteers< strong>o more bullet lists. On Swear in day, we once again packed up, sent our luggage off to the PC Office, and went to the US Embassy. We got their early, dressed up in traditional Timorese attire, a weird mix of apprehension and calm with what was to come. Joining Peace Corps is kind of like rolling the dice. It’s like bungee jumping someplace with a high rate of accidents. It is the epitome of taking risk, having a bit of faith that everything will work out, and going for it. At the end of the day, you will be happy to have done it.

We had a few speakers at the ceremony, including the US Ambassador, former president of Timor-Leste and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jose Ramos-Horta. All of our counterparts attended. We performed our little dance, sang our songs, and took our oath as PCVs. After, we enjoyed some American cuisine and said our last goodbyes. This would be the last time most of us didn’t see each other for awhile, since we need to stay at permanent site for the first three months to focus on integration with our communities. After the ceremony and food, we went on our merry way to grab luggage from the PC office and move to site.That’s a whole lot of stuff that happened. Writing it out reminds us of how far we have come. We have been living and working in Tibar for two weeks now, and are so excited for what the future holds. We will write another post about the work we do soon!

Marta + Shaun

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