Friday, September 5, 2008

Organized Chaos

We have now officially passed the one year mark and are quickly approaching the time when we no longer count how long we have been here, but how much longer we have left. In the first year we have gotten used to doing a number of things we once thought new and strange. Based on an informal survey of things I do on a regular basis around the house and extrapolating for the remainder of our service, I expect that by the end of our two years in Seleka the following can be added to my resume:

300 bags of trash burned
650 chamber pots emptied
700 baths taken using small red wash basin
1460 buckets of water hauled from the tap at the church next door
2190 articles of clothing hand washed
4380 litres of water boiled
13000 ants sent to their doom with DOOM

This is a short list of accomplishments that only begin to describe one aspect of my life here, but I like to think they are an intergral part of 'building character'. With all this to do on almost daily, it is a wonder where I find the time to do much else!

Truly, in the last month or so, the pace of life has sped up dramatically. After completing the fourth month of full-time teaching, the new teacher was finally hired for Seleka Higher Primary School's grade 5 Math and Technology position. I had just recently resigned myself to the fact that I would end up teaching the remainder of the school year because of the snail's pace at which the paperwork was moving for this new teacher. Of course, as soon as you make a decision here, something happens that completely upends your plan. The arrival of the new teacher happened right in the middle of a number of trainings and meetings that Jessica and I attended for Peace Corps in Pretoria and elsewhere. Between traveling back and forth from these meetings, orientating the new teacher to our students and our curriculum and be inundated with requests for help in other areas now that our schedule has opened up I feel a bit overwhelmed. Unlike the first year of our service when we were trying to figure out what to do, where to work and how to fit into our communities, we are now established in the schools and in the village. Therefore, when all these new opportunities arrive, we are in a better position to be able to start in right away. This leads to constant work in all sorts of areas. In the two weeks since we have stopped teaching, I have been asked to help start computer classes, work one on one with teachers in their classrooms, lead a team of teachers to organize a solution to the watering issues we are having at our new school garden, work with the school Surroundings committee to design a layout for their proposed landscaping and paving projects, assist in the creation and maintainence of the school budgets, and photograph the entire student population for portfolios and train the teachers on how to use their camera in conjunction with the computer to store their information. Each of these activities is not only possible in the next months or year, but they are all projects that I want to take part in and are areas where I can be productive in training our teachers. Yet having them all drop on my lap at once, just when I felt I was getting settled into the classroom, has caught me off guard.

We are just over 12 months away from closing out our service and previous volunteers have frequently said how their second year of service was much busier and went by much faster than their first. Clearly this seems to be the way our service is shaping up to be and because of that, we also must start to think about life after South Africa. This adds a whole new dimension to our plans that seems so far away, but in reality is just around the corner. There is an anxious feeling about the next few months and being able to get things reorganized so that we can continue to be productive in our village but also to feel prepared to move beyond South Africa after our service. Time here seems to have only two speeds, slow and relaxed (agonizingly so some days) or lightning fast, and the speed changes in the snap of a finger so that one day you wake up and realize a few months have gone by and tomorrow is today. Knowing that this will be the case for the rest of our service I need to continually remind myself to be taking in the small pleasures of each day, each sunrise and sunset, time spent with our friends and colleagues, and sometimes even finding pleasure in such things as hauling water or taking down laundry from the line after a labourious yet satisfying handwashing.

No comments:


The opinions expressed are our own and do not reflect those of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, the Republic of South Africa, or and other person, party, or organization mentioned on this website.