All Good Things: Peace Corps Orientation In-Country

All Good Things: Peace Corps Orientation In-Country


Today marks the first day of my second week in Africa. Another fun statistic: I’ve now visited six continents! (When the Peace Corps invited me to serve here, I did check whether South Africa was close to the South Pole. It’s not.)

Ask any of my fellow trainees, and we will all tell you it seems impossible that only a week has gone by.

We have already moved twice since arriving at the Johannesburg airport: first to the conference center for orientation, then to our host families in nearby villages. We’ll move for the final time in September, when we finish training and begin teaching English at primary schools in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Kolbi and Marc are Volunteers who extended their service – and now Marc works for Peace Corps! They are living proof that we’ll survive the challenges and emerge as better people on the other side

Peace Corps South Africa greeted us at the conference center with singing and dancing by our Language Culture Facilitators – they will teach us isiZulu and help us navigate the transition to living abroad.

The conference center is part of a wildlife reserve! The landscape reminds me of the American Southwest – arid, with cactus growing everywhere, and a huge blue sky. Nighttime stargazing is like visiting a planetarium.

Different wildlife, though! These little guys roamed the grounds like a flock of anthropoid pigeons, along with baboons, cats, and one horned cow.

It’s an idyllic spot, with giant chess and a swimming pool – but it’s too cold to swim in the winter. Early mornings and nights are frigid this time of year! The midday sun brings the heat

We rose for 7 am breakfast and a full day of seminars. The Peace Corps arranges every detail of our new lives here, including a field trip to buy cellphones and South African data plans.

Marc, the LCFs, and the Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders showed us the ropes for switching out sim cards and converting “airtime” to data

We also restocked at the local supermarket!

I love encountering surprising flavors overseas. This snack is pear and sweet potato. Yesterday I bought “egg and brandy” shampoo. It does in fact smell like eggnog.

With 50+ trainees in an unknown countryside, what’s there to do at night?

Scorekeeping is a good way to learn people’s names

Play card games! One or two people taught over a dozen of us how to play “Golf.” I also discovered an Ohio native with a pack of Dutch Blitz! (*shout-out to my Indiana friend in Philly*)

When we weren’t playing, we discussed culture clash, common thefts, bucket bathing and the all important Zulu greetings.

PC outfitted us with a massive medical kit – it’s like a portable drugstore

As much as we enjoyed the resort (and the hearty meals), I think we’re all glad to be settled with our host families now. This is just the beginning of the road!

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