Hello all! I’m not going to give you a play by play this week because I’m bored with that haha. But there is something else I want to write about. One day this week I was sitting in the shade under the carport when three high school students walked up and asked me to complete a survey for a project they were doing on population movements.
The questions included: Where did you move from? Was it a city, a town, a village, or a farm? Where did you move to? Was it a city, a town, a village, or a farm? Why did you move away from the place where you lived? Why did you move to the place where you live now? How has your move changed your life?
I laughed out loud for like two minutes when I read the last question.
Seriously?? Ka nnete??? How has my move changed my life? How has it NOT changed my life would be a much shorter and more simple list. I wrote down a few things that were mostly artificial, but the whole survey got me really thinking.
Why did I leave home? Why did I move here? How has my life changed?
Those are really tough questions to answer as a Peace Corps volunteer, especially the last one. Bare with me while I try.
Why did you move away from the place where you lived?
I want to see the world, learn about new cultures and people, make new friends and new connections, and make a difference. I know “make a difference” is a very broad goal, but in Peace Corps training we were taught to rejoice in the little things. If I can teach just one learner to question what they are told instead of just accepting everything as fact…..if I can help just one learner build his or her self esteem….if I can inspire just one learner to develop a love for reading….then I will feel like I have made a difference, even if it is a small one. I think even just being a white person who can speak a little Sepedi living in a rural South African village has made a difference because it shows people here that I care and I really want to be a part of their community.
Why did you move to the place where you live now?
Speaking broadly, because Peace Corps told me to. I was originally supposed to leave America in September for a placement in the Youth Development sector, but I received an email asking if I would be willing to leave sooner for a placement in the Education sector and I obviously said yes.
More specifically, I am in this village because the wonderful APCD, Nthabiseng, who is in charge of my site placement, listened closely in my interviews about my hopes for my service and placed me in exactly the right host family in exactly the right village with exactly the right school for me.
Everything that has ever happened in my life has culminated in this moment. Every experience I have ever had, good or bad, has helped prepare me to be the best volunteer I can be.
How has your move changed your life?
For starters, I now have three moms, three dads, a sister, four brothers, a niece, and a nephew instead of just one mom, one dad, and a brother. Both of my host families have been WONDERFUL and before I got here I had no idea how quickly and easily they would truly become family to me.
I have already forged new connections and relationships with people (both from South Africa and from America) that I never would have met if I hadn’t come here. I came here to learn about another culture and other people, but also to learn about myself. The people I have met in South Africa have so much they could teach me about myself and about life. I have met amazing, strong, resilient, intelligent, motivated, and passionate people who make me want to learn and grow each and every day.
I have learned (sort of) a new language that I had never even heard of before, eaten foods I never would have chosen to eat in America, learned how to successfully use public transportation, and gotten used to walking quite a lot every day. I have definitely left my comfort zone in a huge way, which seems appropriate since Peace Corps advertisements say “life begins at the end of your comfor zone.”
Things that were SO important in America seem totally stupid now. I remember how I used to complain about the slow internet (which just makes me laugh out loud to think about) or the price of a movie ticket or how long it might take me to find a place to park or to drive somewhere or how crowded Walmart or Ingles was.
The most valuable thing I have realized so far about being here is that the people are wonderful. In America, someone can be very wealthy and never want for anything and still be miserable. Here, people who barely have access to shelter and running water and who struggle daily with food insecurity are still always smiling, welcoming, and willing to share.
The concept of “ubuntu” is quite amazing and I urge you to look it up.
There is so much more I could say, but instead I am going to practice self-care and go to sleep. Go well my friends!
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