"Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what's for lunch."
The real thing is about to happen, it's off into the Posh Corps trenches, to experience the legitimate challenges of living in a third world country! Wednesday we officially swear in as Peace Corps Volunteers! A day we all have anticipated with a mixture of pride and a little anxiety. I solemnly swear to integrate into my village, to befriend the needy, to infuse life skills into my school, and to try and stay out of trouble. I get my big 3 bedroom house, gas, electric, and water. Just what I dreamed of when joining the Peace Corps! Where's my mud hut? It's become a part of my life filling buckets each day, doing laundry by hand, and chopping every which vegetable into the smallest pieces so they can cooked properly. The buckets have given me character! I'm so attached to the buckets that I've dreamed about them! So, I've made a vow that I am going to buy 3 buckets when I get to site on Thursday, and bring in water everyday even if I have it in my house. Isn't this part of what I came here for, character building. I'm actually more afraid of having a big house, what if I hear noises in the other bedrooms, at least if things were small, I wouldn't be so scared. Did I say I was scared, nah, not really, just because I'm going into a rough village, why should I be afraid! Pray for me please!
PCV's are a unique species---they are adventurous, they think out of the box, and are a bit nuts! These commonalities unite us as we will be sharing the many difficulties and rewards as we cope with our adaptations. What have I learned in pre-service training? I've learned that Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to be many things to many people. They expect us to build sustainable projects, they expect us to build friendships, and give others a good dose of what Americana is like! Well, as far I know right now, I am an African named Tshepo, just in white skin. Yet, I realize people in my village will not see it that way yet! They'll follow me around, stare at me, laugh at me, call me names, and constantly badger me for money, or to take them back to good old America. That will be my reality for awhile, but boy am I gonna have fun with that! Our last days in Kanye equally reflects what has been learned. There have been many gatherings, the best one being from a gracious Indian family, inviting all of Bots 11 to their home to thank us for becoming volunteers. We witnessed them slaughtering two cows, a goat, and they had slaughtered chickens, all of which were barbecued for a feast fit for a king. The Indian family had also integrated in this culture, yet without giving up their beliefs. They are loved here! On Saturday, we held a thank you party for our host families with the Thanksgiving Theme, sharing skits of being Pilgrims, and watched skits the families put on about their traditions. We ate, sang songs in Setswana, we danced, and had games for the kids---we have been united! And of course our swearing in, how could I forget that, a day to be truly proud of! Yes, I teared up twice, once when singing the national anthem, and once when our Nate gave a speech!
Both Grandma and Kesego want to come live with me in Mmathethe---hey, I have the room so come on--I would love spending my days worrying where each has wandered off to! Kesego curled up in my lap tonight while I sat outside looking at the full moon and stars, and she quietly cried. Tonight mom prayed for my safety, and told me that we all make mistakes in relationships and in other parts of ours lives, and that it is only the strong who know how to forgive! All of these experiences, even the drudge of going to training daily, have become experiences imbedded in my mind. Yet, while there is sadness in leaving the family and friends made, there is equally a level of excitement and relief attached to moving on. The daily grind of training is no longer our stress, and now it's a time to reflect and digest what was.
Being a volunteer also means that there will be times when I will question myself, times that I'll understand myself, and times of comparison at significant points during service. A friend of mine has repeatedly told me that doing time lines for yourself is a great way to see the changes. So time line it will be! My bucket dreams will be replaced with eating Asian food, eating food without chemicals, drinking a cold Kombucha on a hot day, and missing my cats crawling all over me. All volunteers crave real food! Passing time will be an event in itself, staring at the walls may be a good thing to get used to, but from what I hear, there are lots of interesting things on the walls, like huge foreign spiders! It might become a Zen meditation of staring down the spiders so they don't eat you! Just think of the book I could write, Zen and the African Spider. Life will be what I make it in my village of Mmathethe! So ready or not, the second chapter will begin by listening for unheard melodies!