Originally written on January 29, 2015.
We are more than half way through the orientation phase for trainees. This past week has been full of milestones like my first bucket bath, round of hand washing laundry, interrupted night due to a summer thunderstorm, language lessons, game sighting and the first scary safety and security session.
Currently I am in an environmental center in the Mpumalanga province. We will remain here until Sunday, where we will move to our homestays in an area that borders Limpopo province. SA 31 (we are the 31st group of PCTs in South Africa) trainees are getting a taste of adventure through our facility. The girls’ toilets (as they call restrooms in South Africa) has not had excellent luck with plumbing. Initially, we could not flush the toilets and had no running water. My first night as a Peace Corps trainee coincided with my first bucket bath…I think my bathing skills will get better will get better with time! A few days ago we were able to flush the toilets and now there is a blockage. The girls have been taking our business to the boys’ and the kitchen toilets. As of yesterday we no longer have electricity. We are adapting but it was highly entertaining to see our presenters try to facilitate activities without access to their PowerPoints! The South African Peace Corps staff has been diligent with their attempts to fix the plumbing and our group (minus the one girl who early terminated day 2) has taken the changes in stride. They have not complained and are adapting extremely well. It makes me proud to be part of an altruistic community.
Even with the utility Olympics, I have been busy to be horribly concerned about where to poop. The past 7 days have been a crash course on PEPFAR (The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and how Peace Corps views development. The Health Office briefed us on medical emergencies and malaria. Malaria is in a tiny sliver of South Africa but it is endemic in the surrounding countries that I would like to visit. I have also received shots for tetanus, meningitis, pneumonia, rabies, and typhoid (since my oral vaccine will not be adequate by 2016). Thank goodness I can tolerate needles well! The only times I have questioned my decision to come was during the Safety and Security presentations, where contemplating, “What on earth did I get myself into?” is normal.
We also had our first programing interviews, where I had a chance to talk about my experiences and state my preferences. My interview time started an hour late, but the CHOP program coordinator wanted to talk for 30 minutes so I obliged. I had an opportunity to share my preferences and learn about what the coordinator would like out of a recent college graduate with little work experience.
Yesterday we had a visit from the police sergeant for the area of our homestays. After providing generous advice on how to stay safe, the sergeant closed his presentation by saying he was proud of us. In light of what has happened in the US last year, I thought it was great that an African police officer would give us that compliment.
All the best,