Thursday, October 8, 2009

PCT --> PCV!

--September 25, 2009--

The day we've all been waiting for has finally come - the day when we all shave/bathe for the first time in five weeks, don our most ridiculous citenge outfits, and officially make the plunge from Peace Corps Trainees to Peace Corps Volunteers!

Starting the morning off with fine dress and hearty laughter

The Northern Province Crew

Our swearing-in ceremony, held this morning at the house of the U.S. Ambassador, was quite the festive and emotional affair. I couldn't believe how well everyone cleaned up! We all had spent the past couple of weeks frantically trying to get our citenge outfits tailored, so it was a real treat to see how well everyone's turned out (I kept it close to home with a Maize and Blue citenge shirt). I also got to give a speech in Bemba during the ceremony, on behalf of all the Bemba students, which was intended to be serious but somehow ended up being raucously funny (I'm not sure I'll ever find out why)! In general, the day was full with lots of congratulating, photographing, joking, hugging, and laughing. It's hard to believe that only nine weeks ago we were all seated nervously and awkwardly in the conference room of the D.C. Holiday Inn as perfect strangers. Now it's like we're family. When some of the existing volunteers come back to Chongwe for training, THEY'RE the ones who are all nervous and awkward as they try to decipher our relationships and nicknames and inside jokes.

Ba Sikota, our training manager, making an appearance in traditional Lozi dress

Practicing for our speeches!

Delivering the speech!

But at the same time the laughter, hugs and pictures all carried a bittersweet tinge. We all knew that the intensity, intimacy, and proximity that forged such tight friendships is about to come to a close when we get shipped out to our respective provinces tomorrow. It's just now hitting home that nine weeks is far too short a time to really get to know someone, and far too short a time to spend amongst such good company. And what's more, we're all going to be together again for only four more weeks over the next two years. Of course the friendships will still remain, and we'll still be able to visit each other at site. But without electricity, internet, transportation, or reliable cell phone reception, planning such outings is going to be a slow and laborious process. We're probably not going to get to visit everyone we want to. So while Swear-In day was outrageously enjoyable and memorable, it also marks a rather abrupt separation from the comfort, friendship, and immediate support of our fellow trainees.

Our aquaculture trainers, "Big P" and "Scorpion"

My language class with Ba Whiteson, our teacher


  1. Nice shirt. :-P

    Btw, something's up with your font in this post. It gets small randomly (unless that's intentional).

  2. NOW we're talking....THAT'S a shirt, citenge style!!!
    Looking very good, my friend.
    Best of luck being at post. That first week can be pretty rough when you are all on your own. Keep working hard and make as many friends in your village as you can. Friends are all around!!!
    Stay strong and healthy, Mark Loehrke