New site & Drakensbergs

New site & Drakensbergs
These are the mts from our village

Monday, March 28, 2011

We are officially PCVs!

We are now officially PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers).  The swearing in ceremony was on Wednesday.  All 46 of us who started Pre-service Training together in January were sworn in!  Our Community Health Event went well.  We had over 200 children who learned about the importance of washing hands, had fun in a “jump castle” and had a generally good time.  I’m putting up a picture of a group of girls that did some traditional danced for us. 

We have moved into our 2-room house and have started making it our home.  We have a functional kitchen with a 2-burner mini-stove, a small refrigerator and the necessary dishes, pots & silverware to cook.  We had our first “home-cooked” meal on Friday evening – scrambled eggs, rice & squash.  We spent Friday at our primary school.  They have a library that was set up by a previous PCV but it had not been used for several months because they had lost the key to get in.  Richard was able to get the door off.  I’m excited about getting it operating again.

Tomorrow we will be going into our “shopping” town to get a PO Box and see what is available there – maybe a hardware store? Some hooks to hang things on would be nice.  We know there is an internet cafĂ© so I will be posting this from there.  Maybe I’ll have a chance to find out what is happening in the world.  With very poor phone receptions (therefore no internet) , no radio & no newspapers, I feel very cut off from the rest of the world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

End of PST in sight


The end of PST (Pre Service Training) is in sight.  Last week we visited our site.  It is at the very edge of the Northern Drakensberg Mountains.  Rumor has it that these are the mountains that inspired J. R. R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings”.  It’s really beautiful!  I’m going to try to get a picture up with this entry. 

We will be working with two schools – a primary school and a high school.  We will also be helping two NGOs – one that does home based care and has drop in centers for orphans and vulnerable children and one that works with 14-35 year olds on HIV/AIDS education. We didn’t have much time with any of them last week.  The four days we were in our village were really just a chance to meet people, see the village and the house we will be living in for two years. 

The house we think we will be staying in was not ready for us so for this visit we stayed where a previous PCV had stayed.  It was a separate one-room building.  The house they have found for us to stay in is a separate two-room building in a different family’s compound.  The town does have electricity and there is water but most people have to get it from a public tap up to ½ km from the house.  In our proposed home, there is a tap in the yard but the water is only turned on once a week.  It is a very rural, very poor community.  Very bad cell phone coverage and therefore internet connection may be iffy.  If so I will only be able to add to my blog when we get to our “shopping town”, Hoedspruit.

We also had a chance to visit with a Peace Corps couple of our generation who have been here in two schools for a year and a half.  We were able to visit their primary school and see some of what they are doing there and how they work with the teachers and principal.  We are now back at our PST site for another week of final preparation.  Today we have a language test.  Tomorrow we find out about our SA bank accounts and get back a suitcase we stored at the Peace Corps office.  On Saturday the 16 of us who have been staying in Sekgakgapeng are putting on a community health event that will have a jumping castle, food games and information about hand washing and HIV/AIDS.  Sunday we have a farewell thank-you party for our host families.  Next Tuesday we have a day to shop for supplies we will need to set up housekeeping in our village; Wednesday we pack; Thursday is our “swearing in” when we officially become Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs).  That afternoon we leave with our supervisors for our sites!

Monday, March 7, 2011

We know where we'll be for our 2-year posting!

Hi, all!  
Wow! Peace Corps training is intense.  I think especially in South Africa (SA)) because we have only 8 weeks of training instead of 3 months. 
The 46 people in our group cover a wide range of ages and states.  We are about 3/4 women and 1/4 men.  Richard is the oldest guy by a year or two but the oldest woman is 78!
We were very disappointed at noit getting to go to Lesotho to teach but were glad to get a 2nd chance to go to Africa even if it was as HIV/AIDS outreach workers.  Well, when we got to SA Peace Corps SA decided that the country would be better served by our skills if we worked in the schools so we are going to get to be in a school after all!! YEA!  We stayed with our training group since the next  Education group won’t be in country till July.  Much of the training is about cultural adjustment and/or HIV/AIDS which is important for us to know anyway because we will be working with teens and our secondary project may well be related to that.
Being here in SA is really amazing.  At least once a day something makes me pause and think,  “I’M SOUTH AFRICA!”  Maybe it will be a lizard on the wall that surrounds the yard.  (We are staying with a host family in the rural village of Sekgakgapeng while we are in training – it’s in Limpopo Province in the northern part of SA.) or the sound of children playing and speaking Sepedi (the language we are trying to learn) or the view of the mountains that are on the other side of the river from our town or the lemon or mango or banana trees we have in the yard.  AMAZING!
Friday we found out the village we will be posted to for the next two years .  It is very rural – the nearest Post Office is 30 km away and the nearest police station is 60 km away.  Well, , I did say I’d rather be in a rural area than a  city.  Guess I got my wish.  I will try to get this on the web tomorrow and will try to include a picture.  I hope to have more time to write blog entries once we get to our post permanently on March 25th.
Bye for now,