It is a Peace Corps requirement that during training a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) is to live with a host family. The host family is responsible for feeding us, housing us, teaching us about their culture, supporting the language learning process, and teaching us other useful skills.
When I first arrived in Leo I’ve in with a host family. When all the trainees got to Leo there was a small gathering where the PC staff thanked the host families for taking us in and supporting us. The little ceremony was pretty cool because there was traditional music, dancing, and greetings.
Though I was excited to finally get to meet my host family, I was super nervous. It didn’t help that my host mom thought the amount of stuff I had was super hilarious- honestly now that I’m like 2 weeks into living here and have started washing my clothes by hand I totally agree with her. However, at the time I just felt so embarrassed that I was lugging around so much crap and the feeling was exacerbated by the fact that I had so much stuff that the donkey drawn cart, at I think we were sharing with another host family, was not big enough for all my suitcases so it ended up getting split up to different people and brought over piece by piece. Some of it went missing for a few hours somewhere in the city, but it all go here so no big deal. I have the feeling that when I go back to the States to visit I will take at least 1/3rd of this stuff back with me and leave it there.
Anyway, my host family is awesome. I have a host mom, dad, two brothers (24 and 17 years old), two sisters (9 and 4 years old), and a cousin.
My host mom teaches me a lot of cultural things like not using my left hand to accept something from another person (Ce n’est pas bonne!), how to cook, and how to wash clothes by hand (which I do way too slow apparently so she always ends up taking over).
My host dad and I chat sometimes in the afternoon when he has time. He is super nice, is always trying to get me to try new things, and when I’m sick he feels bad for me and talks to me in English till finally it’s like “Ok you’re well enough, back to French!”
My older host brother often helps me with my homework and talks to me about American politics. He is super smart, in his last year of University, and looking to get his Masters in Canada.
My younger host brother seems to predominantly enjoy saying, “Bonjour/Bonsoir Ericka!”with a big grin on his face and snicker at me. Whenever I ask him what he’s up to or what he did today he always just smiles and says “Oh nothing!” unless I ask something more specific. I find him hilarious and he reminds me of my real younger brother in some ways).
My younger sister is adorable, and fantastic because she does an amazing job telling me stories in French, and teaching me new words in a super excited voice. She loves to color, draw, and dance.
My youngest host sister is a little terror and I love her- even though I’m pretty sure she gave me a cold at some point! She doesn’t speak French (though she understands some phrases) so I never have any idea what she’s saying. However, that isn’t a problem at all, she doesn’t let that get in the way of her main goals (aka jumping on me, making faces at me, and coming in my room to touch all my things.) Her mom tries to get her to stop barging into my room but she always comes back within like 5 minutes. I think she’s hilarious.
Besides being taught how to cook with local foods and wash clothes in buckets, I try to spend a lot of time chatting with my family since it is the best way to practice French. I also watch T.V. (yaay for telenovelas dubbed in French) and get giggled at by the local girls that hang out at the house. It’s an interesting dynamic because some of the girls speak French and Moore while others only speak Moore. Thus, there is typically a lot of translating, gesturing, and jokes that develop because of miscommunication. I’m pretty sure they find my lack of French skills and my accent hysterical.
For those who are wondering, the house I live in (which is more like a compound) does have electricity and running water. It’s shaped like an oval, with a courtyard in the center, and the rooms are in the walls. There are 4 rooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a family room.
Per Peace Corps rules I have my own room. I’ve got a bed with a mosquito net, my water filter on a little table, a stool, and a metal trunk. Sometimes it can be very hot in my room, especially when I close the door and get under the mosquito net, but it is just something I have to get used to- especially since it is just going to get worse once the rainy season is over.