It has occurred to me that as a result of my incessant whining about the stresses of PST, I have failed to mention that as our time in training is dwindling—assuming all goes to plan, we will be sworn in as official PCV’s on June 10th, and leave for our sites on June 11th—the most significant part of training is coming up this weekend: Site Placement. On Saturday, in what is traditionally an extremely elaborate reality-TV like ceremony, we will be given all of the details about our assignment—where we will be living, who our counterpart organizations are, how close we will be to other volunteers (and who our nearest volunteers will be), whether we will be the first volunteers in our placements, and have to forge entirely new ground, or will be following someone else, and have to begin in their shadow.
Despite the fact that none of us has any idea or control over where we will be placed—the Peace Corps staff uses training to assess our skillsets and placement preferences and match us to the posts that they feel are the best fit—we can hardly talk about anything else. Who will wind up by themselves at Charles Hill in the middle of nowhere in the desert on the border of Namibia, with the closest volunteers 16 hours away? Who will wind up in Moleps, with other volunteers at every turn of the corner?
Housing isn’t much of a concern for most volunteers—Botswana is a unique country within the Peace Corps, in that it is the only country that pays a portion of the program costs. This means that for almost all of the programs, the Botswana government provides PCV’s with the same standard housing that it provides to it’s government employees, including teachers, District Aids Coordinators, and clinic workers. The volunteers in the government housing will all have electricity, indoor plumbing, and fairly modern cement house construction.
However, there is one program which does not qualify for the government housing (and rightly so), the NGO (non-governmental organization) program. As fate would have it, this is the program to which I am assigned. All in all, it is the best match for me, as I have extensive experience with NGO’s, and I feel it has the most flexibility and opportunity for creative problem solving—which is among the perks of Peace Corps service work. However, I’ll admit that the housing situation makes me nervous. Because there is not standard government housing, it is provided by the NGO’s. Anyone who has worked with NGO’s in America knows that if an NGO is in dire need of a free full-time employee (the PCV) they in all probability lack the funding to pay for a posh place. Therefore, the housing among the NGO volunteers varies greatly—some volunteers have housing even nicer than the government housing. Others have no electricity or water on the premises, or just have a room in someone’s house and a hot plate. Although the latter is rather rare, I can’t help but be a bit nervous—while one does not enter the Peace Corps looking for a life of luxury, it is difficult to live in conditions that are vastly inferior to the standard of living in the surrounding community, and as much as I love to cook and bake, the thought of not having access to a real stove (or even being able to cook over a fire), or of sharing my space with roommates not of my choosing, is rather terrifying (most PCV’s do not share housing, so honestly, this possibility had not occurred to me prior to arriving here). It also is not entirely uncommon for an NGO program not to have secured housing by the time the volunteer arrives at site, which can make for a stressful few months, staying with employees or friends of employees.
I’m obviously concerned about the actual work I’ll be doing, but there is such a range of possibilities that between the type of NGO, personalities of co-workers, and the issue of whether I’ll be following another volunteer, and, if so, what his/her reputation (which I would inevitably inherit) is like, I can’t even begin to articulate my hopes and concerns.
As you can see, I am consumed with anticipation and anxiety along with the other volunteers at the moment. Send good thoughts that I won’t be among the people crying this Saturday! All that being said, it is a well-known mantra among PCV’s and staff that your site is what you make of it, so I’m doing my best to keep an open mind, and be ready for whatever I get…but you still can’t stop me from keeping my fingers crossed!
I’ll try my best to have an update on Sunday or Monday with all of the info—no promises, though, between time constraints and difficulty getting to the ‘net… Love and miss you all so much…and thank you again for the letters/post cards! I’ve finally located envelopes and the post office, so yours are on the way! You are AMAZING—I have THE best family and friends in the world!!!
OH! And DON’T send any more things to the address I had posted before! I should have my new site address soon, and once I move, it’ll be tricky to get things sent to the main Peace Corps Office in Gabs. I’ll post my new address ASAP! (But don’t stop writing…just hang on to them for a bit—your letters truly improve my quality of life exponentially!)