June 16th, 8:27 PM
I got the brilliant idea to type up a blog entry at my homestead, save it to flash drive, and upload it later from another volunteer. So I will put the timestamp of when they are written at the top. Now, where to begin...
Peace Corps Swaziland Group 9 has officially begun training, as of 2 weeks ago. All 39 of us met in Philly. I felt lucky not having to fly to Staging, and kind of bratty for getting to go to Fogo de Chao with Steve and John the night before, as my last meal (words cannot describe that meal or how much I love those two). I even got to hang out with Zack and Katie for a little while, and stocked up on glow rings, which are more for me than the local kids, but I guess I'll share.
Anyway, I got back to my hotel at midnight and had to be packed to leave by 2 AM. My roommate, Dionne, and I, were frantically trying to finalize our bags. We all hopped on a bus to NYC, which I haven't seen since I was 14. Seeing Times Square completely empty at 5 AM was an awesome last-USA image to have. We get to the airport, wait 2 hours to even check-in, and the fatigue starts to become apparent. We finally get to board at 11 AM for our 15 hour flight to Jo-burg. Free mini wine bottle and Matt Damon marathon? Don't mind if I do. South African Airlines FTW.
We got off the plane, looking as bad as we felt. Anddd Jo-burg in June could pass for Norway at Christmas time. It's freezing and we all realize we brought like, one sweater. Evidently, Africa is cold. Another bus. 3 hours to Swaziland, and 2 more to our destination. Awesome....But it wasn't all that bad. I got to talk to Kerry, an ex-principal with x amount of life experience more than I. Peace Corps is cool like that. Kerry was at the first Woodstock, we had plenty to talk about. The ride was smooth except for this part where I almost didn't get past the South African border...no big deal. Having two passports is even more of a liability for me than just having one (can I lol at that or is it pathetic?).
We finally got to the College where we would be staying for a week. It was both summer camp and bootcamp-esque. Lots of classes on medical, safety, admin, cross-culture and language, generally from 8-5 everyday. And bonfires and hot showers. The experience was nice to have it as a buffer between the US and village life (except for being glutened almost the entire time). We all got to know each other before getting assigned to our different villages, as part of Community-Based Training. For the next 2ish months we all are living on homesteads in 1 of 3 villages in the general vicinity of the college, then we have some exams and get sworn in as volunteers at the capital city. We have a pretty heavy schedule each day with lots of siSwati. The schedule makes adjusting a challenge and sleep hard to come by, however I think its best we get thrown into work at a time like this. It helps keep the mind off nostalgia (or Nostalgica, eh Stace?) and homesickness.
As far as that goes, I am doing pretty well. It didn't hit me at all until I got to my homestead on Tuesday. Being around a family rather than a slightly rowdy Group 9 reminded me that I miss my own. Taking it moment by moment, and not looking past the surface as experiences occur has been helpful in processing culture shock in small amounts. The second you wake up and think, really THINK, about what you are doing (say, sitting on a bucket, typing your blog, boiling your water, in rural Africa) is when it hits you. And it's perfectly acceptable, then, to not it let hit you, if that helps. It has been for me! That is basically where I am right now, and I will definitely be updating more on the culture and PC experience, since right now, that is what I am fascinated by.