Saturday, September 19, 2009

Volunteers (again)!

This Thursday we swore in and are officially peace corps volunteers again. We both passed our language test doing better than we thought we would. Now, we just have to keep it up and actually improve. After the swear in ceremony in Mafikeng (the capital of the North West Province), we traveled with one of our principals and our closest volunteers, Kristen and Gabi, to our site. We got in just before dark and had a delicious dinner that came straight from a can (it was a vegetable curry thing with TVP and beans). Yesterday, we went to our shopping town (which is about a 45 minute taxi ride away) and got groceries and the few things that we needed for our house. We had some Chinese food, and the restaurant owner promised she would call us when they get in some fresh tofu :) Stupidly, we got off the taxi on the main road (we live down a big road maybe 1/2 a mile from the paved road and then a little bit off that road) and then watched as the taxi turned down our road while we had to walk the whole way home with some heavy heavy bags. We've had to do some extensive carrying of bags everyday for the past week, and our shoulders are ready for a rest for sure.

So a little background on our village. We aren't supposed to share the name, but if you want to know, e-mail us. It's pretty big with about 13,000 people. It would take us about an hour to walk to one end from our house and 30 minutes to walk to the other end. Villages here are pretty spread out in general, people have big yards and sometimes gardens or corn fields. There's a dry river bed that runs through the middle of the village so there's a strip of land that is unoccupied around that. We've got a post office, police station, clinic, a number of small shops, and lots of bars. There's also an internet cafe, but we haven't checked that out yet. I've heard they have 2 computers. We're close to Pretoria, only about an hour in a car but we won't be going much. We are working with 4 schools, 3 primary and 1 middle. We haven't split up who will be working with which school yet, but we have lots of time to work on that as it's now phase 2 of training where we have different assignments to do every week for the next 3 months.

Everyone has been super nice and welcoming. Our Setswana names are Lebogang (that's Becca's) and Thabo (James) so it seems that lots of people already know them as everyone says "dumela Lebo le Thabo" as we walk down the street. Our host mother is wonderful, she's a retired domestic worker and she lives alone (well not anymore). Right now, she's in Rustenberg with her daughter who just had a baby. So we're holding down the fort, but when she comes back, I think she'll be bringing the daughter and baby with her. Our house itself is wonderful, she lived in it up until a few months ago even though her house is much bigger than ours. We have a bedroom and a living room/kitchen. It was already furnished when we got here since she has lots of old furniture. We're very spoiled as we have a normal sized 4 burner stove/oven, a full sized refrigerator, and a microwave. We don't have running water though and have to either use the latrine or the bathroom in our host mom's house. Even in the big house, water is sporadic so we've been taking baths in her bathtub with water from a bucket.

Everything is going well, and it's weird to think back on the anxiety we both felt when we first arrived at our sites in Chad. I think that we definitely feel more secure as we have each other, but even beyond that, we are more sure of ourselves in what we are doing here and how to go about integrating into the community.

We have a new address and phone number, but since this is a public blog, I'm not going to post it here. E-mail us for either or both. We hope to be updating more frequently as we have much more free time now than we did in training. Now off to watch Bafana Bafana hopefully kick some Malagasy butt at soccer.

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