Last week the FRE-7's [7's] and the FRE-8 [8's] attended a three day conference in the capital city Suva. Suva is the largest city in Fiji and, to my knowledge, one of the largest cities in the South Pacific. It's a hub city where business, politics, and trade occurs for the entire region.
The conference was a lovely break from our training communities and the sometimes smothering attention of our host families. We covered a host of topics, including technical training for volunteers and informational sessions on Peace Corps policy.
Our technical training was on HIV/AIDS education and pretty interesting. Often time, our trainers are PC volunteers who have already been in-country for a year. I really enjoy this kind of education as it reminds me of design school where so much of the knowledge was passed down from one class to the next.
Part of HIV/AIDS training is the inevitable "how to use a condom" demonstration. These demos can be a bit arresting: most everyone has a condom story, how it broke, how they left them on the nightstand, how they don't use them because they feel like snow-pants etc...given the fact that the actions around condom use are rather personal it was understandable that there was a bit discomfort by some people in the group when it came time to do the demo.
After the class room training we formed teams, loaded into vans and went off to different areas to actually conduct a training. I was interested in my group, a boys only vocational school, and how they would respond to the subject matter. Everyone was attentive though and had a good foundation of knowledge regarding safe sex, STI transmission, etc. We did some additional activities followed by my award winning performance of "Rubber Meets Banana."
The demo went smoothly, I was surprised by my maturity addressing the subject matter and really enjoyed working with the youth... as some of you know, my sense of humor can easily veer off the road of good taste, cartwheeling through the guard rails of decorum only to burst into flames...
I think what grounded me was a thought that popped into my head as we were finishing up training. It was a very clear thought, the kind that emerges in your mind completely intact and crystal clear. As some people were showing apprehension at demonstrating proper condom use to a group of 40-some boys, I thought about some of the privileged experiences I had had riding on ambulances. When I considered that I had watched a person die, that I had seen death, the idea of talking about life... healthy, safe, responsible life became laughably easy. The baggage surrounding the topic just wasn't an issue anymore.
When I originally experienced these events I wondered how they would inform my future actions. In this case, I consider myself lucky to have those experiences to fall back on.