Finally, I can truly say I am a Peace Corps Volunteer! After eight weeks of training on language, technical lessons on education, health, security issues, cross cultural discussions, Namibia Group 34 was sworn in on Thursday, October 20th.
The last few weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST) seemed to be the first time here in Namibia that time went by at its true pace. As I may have said in previous updates, the first few days of my Peace Corps experience seemed like months. I think the comments you would get from anyone in Group 34 about the end of PST concern the excitement of officially becoming a PCV along with the reality check that will be on our own and without the social comfort of our new American friends.
One of the final obstacles of PST was a final Language Proficiency Interview. Because I am so awesome, I had already passed an LPI earlier in PST with a score of Intermediate Low. I ended up scoring an Intermediate High, one of 8 out of the 38 in our group that scored in this bracket, which was the highest for the group. That said, I must admit that Afrikaans is the easiest of the 7 languages groups taught in our PST group. The most difficult, I’m told, is Khoekhoe Goewab, which is a “click” language. I’m happy with how I scored on the PST but I’m barely conversant in Afrikaans and still have a tough time understanding people. Hopefully I’ll start becoming more conversational as time goes on here in Rehoboth.
The actual Swearing In Ceremony was a fairly formal event. In terms of preparing for the event itself, we had practiced our swearing in oath several times before along with a Namibian song that was dubbed our “PST Anthem”. The song, “M’sombia Kamule”, ended up sounding god-awful compared to the performances from the incredibly talented Okahandja Youth Choir. The formality I referred to earlier pertains to the minutes long greeting each speaker would make before they delved into their speeches: “Greetings and welcome to Her Excellency Wanda Nesbitt (U.S. Ambassador to Nam), Country Director Gilbert Collins, Police Chief of Okahandja...in absentia, His Worship the Mayor of Okahandja, colleagues from the fraternity of education and development organizations…” and so on and so on (ed. note: this is apparently the norm in Namibia at any event). From there, our Training Manager made some remarks about us and then presented us to the Country Director who also made some comments. The highlight of Gilbert’s remarks for me was when he was mentioning the diverse educational and professional backgrounds we all came from and after saying a couple jobs people in my group had held, he finished with the heavy hitter, “Congressional Intern”. Amazingly, I’m the only PCV among my group who had worked on the Hill. My buddy Kirby nudged me and I had a big old Georgia Democrat grin on my face. From there, we said our oath, read by the Ambassador, to serve the communities and people of Namibia to the best of our abilities, officially making us Peace Corps Volunteers. The Ambassador had some nice remarks about the importance of the PC in Namibia and how we are the ambassadors representing the U.S. in our respective communities. Our keynote speaker was a Regional Education Director. Her comments echoed most of what Gilbert and Ambassador Nesbitt had already said but also spoke about how in our service we should not expect to change things overnight and that we should relish the small achievements and not dwell on the roadblocks we will face. Most of y’all had probably considered me officially in the Peace Corps for quite awhile now (or not, if you have a low opinion of me), but that was the moment we went from PC Trainee to PC Volunteer. And in a move reminiscent of Will Davis and Jamie Germano standing up at our Marist graduation when family is supposed to rise when their student walks across the stage and my BU friends inserting my name into nearly every song, a couple of my PC buddies instead of saying their own name at the beginning of the oath said “I, Sam Kelly...” Therefore, I’m triply sworn in as a PCV.
Afterwards there was a small reception for all those in attendance. I said goodbye to my host mom in Okahandja who told me the house will be quiet without me and that she will miss me. She sent me off with some biltong, which is delicious African jerky. Ceteris paribus, I’ll be spending Christmas with them in Windhoek (ed. note: apparently not. I talked to my host mom who said that the engagement we were going to celebrate along with Christmas has been postponed). I said goodbye to my new PC friends and headed off in my principal’s bakkie to Rehoboth. The next time Group 34 will all be together will be for our weeklong “Reconnect Training” at the beginning of December. I’m told this is not only a helpful final training event but also a rowdy get together for the PCVs as we haven’t seen each other in almost two months. Don’t worry Debby, we’re safely tucked away in a conference center outside Windhoek where we can’t get into too much trouble.
That’s all for the end of PST and Swearing In. I’ve got more reliable internet access now in Rehoboth and I’ll try to get up pictures and send out another update at the end of the week. Lastly, if anyone wants to just go ahead and set up a blog for me, you’d be really cool and the handful of inquiring minds would thank you (ed. note: Wynne Kelly put da team on his back duuu!)