(My) Interrupted Service: it is what it IS

I have a feeling this is going to be a melodramatic cluster of words; regardless of what diction I try to maneuver. Here is how I broke the news to my cohort with my dark humor: latrine fiasco of 2015, instead of sending a general courtesy e-mail saying that my phone was out of commission, SA 31 received an obituary for Ruby A. Blackberry. And ETing is Peace Corps lingo for early termination ie quitting before the 27 month commitment is up

Hey y’all,

Someone said my blackberry obituary of April 2015, made it sound like I was ETing. So in the spirit of my ironic predicament, here you go.

 After a 9-week valiant search for new housing, Katey Redmond’s Peace Corps Service came to an unfortunate but peaceful demise at the age of 15 months. Throughout a 15-month tumultuous service consisting of phone mishaps, unstable sites, and lots of reluctant backpacking, Katey gained invaluable field experience and renewed passion for her pursuit of a career in global health. Her service will be remembered as (among other things) the unofficial Pretoria concierge for med-evaced PCVs and new PCSA office visitors, the girl with 6 South African Names and 5 phones, and brief time as M&E Champion. While she wishes she fulfilled her commitment of 27 months, she remains extremely grateful for the 15 months she experienced. It was a privilege to live in the beautiful Drakensburg and Amajuba “place of the doves” as a PCV. The opportunity to experience rural South Africa on the level she did will probably be a source of entertaining stories and reflection for the rest of her life.

Katey wishes to thank SA 31 for their kindness, shelter, laughs at her quirky sense of humor (seen here) and companionship. She also would like to express her gratitude to the Peace Corps South Africa Staff. Together they tried everything they could to make South Africa work.

Optional Condolences can be sent via email (Katey realizes that it is hard to find the right words to say in this situation, do whatever works for you). She is also open to any suggestions to the question, “If you had a free year and 3 months, with limited funding what would you do).

As of May 11, 2016 I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer, after my country office petitioned the regional office for what they call an interrupted service (IS). IS simply means that PC headquarters viewed that my ability to continue my service was out of my control,basically an honorable discharge. Despite mine and PCSA’s best effort to make things work, South Africa did not work out.

I wish my blogging absence was because the organization put me to work and my service was finally evening out. To be fair, until middle of February things were going well. After the Blogging Abroad challenge, I was reenergized with post prompts for Eish. The host family relationship appeared to be going swimmingly. At work we were having a focus group fiesta to wrap up the Community Needs Assessment and a potential grant application. The organization and I were planning a World TB day event and a few other projects. I was hopeful that I would at least have a project under my belt before Mid-Service Training in April.

Then my plans came to a screeching halt. On February 25th while in Pretoria for a meeting, I was suddenly informed by my PCSA supervisor that I needed to move again as the host family wanted the house back by the following Friday without a clear reason. At this point anything I would tell you would be speculation but PCSA told me it had nothing to do with my behavior. This commenced a 9 week search with Mr. Swazi and the staff. I was back stateside for planned annual leave/vacation for 3 of these weeks but returned with confidence that this would be resolved.

When I got back to South Africa in mid-April, I waited in Pretoria while staff diligently searched a 3 more weeks for options in the community without luck. The only other health program site available at the time was in an area notorious for harassment, and PCSA did not want to put a female there.  With that in mind and the fact I just past my Mid-Service Training with a prior site change experience, they contacted the regional office in DC for an interrupted service. When D.C. gets involved, things have to move quickly. The morning after the decision, we made it to Amajuba at 4 PM,quickly sorted through all my stuff before the 6 PM sunset and said good bye to Mr. Swazi. After a night in Duke City, I went back to Pretoria where I scrambled to complete all the logistical tasks to close of service. I flew out May 11, 2016 as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, one week after the decision was made.

And yet here I am. For the past two weeks I have been sitting in New Mexico in the humbling situation of moving back in with parents and 3 teenager siblings, trying to process what happened.  As for next steps, I do not want to share anything until something is concrete but I am scrambling with applications and the battery of medical tests required for all PCVs when they close their service.There are a few more entries I want to post for closure’s sake by the end of June.

In the meantime, I want to be clear: I do not regret my time with Peace Corps South Africa. Even with all the site instability, I would do it again.

If I only got 15 months in South Africa, it was time that I may have not had without the opportunity. I am still sad about what happened, because I feel like my time in Peace Corps should not be over but my description of service is still 3 pages in Word.

As always thanks for reading.

All the best,

Katey-Red RPCV extraordinaire