While I avoided having specific expectations about Peace Corps, I have to admit that I was primarily attracted by the learning opportunity. Of course, I was and still am looking to help people, but I did not need to travel halfway around the world to find folks in need of help—I’m from Oakland.
For me, education is simply a matter of personal and professional health. In that sense, learning is my medicine. Like medicine, it takes many forms, some easier to swallow than others. On one hand you have tough stuff… think Law School. Now, I’ve never been, but I hear it’s something like a 20,000-hour dentist appointment. What about college? I guess that one is kind of like prescription drugs: necessary, but often times the generic ones are just as good as the high-priced brands.
Since arriving in Cape Verde, I’ve swallowed a whole bunch of medicine and had plenty of “learning opportunities.” For me, there was a clear parallel between the 13-week regimen of anti-malarial pills and the 9-week Pre-Service Training that I went through. Both seemed to last forever, and both caused heartburn and strange dreams. Then there were the endless sessions on the medical and safety concerns of the Peace Corps, which I liken to the Oral Rehydration Salts that kept me from wasting away during my weeklong battle through the cycle—essential but disgusting.
Thankfully, not all medicine is created equal. Take Robitussin: that stuff is pretty good, and I hear it works for everything. More importantly, not all learning opportunities are as painful as my Pre-Service Training (PST). With a tip of the hat to our Peace Corps Training Staff, I can gladly say that this past week was the perfect example. I just got back from three days of In-Service Training in the capital city, which was everything that PST was not. Even the bread during coffee break was better*, and that’s what really counts after all. But seriously, I walked away from three days of trainings feeling more motivated and better prepared to do what I came here to do. Even the medicine was quick and painless: one flu shot and a bag of supplies to take back to my island.
The only bad news is that in a couple of weeks I will have to start another 42-day course of anti-malarial prophylaxis. But that is a small price to pay for the opportunity to visit Dakar, Senegal in January! Stay tuned... Happy Holidays…
*Pao Quente is officially the best bread bakery in the country. Too bad they have not opened up shop on São Vicente yet.