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.


  1. Hi Kelsey, So glad you are keeping a blog. I would love to be there- for a little while- to share in your experiences and see the country. You have not mentioned the other volunteers. Are some becoming friends and will you be able to see them much ? It does sound like you have a lot of time before you are really feeling useful. Do you eat and visit with your family or just really use their spare room ? I hear that you have an even shorter haircut ! I'll write and send a wedding picture but I wonder how long mail takes. We had a great, wet wedding and Matt and Sara are now happily married and looking forward to a honeymoon in November. We did miss you though. Take care, Love, Kathy

  2. Hi Kelsey-- Are you keeping any type of journal or diary of all of this? Pretty interesting stuff. I can't imagine being the only white person for miles. And the treatment of women in many parts of the world, including the good 'ol USA, could still be so much better.
    We are into some fall weather here. Leaves are turning color. Are there many trees there? I am putting out some pumpkins, gourds, and corn stalks this weekend. Love, Uncle FRAN

  3. What are you reading?! To fend off men: try poking them with sticks. Did I misunderstand or do you have TV? I am applying to a program in The Republic of Georgia so we might be a tiny bit closer in a few months! Post might be less expensive. I miss you so much, when can I come visit?

  4. Hello,
    Kathy: I have made some close friends in the Peace Corps. We're already planning a Christmas vacation together to Cape Town. We'll be able to visit one another as soon as lockdown ends in December. I can't wait!
    I spend a lot of time with my host family. We watch South African soap operas together every night, but I usually cook for myself. I can't eat that much pap!
    Fran: I am keeping a journal. I've been pretty good about writing in it everyday. I just got your letter today! That meal sounds heavenly. Will you cater my "Welcome Back to the US" party in 2 years?
    Rachel: I'm reading The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich. It's actually really good! I have TV. Don't be too jealous. I only have electricity sometimes. Georgia sounds awesome! Come visit any time! In fact, why aren't you on a plane right now?