Today I became an official Peace Corps Volunteer. Training is now finished and everyone is in Dhaka for the big party last night and the ceremony. The actual signing of the oath was pretty low key - sign it and put it in the pile. But as of about 11 a.m. Bangladesh time, I started my two years service. Only 24 months to go. I'll leave tomorrow for my site and try to get settled in before the next hartal begins on Monday. I'll have to buy three days worth of food since everything will be closed. I don't think my PTI even knows that I'm coming, but I'm starting to learn that that's half of the fun of being in the Peace Corps. Nothing will work out as you want it to no matter what the planning.
Over the past two months I've studied quite a bit of Bangla, but I can't speak it at all. I can read a little and write only my name. I guess that puts me on par with most people in this country as far as reading and writing goes. Everyone keeps saying that our language will improve quickly once we're on our own and forced to speak it all the time. We'll see. I'm still a bit apprehensive about it and find myself spouting out Japanese in frustration when I can't figure out how to say something in Bangla. I figure it's still a foreign language so they out to understand some of it.
They only know a little English anyway, but everyone seems to know it. If someone walks up to you, and you can spot them coming from a distance because they get that look in their eye that says "I'm going to talk to a bideshi so I'm cool", all they will ever say is "how are you, what's your name, what's your country"? And if you through them for a loop and give an unexpected reply, like "amar desh Bangladesh" (my country is Bangladesh), their heads explode and they walk away in confusion or say in perfect English - "you're a liar".
Well, ok, I'm rambling about Bangladesh now.
The next few months will be very challenging for most of us. After two intense months of training and seeing 26 other volunteers almost everyday, the instant transition to being the only foreigner in town will be tough. There is much to do and much to learn during this time, and yet there is no one to talk to about it all. It's pretty much the sink-or-swim portion of this adventure in my mind. I made it through training without too many problems and very few thoughts of going back to America, now if I can make it through the next three months or so, I think it will be smooth sailing from there. Perhaps the updates to this page will get a little more interesting over the next few months!