Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We made it to Africa!

Tonight will be our second night in Africa, so far so good.  As you can imagine it was quite a journey getting here but everything went smooth.  Our journey began on Saturday where we boarded a plane in Portland and headed to Philly.  Sunday morning we had a few hours to kill before our official orientation began so Erin and I took a walk to Independence Historic National Park.  We found it ironic that our last day in the US was spent in the city where our country was born.  Our orientation or "Staging" in Peace Corps language began at 12:30pm at the hotel.  This was the first time we would get a chance to meet our fellow Bots 14ers.  Bots 14 refers to us being the 14th group in Botswana Peace Corps since they returned to the country in the early 2000s.  There are 60 of us in total and 4 other couples besides us.  It was refreshing to finally meet a bunch of people that were feeling the same way that we were, everyone was excited and scared at the same time.  Staging consisted of some basic Peace Corps information and get to know you activities.  We had to wake very early the following morning and catch a bus at 2:30am that took us to JFK where we arrived 7 hours before our flight.  Peace Corps is very prepared!!!  Our flight took off around 11:30am, 15 ½ hours we arrived in Johannesburg, followed by an hour flight to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.  As you can imagine we were all zombies walking through the airport,but getting introduced for the first time to the Peace Corps staff was very exciting.  After taking a bus to a local hotel we were able to check into our rooms and take a deep breath.  Not long though because as we were told over and over, if you give in to the jet lag, it will be a killer so they told us to stay up as long as we could.  The day consisted of ice breakers, introductions, general administrative stuff and medical information.  Today we were in sessions all day, language, security and safety, and finally got a chance to meet the other folks in our program areas and learn more about what we will be doing here.  The Peace Corps staff is amazing, most of which are native Batswana, and just a few Americans running things over here. We have really enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers in our group, we are with some amazing folks that we are really looking forward to getting to know better.  They say these people become your family over here and I can imagine this will be the case.  Tomorrow is when things will start to become real.  In the morning we will get on a bus and head to Serowe (our training village). This is where we will be living in a home stay for the next 8 weeks.  I can’t wait to get in the bus for our first chance to see Botswana as we got only a very quick snippet on our way from the airport to the hotel where we have been ever since.  Right after arrival in Serowe, we will have a host family matching ceremony and then we go home with our family who will teach us everything we will need to know about living in Botswana.  Throughout the last few days, I have felt a bit overwhelmed but extremely excited about getting this thing started.  I also feel incredibly lucky that Erin and I have each other, it is unexplainable comforting to look across the room and see Erin smiling at me.  I admire those who are here on their own.  This could be the last time we have internet for a while as we do not know what the situation will be when we get to Serowe.  I will be sure to post again when we get connected again.  Here are some pics of our adventure so far.

First steps in Botswana!

Peace bus!

Jojo with some new Peace Corps  friends.  Oh yea, I cut off all my hair.

Jojo and Erin