Sunday, August 14, 2011

Where in the World is Susan

It has been over a month since I left Atlanta.The journey began with two days in Washington, DC, a 1-2 hour layover in the Atlanta airport (ironically), and a 16 hour flight to Johannesburg-Pretoria, South Africa (SA).  Received text and this photo from grandkids as we were leaving. Couldn’t ask for a cuter and nicer send off.

Upon arrival, the PC group of 57 volunteers/trainees was bused north 2 hours to a small college campus.  We stayed in small dorm rooms with one person to a room, 8 persons per building, and were each issued a pillow, comforter and heavy blanket (much appreciated!).  Running water (hot included) and indoor plumbing somewhat made up for no heat in building (it’s winter here with evening temps in the 30’s…brrrr!).

The next few days were filled with lectures on every topic imaginable (SA funerals, weddings, gender roles, water/food safety, common illnesses, bucket baths, crime/safety, appropriate family/social behavior, SA history, SA schools, etc. etc.), language classes, placement and medical interviews, medical shots (to include rabies x 3, Hep A & B, typhoid, meningitis, flu and probably a few more I can’t remember), getting to know other volunteers, and some really good catered food.  The beginning language classes consisted of lessons on how to say “Hello. How are you? I’m fine and how are you?” in four different languages.  This is much harder than one might imagine as both the language vocabulary and structure are so different from anything we have ever known. Eventually, I learned that my assigned language is Sepedi, which in turns means that my site will be somewhere in the Limpopo Province, located in the northeast corner of the country.  This is actually pretty good and exciting.  This area has a bit of mountainous terrain and from what I’ve heard, lots and lots of local fruit, particularly mangoes, grapes, bananas and avocados – yum!

After five days, we moved to another location, also north of Pretoria.  There we were placed in the homes of host families where we will stay for the duration of training.  Host assignments was completed by gathering everyone in a large assembly hall and someone reading out a volunteer’s name followed by a corresponding host family name.  There were lots of smiles, laughter and hugging as we were handed over to the care of the host family.  A memorable experience!  Our host family was unable to be present, so their friend and neighbor, Jane, was there to collect John and me.  The PC van dropped us all off at our new home and we began the process of getting to know our family and new surroundings.  Our personal living space consists of one room – about 9x12 -- attached to the garage.  It contains a double bed, bedside table, wardrobe, and chair.  We will share meals and bathing area in the family living space. We should be quite comfortable for the time we are here.

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