Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bridge to Service and Swearing In

Steve and I have only half energy right now, so we’re sharing the writing. BE FOREWARNED: This entry is really long and schmaltzy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011.
Steve:  We caught the James Express bus to Belmopan. The seats had leg room, and it was air-conditioned. Rainy season has officially started. After lunch we went to the Peace Corps office for a debriefing on the site visit. Most of us are thrilled, but we probably are in a “honey-moon phase” right now. We received a box of toiletries and rain boots for Cathy. It is amazing how excited we get over little things like that.
Cathy: We hated to leave Dangriga for our last days of class, called Bridge to Service. After just a taste of what live would be like for our two years of service, it seemed cruel to send us back to the American side of things at the Peace Corps Office. And, yes, I was excited about my new rainboots. Thanks, Stephanie!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 2 - 4
Steve:  We had sessions all day long on how to teach about HIV/AIDS. On Friday we got our iPhones back from Belize City. They are unlocked and will work now with the local network. On Saturday we had the day off and did some walking. I worked on updating the contact list for my phone. It has not been a very challenging day, and it may be a test to see how we handle our down-time.
Cathy:  I wasn’t too enthused when I heard we had yet another session dealing with HIV/AIDS. We had already had two days on the topic, but that’s because our sector is Healthy Communities. These particular two days was really provided for the trainees in Business Organization and Education. There was a half-day that was a repeat; it was presented by US, the health trainees. The other day and a half I found fascinating: people living with HIV, directors of various awareness outreach and BCC (Behavior Change something) agencies, gay men’s rights organization, maybe a couple of others.

I volunteered to create the “class slideshow,” so I was busy on Saturday. I worked on the soundtrack, and did some editing of the pictures. This is the kind of work where I really dig in :--)

Sunday June 5, 2011
Steve: This afternoon we went to Camalote to visit our former host family. The girls from next door were the most glad to see us. Back in Belmopan,, we ate lunch at Corker’s, and I had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. It was wonderful. It is really hard to find fresh vegetables here in restaurants. Cathy is working tirelessly on the picture presentation for the swearing in ceremony. I think it will wow everyone, and I anticipate many requests for copies of the slide show.
Cathy: Thanks, Stevie.

Monday, June 6, 2011.
Steve: We had a presentation by the Volunteer Action Committee this afternoon. Cathy nominated me to be the junior member from the Stann Creek district, and I was elected by acclamation. I will have meetings every quarter and work on issues that affect volunteers. This afternoon we also had a presentation of the pcbelize.com web forum. It is a closed forum to share information with staff and volunteers without worry about our counterpart people reading and taking offense at our rants. I appreciate the kind messages from family via email.
Cathy: One of the activities we did was to create an action plan for the volunteers in each district. There are six districts, with some volunteers in the main town, such as we are. There are others who are in close or remote villages. We want to insure that people have a support structure. We decided to have monthly potluck or activity get-togethers. We can share our woes and our successes, network regarding our primary and secondary projects, and play. Steve will make a great representative/leader of our group.

Tuesday and Wednesday, June 7-8
Cathy: Slideshow, slideshow, slideshow. Excuse me while I geek out. I used Mixmeister for the music (5 song portions had to be mixed and timed), PowerPoint and Corel Paint Shop Photo Pro to edit and create the slides and transitions. The latest version of PPT allows me to create a video from the show. I am very proud of my production. There is one slide where the faces of each of the trainees slides onscreen exactly on the beat of the accompanying song. It was tricky. I knew that the song had 126 beats per minute, so Steve helped me calculate the exact fraction of a second required to give two beats for each picture (it’s .945).

I’d love to hear from somebody how to put up this movie (it’s about 160MB!) or at the very least one of the songs that’s my favorite (about 7MB). Ideally, someone would be able to link to it, nothing that would play automatically.

Anyway, I handed it over to the reception organizers on Wednesday morning. Finally, I can sleep.

One very sad note here – one of our fellow trainees was “terminated” today. Stephanie was a sweet sensitive girl, and we will miss her. She was the first and only person in our cohort to leave (against all statistics).

Thursday, June 9, 2011
Cathy: Hardly slept last night. Couldn’t stop thinking about what happened to Stephanie. It was almost like a death. And although my reaction couldn’t have been one scintilla of what she went through, I felt it very deeply.

Last day of activities in our Bridge to Service. We practiced the details of our swearing in, including singing the two national anthems. Every CBT group (there were eight) presented a (usually funny) summary of their time in their villages. SO Creative. Then they had a talent show, with random talents. I read Goldeelaks ahn di Chree Byaas in Kriol.

I loved the very last activity of the day. We were divided into two groups. One group formed a tight circle, and was instructed to close their eyes. The group who was left, was instructed to “touch the shoulder of someone you admire; . . . from whom you learned something; . . . who makes you laugh; . . . who you trust.” And so on. Then the second group formed the circle and the first group had a different set of reasons to tap shoulders. It was moving.

Little did I know that was just the start of my emotional crying (happiness, of course) for the next two days.

Friday June 10, 2011
Steve:  This morning we took the oath of office and are officially Peace Corps volunteers. I felt a lot of joy and enjoyed the moment immensely. Several things the speakers said brought tears to the eyes of all of us in the graduating class of Training 2011. I thought of all the people that I wanted to have there with me to be proud of what I have gotten through. This sounds like an acceptance speech at the Oscars, but I didn’t get here by myself. That’s for sure.

My clinic administrator and my director of public relations and education were both able to be here for the ceremony and for the luncheon.

This afternoon I watched the soccer match between the old volunteers and the newbies. We won 4-1. I was careful not to get sucked into playing.

We got to spend some time with some veteran volunteers, Roger and Tracy. They are really nice people to be around. I hope we will get to spend more time with them in the future.

This evening we have a reception at the ambassador’s residence. There is a two drink maximum, but all the food we want. 

Cathy: Why am I always getting caught off guard? I should have known I was gonna be emotional.  Everyone looked so nice for the ceremony at the Governor General’s House (Belize House). We had done such a great job of rehearsing, so I wasn’t worried about any of the logistics. The grounds were manicured and lush, and the organizers had set up about 4 large tents for the occasion. At the front was a huge poster of John Kennedy, initiator of the Peace Corps, Belize banners and flags. Lots of flowers.

However, when the music hit those first three notes of the Star Spangled Banner (O-oh say), my heart just flipped and the tears started flowing. I looked around at all the people who came to honor us and was overwhelmed – current volunteers, host families, counterparts, and some bigwigs. Such high hopes from everyone, including us.

We didn’t have hats to throw into the air at the end of the ceremony, but I felt like we should.

The reception Friday night was first class. It was held at the US Ambassador’s house, which was even lusher and classier than the GG’s house. Great food and lots of camaraderie for the new volunteers – our last time together for awhile. The slideshow was a hit – Yay! And we had “superlatives” for each person. Steve was “Most Qualified,” (duh) and I was “Most Likely to Whip You into Shape.”

This day will keep me “up” for a long time. I feel so proud to represent our country in this peaceful important mission.


Jim Weaver said...

Steve and Cathy,
After reading this I can only say thank you for what you are doing. What great representatives you two are making.
Jim Weaver

Ed said...

Not schmaltzy at all! You should be proud of your service to our country and Belize. Thank you.

Great to get caught up again. We were out of town for a week. Just back and it was great to have your blog waiting!

I'll look around for an FTP site for you.