05 July 2008

I am not a party guy

So last night we had a blowout for July 4th. My favorite part was actually the prep time. That's when I actually got to just sit and chat with a few people in a super relaxed atmosphere (while peeling sweet potatoes and dicing onions). The actual party was still really great; I don't want to detract from the work Brad and Bridget did - they put together a bonne fĂȘte indeed. And the sheep tasted great. If you're looking at other blogs, you may be inclined to argue that it was a goat, but I assure you it wasn't. Goats have tails that point up; sheep have tails that hang down. Our dinner definitely had a hangy tail.

Anyway, once again there was dancing. People who like to dance really can't wrap their heads around the idea that there are people who don't like to dance. In other words, eventually I danced. For as short a time as I could get away with. I think my strategy for future parties will be to dance as early as possible and get it over with. Or better yet, grab an instrument and start playing, that's where I'd rather be anyway.

To respond to whichever RPCV apparently has enough internet connection to give me a hard time, but not enough to research exchange rates (See the first comment on my previous post):

The CFA (Central African Franc) is a somewhat widespread unit of currency in francophone africa. According to Wikipedia, it's value was tied to the franc, and therefore now the euro. The rate is 100 CFA : ~0.15 €. According to Yahoo!, one dollar gets you 416 CFAs. According to my wallet, I got 385 on the dollar a couple weeks ago, but that certainly includes some tariff. I have already mentioned my salary as a trainee, it's about 11,000 CFA/wk (It will be around double that after swear-in). To answer your next question, I'd really need to know what you mean by aspirant - I assume we're not talking about the French military rank. Stagiare means trainee in French.

Costs:
Lunch: 200 - 700 CFA (as long as you aren't craving a 2500 CFA hamburger)
Drinks: 350 CFA for a coke. 500 - 800 CFA for a beer. I generally stick to water, or a 100 CFA bag of bilsap (a chilled hibiscus drink).
Laundry Detergent: 200 CFA MIGHT be enough for one load of laundry, if your clothes aren't very dirty. Which I assure you is never the case.
Laundry Soap (when you don't have a machine, you really need both): 350 CFA, but it lasts a while
Phone time: 250 CFA/mn local or international. 30 CFA for a short text in-country; 90 for a short one to the states
Mail: Over 800 CFA to send regular mail to the states. A 1 kg package costs nearly 10,000 CFA.
Internet: 400 - 500 CFA/hr
Toilet paper: 1000 CFA / 4 pk
Swimming: 1000 CFA/day
One pagne (A length of material long enough to have pants made): 1250 CFA. Another 1000 or so to actually have the pants made.
I haven't bought any powdered milk, toothpaste, or bath soap.

I actually did save about 6000 CFA from our last pay period, so I'm planning on buying some material for pants this weekend.

Tomorrow I'm taking my host sister to the pool.

Had my first flat yesterday. Took me about two hours to take apart, patch, and put back together due to my lack of experience combined with my total incompetence with all things mechanical. My rear brake is now giving me trouble - actually it already was, but now it's giving me more. Anyway, I'm glad that stuff is happening now, while I have PCVFs around to advise me.

Have I published a key of "acronyms"? I put it in quotes because the PC calls them that, despite the fact that they don't pronounce a single one of them as a word. Anyway...

PCT = Peace Corps Trainee
PCV = Peace Corps Volunteer
PCVF = Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitator (A PCV who is helping out train the PCTs)
RPCV = Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
ET = Early Termination (when a PCT or PCV leaves before COS)
COS = Close of Service

Those are the ones I'll likely be using the most.

By the way, shout out to Carson for the letter! In answer to a comment you made, I generally do NOT check the news online because it takes me so long to type on a French keyboard! Please feel free to include news items you feel are important or interesting in your letters.

Now I'm going to go read other people's blogs because I'm tired of heard stories about other trainees from MY MOM. There's just something not right about that. Speaking of blogs, we should next week have a nearly definitive list of the blogs being maintained by our class. I will link them when I have it.

6 comments:

eileen said...

Have fun at the pool! It was so good to hear your voice, yesterday. I forgot to ask about your harmonica;are you playing is some? Sure wish you were here...your dad is rearranging the garage and I KNOW how much you enjoy helping. Ha!
Love ya, son.

Carson Chittom said...

Good to know my letter actually reached you! While I knew how long it would take, I was beginning to worry just a little bit. I'll definitely include newsy items in the future.

D said...

Sorry about the CFA thing. I couldn't figure out salaries. So, you make 26 dollars a week or 1600 CFA a day? It doubles to fifty when you get sworn in?

That's below poverty at HHS. The average PCVE costs 41,000 a year or 17 million CFA a year or 48000 CFA a day. PC is making allot of money on the exchange.

Do you have a Volunteer Action Committee? Are ETs all the same for PCVT and PCVEs who are fired, quit or fired through OMS? Do the statistics for ETs show why the PCT or PCVE was terminated? Is PCVE considered an ET if they leave 3 months before COS with PC approval?

I've signed up for the email comment thing, so you should be able to email me if this too much for the blog.

Thanks,

RPCV

solotoro said...

Hi d/RPCV,

Yes, your numbers are about right in the first paragraph. But I don't think I follow you after that. For one, I don't know what you mean by PCVE - that's not an abbreviation I've encountered. For another, I don't follow how the PC is making money off of us: your statement "The average PCVE costs 41,000 a year or 17 million CFA a year or 48000 CFA a day" seems to be talking about how much they spend on us, not how much they earn.

Anyway, as far as I know there is not a VAC for BF, but that's not a definitive answer, there could be. And I REALLY can't answer any questions about ET statistics, I haven't seen any directly. Sorry I'm not a source of more info...if you check out that link I have for Peace Corps blogs, there are blogs kept up by current volunteers, i think - they would know more than I!

D said...

Thanks for the answers. The issue about salaries is; the excuse for PC existing is usually the PCVEs are cheap. The real answer is they are getting more expensive when the entire budget is looked at; it now extends over five years and doubles during that time to nearly a billion. This usually means PC will be shut down because of the expense involved for PCVEs who live below the poverty level according to HHS. So, unless the PCVEs numbers are doubled, expect cuts. This is the other issue; pressure on PC to keep the PCVE numbers up and open new countries when those countries really aren't safe. The issue about PC staff 'making money off the PCVEs' is a thing that may involve why countries aren't opened or closed. The country has the answer.

The ET issue was they did a study in the early 90s and called everything an ET and there were no statistics on why the PCVEs left.

I would form a volunteer Action Committee. We had one. They can get the answers needed by PCVEs, Peace Corps Volunteer Employees as opposed to Peace Corps Staff Employees. Your all federal employees.

The stats are at the FOIA reading room at the PC website. Allot of the issues are under the IG six month reports. Do PCVEs still file FOIAs as part of the application process? This helps with problems later on; like the Bolivia problem.

I'll check other blogs. Good luck with the trying to write. It's something allot of things don't want done.

RPCV

solotoro said...

RPCV,

Thanks for explaining your concerns a bit further. I should add that I asked, and PC-BF does in fact have a VAC. I still have no information on ET statistics, but they definitely keep stats regarding security reports; those I have seen. BF is pretty safe compared to a lot of other places in Africa.

I honestly can't remember for sure whether I signed anything about the FOIA. I will look through my papers tonight to see, but I didn't keep copies of everything.