I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...
Sunday, August 03, 2014
Training Winds Down
Two months ago I celebrated my mother's birthday by driving (with her) to Boston to begin travel to Lesotho. At the time, the ten weeks of training seemed a bit like the movie Groundhog's Day. Throughout June and July, we woke, we studied, we tried to sneak in time for play, and we adapted to life in Lesotho.
Now, ten weeks of training has dwindled to ten days of training. Although I joined the Peace Corps and came to serve in a community away from other Americans, the reality of this is impossible to ignore right now.
When I arrived in Lesotho two months ago, I came with my eyes wide open, ready to explore everything this country has to offer. Although saying goodbye to my family and friends for the next two years was an obvious reality, I was too excited to dwell on such things.
This past week, however, I finally spent some time grappling with these realities. I think the internal emotional roller coaster I felt each evening after my sunset-curfew was a combination of mental preparations to say goodbye to the trainees and Basotho that I have befriended over the last two months combined with the approach of yesterday; the first two family birthdays I will have missed by the time I return to the states. Knowing I will soon be saying goodbye to my host family and local friends and that I will generally be stuck with only WhatApp conversations with my fellow trainees forced me to also consider all those lovely people supporting me from the US (and hopefully reading this now!). It is genuinely incredible to consider that I will not see most of those people until two years from now when I finally return home.
Thursday morning, I finally pulled out the pictures I had purposefully printed and brought with me. A dozen now decorate my wall, highlighting the smiling faces of people I adore. I had been avoiding this task knowing I would be moving soon, but just seeing these people every day reminds me of the love and support of people back home.
Yesterday, we had a training field trip to Ts'ehlanyane National Park. This beautiful park in the mountains (because everything in Lesotho is in the mountains) provided the perfect punctuation to my challenging week. We hiked from the daily use area to a beautiful resort that I have heard we will get to stay at for our Mid-service Conference in a year. From there, we hiked down a steep and winding trail to a beautiful spring-fed natural pool.
Those of us brave enough jumped in the water, the temperature of which reminded me of jumping off the Harvey Gamage into Maine's frigid May ocean. Many people surfaced from their jumps with expletives because it was so startlingly cold. I loved it!
We returned to the day use area where Peace Corps staff had barbequed a feast. Having not cooked meat for myself yet in country, I dove into the sausage, burgers, and beef. We all gorged ourselves like it was Thanksgiving day before enjoying a dance party, Cards Against Humanity, and beautiful sunshine.
In the midst of all of this, I enjoyed some really wonderful conversations with trainees I feel I never see enough of. Through one of these conversations I learned that my friend had felt she was on the same roller coaster all week. We wondered together if maybe that is just the way of things, maybe we have to go through a week like this in order to be truly ready to move on from training to the role of volunteer, to transition from our training families to our villages, to transition from speaking a lot of English to communicating primarily in Sesotho.
I woke this morning relishing one of my last days off in training. Mundane life tasks that I save for Sundays provided me purpose and joy. It is hard to hate doing laundry by hand when the sun is shining brightly and village children come to chat while you work. I finished earlier than usual, impressed at how much more efficiently I can wash clothes, sweep & mop, and even clean my shoes! I spoke with various Basotho visitors to our yard in Sesotho. As I sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee—the real stuff because it is Sunday—I reflected on the internal challenges the week had posed, the absolutely fabulous Saturday I'd had, and how ready I feel in the moment for the next two years.
It will not always be easy. If the Peace Corps promised an easy experience, I would never have come. It will be incredible, however, and the training experience definitely has me feeling prepared for the next steps in this journey.