Sunday, July 26, 2015

Peace Corps Reunion

The primary reason for my trip across country was to go to my Peace Corps reunion.  Entering groups in the Peace Corps get an Omnibus number.  So, there will be a designation for people based on the country, and the omnibus number, and the job type.  Ours was a forestry omnibus, and we entered training in Miami with a healthcare group and a special education group, all headed for the same country.  We spent a week in Miami, and then flew to our country in South America.  In Miami, we were all together, but in country, our training was by group.  The forestry folks had our first seven weeks of language and cultural training at the local YMCA (which you don't spell out in Spanish, but pronounce with the Y making an I sound).  During these first seven weeks, we mostly went to YMCA early in the morning, had language and cultural training all day, with occasional field trips on buses to the market or whatever, and then went back to our host families in the late afternoon.  We had one weekend where we were sent to visit another volunteer in Forestry at their site. 

After the seven weeks, we were sent down to our future site for a week (or maybe two?).  My site was six hours by bus from the capital, and during the week, I stayed with my counterpart's family. 

And then we had seven more weeks of job type training to teach us the specifics of what we needed to know, more or less.  (We foresters trained at a national park in the Andes, but for those of us who worked in more tropical areas, the training wasn't that specifically useful.)

Anyway, that was a long way of saying that in my experience, PC volunteers identified with a smallish group (ours was 28 or so, I think), in my case the Forestry volunteers I trained with.  While in service, I lived near volunteers in other fields much more, and got to know them, but I don't identify with them in quite the same way.

At our reunion, two nurses from the health group that came in with us were there, one because she was always part of our group, being married to a forester from our group, and one because she's close friends with one of the other foresters still.

The thing is, I don't know of any other omnibus group that has reunions the way we do.

Most of us got to the reunion on Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday, we went to Mt. St. Helens and did a little hike.  It was hot, and up and down (my fitbit said I walked 189 flights of stairs), but not even 5 miles.  It felt like more.

The next day, we went to Latourelle Falls, and hiked again.  This time it was much cooler, and we didn't hike quite as long.  We went up not quite to the top here, and then we had an overview of the Columbia River.

On Saturday, we went wine tasting at a local winery, and got a tour of the vineyard.

Being forestry folks, we were especially interested in the grafting of the vines.  Some vines have been grafted twice.

This vineyard also has amazing flowers (including lots of lavender) for the bees and to deter bad bugs.

So that was the Peace Corps reunion.  In between our field trips, we made and shared a lot of food, laughed and reminisced together, and just had a great time.  I'm reminded yet again what a great bunch of people I trained and served with.