Monday, June 21, 2010

Dumilani ("Hello" in Kalanga!)

It’s official…I am a Peace Corps Volunteer!! Thursday, June 10th the Bots 9 (Botswana Group 9) transitioned from “trainees” to “volunteers”! We were sworn in by the United States Ambassador to Botswana, Stephen Nolan. It is a great feeling to know that Pre-Service Training is officially over and we are now full-fledged volunteers.

So in short, the last couple of months have been full of language classes, technical trainings, and many hours spent trying to figure out what our roles are going to be here for the next two years (that answer is still to come haha). Although there were some long days, it’s definitely been wonderful bonding with all the other volunteers. Our group already feels like a family. Now we are all dispersed throughout the country in our villages.

My village is Masunga. It’s north of Francistown near the border of Zimbabwe. Its population is about 3,000, with the majority of people being employed by the government, as it is a hub for government activity in the Northeast District. I work in the Social and Community Development Office alongside social workers. They primarily work with orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and destitutes. So far I’m really just learning about my office and what everyone’s roles are, but I will eventually get to go on home visits which will be a great way to get to know the community. There are also primary, junior, and senior secondary schools in the village that I definitely plan to work in. For the next couple of months, though, I am really supposed to focus on integrating into my community and figuring out a rough work plan with my supervisor of what I might like to do the next 2 years.

Ok so now that y’all are kind of caught up, onto some of my current thoughts…

First of all, I can’t believe I’ve been here for 10 weeks! It has seemed like forever, but at the same time it’s like I left just last week. I can’t explain how time goes by here except that some days feel very long, but the weeks end up flying by.

It’s also been an emotional rollercoaster so far for sure. Most the older volunteers say Pre-Service Training was the worst part for them, and in the end, I will probably agree. It’s a time when you really aren’t in control of anything, which was frustrating for me. But I feel like now that it’s over and I’m on my own, it’s almost easier already. It’s funny because before I left for the Peace Corps and read that training was only 2 months I was worried that I would be scared to leave everyone and be on my own after such a short time. But the reality was that I couldn’t wait to start figuring out my new village and the work I would be doing. Now is the time that I actually get to figure out my own schedule and form my own service, which is great.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m sure I’ll be dying to hang out with everyone again soon. But I’m lucky because there is actually another volunteer that was already in my village, and a bunch of my friends are fairly close (as in a couple hours on a bus). I also have easy access to Francistown, which is where I’ll do a lot of my grocery shopping, and it’s also just a good meet up point for people.

But I also love my coworkers and think I’m going to have some good friends in the village. The people are definitely what have made my time in any of the places I’ve lived or traveled to, and Botswana will be no different.

Lastly, I’d like to share my favorite thing about Africa that always blows my mind…the sky. Looking at the wide-open skies reminds me how wonderful life is. And at night, when it’s pitch black outside, looking up at the brightest stars I’ve ever seen takes my breath away. Those are the moments when I am reminded to be thankful that I’m here in Africa.

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