This post is written in two parts, and discusses the site placement process. The first post was written on the Wednesday before the site announcement ceremony, and talks about my feelings leading up to Saturday. The second part was written on Saturday, and talks about the site announcement ceremony and my reactions to my future home. Warning! This post is long.
Wednesday July 20th, 2016
Last week, we had our Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), which assesses our language and conversation abilities this far. We also completed other assessments that tested how well we are learning safety and security, and cultural sensitivities.
One of the meetings was designed to state my personal preferences for my permanent site. People can request anything, from the vaguely general to the uber specific. This includes things like the region of the country you would like to be placed in, whether or not you would like electricity, and what kind of features you would like at your site (e.g., family size, animals, fruit trees). Some of my preferences included a warmer region of the country, electricity, and someplace that I can bike. PC staff will meet this week to decide on placements for everyone. We will find out our placements on Saturday, at a site announcement ceremony. I currently feel like a standout college athlete prior to the draft. I’m just waiting for that announcement.
“With the first pick in the Peace Corps Swaziland permanent placement draft, this wonderful family with electricity in an excellent community for biking selects Kirby P. from the Nkamandzi village!”
I have stated my preferences to any staff who would listen, done well on the LPI, and prepared myself to go anywhere. The suspense is building. For now, we wait.
Saturday July 23rd, 2016
This morning, we got to find out where we will spend the next two years! Several members from group 13, or G13, (the group of PCVs who came to Swaziland in June 2015) were on hand to assist with the announcement. We sat in a semi-circle as G13 began their antics. There were large puzzle pieces on the floor in the middle of the semi-circle. These puzzle pieces, 35 in total, made a map of Swaziland. The theme was Dr. Seuss, and there was a lorax and a grinch along with several other characters. The ceremony started with nursery rhymes to get us ready. Then, with all of the anticipation of an NBA or NFL draft, the placements were announced one by one in nursery rhyme. I was extremely excited with a touch of nervousness. There was no particular order to announcing everyone. I knew it was my turn to be unveiled as the nursery rhyme started with:
“I want to hug him,
Like I hugged my Furby.
Stand on up, Mr. Kirby.”
At this point, I am standing with one other person who will be in my region. (Of note: Swaziland is divided into four regions. They are Hhohho, Manzini, Lubombo, and Shiselweni.) We know our respective regions, but nothing about our respective sites yet. There are 28 more announcements to go. One by one, trainees in G14 find out where they will spend the next two years. The number of people in my region grows until the last person has been announced. Then, we are instructed to go outside to find one of the aforementioned puzzle pieces that has our name on it. I excitedly run outside around the building to find someone holding my puzzle piece and yelling my name. I take the puzzle piece inside so that we can work to put the puzzle together. Little by little, we see where we are in relation to each other. Our new homes are represented by a dot on our puzzle piece. All of G14 stands on the map (at the same time). Some folks are really close. Others are kind of far. Then, the G13 folks present stand on the map to show where they live. The excitement is still running high. As some people are getting off of the map, I notice yellow folders being handed out. I track down the person with mine. As I open it, I find a map of Swaziland showing my site, a fact sheet about the community and host family, and the host family profile.
I am excited to announce that I will be living in the Manzini region close to the border of South Africa. I will have a small host family with only one child. The site has one dog and two cats, along with a jojo tank for water. I will have electricity in my hut. Speaking of my hut, I have been told that it is a pretty spacious roundavel. There is even a sewing group in the community that I can join. I scoured the information given for the bike friendliness of my community. I didn’t find it. So, I asked one of the PC staff who had been out to the site. I was told that the site and community are very conducive to biking. I was also told that I am not in a malarial zone of the country, and that I am the first volunteer to be placed in this community.
I’m extremely happy right now, even as I write this post hours after the announcements. I was given everything that I wanted and asked for. I will get to travel to my site some time in the coming week. The excitement continues.
Be kind to yourself.
PS – is there anything that you would like see on whatisKirbydoing.com? Let me know!