(Toe-Bay-Lah kah moh-kah)
We are just wrapping up week 3 here in South Africa of our 8 week training. I think most of the 90 Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs), myself included, feel that we have been here for much longer than three weeks. So much has happened already, you see.
We began our adventure in Seattle on the 16th of July, flying first to Philadelphia for our 3-day orientation event (Staging). In Philly we met the other 92 PCTs destined for SA, processed paperwork and participated in a number of introductory sessions to Peace Corps service and South Africa in general.
Travels through Frankfurt. Ahh, the three hour ticket counter.
Our second flight took us to Frankfurt, Germany, where we had a 12-hour layover. (Yes, all 90 of us were on the same plane.) PC graciously provided day rooms for the lot of us, so we could rest and stretch out in preparation for our final flight to Johannesburg.
We arrived at the airport near Jo-berg, took a two hour bus-ride west to an educational center and moved our gear into our rooms, our new digs for the coming week. Susie and I were placed in the same dorm (small buildings with 8 single rooms) each in our own room. Our dorm was one of two “married-couple” dorms. There are 10 married couples out of our crew of 90 or so. We chose to keep our stuff in one room and to sleep in the other. One of our major questions upon arrival here in SA was whether or not Susie and I would be placed together for the next 2 months of training. The response that we got was from the Africans working with PC was, “what God has joined together let no man put asunder.” So that answered that question. We are currently living together with a host family and Susie is being bused to an adjacent village for technical training every day. (More on that later.)
Back to the educational center… Life at the center consisted of orientation sessions (i.e. safety and security, language, medical, culture), tea, shots… rinse and repeat in no particular order. (We had shots and Philly too, for those who were wondering… joy.) Here we also were introduced to SA cuisine. The food is much more flavorful than anticipated, which is a bonus. So, we are eating well. (…and yes we do have quite a bit of pap and chicken or bogobe le nama ya kgoko to be more specific, but it is supplemented with a variety of vegetables.)
From the center we headed out for our villages. This consisted of a 3 hour bus ride further west. The NGO volunteers are all placed in one village while the Education Volunteers are placed in two different villages that share a common border. (In all honesty, you wouldn’t know where one village stops and the other one begins.) As stated earlier, Susie and I are both placed in the same village. We are in one of the Education villages. Susie takes a Kumbi (small bus) to the NGO village every morning and I take a Kumbi to the other Education village. (This saves me a 45 minute walk.)
We have had nearly two weeks here in our village and are focusing on learning Sepedi (our target language) and on learning technical skills necessary to do our work for the remaining two years, following swearing in on September 20th. Susie and I are one of four couples that are split between NGO and Education (we call ourselves the x-factor, or cross couples). These four couples are all slated to live in Limpopo, two near Kruger National Park and two further west, near the Botswana border. We won’t know where our exact sites will be for a few weeks.
Susie and I are living with a wonderful host family here during our initial training. We have a host father (Ntate) and mother (Mama) and a 3-year-old host sister named Naladi (meaning “star”). They have even given us African names, after Ntate’s parents. Susie is Masego (blessings/lucky) and I am Letsolo (spear/many men go away to hunt… fitting huh?)
Masago stirs the traditional African beer.
(Susie’s first, “I’m in Africa!” moment!)
It’s getting late and we better go, but know that we are well and doing our best at adapting to this new culture. Training is keeping us incredibly busy, but we are glad we got the chance to travel into “town” to post an update. We may not be able to post, again, until after September, but we deeply appreciate your love and support.
Re a go rata le re go gopotse!
(We love you and miss you!)
Ben and Susie