[The following blog post is excerpted from an email from Karen that she sent to several people and suggested I turn into a blog post if I could. I can and have – lots of interesting new information! – Caitlin]
Due to scheduling difficulties, our workshop on Diversity in SA was postponed for a week. No one was upset to finally have an unscheduled moment AND an opportunity to go to town. We are about 25 days away from being sworn in as real Peace Corps volunteers and leaving for our assigned villages and schools. We are studying isiZulu for two hours/day (plus homework), going to daily sessions on teaching English, writing lesson plans, and teaching for 1.5 hours 4 afternoons/week in English Clubs ( with a partner) created just for us (practice teaching) at a local elementary school. My head is too full and can barely manage to put one more new isiZulu grammar lesson into action. Learning a language is hard for me; I have great performance anxiety and can barely utter words I know when they are not on paper. The teaching tech sessions are a good review and done by actual PC volunteers now teaching in schools in SA. The English clubs are going well (total of 11 sessions) as we learn to talk very slowly, adjust to many different levels of English ability, and find the right tone and pacing, with very limited materials. Did you know it was exhausting to teach?!? I am tired, worried about passing the upcoming language proficiency interview (I panic), hoping my partner and I come up with good lessons for the Club, eating a pb&j sandwich every day, 3 kinds of starch and chicken for dinner every day, worrying about the final teaching test, listening to the howling wind all night long, only receiving two letters so far, missing friends and family.
But I am hanging in there, have not been sick, have a fabulous host family and home to be a part of with the cutest baby ever, mostly (!) enjoying the other volunteers, and I now know where I will be living and teaching. Here is the update: I will be in the village of B______ in Kwa Zulu Natal. I will be working at a Primary School, built 11 years ago by an Anglo American company. It is supposedly well-run, and tidy. I will be living alone in a rondaval with a tile roof on the property of a Police Officer, his wife, his son (16) and daughter (11). He is also the chair of the School Governing Board. The school is on the main road to J_____, the biggest nearby town, about 34 kilometers away.
When I get there, I will set up my own household, cook for myself (hah!) and get myself to and from school by walking 2.5 kms. I WILL have electricity! No plumbing or bathroom — outhouse! I will get a smartphone and a wifi source too and I will be touch with all of you then.
I am once again at Wimpy’s, using the half hour of free wifi, and using the clean flush toilets, and having a coffee drink!
I can tell the weather is changing from winter to spring here. We have had one good rain, fruit trees are flowering, a few spots on the dry, brown hills have hints of green. The road is still very dusty when cars or buses whizz by, the days now vary from bright, warm and sunny, to overcast and foggy. It is so lovely here! I still marvel that I am in Africa! (Or is Berkeley just over the brown hills?)
I miss you all and wish I could zip home for just a weekend and then come back to continue this new life.