Finetastic Adventures

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Our Final Month

It's so hard to believe that we finish our service one month from today.  The time seems to have flown, though sometimes when thinking back to our arrival here in July 2006 it seems ages ago.  Has our time here been successful?  According to Peace Corps, even if we feel we haven't accomplished all that our 'job description' states, we have succeeded simply because of the relationships we have built, the lessons we have taught South Africa/ns about Americans, the lessons they have taught us and the lessons we have taught and will continue to teach Americans about South Africa/ns.  But we know that we have made many positive influences in our positions here with our NGO as well.  The big question remains, as usual, as to how much of it will be sustainable?  We can only hope that at least some of it will be.

A couple of weeks ago Steph came to stay with us after having to leave her village suddenly.  She was unsafe there, so Peace Corps had her throw all her belongings in their vehicle, say quick goodbyes, and leave.  We are happy that she asked to come to our house, and we enjoyed her stay.  She was able to use the time and space while here to sort through her stuff and repack.  Unfortunately she is leaving South Africa prior to her planned COS in September; we look forward to seeing her again in Milwaukee.  We have always felt close to Steph since being in the same language class at PST, all being from Milwaukee, and being in touch and traveling with her over the past two years.  The last 2 1/2 weeks with her have left us missing her presence.

The week before last our entire group of PCVs, with whom we arrived here two years ago, met for a few days at a lodge near Pretoria for our COS (close of service) conference.  This always takes place 3 months before the end of service, which for us SA 15s is September 20; but we, as are most of our group, are COSing early.  Of the original group of about 82, we were about 70 as of last week; from then until early September, all but about 15 volunteers will have left.  The gathering was, thankfully, not emotional.  The purpose of the conference is to provide us with the information we need to finish our service, as well as help with readjustment and career searches.  We also had to take our final language test; those PCVs who will go on to graduate school or into the foreign service can use their scores on applications.

Fortunately the lodge was extremely comfortable and clean, but the biggest plus was the excellent food.  This was in contrast to the place we met in October last year for our Mid-service training, so we all were over-indulging-and enjoying it!!  After the conference ended and we had said our goodbyes to those we won't see again, we spent a wonderful weekend with Steph and Liz.

The clients at our NGO, Reakgona, have been on winter break since mid June and return on Monday, July 14.  So until then we have been working at home: myself spending time with Beth at the library we have built at our children's shelter, and going through all my stuff in the house, tossing what's not being sent or taken home and bagging what's being given away.  Steph was also generous in donating some soccer balls and other toys/games to the children at the shelter; she had some money left over from her unfinished projects.  The kids were thrilled when we delivered the balls and toys last week.  We'll also use some of the funds to order some kids' magazine subscriptions; they will be overjoyed to have mail coming to them monthly.  And we are excited that they will have new reading material.

Dave has been busy still trying to locate a new volunteer with the Polokwane municipality for the position of bicycle co-ordinator.  He has a potential PCV ready to go; they are just waiting for clearance so that they can start working together in Dave's last few weeks.  Though he was never officially in this position, he wrote the plan that the municipality is taking forward for approval; he has developed the contacts and has worked on various aspects of Bicycle Coordinator position that he needs to share.  Hopefully his last month here will be spent finalizing the position for the volunteer.  In addition, he wants to finish the training of our new bookkeeper for Reakgona.  He encouraged her to take the computer home during break so she could practice.  We will see her progress upon our return.

Most of my time this last month will be spent partially at the NGO, helping with the third quarter registration of clients, and at the shelter, putting the finishing touches on the library there.  But with the end of our service now so close, much time will be spent clearing out our house, packing, saying goodbye to friends, and preparing for what is coming after August 8.  And I can't help but say how we will continue to enjoy this wonderful winter; it's been a bit warmer than last year.  Being dry season, there is absolutely no rain; the nights can get cold, making it hard to get out of bed since there is no heat in the house.  But the days have been very mild, many of them staying in the 70's, and even the cool days are in the 60's, all of them sunny.  When we see that the temperature here is the same as in Milwaukee, it's hard to remember that we are in the opposite season.  We will definitely be remembering these glorious days when we are in Milwaukee in mid winter!

"Ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu"
"People are people through other people"
Xhosa proverb


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