In January 2016, I was a recently sworn-in volunteer, excited to be at site and eager to begin integrating and working. I remember sitting at the traditional “newbie party” in my district, realizing that the volunteers who were further ahead in their service were all in some kind of funk. They talked about how nobody in Lesotho works during the holiday season, their frustrations with Peace Corps, and generally feeling low.
I forgot all about this interaction until November 2016. In November, I was on top of the world. I had a year of teaching under my belt, exciting vacations planned, and I was wrapped up in my women’s group and activities with village friends. How was everyone so pessimistic last year? I guess I’m lucky that the one-year slump won’t hit me!
Womp womp. It definitely did. In December, I had the roughest days of my service. Due to some circumstances outside of my control, I moved houses. I’m still living and working in the same village, but I live with a different host family in a different rondeval. The move is definitely a healthy choice in the long run, but the transition was rough. I was the sole topic of village gossip for a while, and I felt restless and lonely. Then I went on a fabulous Cape Town vacation, where I forgot all about my issues at site… only to have them hit me full force upon coming back in January. Add to this a broken computer, a stolen phone, and two months without consistent work to keep me busy or village friends to spend time with (most of my closest friends spent the holidays in other parts of the country). I was feeling the funk. Big time.
I’m fully moved into my new house, and I’m back at school now. I’m already feeling so much better. I’ve also done a lot of thinking about what makes me feel happy and fulfilled here and about what I want to focus on in the rest of my service. I ended up with 10 goals for my remaining 12 months in Lesotho!
1. Improve Co-Teaching: Last year, I ended up teaching a lot of classes alone. No more. I’m ready for closer partnerships with my colleagues – together, we are much stronger, and methods (like positive reinforcement) that I introduce to a teacher will have longer-term impact than anything I teach to a specific child.
2. 3+ GRS Interventions: I’ve blogged before about how much I adore Grassroot Soccer, the program that combines football fun with HIV/AIDS education. I’m working on the logistics of traveling to neighboring villages for GRS “camps.”
3. Work With Bo-Ntate: I love working with women, but it’s time men get some love too! (Not that kind of love. I spend a lot of time turning down that kind of love on public transportation.) I’m thinking of community gatherings on topics like VMMC (Voluntary Male Medical Circumsicion). We’ll see how this materializes!
4. Improve Library: Last year, my principal applied for a huge book donation. The books are here, but we need a better storage system as well as teacher training to encourage using books in the classroom.
5. Improve Forums: My school holds single-gender discussions on Life Skills topics every Friday, but these forums are not as consistent or organized as they could be. I recently got my hands on some cool curricula that I think we could use to strengthen these groups.
6. Centre TOT: Last year, I held a successful training for teachers in my “centre” of 7 primary schools. I want way more of this!
7. Work With NGOs: My district capital has a lot of resources, and I want to connect the dots to bring these resources to my village. So far I’ve been talking to Red Cross about a first aid raining and to Action Aid about supporting some agriculture projects.
8. Village Friends: I know it’s early, but I’m already getting sad at the prospect of leaving these lovely people. I want more meals with friends, more play dates with babies, more coloring with kids, and more Sundays in church with grandmothers.
9. Testing Event: Last year, I tried and failed to host an HIV testing and counseling event in my village. This year, I’m going to find a way to make it work.
10. Sustainability of Bo-Mme Group: It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Ikhaheng Basali, the women’s group I help to run. I want to connect the women with the tools and support they need to run the group alone after I leave.
Bonus 11. Kickass Peace Corps Trainings: I’m currently helping to design a 4-day training for other Peace Corps Volunteers. It’s about HIV community work, it’s happening in May, and I am psyched.
Time has been flying by lately, and I am already over halfway finished with my 27 months of PC service. Here’s to weathering the highs and lows of 2017, and to lots of pheello (persistence) in making my goals come to fruition!