Saturday, April 28, 2007


Ok, so I am on a major high right now. Last night we had our language test and found out where we are going to be for the next two years. Let me warn you in advance however... this entry will be frustrating for you because I'm actually not allowed to post on here the geographical location of my site. For that you will have to contact my parents. They are informed. Just know you won't be able to find it on a map...

... so let's start with the language. AWESOME!! I was really worried about it, not so much about passing because I knew that that was going to happen. I really want to do well in this language and maybe break some of the mediocre tendencies I've displayed in the past. It was a smashing success. I don't know exactly where I'm at on their scoring because it was just a mid term evaluation and not the actual test, but I'm definitely in the Intermediate level and all you need is Novice High. (the levels are Novice Low, Mid, High, Intermediate Low, Mid, High, Advanced Low, Mid, High, and Superior)That from only about 2 or 3 combined weeks of language training. It's amazing how quickly you can learn a language.

Now on to the site... all I can tell you is that I am extremely excited. I have a new site and in an area where there were no previous volunteers which means I'll be starting from scratch. It's in the mountains and cold apparently which I'm excited about as well. I don't have running water, but I do have electricity. The thing I think is awesome though is that my house is about 10 km from the hospital I'll be working at which means either hiking or biking when I go. My site covers a very large area and the nearest post office/internet connection/bank is about a 45 minute or an hour drive away. I think the nearest volunteer from my group is about 2 or 3 hours away, but I really won't know that till i've traveled the road. (distances really mean nothing as 17kms could take you 20 min in some places or an hour in others)

I leave tomorrow on my own for a week of exploring and getting the lay of the land and then it's back to our training site for, well, I really don't know what. This is really starting to get real. Up until now it has still only been imagination. I'm so excited.

The bad part about all of this for you is that I really should have just taken the time to write funny stories 2 days ago because now it all seems distant past as the whole landscape is about to change...

... oh, and I'll get an address in a week so be looking for that as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Freaking Out

Ok, so we're back from our long CBT phase which in the end wasn't really all that long. I have some great stories I'll try and post tomorrow or the day after. For the moment, however we are all focused on two things... our language proficiency test, otherwise known as the LPI, and finding out what our final sites are going to be.

All of that happens on Friday and so I need to get off of the internet and get to language studying among ten million other little errands that pop up where you least expect them. The crazy thing is that by the end of next week, I'll know and have visited the place where I will spend the next two years of my life working and struggling. It's an intimidating thought and it doesn't help that our trainers know where we're going but just enjoy torturing us by not telling us.

I also wanted to include a quick picture of me with my host family... so there you go...

Hopefully I'll get some time to write some of the utterly hilarious stories from this last CBT phase.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

There and Back Again

So we've been in our group training town for 2 days now and we're headed back to our Community Based Training tomorrow morning for our 10 day long stint. I'll be out of touch for a good long while. As the training progresses it is getting more and more difficult to find time to make it to an Internet cafe. Life has kind of sped up just a bit. Language has started to really click although I am in serious need of a larger vocabulary.

In general things have started to settle down mentally. I've hit a groove, which for me usually brings on frustration, but here it has brought the opposite... I'm a bit comfortable. I'm where I'm supposed to be and I can feel that very intensely.

So that's just a general "how I'm doing"... let me now share some rather funny little stories...

My host family is pretty cool. My host Dad doesn't really speak or do anything for that matter. My host Mom is the only one I communicate with and it can be a little frustrating at times because the whole cross cultural communication just doesn't happen sometimes. She only understands when I use the correct conjugation and really doesn't pick up on hand signals making communication surprisingly difficult. I prided myself on getting a message across when I didn't speak the language, but this has been rather humbling. So for this last CBT phase it was short and so I only broug one pair of pants which broke my own rule for myself about always bringing a backup of whatever I'm bringing with me. As we say "s Tamazight... mushkil bizzef!" (big problem). I forgot the key to my room at our school house so I had to leave in the rain in the night to go get it. Now you have to understand that the "town" we live in is like 7 houses on the side of a mountain. There are no lights, stores, roads or really any sign that there is a town there at all. This meant that I had to navigate a thin and muddy trail in pitch black on hilly terrain to go get my key in the tattered and worn flipflops that my mom begged me not to bring ;). I would have brought my flashlight but it was locked in my room. I made it there alright and was doing ok getting back. My hands were muddy from catching myself a couple of times. As I reached the house I thought I was home free and then true to form I slipped and fell in the last possible place I could have fallen in the mud. Well as I said before... I only brought one pair of pants. Not a positive situation. My host Dad let me use his Jelaba which is a long hooded robe you wear over your clothes, so I wore it with no pants. Awkward

The other story was the day before. I was talking on the phone out on the roof of my house. I had told my host family that I was going upstairs to study. They must have forgot because they saw the door to the roof was open and they shut it. The door locks from the inside and the only way to open it from the outside is with a key. I yelled for a while but the didn't hear me. Finally I called her on her cell phone... yes no running water, sparce electricity and a cell phone... but as I told you before the cross cultural communication just wasn't happening in person and it most assuredly wasn't going to happen over the phone. All she understood me saying was "door". I had to climb down the side of the house. They saw me doing that and freaked out until they figured out what had happend. Needless to say my family laughs at me a lot.

We have the next ten days there isolated from communication and I'm sure there will be more stories and finally some pictures of my host family.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Community Based Training (CBT)

So in spite of yet another taxi strike we have returned to our training site here in the city. I am showered so you can all be assured that I don't smell like a (insert your despised smell here)like I did this time yesterday.

So we (a group of five of us) spent the last week living with host families and doing language training in the village. I must say we got the most beautiful site possible. The village was just a collection of houses on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake.

There was nothing in the town so any shopping or health care was done in another village 2 or 3 kms away. I was actually quite thankful for the isolation. We would get up in the mornings and have a language class with our teacher for the morning, have lunch and then do cross cultural stuff for the afternoon. After school was over we would individually return to our host families and spend the rest of the evening trying to communicate very simple sentances that most often were not understood.

My host family consisted of an elderly mother and father. The father was immobilised due to some sort or heart condition so he watched TV all day. I had two host brothers who were 34 and 39 respectively. One was a cab driver and the other, well, I don't know what he did. There was also a grandchild that was there who was around 10. He doesn't normally live there, but was the Prophet's birthday this weekend so he was spending it with his grandparents. Incidently he was the only one that was in the mindset that he would have to use simple sentances to communicate with me. Everyone else would just talk and assume that if they repeated it enough that I would understand... not unlike we tend to do in the States with people who don't speak English.

The weather was great, my group handled each other pretty well and the food was excellent and bountiful. I think I'm gaining weight with all the bread they eat here, and you all know I have a hard time refusing food. ;)

So let me explain my house a little bit. It is a surprisingly large house with a beautiful terrace that overlooks the lake. I had my own room that I could lock with a key when I left which was quite the blessing. I also, surprisingly had a western toilet, a bedet (I don't know how to spell that), a sink, a shower and a washing machine... and wait for it...

... no running water in the house. So obviously none of them worked, although the host brother still used the toilet so there was a constant sludge in there because it wouldn't flush. I used the regular "turkish" toilet.

Now a note on that. I don't think there was a trash can in the entire house because I don't think we ever used anything that we would throw away. That includes toilet paper... think about it a second. We didn't use utensils when we ate and so I have been using my hands for EVERYTHING. Interstingly enough, if you have soap I think the whole process is cleaner anyway. I mention the trash thing mostly because we throw so much away in the US... wrappers, containers, napkins, food, etc. They're excess food, if they had any went to the animals (I lived on a farm), and I don't think they really had wrappers for anything. They killed their meat and didn't use napkins and obviously we don't have to worry about fast food wrappers.

Now I said the house was large. It was, but there was relatively no furniture inside. There was an echo throughout the house and individually in all the rooms. I had a bed in my room and a little night stand and that was it. It was simple and in a strange way beautiful, although I think I could have lived in a whole in the ground with that view.