Saturday, October 29, 2011

Settling in

I have now been a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) for over a month and just want to share some of what I’ve been doing since swear-in.  I was sworn in on September 8th, 2011 with fifty-four of my fellow PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees). Since then I have been living at my permanent site in Limpopo, South Africa.
A typical day:
I wake up around 5:30 am local time (that’s 11:30pm EST) to get ready for school. I make my breakfast of Jungle Oats, a type of oatmeal, on my hot plate/stove combo or have some yogurt and granola. I head outside to empty my chamber pot and then visit the pit latrine (no running water for me). I do have the good fortune of being able to enjoy a cup of real, not instant, coffee in the morning (except when the power is out). I bathe in my bucket, a process called “bucket bathing” very original name. My last shower was at the supervisors workshop around September 14th and my next shower probably won’t be until IST (In Service Training) in December. I leave around 7 or a little earlier, depending on which school I’m going to as one is further away. I make it to my schools in time for morning assembly at 7:20. I spend the day at school until teachers are dismissed at 14:00. Right now I’m focusing on building relationships with my teachers and working on the computers at my schools—installing anti-virus, organizing files, etc. I hope to eventually work more directly with the classes, but don’t want to end up as a substitute teacher. After school I head back to my rondavel to collect my thoughts and decompress. Many days I go out walking around my village so people get to know the “makhuwa” or “white guy” that lives in the village and so that I know the village and its resources better. I have also started working out to Insanity (via my computer) timing it so I finish in time to watch the sunset over the mountains.  Until recently (Monday, October 17th) I was sleeping in my ENO hammock because my bed hadn’t been delivered. My wardrobe was just delivered Wednesday, October 26th. Until then my paracord was working just fine to hang my clothes up with. I cook dinner for myself making rice one night, pasta the next and putting leftovers in my dorm fridge. I listen to music from my iPod, read books on my computer and watch movies and tv shows on my computer. I am often asleep by 20:30 (12:30pm EST) so that I’m ready for another day of the same. 
I’m very close to my shopping town, only about 6-7 km away with regular transportation to and fro. I also often travel around with my host dad, a headman, in his BMW meeting various people and sharing “cold drink” (aka soda) with them. In my shopping town I can really buy almost anything I want to (provided I have the money, which on a PC stipend might not happen). I can even have KFC anytime I want, though I don’t want it much.
Most people I meet here know English to some level or another. Often English is mixed with the local tongue—think Spanglish. When I do speak I try to slow down and use simpler words and sentences. I have had some conversations about the meaning of money and why we have currency exchanges however. I am working on learning the local language, but it is not necessary for my survival. Even if I just put a word or two of Tshivenda in a sentence of English I’m often understood (given I speak slow enough and suppress my Southern/American accent).
My service is going well so far and I can see areas that I can share different techniques or knowledge with the schools and communities. Also the power of me just being here really can’t be overvalued. I’ve never been told “I love you” from so many people all for the simple reason that I am here and am willing to live and work among them. There are certainly plenty of challenges with just everyday life, but I'll go into more detail about those latter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Limpopo Visit

PST (Pre-Service Training) will be ending soon and tomorrow I'll be heading to see my permanent site up in Limpopo. This is where I'm going to be for the next two years so I'm really looking forward to seeing what it'll be like. I should be living in a rondavel in the Chief's kraal which should be an interesting time, not quite sure what to expect with that. I'll be working with two primary schools as my main project and I'll just have to see what they have for me to do and where I can provide the most assistance.

Saturday I took the first malaria pill and I'll continue taking them until I'm back in the States for a month.

My blogs should be getting better once I'm not typing them on the spot at an internet cafe.

Friday, August 5, 2011

One Month in (Almost)

I have now been in South Africa for almost a month and am having a great time thus far. Right now I am at a larger town near our training village in a mall's internet cafe (which is full of other PCTs-Peace Corps Trainees). PST (Pre-Service Training) has been intense so far with so much coming at us all at once. I'm learning Tshivenda for my final placement up in the Limpopo Province where I will be working with schools (still not sure what exactly I'll be doing with them). For school training I have observed some Grade 4 classes, talked with teachers and taught fractions and uses of water to three Grade 4 classes--classes of around 55 learners (students). Which is the size of classes I will probably be seeing throughout my service here. I'm really enjoying my host family here during PST and am somewhat glad they speak English especially as they do not speak my target language (Tshivenda). It's been pretty nice to wake up and go pick an orange for breakfast...also I do have electricity and running water with my host family, though that will likely change for my permanent site.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the Sour Patch Kids and Archie's Comics...they sent them July 19 and I just got them today. Which is quicker than some others have been getting their mail. Also Post Office workers here might be going on strike maybe longer waits.

There are many great people in this group of us and I'm enjoying getting to know all of them better. Game reserve on Tuesday (National Holiday for Women). Oh and my birthday is the same day as Freedom Day (April 27) the day of SA's first national election after apartheid.

Updates will likely come more frequently as I will be having more internet access after the next month when I am at my site.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

As I am writing this I am enjoying some wonderful beer while playing chess with my dad (just lost one game) on a set I brought back from the British Museum. This just highlights how great my family has been and how supportive they are of me. They have been amazingly supportive of my decision to join the Peace Corps and very understanding during the long process of my application, nomination, and invitation. I just want to say thank you to my whole family for being there then, now and in the future. I love you all.

I also want to thank all my co-workers, friends of the past year plus who have made this so much easier to go through with. Your encouragement has meant a great deal to me and allowed me to pursue my dreams. Thank you.

 I am getting ready to head off on a great adventure where I shall hopefully learn much and do some good. I will be in South Africa on July 8th until September 2013. Feel free to leave comments here, send me a message on facebook, email or skype if you want to talk. I will attempt to keep this updated with my life, to reassure people that I am ok, and my thoughts on what is happening.

Please keep me in your minds, hearts and prayers.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

South Africa bound

Apparently the Peace Corps likes surprises occasionally.

Yesterday I got an e-mail saying that there was an update on the online MyToolkit Peace Corps site. The update was that I had been formally invited to serve in the Peace Corps and that I would receive a packet in the mail soon. I figured it would come around Tuesday next week and I was just in for so more waiting (there's been a bit of that). Today I went to a Peace Corps expo going on in Raleigh to hear from some staff and listen to RPCVs talk about there service. Near the end of the event those nominated (happens after the interview which was back in November, 2010 for me) were asked to stand up then those invited were asked to stand, which I am but didn't know where I was headed--and I said as much when they asked if we knew where we were headed. Right after this the speaker said there was a surprise. The surprise turned out to be me getting my invitation packet personally handed to me in front of everyone.

A great surprise!

Assignment Details:

Country: South Africa
Job Title: Resource Specialist
Departure Date: July 5, 2011
Return Date: September 01, 2013 (27 months later)

This means I'll be working with 2-3 schools in rural South Africa in a variety of support roles for students, teachers and the broader community.

This is all so great, thanks to everyone for giving me support so far in getting to this stage. Now the waiting is over--almost.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just a quick update...not much to say unfortunately. My medical review was briefly held up, took about a month for me to know anything was actually missing. I am now past that stage (if I had been notified earlier there wouldn't have been a delay, oh well) and am currently waiting for the placement office to review my qualifications again and finally invite me  for my actually placement. What this means is that where I was originally nominated for back in November I'll likely not be going to since there is a minimum requirement of eight weeks worth of notification--June was the departure for that one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Would Really like to know

This is my first post in my first blog, which I have set up mainly to share my experiences in the Peace Corps as best I can. I am currently waiting...I've been waiting for a little while and now and could be waiting for a while yet. I'm waiting to find out two things, if I am medically cleared (I should be as I am fairly healthy and have had no real medical problems ever) and after that where I will be going for the next 27 months of my life (that's two years and three months). I recently got an e-mail saying that I should know by early April at the latest--if I'll be going in June--with a minimal of eight weeks worth of notice before I my departure date. Knowing where I was going would be nice for many reasons, but I guess there really isn't anything for me to do except keep waiting and work on preparing myself for over two years away from much of what I know.

I am not sure what shape my blog will take as I am uncertain about the internet access I will have. If I can keep it updated regularly I will. I might end up writing some thoughts up on my computer and then posting large sections as I have access...we shall see what happens. My writing will likely be butterfly, umm anyways...without strict attention to grammar and such. As for pictures I will likely post pictures though if they are pictures of just me/landscape or include more I am not sure. One blog I of a current PCV does not post pictures out of respect for her community which has no way of seeing what he is posting. Again we shall see.

My current plans are to stay in the Mars Hill/Asheville area until the end of this month, March, and then move back to my parents in Greensboro and travel around to family some while waiting on my departure. Any suggestions anyone has about anything anytime will be greatly appreciated. Including books to read (looking for a good poetry book to take with me), things to pack, thoughts to muse, etc.