Finetastic Adventures

Sunday, October 01, 2006

No longer PCTs; we're official PCVs

The following post was written last Tuesday, 26 September. Instead of changing it, I will just preface it by saying we weren’t able to publish it until now. And now we are sitting in Detroit preparing for Dave’s father’s funeral. He passed away on Wed and we were on a plane the next day. Peace Corps worked quickly and efficiently to get us both here asap. We so appreciate that they not only worked fast but that they also approved Marti’s leave as well; we have two weeks emergency leave. Family is beginning to arrive for Tuesday’s funeral. It’s a sad occasion but one that wasn’t unexpected; Jack had been ill and in a nursing home for several months. We are thankful he wasn’t in agony; he was in good spirits right up til the end. We are also glad to have just finished with PST; we are not sure what would have happened if we had to leave for two weeks of the eight week training. So when we return to Polokwane in mid October we’ll get right to work, and plant that garden before it’s too late. (Check out the new photos from PST that have recently been posted; the link is here on the blog.) Here’s what was written last week in South Africa:

As I write this update I am sitting on the couch in our new house. We have spent the last several days getting it cleaned, organized and repaired. I don't know when we'll get to the internet to post this, but this way it will be written and ready to go. But I should go back a couple of weeks to catch up. In the beginning of September we met our supervisor for the first time; we had found out just days before for whom and where we would be volunteering. Indeed, as we thought, we are in Limpopo Province in the city of Polokwane. We will be working with an organization that teaches life skills and vocational skills to mentally-challenged adults. Our first order of business is getting the organization's computers up and running and connected to the Internet. Then we can tackle jobs such as setting up a website and writing a newsletter. There is also some business planning and outreach that we will help with. I think we will be very busy and are looking forward to getting started. Initially there won't be any HIV/AIDS work for us, but the organization plans to open a clinic in the coming months and we hope to be involved in its setup and beyond.

Our group of 34 NGO trainees traveled to Rustenburg in the NW Province for the supervisor's workshop for 2 days, where we all met our respective supervisors. Then we left with them for a site visit for 5 days. Since the house where we now live was not yet ready we stayed with our super and her husband. They are very nice and we were shown around the city and the organization's offices. We spent several hours those days walking the city and researching options for internet service. The last two days of the site visit were to have been spent with a current PCV, but the two who live here were out of town. Our family in Boekenhoudhoek was happy when we returned for our final two weeks with them. Those were really wind-down weeks; we were all ready to get on from training to our new sites. But we had a few technical sessions left, and some language training to prepare us for the LPI (language proficiency interview). Plus we had several social events, some in which all 78 of us (NGO and Ed) got together, as well as a shopping trip to Pretoria. Some of the group are living in remote areas with no access to towns, so we were given our living and settling-in allowance in order to shop that day for anything we would need to settle in. Dave and I elected to wait until we got to Polokwane since there is everything here we would need.

There are a few things I was especially looking forward to in moving out of the village and being on our own. We are so happy to be cooking our own meals now. The first time we had chicken feet for dinner was a cultural event, but by the fourth time I'd had enough. And though we mastered the art of eating with our hands (actually, only the right hand) I am happy to be eating with a fork again. I am very happy to report that we actually now have cheese! We hadn't seen any for two months and I didn't know how much I'd miss it. But I have to say in all honesty that we will miss the rural atmosphere. The children were so curious and fun to be around. We loved walking around the village (in daylight only of course) and hiking in the hills. Though we sometimes tired of greeting everyone we met in the street, we enjoyed the laid-back feeling there. Polokwane will be a very different experience. Here we are not so much of an oddity; when we try out our Sepedi we don’t get that wondrous reaction as we got from the villagers.

We had our LPI on Sept 15 and were stunned to find out a few days later that only 1/3 of SA-15 (our whole group of 78, South Africa 15th year) passed the 'test'. I think the testing is not very standardized, so the other 2/3 will have to be retested in 6 months, Dave included. We had planned on getting a tutor anyway, so now this will force us to study.

On Sept 21, we were sworn in, so we are now officially Peace Corps Volunteers. For one thing, we start our new jobs; secondly, our leave days start accruing. Not that we are planning any vacations yet! But Alyssa should have just arrived in Mauritius, so... In fact, we are on lock-down for the first 3 months. We are not allowed to leave our community until Dec 21, which happens to be our anniversary. But the time should fly. Between work, transporting back and forth and keeping the house and garden, we'll be busy. The house is tiny, but everything we do takes much longer than in the US.

Take laundry, for instance. Yesterday we walked to the laundromat with the laundry on our backs, about 3 miles, then took the taxi home. 3 hours. If we do it by hand at home, it will take the better part of a day. If we break down and buy a machine, it will still take about 3 hours. The washers are small and manual, and we will hang the clothes to dry. Other chores are similarly long; the floor constantly needs sweeping with all the dust - there are no screens and we leave the windows and door open for the air. Before summer and mosquito season we will install screening on the windows.

We made some good friends in PST and know we will keep in touch and see each other at in-services and when we visit each other. I think we'll have PCVs coming over often once we pass lock-down. We have an extra sleeping room (also used as a dressing room, pantry, library, storage, etc) and are near the city. Our house is approximately 45-50 sq meters big; that is 2 sleeping rooms, a bath, and one kitchen/lounge. But it's comfortable and now everything works. When we arrived last week, the refrigerator that they had for us wasn't working so we had to buy a new one, plus there was no oven, so we got one of those microwave-size ones with 2 burners on the top. (They are very common here.) We rearranged the furniture and cleaned. On Sat night after a long day we heard water gushing out of the geyser (hot water tank) in the bathroom. It flooded the room and we had to turn the water off, but hey what's another few days without water since our last two weeks in the village we were without. Anyway, this was after a crazy day itself. We had walked into town (10 KM) to finish some shopping. We had bought the big stuff on Friday but needed a few smaller things, two of which were tables that would hold the TV (yes, they left one in the house) and the new oven. We were quite a sight, walking through town carrying these two big boxes plus other bags, then getting in and riding home in the minibus taxi. This was the true test of our living as South Africans. And I think we passed; it would have made Alyssa proud. We had been squished into a taxi holding someone else's belongings, but this was our first with our own. You would have had to see it to appreciate.

Anyway, today was the first day since we moved in that we didn't go anywhere. Our supervisor's handyman came to fix the geyser and a few other things in the house, so we spent the day here working around the house, putting up the clothesline, and studying Sepedi. I really do feel at home. Next week the work really starts; yesterday was Heritage Day and schools are closed for the week and lots of people, including our clients, are away for holiday. We look forward to getting bicycles this week so we can use them for transport and recreation. This appears to be a great area for cycling!! We were able to get a card for Alyssa's cell phone that she used when she lived here, so we now have a phone number, and we got a PO box last time we were here. So please write; we love mail!

Once we get the internet up and running I hope to be able to post more often. The photos are also updated so check out the link on this blog site. Hope you are all doing well. Til next time….


  • Dear Dave and Marti-
    First I want to express my deepest sympathies at the loss of Dave's father. It m ust be a very difficult thing in the midst of all the excitement and changes with the Peace Corps. I also read Alyssa's blog and know that she will miss him also. It sounds like he was a wonderful man.

    Your adventures so far sound incredible! I am so proud of you both for doing this. I look forward to hearing more stories and learning about the people and culture vicariously!

    I am planning my next trip to Haiti for January. I think Rea forwarded you the website of the non-profit I have hooked up with _ I don't know if you will have any use for that information where you are- as it sounds like you're in a city. BUt please feel free to share it widely!

    May the year ahead bring you health and strength and many new friendships and wisdom and love.
    I look forward to reading about your adventures.
    love, gigi

    By Anonymous Gigi, at 8:14 PM  

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