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.