Monday, June 23, 2008

Post-training/Pre-Service: Purgatory

June 20, 2008

Although I had repeatedly called my Kumakwane colleagues, it was now the morning of my First Day of Peace Corps Service and I was still unclear about transfer logistics. My counterpart had also been oddly ambiguous about the state of my house and these things were making me increasingly nervous.

In an effort to distract myself from further anxiety I decided to take a long walk to the bank, post office and grocery store (luxuries I will not have access to in my new village).

Upon my return one of the PC administrators began calling me:

“Arent you with the driver?” she asked.
“Alright, let me call you right back.”
A few minutes pass.
“So you’re with the driver now, right?”
“Um, no.”

This goes on for about 10 minutes before they realize that my driver has actually picked up the wrong volunteer and driven her half way to Kumakwane. Fortunately they caught Snake (the driver… there’s a surplus of amusing English names in this country) before he got too far and he turned around to make the Volunteer-Swap.

A few hours later Snake and I roll into Kumakwane and I stop by the school to see the headmaster and my counterpart. We chit chatted for 10 minutes before I ask about the state of the house. Ms. Elitsab wrings her hands a few times.

“Well, you see I really wanted you to see the house for yourself and I didn’t want you worrying [thus the lack of returned phone calls] and really you should not be stressed [oh boy] it’s just that the gas company wont accept the form of payment we’ve offered.”

Alright, no cooking and no warm baths. I can handle that for a while.
“Well, that’s no problem.” I say “These things happen.”

She continues.

“Ah, the other thing is that the electricity hasn’t exactly been connected yet. There was a problem with the wiring and we thought that maybe you could run a line from the main house or use a lamp for a while.”

Huh. Okay so early to bed early to rise… don’t I have a headlamp somewhere?

I try to stay positive as Ms. Elitsab rattles off the list of additional problems…

The plumber hasn’t made it, there’s no toilet or water.
The furniture hasn’t been moved in, we haven’t had a vehicle for it.
The mattress is in Gaborone, it might be arriving this weekend.

I return to the car where Snake smiles at me. I take a deep breath as we head to the house.

What we find is shockingly similar to what I left 2 weeks ago. Windows, roof and door are securely attached but little else has been done. Teloc (owner of large house adjacent to mine on the family compound) tells me the builder has had the flu for the past two weeks and the other available workmen can only come on the weekend. She says she encouraged the school to delay me as she knew they would not have the house finished in time for my arrival.

I call Peace Corps.

Peace Corps is quite shocked. They called Kumakwane all last week and were told that the house was finished and ready to live in. They’ll call me back.

I pace around the yard for a while. I stand in the middle of my empty living room. I stare at the floor.

Eventually Teloc comes over to check on me. We discuss privacy curtains which seem like the least of my concern at the moment. Fortunately, she has some old curtains she’s willing to loan me and the kids come over to help us hang them in the four windows of my bedroom and living room.

When Peace Corps calls back there are more reassuring words. I hang up doubtful but within a hour thing start to take shape. The furniture arrives, broken and torn, but useable. The electrician arrives and wires two of my three rooms. The builder helps me move my bed into the lit room and the kids go wild feather-dusting my furniture.

Around 8:00 I wash up in the bathroom of the main house and say goodnight to the family.

I spend a few hours organizing bags and making my bed and arranging furniture. The cement floor involves a bit of maneuvering not to cover everything with dust and I have to bundle in all my clothes before I’m warm enough to sleep but eventually I settle down for my first night.

The wailing of roosters and dogs feel oddly comforting. I pull the hood up to keep my ears warm and I drift off into a plethora of anxiety-malaria dreams.

Still, it’s comforting to finally be home.

No comments: