Sunday, February 10, 2008

Early Service Conference (ESC)


One of the happiest times is when our Group 78 gets together. This past week (Feb 4-8) we went to a required Peace Corps event called Early Service Conference held at Faofao Beach Resort at Saleapaga on the island of Uplou. We stayed in Samoan style beach houses next to roaring waves. We stuffed ourselves with such rare delicacies as cheese, grapes, and salads. Sessions were held to improve our language, learn more about writing proposals, teaching methods, and another retelling of Peace Corps rules.

Group 78 seems to have a special place in the minds of Peace Corps trainers. One of the staff who has trained over 20 groups remarked that our group was the very best. We feel that way too, but exactly why we are held in such high esteem is difficult to understand. The trainers feel it is due to their new training methods. Maybe it was the training village of Manunu. Maybe it was the preparation of the villages prior to our arrival by the Peace Corps staff and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Of course, we feel we are just a talented group with a sense of purpose. The bar is set high for us. We like that honor.

Our entire group of sixteen is still together after eight months. The only person who did not attend was Sophia Mitchell who was flown to Hawaii for treatment of a nasty tropical intestinal problem. There seems to be a genuine caring and interest in what each of us is doing. As the oldest person in our group, I feel this kinship which crosses age, gender, and talent boundaries. Just whether our group falls into the long standing “Early Separation” statistic of 29% remains to be seen. We still have nineteen more months to go.

What were beneficial to us all were the individual presentations about our highs and lows. We all have had them. When we were working actively on our projects seems to mark the high times; the lows during those inactive periods waiting for something to happen, when we just couldn’t get others to share our enthusiasm.

Some in our group are having problems with their initial placement; some have already been reassigned to new villages and/or jobs. Peace Corps does a lot to properly match the volunteer with the job and does not take moving people lightly. Many times the problems works themselves out as both Samoans and the volunteer readjust their expectations. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there.

In trying best to describe Samoa and the culture we find ourselves in, the word “convoluted” came up. No one can think of a better word. We are all trying to connect the dots. The lines don’t seem to go in a straight line. Just where the line goes, we don’t understand, but somehow the dots get connected. We just need plenty of patience and not to worry.
Group 78 with Language Trainers
(Sophia Mitchell, missing)

Language Classroom

A Little Evening Entertainment

No comments: