It’s been a while.
In the last few weeks, I’ve become a real Peace Corps Volunteer. I finished training, swore an oath at the Ambassador’s house, and moved to the remote village where I’ll be living and working for 2 years. I also “graduated” from trainee to volunteer in some unofficial ways. Since my last blog post, I’ve killed thatch spiders bigger than my palm, slit a chicken’s throat, hitchhiked to friends’ sites, made bagels without running water or electricity, and survived a really terrible night where I was sick in ways I won’t mention online.
In a lot of ways, I’m settling in. I have a house, a dog, and a lovely new host mother.
Every afternoon, I go on a walk around my village. I don’t know many people yet, so I see it as a way to get some exercise and start to “integrate,” my main task until my teaching job begins in late January. My Sesotho is coming along, but I’m still a beginner, so the conversations I have are short.
They all start with the same greeting: ke teng, le kae?
Literally, it means: I’m here. Where are you?
Figuratively, it’s more like: hello, what’s up?
This greeting is far more popular in my new village than my training village, and somehow it seems fitting. Ke teng. I’m here. It’s a nice reminder to myself that training was fun, but now the real work begins. I’m here, this is my home, this is what I’m here to do.
Maybe I’m looking too far into it, but “Phase II,” or the first 3 months a volunteer spends at site, is notorious for being a time when you have too much time on your hands. Training is 3 months of over-scheduled chaos, but at site, you have no obligations at first. It’s summer vacation, the other teachers at my school don’t stay in the village when school is out of session, and there are only so many podcasts I can listen to in my house.
So, I walk, I greet, and I think about how I’m here and what that means.
It doesn’t mean I’m comfortable and confident – not yet. I’m here, but I still have no clue what’s going on most of the time.
Last week my friend and I walked 3 hours of our trip from her site to mine, because nobody had told us that taxis wouldn’t be running that day. It was a beautiful walk through the mountains, with a Basotho women who happened to be going to the same place, but we could have done without the unexpected hike while carrying luggage.
One of my first days here, my principal visited and was appalled that I didn’t have enough water (a post is coming soon on the severe drought in this part of the world). She insisted that it was the school’s responsibility to bring me water, although I had planned to draw my own, and she promised a delivery every morning. The deliveries never came, and I eventually heard that the schoolchildren were refusing to fetch me water. Fair enough.
This morning, I planned to go into Thaba Tseka, the “camp town” nearest me and the district capital. My ‘M’e (mother) told me to be ready at 7 am to catch a taxi into town, then woke me up at 5:25 by banging desperately at my door and saying it had arrived. I stumbled up and pulled together my things while half asleep… And the taxi arrived at 7.
In these moments, I remember how utterly confusing Lesotho still is to me. I love this country, and I love it’s people, but I’m still stumbling around lost a lot of the time. I’m here, but I have SO much to learn.
I’m excited to be here. Until school starts, I’m going to focus on getting to know my new family. I’m going to make my house a home. I’m going to train my dog. I’m going to prepare for teaching. I’m going to laugh at myself for all the mistakes I make and all the confusing moments I find myself in. I’m going to keep walking and keep greeting.
I wrote a post a long time ago when I visited my site for the first time – I had planned to upload that today, but the power is out in town and I didn’t have wifi. I’m typing this post on my phone as a place holder, because I want to keep this blog active as I figure out a good way to post more substantive content with photos from my camera (not just iPhone shots!) on a regular basis. That’s hard without consistent Internet access, but I promise, I’m trying! I have lots of ideas that I’m excited to write about in the coming weeks.