Saturday, January 26, 2008


I think "gabotse" means goodbye in Sepedi. This is it, my last day in Huntsville, and I'll be leaving the United States for quite some time (bout a year and a half until my bro's wedding) on Tuesday. Next time I get on the internet I'll be an official volunteer and should know at least a good bit of a new language, so things change. I'm not sure what i will miss when I'm over there. Likely friends and family will be the big thing. Will I miss Western conviences? Listening to the sound of my own language from a native speaker? TV and movies? I suspect that the biggest adjustment will be a cultural one, I will be faced with viewpoints and perspectives that are completely different from my most basic assumptions. But who knows?

I am not nervous heading into this, I've been looking forward to it for a while and am more excited than anything else. I hope I'll be able to be a resource to people who need it and that I'm able to learn something myself and gain an invaluable experience for whatever my next step in life is. I will be posting pictures and thoughts on this blog when I get the opportunity. I'm all packed except for those inevitable "outstanding items" that I put off purchasing, or forgot until recently. I need a haircut and am dreading the inevitable sleep adjustment that I'll be going through, probably for the next full week or so. I am looking forward to meeting people from my group and the whole training experience. I hope everything goes great in the US of A while I'm gone and I hope people read of my experiences as an American in another country. Dumela (hello) South Africa!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pre-Service Training

  • February 1 We arrive at Johannesburg and head to the town of Mokopane. We stay in Mokopane for 9 days. During those 9 days we are living in barracks, getting interviewed, and assigned to a "language group" which is very important, and could be pretty arbitrary, since what language you're assigned to determines where you'll be working and who with. Right now the two language groups that I've been informed of are Sepedi and Afrikaans (though there are a couple of other languages that might be taught.) Sepedi is a Bantu language of Northern South Africa. Afrikaans is a Germanic language (bought over by the Boers who settled in South Africa in the 19th Century, and is the most wide spread "home language" in South Africa. It is now spoken by both whites and non-whites) and should be much easier to pick up, but I'm not sure which way I want it to go or which way it will go.

  • Feburary 10 We go to the next part of training which is the "homestay" where we're trained while living with a family. The entire group will be living in the rural Bakenberg area which i guess is kind of far from urban areas. During the homestay we are supposed to become as immersed in the host families' routines as we can and participate in the communites' activities.

  • April 3 is the end of my pre-service training, after which I'm assigned to my project. At some point afterwards I will probably be able to access the internet and purchase a cell phone. And of course I can start doing what I came over to do!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Some answers to some FAQs

  • South Africa is a big country and apparently the area in which I'll be working is the province of Limpopo on the Northeast border of the country. It's not too far from the capital Pretoria, but it's quite a ways from Cape Town which is sort of the big tourist destination and modern city. Like I said it's a big country so I won't be right on top of everything that's going on, or close to every landmark or place of interest.

  • I will be learning at least one language that isn't English, South Africa is a country with 11 official languages, English has a strange status in that only a tiny minority speak it at home, but it is the language of media and government so most people understand it and can speak it.

  • My"port of departure" is the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia is where I'll get staging done and a lot of the pesky paperwork that has yet to be filled out.

  • I will be over in South Africa for two years and three months. I should mention that I will not actually be a "Peace Corps Volunteer" until I get through my in country training, which will get me enculturated, trained, and placed in an assignment, so it will be about three months of being a "trainee" in the village of Mokopane until I'm officially a volunteer. When that happens I'll be placed with an organization in South Africa that's trying to cope with the AIDS crisis, probably one with an emphasis on helping the youth of South Africa. There are a wide variety of organizations that fall under this umbrella as HIV/AIDS has had and continues to have a huge impact, so I won't have any idea as to what I'll be doing until I'm placed with an organization and even then my status could change as projects and needs shift.

My Travel Schedule

Slowly but surely a schedule of these last couple of weeks before my PST begins to emerge.

Jan 11, Friday Last day (i hope and pray) of working food service. I haven't had the best luck at paying jobs frankly, though serving coffee was a decent experience, customers and coworkers have been very friendly, and I have no big complaints aside from the size of the paycheck and my working food service with a college degree at the age of 24. Hopefully I can find a real job as soon as I get out of the Peace Corps, we'll see what happens.

Jan 14-19 My grandparents come in from Michigan to see my parents' new house and wish me a good trip. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Jan 27 I leave for Huntsville Airport in the early morning. After a brief stop in Charlotte, NC I go to Philly and arrive at 11:30 AM. After that registration and staging for the trip begins.

Jan 28 Staging courses all day except for lunch and evening.

Jan 29 Medical checkup and vaccinations then off to the airport. We go to Frankfurt, Germany first (long layover there, hope the group gets the chance to do something.) After that we head to South Africa and then to the training site.

Other odds and ends:

- everyone with a certain amount of justification asks what exactly I'm doing for the Peace Corps, the Peace Corps website describes the project here...

NGO Development and HIV/AIDS

The South African government has called on
all organizations to join the new"Partnership Against AIDS." This project
reinforces the capacity of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on
HIV/AIDS and increases their effectiveness in serving local communities.

So yeah it's a bit vague. I suppose I'll find out more during training.