The name of my village is: Rakops (pronounced ray-cops). It’s a medium-small sized village of fewer than 10,000 in the middle of Botswana, between the salt pan and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. I will be about an hour and a half outside Maun, which is where the closest volunteers to me are placed (all are from previous training classes). Rakops is on a main travel route, so I shouldn’t have to hitch often. By bus, it will take me about 4-5 hours to get to Ghanzi, maybe 3-4 hours to get to Francistown, and perhaps 8 hours to get to Gaborone.
Saturday was a big day of PST because everyone learned where he or she would be living for the next 2 years. It was not an easy day on some people – some realities of service became more apparent. At this point, however, we each have the name of a village and what anyone else will tell us about it. I don’t yet know if my house will have electricity, for instance, though I do know that I will be replacing a volunteer. The tough part for me now is realizing that I will be alone for my service. I have great resources at my disposal during PST in my fellow trainees, but the closest person from my class at site will be 4 hours away. My harsh reality is isolation from those people.
This might be the perfect placement for me, and I won’t know until I get there and do it. My program director told me that I was placed in Rakops because of my experience in rural South Africa, and that my NGO is a support group for people living positively with HIV. I have to put some faith in staff’s knowledge of the site and organization, which is easier said than done. I’m uneasy as I imagine how difficult it will be to get to a PC friend when I need one.
I don’t want this post to suggest a feeling of despair, because that wouldn’t be accurate. I am simply doing what I usually do by worrying about the future. In this case, I’m second-guessing my ability to navigate the unknown, while feeling that I could be lonely without any PCV neighbors for company. Tomorrow, I should be meeting my counterpart, and we leave on Wednesday for site visit, where I’ll really learn about my village. The next month or two will be a dive into that unknown. Stay tuned!