One week ago today, we swore in 25 new Peace Corps Volunteers in South Africa. It was a simple ceremony for such a momentous occasion in all of our lives. However, looking back on it, a simple ceremony seems most appropriate to celebrate an entrance into a time of service and simple living.
Following the ceremony and lunch, we split ways to go to our permanent sites. I am in a village just south of our training village and about 45 minutes to an hour north of Pretoria. I am working with the district Victim Empowerment Program (VEP). (More about my service organization here.) My new homestay is wonderful. I have a cozy, two-room house. The bedroom is 12’x12’ and the front room is 12x9. The front room is where I do all of my cooking, and for now, I hangout in the bedroom as it’s the larger of the two rooms. I have electricity but no running water. My host-mother recently had an electric pump put in for the underground well and is working on getting a JOJO installed. A JOJO is a huge barrel that stores water. Once we have it up and running, the water that comes through the pump should be a lot cleaner. The water is safe for drinking but sandy. I'm very grateful for the Brita filter that Peace Corps gave us.
I've down-graded in pit latrine quality, but overall it’s not as bad as it could be. The pit latrine is about 100 meters away from my house, so no holding it in. When you got to go, you better go. The walls are entirely made of corrugated tin (as are my roof and most other roofs in this area), and I’m just a little too tall to be able to stand up completely in it. I had become rather used to the government built latrines in our training village. The pits were deeper which meant for less smell and less bugs. Yet in comparison, I know I have still got it pretty good.
My host-mother, Mma Kgafela, is a Setswana and Life Orientation (LO) teacher at the local middle school. She is intent upon helping me learn Setswana which I am very appreciative of. Life Orientation is a cross between health and life skills. I have to say that she is a truly unique and amazing woman. I have enjoyed our conversations very much. She is intent upon introducing me to the community and the community to me. Sunday she took me to the African Catholic Church that she attends and introduced me as her guest there. My experience there is another posting to come later on.
I thoroughly enjoy my host-brother Papis. Papis is actually the son of Mma Kgafela’s younger sister who died when Papis was eight; he is now twenty. He is studying plumbing at a trade school in Pretoria, but also has plans for entering the priesthood. He has been an altar boy at the church for the past five years. He loves gospel music and loves to laugh. I imagine that I will have many stories to tell about Papis over the next few years. I feel very blessed to be in this new homestay. I have lived in so many places over the past several years that my definition of “home” has been stretched many times over. I think home is a state of acceptance and belonging. It is a place of comfort and of safety. And I think that right now I can easily say that this—this is home.