Monday, September 28, 2009

At Home at Site

I am officially a resident of Deorham, South Africa. My swearing-in ceremony took place on the 17th of September at Mafikeng, and that night I moved into my room for the next two years. It's small, but comfortable enough. Peace Corps South Africa is often referred to as "the Posh Corps" by volunteers in other African countries. There may be some truth in that considering my rather substantial collection of kitchen appliances (fridge, hot plate, kettle), but I still haul my water to wash the dishes.

I have not spent much time at my schools because I arrived at site just before the September holidays. School is closed all over South Africa for more than a week. It's a little boring because I don't really know anyone yet and my village is not exactly known for its great entertainments, but I've been getting a lot of reading done. Peace Corps headquarters has a wonderful library in Pretoria, and I brought a ton of books to site.

Even when school starts up again I expect things to be slow for a while. The first three months at site are meant to be a period of community integration. That means that I'm basically a student teacher. I'm not allowed to start any big projects, much less any funded projects.

The isolation of being the only native English-speaker, the only white person, and the only person with a college degree for miles around is frustrating and overwhelming most of the time, especially considering the treatment I receive as a young woman. I can't say I wasn't warned about this, but I've been surprised at the degree to which I feel affected (and often offended) by it. I'm trying not to dwell on the negative though. Every PCV in any country, ever in the history of Peace Corps, probably felt or feels similarly at this point in their service. Things will get better, and in the meantime I have bad American movies on TV to remind me of home.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kelsey in the Kalahari

I have just returned from my site visit. My village for the next two years is small, sandy and quite literally in the Kalahari Desert. It is called Deorham and was settled in 1976 when the apartheid regime moved native people off resource-rich land. While the town of Kuruman is 89 kilometers away, my new address is: 

Mosinki Middle School
P.O. Box 514
Kuruman 8460

Obviously, I am sharing the mailbox with one of my assigned schools. Mosinki has only 68 learners from grades 8-10. The actual school grounds consist of 3 blocks: one for classrooms, one for staff offices and one large, empty space with burglar bars on all the windows and doors that I am hoping to turn into a computer lab (ahem, Dell Foundation). In the middle of the school yard there is a big, metal post. Apparently, they used to have solar panels mounted on it but they were taken down for fear of robbery. There is also a school garden, filled mostly with sand and a little bit of spinach.

My second school is just down the road (i.e. sandy path). It is a primary school that is much larger than Mosinki. They also have a large, unused space. In this case, it is filled with dusty books. The staff wants the room to be a library, but they have not been able to make it work yet. I am really excited about helping them with that.

My host family is very friendly and welcoming. While the community is obviously impoverished, my family is comparatively wealthy. I have a host mother who is an educator at Mosinki, a father who works as a welder abroad and several siblings who are mostly all away either at school or working at the mines in Rustenberg.

The community welcomed me by giving me yet another new name. I am now Resego Potelo. Resego means "We are lucky". Please address your mail accordingly.  Hopefully, someday soon the post office will end their strike and I will actually get your mail. Please do keep writing. Holding a letter from the United States in my hands is practically a religious experience. 

Great news for those of you not into snail mail (ahem, Fore): I bought a cell phone! My number is 0829680607, so call or text me whenever. I look forward to hearing from you!