How in the world can people who have only known you for a month place you at a site for the next two years effectively? That was the worry on my mind all of last week leading up to the site announcements on Friday afternoon. I had had two interviews; one with the associate country director and another with the secondary education program assistant. I had filled out my roommate questionnaire, and I knew who I wanted to live with. Granted, I would have been fine living with a large majority of the girls here, but Sarah was definitely my number one choice.
After a three-hour session on Friday about sexual assault response and reporting (a heavy topic), they sent us out of the lecture hall so they could get ready. On the floor, they laid out an outline of Liberia with rope and marked the counties with chalk. Plates with the names of our sites were laid out on the map, and we were led to just outside the doors as a group. There, we put on blindfolds and prepared to take part in Peace Corps Hazing 101…okay, not really, but it felt a little weird!
Soon, I felt Dan, a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, take my hand and lead me into the lecture hall. He gave me to Rebecca, who spun me around a few times and led me all over the map before dropping me off at a spot. I stood there quietly, anxiously waiting to see who I would be placed with. I could hear people talking and soon realized that Mitch and Tyler were together near where I was. Then, I could hear Melissa and Elyssa talking relatively close, and I started to get excited. It was turning out to be a great group!
A while later, I heard Vince, the country director, bring someone over and drop them off near me. She said “thanks,” and I realized it was Sarah! After we realized it was each other, we screamed, laughed, cried, and awkwardly hugged – we couldn’t see anything with the blindfolds, but I was overjoyed to be placed with her. The people around us laughed at our reaction, and soon, they said we could all take off our blindfolds. We looked down and saw the plate that read Pleebo, looked around, and noticed a huge gap between us – the southeast – and the rest of the country. Looks like two years of isolation! :)
|Here we are!|
|With Mitch, our neighbor!|
|All of us with blindfolds - welcome to Peace Corps?|
Pleebo is the commercial capital of Maryland County, the county that sits in the very southeast corner of Liberia. It is 30 minutes from Harper, a town that sits right on the beach! It is also 3.5 hours from Zwedru, which is awesome, because Peace Corps just opened an office there. A car will run between Monrovia and Zwedru on a pretty regular schedule – about once a week or so is our estimate. This will be helpful in bringing out our mail, our medications, and anything else we may need from the city. (So…don’t be afraid to send me mail or packages, friends! I can still receive them out in the bush.)
Because Pleebo is the commercial capital of Maryland County, the market is awesome! Much bigger than Kakata, or at least according to my host father, and apparently people come from the Ivory Coast and Guinea to sell their wares at this market! Our house is close to the market, as well, so I am excited to see what gems we can find. Sally – be ready to wheelbarrow shop for clothes like there is no tomorrow!
Speaking of our house, it is still under construction. The leaving Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, John, said that the house looks really awesome, though. We have a front and a back porch, a big living room, and a nice-sized kitchen space. Additionally, we have at least two bedrooms (one for each of us), and our home has a real bathroom. Well, at least a real toilet that we will flush with buckets of water. I’m getting excited :)
The house is close to the market and is also close to Pleebo High School. We will have a short “commute” to work, and that will be handy. We are the first Peace Corps Volunteers – EVER – to be placed in Pleebo, and I am really excited to make the most of this opportunity. The school requested a Physics teacher and a Math teacher…guess that means I’ll be teaching Physics! Here goes nothing, haha. I will also be teaching Chemistry and Biology, or at least that’s what the spreadsheet they had said I would be doing.
After speaking to a few people about this site, I’ve come to realize how lucky I am to be placed at this site. This site placement is a reflection of how much trust the program has in Sarah and I, and I am going to do my absolute best to help this school out and make a difference in the lives of my students. It’s also a little bit of a confidence boost, knowing that I’m doing a pretty good job at this teaching thing!
Another cool thing about Pleebo is that it is close to Harper, which has an UNMIL base. This means that we may be able to catch a UN helicopter into Monrovia for official PC training. If we don’t take a helicopter in, we get to take bush taxis or a bus in…depending on the condition of the (dirt) road, that trip could take 14 hours or 3 days. Sounds like fun, right? :)
So friends, that is where I will be living for the next two years of my life. I am really excited to move to site, paint our house, and make it home. Lesson planning and everything else will come in time, and soon I will be teaching in Pleebo! Wish me luck as I embark on this endeavor.
Much love to you all,