Sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer; Off to a slow start

Dani and me before the ceremony.

Dani and me before the ceremony.

On August 13, eighteen Healthy Youth 2014 trainees Swore In as Peace Corps Volunteers. It feels so good to not have to refer to ourselves as trainees any longer. I’m a PCV now! Two days before this extravagant ceremony I was selected to give a speech on behalf of our group…in the local language, Sesotho. I was nervous and stayed up all night translating and practicing saying it to myself. I would fall asleep for 20 minutes and realize I was just repeating the speech over and over with my eyes closed. Needless to say I got no sleep. The ceremony was extremely fancy and I felt very honorable to have all this done for us. There were ladies running all around making food and setting up our school into a wonderful dining room with enough food to feed an army. After all these very important figures showed up, we began the ceremony. Many people gave speeches, some in English and some in Sesotho, I gave my speech, and then we all stood and took our oath to the US Government, signed our papers, and were handed certificates congratulating us on becoming an official part of Peace Corps Lesotho. It felt like my college graduation all over again and I had a wide excited smile on my face the entire time. Afterwards we ate very delicious food and eventually made our way to the bar as we normally did after a long day of training. This was a day of celebration, and so we did!

The next day was an exciting and sad day. We packed up our things and moved to our permanent sites. I was excited to get to a place that I could finally call home and stop living out of my suitcases as I had for two and a half months. It was also sad because I was leaving my family and village that I had become so comfortable with and attached to. As I said during my speech, we had gone through some great times and some equally bad times during training. Through all the frustrations and cultural differences we had to face, we had all come to love this place. And now we would have to pack up and move to another village and go through this all over again.

I’ve been at site now for about two weeks and all the challenges I foresaw are larger than I imagined. The organization I’ve been placed with is very grassroots and have never started any projects or accomplished any goals. Now I’m here staring at the walls of my new one-roomed home wondering how in the world I can help get this organization off the ground. With that said, I haven’t had any work to do or any structure whatsoever. I’m on my fifth book now (one of which was the first Lord of the Rings), I have rearranged my room half a dozen times and cleaned more times than I can count. I mainly read, eat and walk around and talk to people (part of integrating, right?). That’s what I try to remind myself and that it’s okay that I’m not making huge changes here everyday. That’s a huge difference from the way I thought back in the states. My roommates can attest to this: I felt like a slob if I wasn’t always doing something productive and getting things done. Being productive here is barely existent. An example of this: Yesterday I went and visited an Ntate (‘nn-tah-tay’ A man/sir) and for maybe an hour I helped him fix door handles. The latches were getting stuck when you pull down the handle too far. After we fixed the first one he said I should come back the next day and help with another one. It was only 2 pm so I suggested we do the others right then and he looked at me like I asked him to build me a bomb. It took maybe an hour total to do them all and he kept telling me, “Judy…” (this is how everyone pronounces my name here) “Judy, you have done a really big job here!” Throughout training we kept hearing that we should celebrate the small things. So that’s what I did. I had an early dinner with him at his house and left very happy. This man will find his way into other posts in the future. He is such a caring person. He has done so much for orphans around here and has done many things for this community. He reminds me a lot of my Uncle G in many ways…except my uncle would’ve only needed 20 minutes to fix those door handles.

This is Douglas. He’s my cow. I spend a lot of time talking to Douglas. He doesn’t really talk back but he rubs his head on me so I think that means he likes me.

Till next time,


2 thoughts on “Sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer; Off to a slow start

  1. Great pics! Wish I could have heard the speech as know you did a great job! I love Douglas and can’t wait for more pics of him. Know he must be glad to have a buddy:) It is so interesting reading your blogs and trying to imagine the experiences you are having. Hopefully as you begin to integrate more the people will give you more insights into their lives, challenges, frustrations and what means most to them. Maybe that will help generate a path for your time there. People have come and gone and left little mark from what you say so they would have little reason to expect anything else from your stay. Achieving goals however small or big will only occur when you tap into something of importance and meaning to them and you won’t figure that out until you earn their trust and they sense that you are or will be different from those who came before you. That’s a big challenge but you have 2.5 yrs so don’t let yourself get too frustrated before you even get started. Nothing will happen until you make relationships and I think developing a strong one with the Chief is a good place to start and he looks to live across the road so shouldn’t be difficult to access. As leader of his village he would have much insight and influence. Honor his position, take a step back and see what info he provides. Look forward to more blogs. Karen

  2. I love Douglas. You need to bring him home with you when the time is right. No place to keep him? No problem! My mom always wanted a pet cow… 🙂 Celebrating the small successes seems like a euphemism for eventually getting ’round to the everyday tasks of living. In time (hopefully) you’ll have a better idea of local perceptions/ “where people are coming from” so you can figure out new ideas/ directions they might like to go. Chin up!

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