Monday, July 16, 2007

We're leaving on a jet plane!

It is almost 9p on July 15th and we are almost completely packed. We have had a great (but sad) time saying our "see you in two years." Our families and friends have been so supportive of our decision to join the Peace Corps and we really appreciate it.

We may not be able to update our blog for a while but please keep us in your thoughts.

Here is a picture of Ben and I enjoying a rootbeer float toast:

Update: audio podcast of pouring the root beer float with Jennie and her brother Matt singing in the background.


Jennie and Ben

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Training Itinerary

We put together a map of our current training itinerary - as we're beginning to learn, however, any of this could be subject to change. We're definitely not picky when the government is sending us to Africa and footing the bill for us to live there for two years.

In less than 24 hours, we leave for Philadelphia. Probably one last post from both of us tonight, but if not, we'll try to send something from there.

Monday, July 2, 2007

New Address, more information on training

Hello everyone!

I know you were hoping that we would change the address that you could send letters to one more time so here you are:

Jennie and Ben Bleckley
Peace Corps
PO Box 9536
Pretoria 0001
South Africa

This address should be good until around September 20th and then we will send word with a new address.

I received an email today telling us more about training (July-September) so I thought I would share that with you.

A little bit of information about South Africa and the Peace Corps program there:

"South Africa is a country going through an enormous transition. It is a First World-Third World country. The government and private sector have created a robust, First World economy. However a large segment of the population still lives in a Third World economy. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will be addressing the needs of those still living in a Third World society, threatened by AIDS and enrolled in an educational system that still does not adequately meet the needs of learners.

This year Peace Corps will celebrate its 10th anniversary in the country. On the day of your swearing-in to become a Volunteer, 140 currently serving Volunteers and numerous dignitaries will be present to recognize a decade of Peace Corps Volunteer service in the country."

My dad said that when we received our new placement (we were not able to go to the first place we were nominated for due to restrictions after a rough medical clearance process) we would be blown away. He sure was right!

We will arrive in Johannesburg on Saturday July 21st in the morning. We will then be driven to Mankwe Education Center in Rustenburg. We will stay there for one week "being oriented to Peace Corps and South Africa." After that week we will move into the home of a South African family who will help us learn the ropes from July- September.

This family will live in the Zeerust area (approx. 120 kilometers from the Botswana border). They will be responsible for helping us with language, teaching us how to cook, wash clothes, etc. We will be eating all of our meals with our host family. The staple food is maize (corn meal), prepared as a thick porridge called "pap" and eaten with vegetables or a sauce.

During our training six languages will be taught: Sepedi, SeTswana, IsiZulu, IsiSwati, Xitsonga and Afrikaans. Every volunteer will take an oral language proficiency exam near the end of training.

Needless to say I am getting very excited and nervous! Any warm thoughts are appreciated.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Two Weeks to Go

Last Saturday we recieved our staging packet which contains our flight information and staging assignment. At 10 am on July 16th we will leave Denver for Phillidelphia, PA. Staging will begin the following day at 1 pm, so we will have some time to spend exploring the city and visiting my Aunt Leslie who recently took a trip to South Africa. She's worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a number of years, is an avid world traveler, and was a major influence in shaping my world view.

In the meantime I'm working at Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch for one final summer. I worked there from 1998 to 2003 and decided to go back for one final year. I'll leave there on July 12th. Jennie and I are both working on learning Setswana, a common language in northern South Africa, where a large part of our training will take place (or so we are told).

It still doesn't seem real to me that in two weeks I'm leaving to live in South Africa. Crazy.

Thanks for all your support!