PCV, Peace Corps


Where are you going?

South Africa. My training will be in a village in Gauteng Province. (Thanks for the info, Kelsey!) My actual service will be in either the Limpopo Province or in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

It was actually in a village in Limpopo called Ga-Magongoa*


What will you be doing?

My primary job will be teaching English as a second language to fourth, fifth, and/or sixth graders. I will also be responsible for creating and implementing some community outreach projects.

How long will you be gone?

27 months. My staging date is 2 July 2013 in Washington, DC. I will arrive in South Africa on 4 July 2013. I will return to the USA on 4 September 2015.

27 months?!?! Don’t you get vacation time to come home and visit?!

I will accrue 45 days of vacation time during my service. While it is probable that I will travel home to visit once, I may decide to use my time and money to travel and see places I may never have the chance to see again.

How will you afford food or travel?

The Peace Corps will give me a stipend equivalent to what the other teachers in my school are making. My understanding is that this stipend is typically around $124 USD per month. I will be keeping my tax refund this year in hopes that I will be able to travel, but it certainly won’t be enough for a trip home.

I think the stipend actually worked out to a little over $200*

Can I come visit?

I cannot have visitors during my first six months or last three months of service. I will have to request vacation time if family or close friends are going to come visit, so I need to know pretty far in advance.

Can I send you letters/care packages?

I would LOVE for you to 🙂 I can receive mail at the address below from 4 July 2013 to 6 September 2013 or there-about. After that, I will get a new mailing address. If you are going to send me a package rather than a letter, please write things like “God is watching” “Jesus sees you” and/or “Bibles Inside” on the package so it doesn’t get stolen. My understanding is that this can be an effective deterrent.

Catherine Cottam
c/o: U. S. Peace Corps
PO Box 9536
South Africa

What types of things would you want mailed to you?

Flash drives with new music from the US or new movies ripped/burned onto them would be amazing. I would also love magazines or clippings from magazines/newspapers. I would also always love photos of us together.

What language will you speak?

The languages spoken in the Limpopo Province are Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Tsonga, and Venda. The languages spoken in KwaZulu-Natal are isiZulu (Zulu), Xhosa, and Afrikaans. I will have three months of language training after I first arrive in South Africa.

I learned Sepedi (Northern Sotho)*

How will you know what to do?

There will be 11 weeks of training when I first arrive in Pretoria. During that training, we will learn all about the history, culture, politics, and education curriculum of our area. We will also take an intense language course for the entirety of the eleven weeks.

Will you live by yourself?

No. During pre-service training, I will live with a host family in Pretoria. When I get my placement, I will live with a host family as well. I will either live in a small separate building inside a family compound or in a room of a house that has its own separate entrance.

Will you have a phone/internet/running water/electricity?

I will most likely have a phone, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I had no electricity or internet and I would be truly shocked if I lived somewhere with running water.

I had electricity, running water inside my kitchen, and Internet. The Internet was very spotty though*

No running water? How will you bathe?

I will haul water from a pump to take a bucket bath. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to heat some of that water up using a kettle.

My host family ended up having a little shower inside of their house. My training host family had a bathtub that I would put a few kettles of boiling water in then put a little cold water in. *

There are plenty of people in America who need help. Why are you going to help people somewhere else?

I cannot wait to learn about a rich new culture and meet people whose lives are so drastically different from mine. Are there people living in poverty in America? Yes. But the worst off of them are still probably living better than some of the relatively affluent people I met while in Kenya. I love the idea of going somewhere new and making even a tiny bit of difference in the life of a child.

Isn’t it really dangerous?

The crime rates are very similar to those in large U.S. cities, but I wouldn’t spend three months learning about my safety and security if I were moving to a big U.S. city. It is not more likely that anything will happen to me, but I will be WAY better prepared if anything does.

That’s all I have time for tonight, but please feel free to e-mail me with more questions (cdcottam1@gmail.com) or to add them in the comments section.