During IST in PP, the PCVs were instructed how to complete their VRFs, and how to use the IRC, as well as the useful EAP vocabulary. Got that? Acronyms are a wink to those in the know that we know what they know. During In-Service Training in Phnom Penh, the Peace Corps Volunteers were instructed how to complete their Volunteer Reporting File, and how to use the In-Country Resource Center, as well as the useful Emergency Action Plan vocabulary. I’m not sure why some titles warrant all capital letters, like In-Service Training is IST, while the In-country Resource Center gets shrunk to IRC. Give it a LOL! (Or WTF.)
I volunteered and was accepted into the PSN—Peer Support Network. A half-dozen of us spent two days training how to listen (and talking about how to listen) to fellow volunteers who may be facing emotional challenges and need an empathic listener. We were told NOT to give advice. A big disappointment to me, former Ask Ms. Metaphor, always ready to give off-the-square advice to life’s quotidian problems. Yet, it is also a relief to simply be an active listener. Really, that’s enough of a job. One thing at a time.
Phnom Penh is not a pedestrian friendly city. Sidewalks are where you set up your boboa stand or park your car. You have to walk into traffic because there’s no room to walk on the sidewalk. I learned how to cross the street at rush hour. Follow a monk—it’s bad luck to hit a monk. Traffic in the city somehow meshes into a slow moving tangle that manages to work through the knot most of the time. Although the tuk-tuk I was riding in got hit by a car my first afternoon in the city. The car and tuk-tuk driver just laughed and drove on. That’s the difference between Cambodian and Californian drivers. No road rage here. My heart rate doesn’t even accelerate anymore when a tuk-tuk driver makes a U-turn into oncoming traffic.
We were collectively lodged at hotels about a 20-minute walk through the mean streets of Phnom Penh to the Peace Corps office. Every guidebook on the planet warns travelers of purse-snatchers and phone-grabbers in this city. PCVs receive special training on the topic. Mid-way through IST though, one girl had her purse snatched in a drive-by a block from the PC Office. Statistically, it was bound to happen. She was not hurt and only had $5 in her bag. She did everything right. But the purse-snatchers and phone-grabbers are well practiced at their game. If you come to Phnom Penh I recommend zippered pockets, no purses, and calling it an early night before it gets too drunk out.
Our IST training schedule went from dawn to dusk for two weeks, with tasky admin how-tos, Khmer language classes, and trenchant presentations by NGOs. So much of the information left me sad at the human condition, yet gratified that there are people working to eradicate human trafficking, particularly selling child brides, indentured maids, and men held as slaves aboard fishing vessels. Another NGO presented concerns about Cambodian orphans and their welfare. All of these issues are currently in the news. Our mandate, as PCVs, is not to police, but to be aware of what is happening in our own village. How we change the condition of the world is incrementally. One-to-one. One thing at a time.