What I’m up against
Here is a list of things I anticipate could make the experience in South Africa challenging:
- Budget cuts. When I saw in February that Congress had drastically cut the budget of the Peace Corps, I thought that this would dash my chances of getting in, because the PC would have to scale back new recruits in order to give their volunteers already on the field the support they’re used to. But according the blogs I’ve read of people in South Africa, no, everyone gets to share in the budget cuts. It may not seem like such a big deal because travel allowances and such being reduced don’t translate to a whole lot of USD, but considering that we’re not supposed to spend our own personal money in the normal course of a PC tour (and I really don’t want to), it could be crippling. It’s one of the many things that I won’t know until I get there.
- Apathy. I get enough of that now. But what will matter is apathy and lack of motivation from my co-workers on site. I’ll be there to make the most of my time and get something done in two years, but for my fellow teachers or whatever in wherever I’m assigned, it will just be another couple of years in their ordinary South African lives. I’ll probably have to take a lot of initiative personally if I want stuff done.
- Racism. I’m not too savvy on race relations in South Africa, but I imagine there’s some tension considering the recent apartheid. All I know for sure is that I’ll be expected to speak Afrikaans, and my training in Afrikaans will amount to being able to say that I don’t speak the language. This is because I’ll need to focus on a native African language, as opposed to what is basically Dutch.
- AIDS. HIV is endemic to the region, and most everyone has friend or family who is infected. Given that the quality and quantity of AIDS medicine isn’t up to US standards, life expectancy can be low and suffering can be high. I’m half expecting this to be like some bizarre version of Logan’s Run, which was already pretty bizarre.
- Jumping Cockroaches. Enough said.