Day 9: The longer I work in South African schools, the more thankful I am for the education I received. I was a public school kid from Iowa, which is one of the better states for education. All throughout my school years I had teachers that challenged me, encouraged me, and helped me realize what my goals in life are. The worked hard to make sure I received the best education they could offer, and for that I am especially grateful. A few teachers have stood out as role models and are a large part of who I am today: my 2nd and 5th grade teachers who taught me how to love writing, my 5th and 6th grade science teacher who encouraged my experimentation and while theories, my TAG teacher from 7th-12th grades who showed me how to think outside the box and helped me through some difficult year, and my high school English and Calculus teachers who challenged me to my limits and helped me grasp concepts I thought I would never understand. Every teacher I had cared about ME, not about my test scores or grades, but about me, as a person. They went beyond the call of duty to give me something priceless: a quality education. Then I went to college, where I spent 4 years learning from some brilliant minds, some of whom are as much friends as professors. They taught me how to have a holistic education, one which crossed academic boundary lines and was truly interdisciplinary. That’s how I wrote my Spanish senior thesis on the effects of the EU’s climate policies on Spain’s renewable energy market, and my political science senior thesis on incorporating the local food movement into university dining halls. My education is far from complete, and even now I’m studying for the GRE in hopes of starting grad school in a few years. But my education is one of the things I am most grateful for.
Day 10: My Blackberry has been a vital tool in my service, and I am extremely thankful for it. Who knew that I’d join the Peace Corps and get my first smartphone? Seems counterintuitive! Now, we could make jokes about whether blackberries are even smartphones anymore, but in SA they are pretty much the top of the line. IPhone what?! Some PCVs get down on those of us who have blackberries, calling us Posh Corps and making jokes about how we are always on them. But honestly, the connectivity the blackberry provides has been invaluable in South Africa, what with the First World-Third World reality. There are practical reasons, like unlimited internet for R60 on my BB (like $8), and FREE BBM. BBM is amazing because over 40 of the 49 of us have blackberries, so I can message them for free. That has saved my sanity over the past year, and has allowed me to support other PCVs as well. Access to the internet via computer in my village is almost impossible because the signal is so weak, but on my BB it works decently. That means I can (and do) a lot of research for classes and the garden, allowing me a vital resource that wouldn’t exist otherwise: the World Wide Web. And keeping in contact with people back home via facebook, twitter, and this blog has HELPED me achieve Peace Corps’ Third Goal. Cool, right? So don’t get down on me for having a smartphone in the Peace Corps, because it has notably improved my service.