June 8th… They say, “Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true.” We wished to become Peace Corps volunteers, and it is upon us.
When we arrived in the village of Kanye on April 3rd, and for those first few weeks of training and living with a host family, it was stressful. Then, after nine weeks, the windy paths and dirt roads of Kanye, and our home with Tebogo seem very familiar and a part of us did not want to leave that familiarity. There have been so many adjustments over the last year; starting with selling our home and moving in with Granny, our first week of training in Philadelphia and Gaborone, and then the adjustment to living with a host family in Kanye.
On June 8th, we began the largest adjustment of them all. We left our comfortable home in Kanye, and we will no longer have the companionship, conversation and support of our fellow American trainees every day. We are setting up house, just the two of us, in our own home, in a new village, with a new job, with all new co-workers. We are hopeful that in a few months it will seem as familiar and comfortable as Kanye, and we can settle in for two years with no big changes (until we return to America). But for right now it is hard.
On the plus side… The home is fairly large. It has three bedrooms. We have hot water and electricity and a flush toilet inside the house. That is what we had hoped for. There are eight or nine large windows. Another good thing is that it is very close to where Tish works.
On the minus side… Because of the strike by government workers, they did not have any furniture in the house when we arrived. Before the end of the first day, however, a bed and a sofa had been delivered. The previous tenants left behind one tired old plastic table and chairs set that we can eat on. We may not have any more furniture than that until July. One of the windows does not latch properly and several of the outside lights are not working – these are security concerns. I have notified the Peace Corps security officer, and hopefully that will be remedied in the next few days. Also, the back door does not open; there is a second bathroom with a broken door, a non-working toilet and a sink that leaks. And did I mention a nasty kitchen with roaches? Oh, and those eight or nine large windows will need drapes which will cut into our Peace Corps settling in allowance. The house is somewhat isolated which is a security concern as well.
With the settling in allowance we will have to purchase a lot of things for our new house. Furniture should be provided but we will need drapes, pots and pans, towels, sheets, and all the other things necessary to set up house. As of this writing, we have made four trips to town and two trips to Gaborone to buy things we need and groceries. This isn’t as easy as hopping into your car. We have to hike a little over a mile to the shopping area, make our purchases and transfer the items to our backpacks and hike back. If the things are too heavy, we get a cab to take us back (it only costs P6). Trips to Gabs are even more complicated involving cabs, combis and buses, and doing it again on the return lugging a bunch of stuff.
Tish’s counterpart from Stepping Stones, Tinny, has been by a few times. She has been unable to get things fixed at the house. My boss, Mma Mokoti, the District Aids Coordinator, has stopped by, and is very sorry that the house is not set up completely. We told her that from day one, the Peace Corps taught us that we need to be Patient and Flexible, and we are trying. There is a dialogue going on right now between us, Peace Corps, the DAC office and Stepping Stones International about what to do. We may be moved to another house.
This adjustment is absolutely the hardest one to make. It is bad enough to only have the bare minimum of furniture, but we are feeling very alone out here with no family or friends (home or Peace Corps), to talk with. Tish has worked tirelessly to try to get the kitchen clean, while I have helped clean the rest of the house, washed clothes, carried heavy objects and generally tried to keep out of her way, and help her when she needs it. Tish is having more trouble with this adjustment than I am. I think she was shocked by the nastiness of the kitchen. We have been reminding ourselves that when we applied to join the Peace Corps, we were willing to live anywhere, even in places where we would have to use a pit latrine, haul our water and cook over an open fire – and this is better than that.
Prior to coming here, I had done my research and talked to many Peace Corps volunteers and I knew this adjustment would be the most difficult, and that knowledge makes it a little easier. At least I know others got through it just fine. Tish and I are so glad we have each other and can’t imagine what it is like for our fellow trainees who are mostly young, and now totally isolated and alone in their new village.