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What I did over winter vacation part 3

July 29, 2012

When I woke up, it was about 9 and I didn’t want to get out of the cozy bed. I didn’t even want to open my eyes. I ran my hands over my eyelids and I found that they were large and swollen, probably a symptom of how exhausting the previous day had been. I don’t know; I’m no doctor. I went out to take a shower and when I got back I found that they had brought me breakfast. I ate half of it and by the time I was dressed and ready to start the day, the driver was there to take me to the office.

When I got to the medical office, that’s where I first met some of the medically evacuated volunteers who were staying at the same guesthouse as me. Their stories were a lot more sordid than mine, but since they had been their longer than me, no one would bring them breakfast in their rooms.

I didn’t have to wait because international volunteers and volunteers working in South Africa are handled by different staff. The same medical officer who came to get me the day before gave me a basic physical, and she told me that the worst was over but they wanted to keep me for a while to make sure I fully recovered. She was still new to this particular job and a little confused by American conventions, such as scales reading pounds instead of kilograms, but she did alright.

After that I went to the admin office to sort out the issue of my missing wallet. They printed me a new Peace Corps ID with the same horrible photo that they took during training, not that I could have given a better one then, with my eyes swollen shut as they were.

In some situations volunteers can get reimbursed for coming to the office and staying in Pretoria since living expenses are higher there than in a village, but every once in a while we get a “miscellaneous travel allowance” to preemptively cover theses costs. I tallied up the costs getting to Pretoria (not much, since the Peace Corps drove me from the hospital) and it wasn’t quite enough for me to get reimbursed. Since I didn’t bring my passport with me, I couldn’t apply for a new bank card either, so I was in a bit of a bind financially. The guy in charge of handling reimbursement requests, who was a volunteer himself, seems to have a good understanding of the kind of situations we get in, so he advanced me it a bit of cash so I could last until I exceeded my MTA.

As I was waiting for all this to get processed, the country director walked by asked me to come see him in his office. His secretary informed me that I had an appointment the next day at 2:00. He was gone before I thought to ask why, so I asked someone else.

“Were you out of side without leave?”

“…I guess so.”

“Well, that’s probably why.”

So I had that to occupy my thoughts for about 24 hours.

When my appointment rolled around, I walked in the office and the country director and training coordinator were waiting for me. They asked me to close the door. First they had me sit down and they commented on how I looked better than I had the previous day. “Now,” the country director started, “do you know why we asked me to come here today?”

“Is it because I was out of site without leave?” I ventured.

“I don’t know. Were you?”

The upshot of this meeting was that they got kind of scared when I called the Peace Corps to say that I was stuck without money and then my phone’s reception died. They were worried that I was in a dangerous situation, but all that I meant when I said that I was in a bad place was that I was by the side of the road, penniless and acutely sick, in a place where I had never been I didn’t speak the local language. They sent me out to write a statement about my itinerary leading up to my trip to Pretoria while they decided what to do with me. At the end they told me to come back Monday.

I don’t want to say too much about what else happened on the administrative side because I still work here, so things turned out okay. I was sure to make the most of the rest of my time in Pretoria. I traveled around with the medically evacuated PCVs and we found a farmer’s market not too far from where we were staying. It’s a good thing I was only advanced a little money because I would have spent it all there. I chatted with my supervisor and she was actually able to help with some problems I’m having at site. Finally I got to spend the Fourth of July at the backpackers where I met old friends (who arrived with me last year) and made new ones (who arrived six months ago). All in all, it was in interesting vacation.

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