Life is Weird

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Life is weird. I’m writing from my bed, under my mosquito net, in the middle of the North West province in South Africa, on the continent of Africa. If you would have asked me this time last year where I thought I’d be right now, this was not it. Sure Peace Corps was my top choice- but at the time South Africa wasn’t even on my radar.

Life is serendipitous. Life at site has been full of “this is exactly what I am meant to be doing” moments…and also a lot of “what the heck am I doing?” moments. Spending my afternoons playing games and gymming with the neighborhood kids relieves the frustration of working in a system that contributes to so many roadblocks to learners’ success.

It’s incredible though, that halfway around the world, I feel so completely at home and so wanted. From teachers braiing for me at school, to learners begging me to come teach their class, to my host fam baking me cookies and inviting me to watch Skeem Sam. And differences aside, the mainstays in my life- yoga, reading, Netflixing (via external hard drive)- keep me sane and grounded when I start to consider the reality of where I am.

When I think about going back to the states to visit next year for my sister’s wedding, I get excited- but mostly just that it’s only for a visit. Here, South Africa, is where I want to be more than anything else.

And then I was all on my own…

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Only not really. Following an incredible swearing in event in Pretoria, where I gave a speech in Setswana, I headed out to the Northwest Province and my new village in the Greater Taung area. My new school is home to close to 800 learners- many of whom are orphans and vulnerable children. These kids face incredible obstacles to their education; malnutrition, gigantic class sizes, teachers who don’t show up to class, and so much more. And yet, they still strive to learn, asking me to come teach their class  when no one else will.

I am currently shadowing teachers, co teaching grade 6 life skills, and even tackling some grade 7 English all on my own. I am working hard to encourage my male learners that they are just as capable of cleaning the school as the females, and promoting confidence and participation in my shy and uncertain learners.

Outside of school, my days consist of hanging out with learners in the afternoon playing netball or jumping rope, walking to the local tuk shop, and hauling water for my day to day activities.

See ya later PST

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

This time next week I’ll be packing my bags and saying my goodbyes to my incredible host family before I head to Pretoria to swear in on Monday. The end of PST is absolutely bittersweet, for while I cannot wait to head to my permanent site and begin my life in the Northwest, the end of PST also means a lot of goodbyes.

Goodbye to my fellow trainees as we spread out across two different provinces for the duration of our service. Goodbye to the LCFs who have worked tirelessly to help us learn Setswana and isiZulu and to share facets of South African culture. Goodbye to my learners who opened up to me in just three short weeks of English clubs. Goodbye to my fabulous host family who embraced me as one of their own, and to whom I know I will return during service. Goodbye to my friends in Marapayane who come play with me every afternoon.

There are also the little things: goodbye to my shower (hello bucket baths), goodbye full kitchen (what’s up stoven and mini fridge?), goodbye comfort zone!

Don’t get me wrong, as sad as I am to leave Marapayane, I could not be more thrilled for training to be over and to move on to site. The one week countdown to SA34 being volunteers is on, and as I reflect upon my readiness to serve, I could not feel more ready and motivated to tackle whatever may be thrown my way.

So see ya later PST, it’s been real. ✌🏽️
*photo creds: Lily Mirsepassi

English Clubs

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Week six of PST is here (don’t ask me how) and that means we have begun teaching English clubs at local schools. The clubs, while incredibly exhausting, are quickly becoming a highlight of my day. As I get started with my 29 learners (considered a small class size here) each day, I work hard to instill a sense of curiosity and a desire to engage with the English language. My learners range in age from 9-13 and are in grades 4,5, and 6. This variation in grades presents itself in a widespread levels of English ability from being unable to understand even simple sentences to a level of intermediate proficiency. Clubs are designed not only to allow us classroom experience prior to service, but to be a fun and engaging environment for learners. To this end, we sing camp songs, play red light green light, and Simon says (complete with silly dance moves). While the addition of clubs makes for an even more jam-packed schedule, I am incredibly excited to return to my inquisitive, courageous, and smart learners each day!

Outside of clubs, my life remains full with language classes (ke a ithuta Setswana thata! I am learning a lot of Setswana!), playing with neighborhood kids, and reading Dr. Seuss books!

Life in the Village

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

At the end of week three of PST, I am settling into my daily routine in a rural village in Mpumalanga province. My morning begins with a chorus of cows mooing, roosters crowing, sheep baaing, dogs howling, donkeys braying, and any other number of noises beginning at the crack of dawn. Once I muster up the energy to crawl out of bed into the freezing morning I make breakfast and head out for the day. My daily walk to language class is a highlight of the day- greeting locals, and as they slowly get to know me, having them greet me as well. I spend the day in class but as soon as I walk home I am swarmed by a crew of 4-15 year olds ready to play. Every day the kids run and hug me, they teach me Setswana, and we run around for a couple hours before it gets dark. The days blend together, but every day has its highlight- my secondary school friends jogging with me, the 4-year-old who is learning not to call me “lekgoa” (white person), but to use my Tswana name, Rea, and sometimes it’s chatting with my host grandma or watching South African soap operas like”Skeem Sam”. Every day there is some new adventure, but I am adjusting and loving life!

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Dumelang!

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Hello from South Africa! I have been in this gorgeous country for about a week now, and what a whirlwind it has been! Our orientation site plays home to curious and cheeky little monkeys who are quick to steal if you leave the windows open and lumbering baboons who puff their chests and howl if you get too close. Pre-Service Training, or PST, is chock full of learning sessions, our jam packed schedule includes safety and security, medical (yay more vaccines!), and technical teaching sessions. In addition, we have begun our language study and I…. am learning Setswana in preparation of serving in the North West province! So far, I am loving almost every minute, the afternoon hikes, pre-sunrise runs, and pure frolicking on the swing set or trampoline definitely make me feel like a kid again! On Saturday, we will move in with our PST host families for the remainder of the next ten weeks and I am so excited to immerse myself in Tswana culture, language, and family! ​

I am attaching a video of our Langauage and Culture facilitators (LCFs) singing to us upon our arrival at the orientation site!

See You in Two

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Does it ever feel real? Does the surreal nature of the fact that I am about to move to South Africa for the next two years ever diminish? My days of relaxing on the beach, living at the yoga studio, and binging on Gilmore Girls are quickly coming to a close, but a sense of trepidation remains. While I am firm in my commitment to serve in the Peace Corps, and beyond excited for this brand new adventure, the unknown is inherently scary- not the kind of scary you want to run away from, rather the kind I want to run headfirst into and embrace with open arms.

On Monday, I’m off to Philadelphia for our staging event, a short three day orientation where we will cover safety and security basics and meet the other members of our cohort. Staging marks the transition from being a Peace Corps Invitee to a Peace Corps Trainee, and is my last stop in the U.S. before a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg on Friday.

As I attempt to cram my whole life into two bags and carry ons (while simultaneously not wanting to be the girl who brings way too much, or the one who is missing all the necessities), I can’t help but focus on how unimportant the things that I bring and the things that I leave will be. It is the relationships that I will forge in South Africa that will encourage and motivate me, it is through my personal mindset and intention that I will build a home I can thrive in, even halfway around the world.

So as I prepare to say “see ya later” or more appropriately, “see you in two”, I feel grounded, energized, and yeah maybe just a little bit anxious. Oh, and one more thing- internet access will likely be very limited for the first couple weeks or months, so if you want to get in touch with me please click the connect button on the side to find my address and feel free to send me snail mail!

One Month Countdown…

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Today, June 3rd, puts me just shy of one month until my Peace Corps Staging event (July 4th) and very close to my flight to South Africa (July 7th). After a conference call yesterday with Peace Corps South Africa staff and receiving detailed information for further preparations, and even a schedule for my first week in country, things are getting very real.

Suddenly, I’m trying to imagine my life in Africa, wondering how I will manage the challenges that even small daily tasks are certain to become, and anxiously anticipating finding out if I will be studying IsiZulu or Setswana. As I desperately try to gain an understanding of what the next two years hold, I am voraciously reading anything I can get my hands on; Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to FreedomThe Power of One, and Kaffir Boy among others. These books, and the instagrams and blogs of current volunteers currently form the basis for my understanding of the Rainbow Nation and incite an eager willingness to dig in to life in South Africa.

One month from now I will be loading up my bags, spending one last night in my own bed, taking one final yoga class, and snuggling with my dog, Shadow in anticipation of embarking upon my biggest adventure to date. One month from today, I will be asking myself, where did the time go? who will I be when I return to California? and of course, most importantly, how am I going to sit on a plane for close to 15 hours?

P.S. I also have an address now! If you want to send me snail mail during training, hop on over to the contact me page for info on how to do so!

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