…What’s Going On (with Me)

Sanibonani (and cue the 4 Non Blondes),

It took me 3 weeks to figure out internet (site 1.0 provided copious wifi access and that is not the case in Schnizeland), and currently the only camera capabilities I have is my phone. Technological challenges have been a contributing factor to my blog absence, but honestly I have been busy trying to continue service.

When my PCSA supervisor called to check in this week to see how site is going, I responded with, “Tell me what you want me to say.” The honest explanation is complex because involuntary site changes are complicated.In a sentence, there are moments where I am so excited by the opportunity, “yea I get to start over again” and then ones of annoyance,” Groan…do I have to start all over again in month 11 of service?”

Starting over has a lot of benefits. I am the only PCV currently in my district and the isolation is serving me well. Everyone from the local police, the clinic manager, the local AIDS coordinator for the municipality, the host family, has been welcoming. People say that I am “one of them” which is much too generous of a statement (if my lack of melanin is not a dead giveaway that I am different, look at my poor isiZulu skills) but they are truly kind. It feels great be in a place where I am wanted. Also I am the first PCV at my organization, which is a combination of freedom from past expectations and also entertaining Peace Corps Policy 101 sessions. The most hilarious part of the first week was telling my supervisor that there was no way PCSA would let me go to a last minute meeting in Durban…on my 3rd day at site!

As always, there are new organization challenges I am attempting to navigate. The day after I arrived to site, my supervisor (the altruistic Mr. Swazi) sat me down and told me that although he was happy to have me, I came at a bad time. Not the words I wanted to hear on day 1. Initially I thought he was referring to my arrival on the last week of October, and yes integrating right before the December holidays is FAR from ideal. In this case, our only funder (a Government Department) lost all of its funding. It took me 5 seconds to realize we need to do a community needs assessment and Mr. Swazi was very enthusiastic. Thus most of November has been a mad dash to complete, Community Needs Assessment 2.0 before everyone leaves for the holidays.

Adding to the complications is said government department keeps creating last minute meetings, and due to those changes last Friday I had to squish seasonal calendars, SWOT analyses, and appreciative inquiry interviews for two separate caregiver groups. The information I am obtaining is eye opening (and probably subject to future posts), and I wish there was more time to collect perspectives, but we have a time crunch. Eish, I am claiming Community Needs Assessments as a LinkedIn skill after this.

There is a basic overview of life in Schnitzeland. Detailed accounts of specific adventures are coming (if I had to summarize site 2.0 in a word,it would not be boring).

All the best,
Katey

PS: Progress has been made on the mailing address and while I have permission to access the box, I will let you know and share the uniquely South African experience behind this delay.

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