Posted by: Alicia Phillips | October 15, 2011

Early Service Training EST

Early Service Training

Early service training was a big milestone for my group, the Fre-09’s. Getting to this point means that we have survived our first 3 months at site.

EST is a training designed to provide volunteers with the technical skills we need to perform our best at our individual sites. For example: education on composting, chicken coups, mangrove planting, coral farming, business development plans, working relationships with the Ministries, etc. Then they have the mandatory sessions they have to give such as safety and security briefings, and Peace Corps standards and what not. But for me, the best part of EST was seeing all my friends again! I loved hearing their stories and their challenges and successes. I really have an amazing group of volunteers here with me, they are doing good things.

I traveled all over the big island, Viti levu, for this training. Our first stop was a beautiful little technical college where Peace Corps has regular trainings. Everyone met there and we had 4 days worth of playing catch up and trainings. Then, Peace Corps let us have the weekend off so a group of about 15 decided to take full advantage of it and we stayed the weekend at a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L backpackers resort on the coast.

The technical college where our training's were

The backpacker's bure where we all stayed the weekend

Backpackers dorms have a special charm to them.  My group of 15 all stayed in a large room stuffed full of bunk beds where we shared 4 bathrooms and 2 showers. This resort had a great beach and a lot of fun stuff to do: volleyball, jet skiing, waterfall treks, scuba diving, etc. However, most of it cost an arm and a leg so I just took it easy on the beach, caught up on some reading, skyped with my family, and spent time with the other volunteers. The last night we were there the resort made a huge bonfire on the beach for us. It was amazing.

Bonfire on the beach.

After the weekend, we were split up into 2 groups: Health and Environment. I am a health volunteer so my group was sent to spend a few days working in a village. When we got there, we went to the community hall and had a sevusevu with the village chief. Little background info for you: when you are a visitor to a village you much bring a gift of grog (pounded yangona root that is mixed with water to make a strange muddy water drink that makes your tounge numb.) Men can sit around the grog bowl for hours and hours drinking grog, telling stories (talanoa), or conducting meeting well into the wee hours of the morning. It’s bizarre, but it’s tradition here in Fiji.  So anyways we did the sevusevu with the village chief, then we worked on our presentations to present first to the village teachers and then the villagers themselves. Our presentations included topics such as wound care, basic first aid, dehydration, healthy nutrition, and mental health.  Our presentations went well and we presented to well over 100 people. Overall I felt very good about it. And if only one person learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver or reduced the amount of sugar they put in their tea then we did our job.

Two health volunteers giving a presentation in the village

After village presentations PC gave us an entire day to get to Suva, the capital, where our final phase of training was to be held. It only took around 4 hours to get there so myself and the other girls in my group heard about a local mud bath and decided to go check it out. Best. Idea. Ever.  They are a series of geothermal hot pools and a mud pool. So we started off in the mud pool, got covered in mud, let the sun bake us, got BACK in the mud pool then rinsed off. Afterwards we got in the hot springs that were almost too hot to bear, but bear we did and it felt amazing. Afterwards some of the village ladies gave us full body massages complete with Virgin Coconut Oil. All this for the grand total of $18FJ…..that comes out to around $9.50 American. What a deal! And just what we needed to make it through the rest of training.

Warrior poses at the mud baths

And this brings us to Suva, my least favorite place in Fiji because it rains everyday there!! Here we all stayed in a hotel and had our trainings in the Peace Corps offices. Peace Corps was really great and organized a resource fair for us where we could go and talk to different organizations about problems we are facing at our sites and how they can potentially help us. I talked to the Fiji Red Cross and signed up to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity/Fiji. Pretty cool stuff!

And then training was over and we all had to say bye to our friends knowing that we probably won’t see most of them again for at least a year. The first week after training is a hard week for volunteers. Mainly because we were just beginning to get in our groove at our sites and then being gone for 2 weeks for EST then coming back to site and trying to get back in your routine is hard. It’s been a lot harder for the volunteers in the villages. They have to wrap their minds around being in their villages, alone, for the next 2 years. A big frustration in any Peace Corps country is the feeling like you are not doing anything worthwhile and you feel as though you are not making a difference at all. Of course the only way to get over this is to spend time in your village and take small steps towards change. This is hard. But no one said Peace Corps is easy.

Our next training will be Mid-ServiceTraining, and that’s at our halfway mark around May/June. I am so looking forward to seeing my group again and finding out all the amazing things they are doing at their sites.

The goofy guys in my group decided not to shave their beards

God bless you if you made it through this entire post, I know it was long and probably not terribly interesting for the majority of you.  But feel free to leave a comment and tell me what’s up!!


  1. On the contrary, Alicia, your post — all your posts — are VERY interesting. I just continue to admire your courage and spirit of adventure. I’ll be looking forward to your next post.

  2. Alicia,
    I love reading your blogs and looking at your pictures. Not boring at all. Thank you. You sound like an amazIng person. PC is lucky to have you. Keep up the great work and your writing.

  3. Dear Alicia, your postings are NEVER boring. You have a gift of making the reader feel right next to you. I totally enjoy reading all these.. You are a talented ‘speaker’ (writer) and these postings will make a wonder book once you return to your home and family. Thanks so much for informing us as well as entertaining us with your naratives.

  4. I look forward to your posts! They are never boring, in fact, more than once I have literally lol’d at some of the things you write! I’m glad you are having this adventure and helping others in process. Keep experiencing and keep writing!

  5. Good post. Its realy nice. Many info help me.

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