Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lumela Bo me le Bo ntate

I can't believe Ive only been in Maseru for one week. My head is crammed with information about so many things... and there's much more to go. The training staff is very wonderful and very patient. We started our language training. 3 or 4 per group. The teachers laugh alot and their joy is infectious. I've probably had more language in the last week then in a month back when I took Spanish in school. And beginning this Sunday, we will finally have the 24/7 experiance. Sunday we are moving into our villages. There will be 7 or 8 trainees to a village, and 2 trainers. Each one of us will be with our own host familes, have our own rooms, areas to bathe (bucket baths) etc... Every day we will get together for more training/ language. At 4 pm everyday we have chores, in which we get to learn how to survive on our own in Lesotho. Our families will teach us how to cook, clean, make steamed bread etc... (good thing someone is finally teaching me this stuff!!) And then in the evening we will spend "family time" and get to practice our language, learn more stuff and have fun!! Im really excited. Pretty nervous, but more excited than nervous. During the next 7 weeks, we will also have field trips to learn about permaculture (I get to grow my own food if I want.. woo hoo!!) go to a PCV's site for a few days, and see what it's like... and then make it back on our own to Mesure. We will also go for a few days with our country counterparts to our perspective sites to check them out and check out the housing, and if, I mean when I pass my language exam, I will be sworn in on August 6 as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Among other things, we've been learning about HIV/AIDs, and here's some statistics which have been on my mind: The population in Lesotho has dropped from 2.1 million to 1.6-1.8 million over the last 20 years. Every day, 50 people die of AIDS, and 62 are newly infected/diagnosed. The average life expectancy is down from 68 yrs old to 36 yrs. And for me, here's the most disturbing... there are 180,000 AIDS orphans. That's conservatively 10 percent of the population. The Basotho are wonderful as far as extended families taking care of a lot of these kids. There are homeless AIDS orpans, and from what I was told, wonderful orphanes, but not enough of them. Something to keep in mind.

I should be able to get to the internet probably once a week through training, so hopefully i'll post after being in the village for a week... maybe with some pictures. I hope that life is good for all of you.

Kea leboha!!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

You're not in Kansas anymore...

Peace Corps training has begun!!! It's Sunday, 10 a.m. Lesotho time. We arrived in Lesotho last Friday morning. We took a 2 prop, 30 seater plane from Johanesburg to Maseru. There was one moment when the plane took a plunge to the left and dropped quite a bit...all of the sudden. This illicited some screams, hanging onto people. It woke me up. 2 of our team had to wait for the next flight because they said our plane was too heavy. That made me a bit nervous.

We arrived safe and sound. The associate director for Peace Corps, a current volunteer and several of our trainers were waiting for us. We received a very enthusiastic welcome, went through customs (it took many people several days to get all their bags) and were taken back to the Peace Corps training house in Maseru. When we got there all of our trainers sang "welcom to Lesotho" to us in Sesotho. Apparantly, Lesotho loves it's song, and their singing was beautiful. Harmony and everything. I've been told we are going to be doing much singing... and dancing. (stop laughing) For the rest of friday and saturday, we had a session that was an overview of the training time, sessions in the Peace Corps approach to development, safety and security, went for a walk around in Maseru, mapped out Lesotho and began the first of what will be a long list of innoculations. We first received yellow fever, and meningitis. We will begin a series of rabies, tb...etc.. (about 10 shots in all) All of the women also had to do pregnancy tests. (yes, mine was negative :) ) The instructors are mostly Basotho, who work for the Peace Corps and are incredibly patient. We've learned a few words of Sesotho, and begin our formal training on Monday, where they will assess us, split us into groups for language, interview us to try and determine the best fit for our site placements, etc...

For next week, (week 1) we are still at the training facility begining language, different sessions, and getting ready to be placed with our host families in week 2. Next sunday, we will go to our host families, (everyone with their own family, but the entire team divided up into 3 villages) and 2 peace corps language trainers per village. We will be taken shopping, so we will go complete with pots and pans (we will do our own cooking starting week 3) pee bucket, etc... We will have peace corps training until 4 pm everyday, and then chores with the family (they will teach us how to do the everyday things we need to know) and then "family time" every evening so that we can practice our language and complete other assignments. During this time up through August 6, we will take a few days to visit another volunteer at their site, going with them, and then getting back on our own. We will also spend a few days with our Basotho supervisor at our new site, checking it out and figuring out what we need to bring. And then we have a language test in which we need to score an "intermediate low" and then are sworn in August 6th. We will also learn during training about the agriculture here, how to plant our own foods, how to work with, teach HIV/ AIDS stuff..... and more, as Peace corps volunteers (while having one specialty..mine is health) are expected to do a little of everything.

This is all a little overywhelming for me. But I remain excited when I take it just one day at a time. The team is great, if not a little frazzled. But everyone is very kind and considerate to each other. They are easing us into the food... part American, part Lesotho, with Papa being a staple of most meals.. it's a mixture of corm meal and maize usually served with some kind of "gravy"

My internet time is running out. (Im at a cafe) I should be able to come back later on in the week and tell you more. They will be giving us money for and taking us later in the week to buy cell phones. It's expensive to call out, but texting is pretty cheap... so I hear.

I miss you all and hope things are well at home!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008 last

17 hours and 40 minutes to Johanesburg. We're in the hotel overnight, and in the morning to Mesuru. I can't believe it. The journey was long but uneventful. I miss all you guys. I'm not sure when I'll get to the internet again. I will write soon.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

1 day plus

I have been a Peace Corps trainee for 1 plus days now!!! Staging is done. The trainers did a great job with providing really good information in a really short time. Plus, structured into the training, there was the opportunity to get to know the rest of the team a little bit better. This is really a wonderful group of people.
This was about half of the group meeting tonight to go out and share our last American dinner together. (pizza and salad) My roomate is on the far right. That's Megan, and I definitely lucked out. She's very kind, helpful and has worked with special needs kids. She's been a great roomie.

It's only been 3 days since I've left Sacramento... somehow it seems longer. I miss you guys
This was the group that showed up at the airport to see me off. Im very blessed. You guys rock
Tommorow morning we leave the hotel for New York and leave from JFK for Johanesburg. We are overnight there, and then continue on to Lesotho. If I have internet access in Johanesburg, I'll post one more time. Otherwise, I may be out of contact for a bit. But I will post again as soon as I can. Take care!!!!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's official

At 2:00 p.m. eastern time today, I turned in all of my paperwork, basically signed my life away and went from a being a peace corps invitee to a peace corps trainee. Staging began and I met the 22 other people on my team and participated in the usual type of icebreakers. I know Im biased, but I think this team of people is a really talented, exciting and diverse group. There are 17 women and 6 men. The bulk are in their twenties. There are 4 or 5 of us over 40, and one woman in her 60's. (this amazing woman actually served 3 years in the Peace Corps in the Phillipines about 10 years ago) Many have just graduated college, several have received their masters. They come from all over the country, including one woman from St Croix, in the Virgin Islands. There are several people who have spent time in different places in Africa working/volunteering. There is one woman who was in the Peace Corps in Kenya who was evacutated and is brave enough to give it another shot. There's even a die hard Yankee's fan. (Go Cubs!!!) All in all, a really great group of people who I looked forward to getting to know better in the months to come.

Todays staging consisted of discussing safety and security as we serve, and the Peace Corp's approach to developement. This statement is how they view it:

"Go to the people.
Live with them. Learn with them. Love them.
Start with what they know.
Build with what they have.
But with the best of leaders, when the work is done, the task completed, the people will say,
'we have done it ourselves.'" Lao Tsu, 700 B.C.

The Peace Corps provides the trained people, to train the people for something that is sustainable by the people. How exciting!!! How scary. Am I up to it?

Tomorrow the staging will include managing risks, crossing cultures and policies. On wednesday, we leave Philadelphia at 9:30 a.m., take a bus to New York, take a 17hr, 40min plane to Johannesburg South Africa, stay overnight, take a 1hr plane to Mesuru, Lesotho and then the intenisive full immersion training begins. I can't wait.

Tomorrow, I'll try to post a picture of the team, so that you can see Im in good hands.
I miss you guys

Sunday, June 1, 2008

5 hours

29 months ago I began the application process on line for the Peace Corps. There were several times when I believed it wouldn't happen and I contempleated what I would do for the rest of my life. Now I am leaving in 5 hours. Exciting. Scary. Unbelievable. To have an opportunity to serve for a chunk of time in a developing country....I have been deeply blessed. Thank you for all of your support.