Schools are closed and that means: summer holiday! My second summer in South Africa. The end of the school year was anticlimactic; things just slowly trickled to a halt. Another volunteer posted some photos here of the decreasing attendance at her school towards the end. It’s pretty funny/accurate. I’m glad to be done with an entire school year but sad that I didn’t get to say a formal goodbye to the Grade 7 kids who graduated to high school. I spent the last few days cleaning up/packing, doing last work on projects, playing a few last practices with my ladies’ soccer teams, and saying goodbye to friends. It felt like a preview of next year, when I leave Bungeni for good. Bummer! Strange! I did have one new beginning though: I got to visit my bff Vutomi’s house for the first time and meet her grandma. If you think meeting your friends’ parents can be a little weird, try doing it when the parents only speak incomprehensible old lady-style Xitsonga. Oi.
I got vacation rolling by… immediately taking a work trip. I went down to Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, to help with the newest volunteers’ ”so now that you’ve been here for five months, you can finally start working for reals!” training. [I blogged about mine way back when.] Pietermaritzburg is a 5+ hour drive from Pretoria, but I got to ride there in style in the Peace Corps van. It was an awesome road trip. At one point on the drive back we got pulled over at a hardcore police checkpoint. A policewoman was ominously snapping on some rubber gloves as they pulled open the door, but a PC staff member was like “lol no; diplomatic license plate” and we closed the door and drove off.
I attended this training because a bunch of the new volunteers e-mailed me asking for tips about school libraries, and it just made more sense to visit them and discuss the topic in person with their counterparts present. My session covered getting libraries up and running, I dropped as much of an info bomb as I humanly could. It was my first time being on this side of a Peace Corps training! It was fun. I also pitched the committee that I chair. And then… I had a lot of free time to be a gofer for my friends who were doing a lot of sessions/scope out the buffet, which was a pretty ideal way to spend a few days. The weather was ultra cold and misty (you know, like 70 degrees or whatever) so I didn’t get to sightsee. Based on where I spent all my time this post should really be titled “The Protea Hotel” instead of “KZN.”
We passed the ride back to Pretoria by watching the 1985 Tom Hanks/John Candy comedy Volunteers on someone’s laptop. Very narcissistic of us. The movie was a little crummy but I thought it was hilarious anyway. It’s about a spoiled trust fund baby (Hanks) who joins Peace Corps Thailand to avoid paying his gambling debts. The part that easily got the most laughs from the volunteers watching was:
Legit Volunteer: I’m killing myself. You don’t even want to BE here, and everything comes so easy for you!
Tom Hanks: Well now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that.
Villager: *asks a question in Thai*
Tom Hanks: *replies in Thai*
Legit Volunteer: How’d you learn to speak Thai so quickly?!
Tom Hanks: Well, I have to communicate, don’t I?
So. Relateable. Anyway, I left the volunteers who are just getting started and arrived back in Pretoria amidst a bunch of volunteers from the class before mine, who are all getting ready to leave the country. Time is flying. Us 24s were sitting around at happy hour at our favorite local pub, watching the 23s all hug and reminisce. It was a flash forward to six months from now, when we’ll be having our “close of service” conference. Very sweet to see them reach that point.
Anyway, that’s all far in the future. Tomorrow, I’m off to Swaziland (briefly) and then Mozambique for a few weeks of camping and bumming around the beach. I’ve been planning this trip for a few months and I’m so excited! See you in the new year, everyone!