So, I am finally a real Peace Corps volunteer!! This past Friday, me and my 21 other stage-mates swore under-oath to be the best volunteers that we could be (which was not really what we said- it was much more official than that, but you get the point). So now, we are officially volunteers in the Peace Corps. After we swore in at the U.S. Embassy, we spent the rest of the day at the pool at the American Club and then at night we went to our celebratory party which was coordinated by our PCV trainers. We spent the night dancing and meeting the other volunteers who came from all over the country to congratulate us. Also, it was here that our stage name was finally revealed to us. Every new group of volunteers who comes to Mali is given a stage name chosen by their fellow volunteer trainers. It is a name that should describe the character and personality of the group. For example, some previous names of stages have been: The Kennedy's, Team America, Risky Business. After 9 weeks of careful observation, our trainers explained that at first we were such a close-knit group that they considered calling us the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family, but then again we are not afraid of taking jabs at eachother. During PST, we had taken to playing Mafia (a 23 player version of Mafia with that), a game where we ruthlessly and mercilously kill eachother off, thus the name "the Goodfellas" was born.
Now, the real adventure begins. After an early morning solemn goodbye to the rest of my stage mates, me and my three fellow Kita-Kaw traveled together to our regional capital and are hanging out for a few days to go over protocol and buy some necessities for our installation to site. We will all part ways on Tuesday and attempt to move to site (by local transportation) with all of our bags and furniture. Some really lucky volunteers are being taken to their site by Peace Corps transportation, but not us! We get to navigate the wonderful world of bush taxis and in my case, donkey carts! As my site is brand new, I have to buy necessities such as a mattress, a stove and propane tank, cooking supplies, and other general living amenities. At this point, I can't even imagine how I am going to pull this off. First, I have to get all of this stuff on top of a Sotrama (bush taxi) along with my two bags of luggage. Then, my homologue is going to meet me at the side of the road with a donkey cart so that I can haul all of this 7 km through the brousse to my site. This is going to be an adventure to say the least.
So, what am I going to be doing for the next three months? My main task will be to integrate into my community, continue to improve my language skills, and assess the community needs through observation and other assessment tools. Basically, from what I have been told by other volunteers, my days will consist of greeting my entire community; sitting, chatting, and drinking tea; and reading, reading, reading. I will have a lot of free time on my hands. However, these next three months of integration are going to be crucial to my success in the next two years. It is so imporant to build a strong rapport with the community and to establish your credability as a volunteer. Our jobs as Peace Corps volunteers is to facilitate the development and improvements within your respective community. We do not provide money or materials; we are there to guide them and teach them how to sustainably make positive change. But, that work won't start till December, so until then its all integration.
Peace and Love