Where have I been the past couple of months? I’ve been completing “Pre-Service Training,” a period during which Peace Corps trainees live in the same village, study local languages, get vaccines, and participate in lectures detailing South African history, culture, politics, and education. We’ve also had the opportunity to guest-teach at local primary and secondary schools. Throughout, trainees live with local families.
A quick summary of what’s been happening with me:
I am part of a group of 55 volunteers — we started at 57, but have unfortunately had two trainees head back to the States. We are living in a muddled village/town northwest of Pretoria. Along with four other trainees, I’ve been studying the language Xitsonga. Our permanent sites, where the five of us will be living and working for the next two years, are in the Limpopo Province, located in the northeastern part of South Africa, in Xitsonga-speaking villages.
I’ve been living with a delightful family of four. In the first picture are the family’s father, Julius, the mother, Doreen, and their eight-year-old daughter, Zanele. On the far left is their twenty-year-old son, Sbusiso, who is now studying at a university in Pretoria, and isn’t currently living with the family. In the second picture, on the right, is Doreen and Julius’s five-year-old grandson, Mbulelo. On the left is a young man from the neighborhood who often comes by to play. I recently taught them the hokey-pokey, which was a huge hit, particularly the shaking it all around and turning about sections.
I now have regular internet access, and so I plan to post a bunch of pictures, stories and ideas that have built up during my first months here in Afrika Dzonga, as we say in Xitsonga.
I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed PST. Earlier cohorts of volunteers here have had much more negative things to say about their experiences during PST. This isn’t because they’re a whinier bunch; apparently a significant number of changes have been made to the training program, which also reflects well on the Peace Corps staff working here. No doubt it’s often been a grind, with long days, six days a week. Every day has been interesting, however, and I think that I’ve gained a lot of knowledge that will be hugely helpful as I begin working in my village.
On July 5, 2011, I will be leaving for South Africa to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer. Officially, I will be working as a “Resource Specialist” as part of the “Schools and Community Resource Project.” Typically, volunteers in this position are responsible for a mix of teaching, HIV/AIDS education and youth/community development projects.
The blog name is taken from the Kafka story of the same name.
A bit on my own background: a native son of Baltimore, I graduated in May 2010 from the University of Maryland, College Park with degrees in Linguistics and Government & Politics; I also earned minors in Middle Eastern studies and International Development & Conflict Management. I’m going to hold off on discussing my reasons for joining the Peace Corps, but I will say that the professors and courses from the IDCM program played a major role in the process.
And although I’m sure it’ll change as I go, I think the blog will be focused on updates on what I’m doing as a volunteer and related commentary; hopefully there will be a nice mix of text, pictures and video. On a related note, I am happy to say that the banner picture is a drawing by my own hand. Until I scratched it out myself, I didn’t appreciate the cleverness of the official Peace Corps logo; the familiar star of the American flag shifts to the outline of a dove. And now you know.