Hello friends, family, and other blog followers!
I haven’t been great about updating this even though I got a working phone because- let’s face it- typing long things on a blackberry is a giant pain. However, I thought you might appreciate an overview of what I have been up to besides site visit and taking pictures of cute puppies.
Week 0 (July 1-7):
37 of us arrived in South Africa on 4 July and we went straight to Mastec College in Seshego outside of Polokwane to begin training. We started learning a little bit of Sepedi, XiTsonga, and Tshivenda and had sessions on personal safety and health. We also met with the people who are in charge of our permanent placements to discuss what type of projects we are interested in. We had sessions on culture, gender roles, diversity, and the Peace Corp’s approach to development.
Week 1 (July 8-14):
We had permagarden training for two days, received our language assignments, and moved into our homestays with host families. (My host family is AMAZING and consists of my 39 year old host mom and her younger sister who is 18). We are split up between two villages, but we all live outside of Mokopane. I live in Ga-Magongoa and some of my friends live in Mosesejane. The first night was REALLY rough. I made a list of everything I miss from home, but then made a list of everything I love about being here. The house I live in is beautiful and even has a bathtub with hot running water and an inside toilet. We started learning our assigned languages in small groups. There are four people in my group and my LCF (language teacher) is awesome. We had another session on diversity, a few on Peace Corp’s views on development, and several hours of language training. We walked around with our LCF to make a map of our community. The 13th marked the second of my brother’s birthdays in a row that I have been out of the country. We had Sunday “off”, so I went to the Catholic Church with my family then did laundry.
Week 2 (July 15-21):
Week 2 was SUPER language intensive. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday each consisted of 5.5 hours of language training. We also did another panel on diversity, began receiving our rabies vaccine series, discussed common illnesses and first aid, discussed mental health and self care, had a session on safety and security regarding transportation, celebrated Nelson Mandela Day by going to the children’s ward of Mokopane Hospital, and went on site visits, which I wrote an entire post about.
Week 3 (July 22-28):
I got my first pieces of mail!! One from my Mama and one from Joanne. I was SOO excited to get mail! We returned from site visits pretty late on Tuesday night and have had a jam packed week since. In addition to language training, we had sessions on the history of South Africa, alcohol use and abuse, sexual assault, South African curriculum requirements, technology, crossing educational boundaries, age, and gender. Last night my host mom had to go to her mother’s house in another village to help prepare for a funeral today, so my host sister (though I guess she is technically my host auntie) and I went into town so I could get some groceries then picked up a pizza, came home, and watched Bad Teacher on my computer, which I finally got back. This morning we got on a bus and went into Pretoria. We passed the US Embassy and went to the Peace Corps Headquarters to learn about our resource center and library, then went to the Voortrekker Monument (I feel certain I will write an entire post about THAT experience when I have had more time to reflect on it). We ended our visit to Pretoria with a visit to the Brooklyn mall, which I was surprised to see contained a Gap store. One of the LCFs helped me pick out a skirt, shoes, and blazer to wear and I purchased an usb internet modem that kinda sorta works before eating chicken at Nando’s then getting back on the bus. Most of the trip home was spent with people singing, dancing, or both and it was a lot of fun. It was actually probably my favorite part of the whole excursion. Tonight, I worked with my host sister to teach her how to use a computer. She is a very fast learner! Even though it is past midnight, my neighbors are outside having what sounds like a VERY fun time. Tomorrow, Alex’s host family is having a birthday party and we are all getting together to celebrate at 2PM. I am going to wake up, do laundry, and bake chocolate chip cookies for the occasion.
Whew. That’s all for now, but I will try to do at least a weekly update from now on. I love and miss you all!