Beginnings, Ends and Site Visit

Harembo. That is the name of the village I’ll call home for the next two years. Roll the “r” when you say it if you want to sound like a local.
Today during site visit was the first time in almost a year that I have arrived in a place knowing that I would be there for longer than a few months. It doesn’t yet feel like coming home, but I think it has potential.
Harembo was first described to me as the smallest and most isolated village on the island. I was told living and working conditions would be “harsh” and that the site needed a volunteer who was able to handle a “challenging site.”
For all the generalizations I heard about Harembo though no one could tell me anything very specific. So I laid judgment aside and tried to come with an open mind. And when I arrived I didn’t have time to think about all the scary things people had told me about Harembo.
I got out of the taxi and was greeted by with a flower and pearl necklace, kisses on both cheeks from the women, hardy handshakes from the men, and giggles from the children. My luggage was taken from my hands and carried for me, and I was swept away in a crowd of excitement, curiosity and love. I have never felt more welcomed in my life.
Thankfully my counterpart at the school does speak English quite well and acted as interpreter between the welcome crowd and myself. He then took me on a quick tour of the village. In true Comorian style the first stop on the tour was his parents home. They spoke no English, and my Shinswani is very sad, but despite little conversation I understood that I will be welcome in there home at any time.
The next stop was at Kassus’, my counterpart, aunt’s house. Next was the school. The school was only built two years ago after the village decided to build one despite the lack of government funding or support for the school. My site coordinator for the Peace Corps called it “the little school that could.” It’s build of tins sheets and woven palm leaves. The class rooms are nothing more than a collection of bedraggled desks and a chalkboard. The classrooms are open air and the whole school consists of no more than five rooms. I’ve been told nearly 300 students will be attending this fall, a number that is up quite a bit from it’s first year in 2013.
After the village built the school, got it running, and showed the government they were serious about education, only then were they provided with a little funding for teachers. I don’t know what their exact budget is here, but I can guess it’s next to nothing. If they are able to offer an education to the community’s students on how little they are working with, I would be very curious to see what they could do with a U.S. sized budget.
One of the best parts of Harembo is the spectacular view of the ocean. Harmed is perched on a cliff, maybe 200 feet up from the seaside. Waves crash around jagged boulders along the shore line and the sea stretches out for as far as you can see. In the morning the sun will rise from the ocean, a show that I’m sure will be worth getting up a few minutes early for.
My house is a little two room cottagey looking place. The back yard features a banana tree and a papaya tree, which I am very excited for. I was originally told I would not be able to have the house because it is haunted, but the village has since changed its mind. I’ll keep you posted on the status of its hauntedness.
There are less than three weeks to go until the end of training. I can hardly believe its been seven weeks already. The days here can go slowly, but the weeks are flying by faster than I can keep up with. I can only imagine it’s going to get faster with each week I am here.
The next three weeks will be a lot early mornings, language lessons, endless tech sessions where we learn teaching techniques, cultural lessons and basic medical care. The weekends consist of trips to the beach, attending weddings, helping my host family with their farm in the mountains, and just generally exploring.
Life is about to change again with the end of training, and drastically. I won’t have the support network of the other 19 volunteers all close by, or all the Peace Corps staff just a 20 minute drive away. I’ll be on my own in my village, figuring things out, living life, and hopefully making a difference.
Just one thing, I won’t actually be alone. The people of my village made it very clear during my visit that I am not only welcome, I am very much wanted there. I believe and hope that will make all the difference in setting up this new life.


7 thoughts on “Beginnings, Ends and Site Visit

Add yours

  1. What can we do to help? Besides reading your postings with joy? When you find things for us to do, let us know. Carol McQueen (Frances’ oldest…)

  2. Sarah,

    I’m sending warm prayers for your next adventure in your village and your ‘haunted’ house!
    I’m enjoying following along on your blogs and thanks for making them public!
    I wish you an awesome, safe adventure!

    (Nadia’s friend, Lisa… feel free to send a friend request if you would like)

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