Friday, August 27, 2010

Lots to Catch Up On

>> Quickly. The internet is far more difficult to get to now; instead of being 22 minutes away, it is now 22 miles away, a long ride in a vehicle without really *something* to do in Makeni besides checking e-mail an updating this blog. I will do my best. Don't hate me. My village is amazing. My house is beautiful and the people are especially welcoming especially my neighbor Foday who has basically walked me around the village and made my (already obvious) presence known, but now instead of me walking around and awkwardly saying 'hello' in up to six different languages (Limba, Loko, Themne, Fula, Krio, French, English..) Foday is by my side to make up for when I falter and to smooth over when I mess up. The village life is isolating, but also freeing- I have my own two-burner gas stove and I cook what I want when I want (I sound like the freshmen at college who gets an apartment for the first time) but it's honestly really great. Most of the volunteers (i.e. those that actually care) have stayed in touch and even visited, which has made the adjustment easier. I have to keep telling myself how far I've come and now how far I have to go. My parents will be visiting in early April, my friend Jessie's birthday is in two weeks, mine in six, etc. you see my point. Keeping something on the horizon helps the spells of lonliness pass (not that I get them much, please don't imagine me crying over my palm wine. Unless the palm wine is empty. Then yes, I'm crying. Then Foday brings over more palm wine and we turn on the radio, peel a cucumber, cut it up, add peppers and salts, and mix. It's delicious. Now I'm hungry.) My point is: I can see why some volunteers early-terminate once they get to their sites. Without someone to talk to, some sort of interaction, it can be very isolating. I understand that some people live their whole lives alone (and in very fulfilling ways) but these people are not surrounded by jungle, six foreign languages, and a delightful dog named Justice (Foday's dog). Okay, Justice might make things better :) I love and miss you all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Home Stretch

>> We're in the home stretch. We just got back from Freetown for a nice get-together with our country directors, and this next week is our LAST in training. On Tuesday, I have my official advising meeting with the top people of the staff in which they will talk to me about my training, about my strengths and weaknesses and ultimately if they believe I should swear-in as a volunteer or consider going home. If I pass their judgment, I will swear in as United States Peace Corps volunteer on Friday, August 13th. I'll be off to Gbendembu on Saturday, August 14th, and then have some weeks in town to relax and settle in. What happens next is a little hazy. I'm going to be teaching SS1 (9th grade-ish) Biology (and maybe Chemistry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Statistics, Physics,....) but SS1 students don't come back to school until November (because they're waiting on exam results) so I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing until November? I'll be getting an answer to this question soon, trust me. But, that aside, I honestly have mixed feelings about the end of training. I've made some superb friendships here, albeit two of my best friends have early-terminated and gone home already (apparently I'm not a good friend), and I don't know how I feel about being so far away from them. But. I need to understand that it's happening to everyone and not just me- that we have cell phones- and that I've been alone and living on my own before (it's just that I could always get Dos Reales take-out if I was feeling really down....) so here's to you, my friends. We've gotten past the first BIG hurdle, and now it's onto the actual MEAT and POTATOES (rice and sauce) of my Peace Corps experience. A strange village. A strange language. No friends. Alone. No one to get water for me. No one to cook for me. No one to clean dishes for me. Ready, independence. Ready, United States Peace Corps Volunteer. Go.

The Village

>> Alright. I wrote this blog post a week ago and the Sierra Leone internet ate it. It was hungry and I decided to be a humanitarian and allow it. But now I have to write it again. My village is awesome. (1) The village has a multitude of shops and stalls and plenty of places to buy almost anything I'll need. "Weird" things, like toilet paper or ketchup or salt/pepper or potatoes or beans, etc. would be from Makeni, 22 miles to the south. However, you don't go through a bottle of ketchup in a day, so hopefully those trips would be few and far between. (2) My principal is amazing. He's very progressive, against corporal punishment, pushing for solar power at his school, and open-minded to almost any topic although when I mentioned my membership with the ASPCA and that my dog sometimes sleeps on my bed, he scoffed. Maybe someday. (3) My house is beautiful. The house has six rooms, four of which are habitable, the other two are not finished and won't be while I'm there. Most Peace Corps houses only have two rooms. I have a well five feet from my porch and two shower drains/two latrines in the back. Some people have to walk to the center of their village to get water. I have to barely step off my porch. The house is brand-new. No one has lived in it yet. I am the first. Now, downsides. The village is a pain in the tush to get to. From Bo, it is AT LEAST a 4 hour ride to Makeni. It's 82 miles. In America, on I-57, from Champaign to home, I did 82 miles in about an hour, give or take a police officer in the median. Here, 82 miles takes AT LEAST four hours, and that's just to Makeni. Once in Makeni, you have to wait for another vehicle and then THAT journey takes AT LEAST another hour and a half if not two hours. The first day, leaving Bo around 9:30 AM, I arrived in Gbendembu around 5:30 PM. That's one LONG and PAINFUL day. So, the village, once you're there and not in a poda-poda (a stretch E-350 van with AT LEAST 18 people in it) is great. Getting there is hell.