At Site – Kulezo ntaba

Moved into my site yesterday where I’ll be staying for the next couple of years. It was a bit of a drive down here, moving from the dry, flat desert on the border of Limpopo to the chilly and foggy mountains of the Drakensberg region. It’s beautiful here. A lot of the area feels like Wisconsin or Michigan placed into mountains, so I feel right at home. My family and school were extremely welcoming – the school staff waited to greet me when I arrived. The school so far looks very well-put together. I have a two room building to myself in my family’s yard (painted neon-green on the inside). Life is good.

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Swearing In

Today is our official swearing in ceremony. No, I’m not actually at a computer, I just typed this up a few days ago since I have absolutely no idea when I’m going to have internet access again – and WordPress doesn’t seem to work well on a Blackberry.

This is the next big moment in PST, although after site announcements it’s kind of felt like we’re just waiting to get out into the field. Before, we’ve only been PCTs – Peace Corps Trainees. Now, though, we can call ourselves volunteers for real. We have our ceremony and take our oath, perhaps in front of important people like the ambassador. We’ve prepared a speech. One that has also been translated into isiZulu. One that yours truly will have to present in front of such a prestigious audience. Meep. At this point, I will have probably been rehearsing it like crazy and doing my best to actually get the tones of isiZulu right. I’ll have to jot down here how it all went – though if you don’t see anything on the news about some crazy American resurrecting the Zulu Empire, I probably didn’t mess up the speech too badly.

Now, tomorrow we’re off to our sites. Time to see the Sisonke region for the first time in my life – home for the next two years. I’ll probably feel compelled to write the next blog post in Zulu. Feel free to picture me wearing traditional skins and waving a spear and shield. Hambani kahle, y’all.

Details

I have the official information now. I will be in South Africa, with orientation starting 10 July. Evidently, my job description in the invitation packet is that of “primary education”, without many specifics in the way of math. I’m not sure what to make of that, other than that I will be maintaining flexibility in the months to come. The two provinces I may be in would be Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, two of the easternmost provinces. But the specific site won’t be decided until I’ve been overseas for a month and a half, or so I gather. All info is subject to change, of course.

I’m currently adding and revising links over in the right sidebar so that people can have some basic info on the country I’ll be visiting. As I read up on history and culture, I’ll post some of that here too.

Invitation

Got the email today. I’m in. July, teaching secondary ed mathematics. Where and when, you ask? That I’ll find out in the next 10 business days as the physical invitation is mailed to me. But it’s official.

I think this calls for a martini.

Update on the medical stuff (since I know that no one wanted to see that at the top of this message): the problem was not necessarily my asthma, but rather that I have been to urgent care recently and they needed to find a site that was within 4-6 hours of medical care, should I need it. So I won’t be way, way out in the boonies (which, actually, I kinda would have liked). But they found something for me, so I am happy.

Evals In

I got the correspondence back today from my medical and dental evaluations. I hadn’t heard back from dental because I didn’t have enough xrays done. (Actually, I’m pretty sure that I followed the instructions that they gave me. But I seem to have mailed those in instead of keeping them, so I can’t doublecheck my suspicions.) However, I just need to get those in a month before leaving – which would entail that I can get an assignment to leave before doing so. So I’ll just get those done before leaving Milwaukee.

The medical evaluation confirmed my suspicions: I’ve been qualified due to asthma. I’m not sure why – I only use an inhaler as-needed, which is almost always because of a bout of bronchitis. Giving me a couple albuterols should be sufficient, and I don’t see how location plays a role in that. But, that would (according to the PeaceCorps Wiki, over in the sidebar) remove me from service in Burkina Faso, and likely from West Africa in general. Given the rest of the info I’ve gathered and have been told, I think I know where I will end up. In the meantime, I’m trying to teach myself how to pronounce click languages.

Ch ch ch changes

Got an email today. Evidently, I have a qualified medical clearance; I guess I find out in a few days what that means. I’m still on, but for whatever reason, Francophone West Africa seems to be out.

What does that mean? It sounds like I’m still going to be in Sub-Saharan Africa somewhere teaching math, and still leaving in July. However, the precise location is up for grabs. I’ll post updates as I get them, although I don’t think that I’ll have much to say until I get my official invitation.

Update: No, nothing official. I just did some searching. Assuming that I’m barred from West Africa, but still teaching Math in Sub-Saharan Africa somewhere, it looks like I might be in Namibia, South Africa, or Tanzania; perhaps in Cameroon, which would be why I “may not” be in Francophone Africa. Or maybe they figure that Ghana, the Gambia, or Sierra Leone would be safer places for me than Burkina Faso. All of this could be overturned in seconds with the next piece of info I get, of course.

Updates

I went to a PC networking event last night. There were a bunch of other prospectives, as well as returned volunteers and families for all involved. It was interesting hearing people’s stories of where they had been. I also had some good chances to talk to people who had recently been in Africa. They speculated that I would probably be placed in Burkina Faso (or, the country formerly known as Upper Volta), since it is the only country in West Africa that they know of that both speaks French and needs math teachers. Since speculation is all that I have at the moment, we’ll go with that. And who doesn’t want a capital called Ouagadougou?

Although I might have more soon. See, there are four separate evaluations – medical, dental, legal, and placement. I finished the placement eval earlier this week, and just got notice this morning that my medical eval was complete and that I’ll receive the results in the mail soon. (Of course, that could mean that I was deferred or something – but I like my version better.) So it’s just legal and dental. Dental was received at the same time as medical, so I would think that it should be processed soon, and I don’t have any major surgeries or anything that need to be done. Legal, well, there’s that stupid document I forgot to sign. But I sent that in a few weeks ago, so hopefully that should be done soon as well.

So I might find out sometime relatively soon where I’ll be going. There are a lot of hopefullys in the above paragraph. But after listening to all the people last night who have been waiting a year and a half to find out their placements, I figure that I’m going through this whole process rather quickly, one way or another.

UPDATE: Legal has been cleared. So I’m just waiting on dental, and then for the different groups to get together and discuss placement options. Fingers crossed….