Sanibonani, nonke! Hi, everyone! I’m composing this almost six months after posting week won, where I commented on having a successful first week of teaching, and a year since my very first post from the United States, right before I departed for this new country of mine. I can now say that I’ve successfully completed my “year won” as a Peace Corps Volunteer! Utter craziness. After an emotional flight I landed in Johannesburg on 12 July 2012 and was swiftly swept away by Peace Corps staff to start our Pre-Service Training. Wow, how times change as the minute hand clicks, drags, whizzes on…
I’m now sitting in my hut, coffee in hand, listening to the scratchy sounds of both my sister raking the yard and of goats yodelling, quietly reflecting on the past year. It’s humorous because a year ago, nothing was quiet. I had just graduated college (complete with whooping and hollering), I was bouncing around Kentucky and Georgia saying goodbye to people (complete with laughter and tears), and I was cramming things into two suitcases to leave the country for 27+ months (complete with iTunes sing-a-longs and the occasional cursing session). As most people would probably say in my position, “I can’t believe it’s been a year. What a crazy ride.” Below, put in chart form for your analytical pleasure, is an absolutely minute list of the adjustments I’ve consciously and subconsciously made during my most recent trip around the Sun. Enjoy!
A year ago, I was staying with my temporary host family in Mpumalanga (the ones I visited during the Easter holiday). With them, I learned my role as a woman in this culture, endured knuckle abrasions as I fumbled through hand-washing clothes, ate cow stomach and chicken feet, practiced isiZulu, turned 23, and went to Training eight hours a day for eight weeks. It’s…insane, for lack of a better word, to look back and believe it’s only been 12 months since arriving, being a PCT, becoming a PCV, and living and teaching in my own village. I’ve become more patient, more independent, keener to details, and simpler. I can anticipate situations better and have grown in dealing with both people and things. I have more questions, frustrations, amazement, and insight into culture, racism, spirituality, religion, and the limits of the body – physically, mentally, emotionally. I’ve seen success, I’ve seen failure; I’ve peed in toilets, I’ve knocked my pee bucket over; I’ve eaten bistro pizza, I’ve eaten livestock innards; I’ve used a laundry machine twice, I’ve regularly turned my undies inside out; I’ve made amazing friends, I’ve met people that will remain acquaintances; I’ve almost been charged by a zebra, I’ve semi-adopted a cat. In summary, I’ve been both positively and negatively challenged every day, almost all the time. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the past year I’ve grown leaps and bounds as an individual, a Volunteer, a village member, a teacher, a learner, a confidant, an animal, and as a person. I’ll be honest, there are some things that I wish I could block out of my memory, take back, or do differently, but I’m happy and proud to say that there are many more that I’d do the same. In the next 14 months I’m excited to delve even deeper into my community, into my commitment as an educator in and out of the classroom, and into positively harnessing who I am in order to make meaningful and lasting connections during my time as a PCV in South Africa. Bring it on, Year Two!!