Mommy, Wow! I’m a Big Kid Now!

WE DID IT! On Friday, September 16 2011 I, along with my fellow trainees from the July stage, were sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers! We managed to survive nine weeks of grueling language lessons, technical presentations, cross-cultural sessions, the dreaded language placement interviews, and generally having every single second of our day scheduled. Of course, it wasn’t all that bad – we definitely had good times in the process including watching the entire Lord of the Rings series (the extended version…oh yeah, we went there) in a 24 hour span of time. I was both surprised and flattered that I was chosen to represent the health volunteers and give a brief speech at the swearing in ceremony in the Malagasy language. After nearly peeing my pants in nervous anticipation, it actually went pretty well. People laughed when they were supposed to and didn’t laugh when they weren’t supposed to. That’s good enough for me. I have been desperately trying to upload a video of the speech but the internet connection is just too depressingly slow here at the Meva (the PC house in Antananarivo). Best of all, my host mom from the first four weeks of training attended the swearing in ceremony. I gave her a little “shout-out” during my speech and I could tell that it pleased her. I promised her that when I return to Mantasoa for In-Service Training in December I will be better at speaking Malagasy. I guess I will have to work hard during the next three months to fulfill that promise.

The morning after swearing in was a sad, sad time because it marked the beginning of site installation – when all of the brand new volunteers part ways and are installed in their respective sites for the next two years of service. Although we know we will see one another in three months for In-Service Training, it was tough to see the vans drive away with the people we have grown very attached to during the past two months. It seems like we are about to move from one extreme to another. During training we had a rigid schedule and spent every waking hour with the same group of people. At our sites however, we will be in charge of scheduling our own days and absolutely everyone will be a stranger at first; scary things to contemplate. No one ever said the Peace Corps would be easy though.

Tomorrow I will be installed in my new home for the next two years – Andramasina. I will be leaving the Meva House here in Tana at about 6am and driving 40km south to my town along with Rado (a staff member who is helping with my installation), Sally (another new volunteer who is being installed after me), and the giant mound of stuff I bought here in Tana for my site including a gas stove, full gas tank, kitchen utensils, non-stick frying pan, mattress, buckets, water storage barrel, and of course all the stuff I brought with me from home. Just thinking about it makes me a little stressed but I will be glad to settle into my town and start to figure out where I belong within it. I expect to be working closely with the health workers there on public health education in the clinics and schools (of course, I could be entirely wrong in this assumption). Luckily, during training we did have the opportunity to practice giving health “kabary” (speeches) in Malagasy. My first presentation was on “tazo moka” (malaria), my second presentation which was part of a group effort in a local school was on STIs and HIV/AIDS as well as “sakafo ara-pahasalamana” (nutrition) and hygiene. For my final presentation I expanded upon the HIV/AIDS talk I had given in the schools previously. Hopefully, I will be able to use the kabary I have already done when I am at site. It will probably take a few months for me to really get a handle on the language to the point where I can assess the health needs of the community and start planning projects.

I am hoping to use my banking days (I get three every month) to come to Tana and update my blog since it is close to my site. So stay tuned because my next entry will have pictures of my Peace Corps home!

Me giving a speech in Malagasy at the swearing in ceremony!

The cutest attendee of the swearing in ceremony

Biggest bug I have ever seen in my life...hands down

My awesome roommate Carolyn and I

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sara Halligan
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 20:22:17

    Wish I could’ve been there to see and hear your speech. You know I would if air fare was cheaper. I’d bring a Christmas tree with all the trimmings if I could. I’m so proud of you, I know you worked really hard to learn the language and do well on your presentations. I’m so glad your host mom was able to come see you. I know you’re tired and I hope you get settled into your home with ease. Let me know the address as soon as you can so I can send you things. Well done Watson, well done. Love and miss you dearly.
    Love,
    Sister<3

    Reply

  2. Janice Hughes
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 11:55:35

    Kim, I’m a friend of your mom. I enjoyed reading your blog this morning and am amazed and proud of you for giving a speech in the Malagasy language. Sounds like you are learning quickly. There must be so many new things for you to learn and to experience. Not only that, but you looked so pretty in the photo while you were giving the speech! I wish the best for you and your roommate, Carolyn. I am praying for you this morning as you begin your journey to your new home in Andramasina.. I pray that the settling in process will be easier than you think and that you will learn the area and the people quickly.

    I look forward to next Monday’s installment.

    Love,
    Janice Hughes

    Reply

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