Just a blog about a girl joining the Peace Corps and taking her life adventure to South Africa.
The views expressed here do not represent the views of Peace Corps or the U.S. Government. They are solely my own.
That title couldn’t be more appropriate for this blog post. I spent roughly 10 days at IST(in-service training) or ISV(vacation) as we joked, but really it just made me realize that I am not the only one that has stuff to bitch about, but I am the one that is doing a lot of the bitching. Complaining about sexual harassment, the sustainability of our projects, and just overall being a whiny baby about anything and everything. Why? Well, for one, I’m a vocal person and getting it off my chest is just how I’ve learned to cope with things as I’ve gotten older, for two, I just want to know that I’m not alone and if I bitch, maybe others will bitch too.
The problem is bitching isn’t gonna make the change, us sticking this thing out and making small changes is. I can’t keep dwelling on the negative and never looking for a positive, I need to suck this shit up, deal with my situation and accept that I’m not gonna be able to take every bit of shit that’s thrown my way and change it, but I can make some change.
This post comes as we are mourning the loss of a great man, a man that dealt with soooo many obstacles in his life and still one of the quotes that resonates in my mind is "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." That quote hits me so hard in my heart that it’s overwhelming. I spent the last week complaining and trying to make sense of wth I’m going to deal with for the next two years, but instead I need to focus on the now, focus on the things I can change and handle and accept that with those changes there will be some failures, I can’t dwell on what I won’t accomplish or what won’t change, but instead realize that I am part of a bigger picture. I am a small change that will one day affect the world. I’m no Nelson Mandela, but I am part of the dream that he and so many before him have fought for. I am a member of the world, not just an American, not just a PCV, not just a woman, I am someone that has a lot more to offer than a drunken rant about the differences in gender or the hardships I’ll face as a teacher in South Africa. I can’t allow the bullshit to deter me just as Mandela fought his entire life to create change.
Nelson Mandel continues to inspire me and will continue too throughout my service because like Mandela, I am doing something bigger than myself and that’s worth fighting for.
RIP Madiba, may you continue to fight for change though your legacy and inspiration.
So its Nov already. Seems like I’ve been here forever and yet not at all. Its a pretty crazy feeling actually.
So I suppose I should update you on what’s going on right? I mean that’s mostly what I created this blog for and that’s prob why you are reading it, neh?
Well here’s the update. IST(basically a fancy word for training) is coming up and I’m actually pretty stoked, it will have training sessions, but it’s also a break from village life and being around a million people asking a million questions or making a million demands. Plus I get to see my frannnssss and that’s always nice.
Village life reminds me of Lancaster, a small town with nothing else to do but drink and have sex. Now, I’m not saying that’s entirely a bad thing, what I am saying is that it gets boring. You have to find new ways to keep yourself busy, my way is watching a redic amount of movies and reading books. Which at first was miserable, but I’m getting used to it and the alone time sting is easing up. I’m actually finding myself feeling relieved when school gets out and I get to run home and hang out in my room for a few hours before I have to rejoin the world and watch Generations. (A pretty awesome SAfrican soapie) Anyways, I can’t lie, village life isn’t all that grand, you walk around the village once and you’ve pretty much seen everything that there is to see. I did discover a new tuck shop a couple weeks ago which was cool. I doubt I remember how to get there though.
The term at school is ending and all the learners are pretty much taking their exams and heading home. It’s not a very exciting time for me since I don’t have exams to mark, but it is nice to enjoy the lack of stress from having to teach and mark exams and basically do my job for right now. Come Jan, that’s all gonna be different. I’m pretty ready for this phase to be over though, I wanna teach and get started with stuff, I don’t really like observing, I learn and focus better when I’m actually doing and I have the chance to fall on my ass and then get back up. But alas, I’m in PC, I don’t always get what I want or what I’m comfortable with.
Speaking of teaching I have a tentative schedule that I will be teaching. I will have Grade 5 English which will be 10 periods, then I’ll have 8 periods of Physical Education, which means I really need to try and remember wth I learned in PE class so I can teach it. It’s part of the life skills unit so I have to review the requirements and make sure the learners know them, and that will be for all grades.(mind you in SA they don’t start teaching English until grade 4, so I’m teaching PE to learners that prob won’t understand a word I’m saying, but it’s PE, its all about the body language anyways) Then I will have some periods dedicated to the school library and having different grades come in to check out books and have reading time. I think it’s a pretty good schedule and it will def keep me busy. Not to mention I have a girl’s and boy’s group that I want to start, helping the current athletics coach with coaching, and hopefully starting a college bound group at the high school.
These are the dreams I have right now. Who knows if they’ll work, but they’re nice to think about and plan for now so I stay busy. Like I keep saying PC is all about keeping busy or you’ll go insane, not that you’re not already insane for joining PC in the first place, but yeah.
Kenny left for the Navy last Thursday, I was surprisingly ok for some reason, did a little crying while he was swearing in, but I spent so many months dreading it and stressing about it, that when the day came, I was just numb. I miss the kid, and there’s so many times I want to text him and know I can’t, but he’s starting his adventure and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of him.
I can’t deny that things here haven’t been the best. There’s still so many hurdles to jump through, things that I’m learning and trying to teach, and just dealing with myself in this crazy environment that I’ve thrown myself into. I need to be more assertive with the staff at my school and my host family. I let them say what they want to me and I just bottle it up for fear of disrespect and I’m finding myself holding resentment toward them instead of wanting to learn from them. Granted there’s things that they’re telling me that I need to listen too and I have to accept as part of my new life, but I also have to be able to say no when there are things that I just won’t do or can’t do. I might be in SA, but I am still American and I am not used to everything that goes on here, which I am trying to learn, but there are also things that just don’t need to be done. Like bathing twice a day, I’m sorry, but that’s just not gonna happen, I barley wake up early enough to get dressed and make it to school, most of the time I don’t even eat breakfast before I get to school. But little things like that I have to just say no too and stop constantly worrying about pissing someone off, because right now, the only person that keeps getting pissed off is me, and that’s not really gonna help me get through the next two years.
Other than that, things are getting along. The homesickness is easing up and I’m getting into a routine and kinda just going through the motions. Not the best way to go about it, but hey, I’m still here, and no one can really say shit about how I’m getting through my service. I’m ready to start teaching and get the new year underway. But I’m also SUPER ready to go on vacation in Dec and actually get to be a tourist. I’m sure I’ll write a separate post about it when it gets here. So I’m not gonna talk too much about it now. Just counting down the days until Sunday and then till vaca. Cause PCV life is mostly about the countdowns. Sad but true. Until the next time I get wifi. I’m out!
So happy 3 1/2 months! Let’s update you on the world that is a PCV:
First off, its been a month at site and I’m getting in the grove, it’s still a different world to me, but I’m adapting and working my way though each day. It’s def hard, but I signed up for this and I’ll be damned if I quit because times go tough. (Pride is a bitch)
That is something that you have to learn as a PCV though. The normal up and downs of everyday life increase 10 fold here. You can go from really happy to angry to frustrated to happy again to crying to pissed to whatever emotion we have as humans. It’s redic honestly and it leaves you going to bed exhausted and worried for the next day, wondering how the fuck you’re going to survive another day let alone two years, you drift off to sleep and what seems like five mins later your body is awake at 5 in the morning ready to battle another day.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons to get through the day. I started a girl’s group with grade 7 and they are really excited to be involved and I hope that I can be that motivating factor to create change in their lives, even if its just one girl that respects herself enough to tell the world that she won’t be it’s punching bag anymore I’ll be happy.
Once a week I teach a grade 5 class and I have been journaling with them. They love it and they def have interesting answers to my questions. Its a way that they haven’t interacted with their educators before and they do enjoy it and I feel that they are learning or at least getting their voice heard which is another great thing to look forward too.
I also started reading and comprehension lessons with a high school student. We started reading “Around the World in 80 Days” and he had a great grasp of the content. He was sky to answer my questions, but here, they are not told to be confidant and that they can understand, so the fact that I pulled it out of him was great. I’m sure by the time I leave he’ll be reading books that I read in college and still have no understanding of.
Frustrating points are just how much people inhibit themselves here, as an American I’ve grown up always being told “if you work, you can do it” so I’ve always know that I’ve had to earn everything I had. Even if some people in America weren’t raised that way, I was lucky enough to have that mentality instilled in me. However, here, Apratheid still runs deep in the minds of the nation and many black South Africans have internalized oppression that keeps them from reaching their full potential. Constantly my fellow volunteers and I have the race card pulled in which we have to defend our reasons for being here (why would a white person want to be in a village and teach blacks), or we are told that a person can’t learn something (computer, copier, etc.) because they are black.
Now I know that America has plenty of problems with race and that it runs deep as well, but being here, we can actually SEE the issues of race and how they really keep people down. I’m just reminded of “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” and as racist as that saying was, and the problems it had, there’s not even a saying like that here it seems. It’s hard as an American to face so much adversity and not feel lost, confused, and frustrated. Some days I just want to pretend I’m back in America and ignore the issues that I face here, but I know that I can’t and it honestly is enough to make anyone resort to a glass of wine (or two) and just sleep.
Being a PCV means dealing with 10 million emotions and managing to get what you can done. I tweeted that the other day and its so true. You cling on to the idea of home, a place where you belonged and you could at least try and blend in, and then you come to a place where, as my friend describes it perfectly, you’re a fish in a fishbowl, constantly being watched, your bowl being poked, and no way for you to communicate any of your feelings. The days you get to meet up with other PCVs and shed the layer of protection you have to have on your mind is also overwhelming because there are so many emotions bottled up that dealing with them with people that understand is just a whole different ordeal and then you have to go back to your village and contain all these emotions. Mind you, I’ve only been here three and a half months, so I’m sure things will calm down and I’ll find my stride, but right now the rollercoaster that I’m on is at the point where I want to barf and pass out, but there’s not end for the ride in sight.
After all this I bet you’re wondering “What. The. Fuck. Why? How? Why don’t you just come home? Why keep going?” The main answer is pride, I refuse to quit just because its hard and different. I know this experience will be rewarding and will make me a better person. No matter what, I will have an impact somewhere, but it one child or all of them, I will motivate someone to break the oppression and seek something better.
Another reason is that because there is that silver lining, here we have to find the small things to make myself happy. I def didn’t do that enough in America and now I’m forced to do that and find ways to be happy. This is another chapter in my life where I have to put my strength to the test and really dig deep.
Also, it helps that I have an amazing support system, not one person from home or here is letting me quit, they know it sucks and may not always be able to see why(mostly people back home) but they get that its hard and they’re helping me take those steps toward the future.
Lastly, this is only 2 years. I’ve actually started my service now and I’m just checking off days until I come back. (686 according to my countdown) I literally have to just make it through these holidays and the next and I’m on my way home, I miss this football season and next and I’m on the way home, For some people, just one more bday I have to miss and I’m home, so many different ways to count it, but either way, I just have to keep going to bed exhausted, waking up, and crossing another day off that countdown. I have to keep finding the little things to focus on and keep reminding myself that I’m here to do work. If anything I’m here to teach grade 6 English and that is my job. PC is a job, and at the end of the day sometimes I have to to just remember that it is a job not exactly like one in the states, but there’s the good and the bad in everything and only focusing on the bad will make for a shitty two years.
The transition has def been rough, and things like this are never easy, but its a test of character and something like this is a chance to grow and become stronger and better than who you were before you left. In three months I’m already finding myself growing and realizing how strong I truly am. I may cry all the time and complain, but I’m here and I’m waking up everyday and I’m coming home and crossing another day off my calendar. Right now that’s how my strength is being displayed and that’s what I have to do to get through. Another lesson you learn in PC, do what you can to get through.
Its def tough, but it’s not forever and it’s not all horrible. Its just getting my head right and getting myself to a comfortable spot. With time, it will come.
Guess who finally has FREE and reliable internet?!
So let me start by saying that it has been 2 1/2 months since jumping on a plane and making this commitment. I still can’t believe I’ve done it, but I’m here and so far I’m not allowed to go anywhere even if I wanted to quit.
Which today is a day that I really do, not gonna lie, the past two months have been an emotional tetter totter and I’ve been finding myself on the losing end of staying up. I’ve been trying to be positive, but everyday is a battle, but I’m not allowed to quit, so I’m still fighting that battle.
I’m not saying it’s been complete hell. I’ve met some amazing people and seen some amazing things and I know it’s only the start. The problem is that I’m too damn attached to my life back in America and I keep thinking I’m missing out when in reality I’m not, I would be doing the same thing I was doing and instead I’m doing this. Life goes on, I need to adapt.
Now that the bitching is done, let me get to the cool stuff.
1. I’ve eaten what they call a Mopani Worm, it’s just a caterpillar, but they’re like a snack here like we’d eat chips in the States. Think crunchy seaweed and you’ve got it.
2. Baboons just roam free here, actually most animals do. Cows, Chickens, Dogs, pretty much all animals roam free. Now for cows and stuff they obvi try to keep track but my first time seeing a heard of cows just walking the dirt road was def a shocker, not that I feared for my life or anything, but it wasn’t something you see everyday. Same with the baboon, driving to our host families the sencond week here and seeing a baboon just chillin on the highway was def a sight. Same with the Zebras, and other animals.
3. South Africans have amazing hospitality. They love to entertain, and they love to eat. You will never be hungry in a South African home, even if it’s their last bit of food, they will share, and you WILL be full. It took a long time before my host family realized that I couldn’t eat as much as they were giving me, and when I lost weight they were worried I was sick. Being skinny in SA is not a good thing, they like their women to be full figured, its a sign that she’s a good cook and will take care of her family.
4. My host family now is amazing. They really remind me of my family back home. I know I will def bond with them and we will form a strong relationship. They’re funny and love to have company and be loud. I feel right at home, even though I’m really missing home.
5. I watched a chicken get killed and be cut up to eat. I didn’t partake except for taking pictures, but it was def an experience.
6. The kids here are really cool. They can be a little up in your grill, but they mean well and they are very excited to see you and be near you and see what cool gadgets you have (like a camera), also, if you can dance like a South African, or try, they will LOVE you.
That’s all I got right now. Like I said, every day is an uphill battle trying to pave my way through this new life I’ll have. I know eventually I’ll get to the downhill and I’m just chugging along until I can just roll down. It’s been 2 1/2 months and that’s seemed quick, I can only imagine what the next year will feel like.
Till next time.
When I was researching the PC and trying to get an idea of what life would be like one of the biggest issues most PCVs had was the amount of downtime they had. I knew that was gonna to be a challenge for me since I’m the type that likes to constantly be busy, and so far, that has been my biggest issue. I have too much time to dwell and my mind wanders far too much and far too negative. This is something I need to learn to deal with, and I knew that going into this that it would be my biggest hurdle. I need to find ways to focus my energy but I don’t have my normal methods, so it’s proving to be difficult. Growth opportunity #65325-9! I know this depression won’t last forever and that I will find the strength to make it through, but it’s those lonely moments that really cut me deep. My mind is my own worst enemy and is the case for tonight’s sleepless night, and its the cause for the stress I put on myself. It’s hard to go from a busy lifestyle full of easy distractions, to a life style that’s more low key and plenty of time to sit and think. PST does keep us plenty busy, but it’s doesn’t keep my mind busy. We’re lectured all day and a lot of these situations we’re given we can only imagine our responses too rather than actually know. It’s a rough road, and once its over I’m not sure how the road changes, but I know that I need to adapt. I need to learn to be ok with being alone and learn ways to focus my thoughts and change from positive to negative. The amount of shit I put on myself is insane and def isn’t fair to me, but I knew that would be an issue I would have to deal with. Its hard going from one lifestyle to a drastically different one. I hope that once training is over then I’ll be able to really work on myself and learn ways to relax and just deal with myself. I spent too much of my life focusing on how I’m perceived by everyone else and I really need to worry about making myself happy and doing the best I can to help others. It’s hard to see the bigger picture when I’m just sitting in my room and not being able to focus on the positive, but I need to learn to cope and move on. I’ll be ok, its just gonna take patience and practice, but damn if it isn’t hard!
So I’ve survived a month in this PC process!!!! Woooo!!! There’s def no turning back now. I’ve already come too far. However, an important thing had to happen for me to realize that I can survive this and that I needed to change my frame of mind. I had to take an emotional shit. The thing about PST is that it challenges you in so many ways that your brain has a hard time keeping up. Between the heath, safety and security, and teaching lectures, to the language and culture barrier; you have no comfort zone and you’re forced to shift through the mess that is now your life, nine time zones away from family and friends. Granted you make new friends, lean on them and start to form a new comfort zone, but that takes time and work and sometimes there’s so many emotions and crap to deal with that you just don’t even know how its possible to form a life when everything is all over the place. So your mind starts to get anxious and scared and your fears become irrational and keep you awake at night on top of jetlag, and this my friends is where the emotional shit comes in. Keeping all those fears in and keeping all those emotions in doesn’t help, it only makes you more crazy. I had to get it out to my suporrt system back home, and while it was only through text, my heart immediately felt lighter and I was able to move forward and let go of a lot of the baggage I was trying to carry. I was trying to save m y friends and family from worrying, but instead I brought waaayyy too much on myself that my brain was already having a hard time dealing with. Needless to say, I’m so much happier now and I’m ready to finish out PST and start the next phase in this process. Like I said, I’ve already experienced too much emotionally to quit, and it’s not like my friends and fam would wanna see me quit, and neither do I. This first month has been anything but easy, but for good reason. Living in another culture and place is HARD, you have to find your way and that’s what they’re trying to teach us. No one’s experience is the same and no one can say what will happen, we just have to figure it out, which is pretty similar to the states actually, but people speak english you can understand and you have your mommy to run too when you need a hug, but I gotta figure it out here. I’m not in the states anymore and won’t be for at least a year if I can go home to visit. I have no choice but to make it work and learn how to deal which is the point behind all the lectures and long days, so we have the knowledge and skills to figure it out, but we can’t figure it out without support and someone to help you when you’re emotionally constipated. I hate to use these terms, but that’s exactly what it feels like. Pressure building up until you finally explode. There’s a mental image for you too. Anyways, I’m ready for the next month and the next phase, I know that when emotions are crazy, I have to lean on my fam back home to help process otherwise I will come back crazy, and I don’t need that.
Until next time!
Greetings from south africa! Its such a beautiful place and has so much to offer, I’m a lucky woman to be here!!!
Here are the highlights so far:
Ate a mopani worm, they’re catepillars that are abundant in a province of SA and they’re a snack here. They taste like seaweedm
I saw a baboon on the side of the highway when moving to my host family’s home.
Being homesick is a bitch and the first couple weeks here haven’t been easy, but I’m making it work because I refuse to quit.
I’m learning the language xistonga, which is supposed to be the romance language of SA, I like it, its pretty fancy.
My host family is pretty cool and everyday I get more comfortable with them and them me.
This weekend were going site shadowing and we’re gonna see what life is like to be a volunteer after training, I’m excited to see that. Other than that I just have a lot of language classes and other trainings that I have to do until september when I get sworn in. Hopefully now that I have internet I can be more up to date on this.
Sala kalhe! (Stay well!)