Thursday, June 28, 2012
First Few Days of Training
Welcome one and all to my first blog post from Benin! I’m at the Peace Corps workstation in Cotonou. We arrived Tuesday night, and were met at the airport by a very enthusiastic welcome committee of current volunteers. For the past two days we’ve been living at a religious retreat center, to have a few days of orientation. It’s been intense – days packed with information sessions on safety and security, Peace Corps policies, general information about our programs, diversity in Peace Corps, peer support options… it’s all really interesting information, but a lot to absorb.
Today we were issued our mountain bikes and had our zemidjan (motorcycle taxi) lesson. Zemis are one of the most widespread types of transportation available to volunteers here, so we are one of few countries where volunteers are permitted to ride motorcycles. We had a group of zemi drivers come to the Peace Corps office, and we had to practice haggling for a good price and then go for a short ride in the streets around the area. Good fun. I wore pants; learning how to get on a motorcycle in a skirt without showing my knees is a challenge for another day.
Tomorrow we leave for Porto Novo, a nearby city where we’ll do the rest of training. We’ll be living in host families there, and I and another volunteer are giving a speech in French at tomorrow’s ceremony when we meet our host families. Our training in Porto Novo will involve lots of language training, at least for the first five weeks. I’ll be taking one of Benin’s local languages since I’ve tested out of French. We find out which language we’ll be taking later today. Exciting times!