March 14th, 2013
Every Peace Corps Country has an emergency action plan to keep volunteers safe during times of turmoil within a country. Each stage increases the severity of the security threat and gives us instructions to follow.
Today at the first light of 5:45am I received a SMS (text message) that said we were in a code orange and I needed to get to my consolidation point as soon as possible. At the time I didn’t know this was drill (had an inkling, but didn’t know for sure) so I diligently packed my emergency bag – clothes, food, water, medicine, Emergency Action Plan guide, both passports, id card, phone, and South African Rand in case we needed to cross a border out of Swaziland. I told my family I was going to the town my consolidation point is in and didn’t know when I would be back. As I walked away, I realized that if this weren’t a drill this would be last time I saw them. That was a sad moment, I almost ran back to hug my Make.
Thankfully it was 6am so transport to Siteki, where I consolidate, was easy to get. I met all the other PCVs in my area and we all figured out that this was just a drill. Members from our Peace Corps office arrived a few hours later and checked to see how long it took us all to get there, if there were problems, and if we all packed what we needed. I passed with flying colors. Nice to know if stuff is going down I can get all packed and to my consolidation point within an hour, even when I am half asleep.
I was home by 10:30am and explained the whole thing to my Make. She thought I was acting really weird as I left in the morning so it was nice to clear the air. She didn’t even tell my Babe (host dad) I had left because I didn’t give her an explanation. Overall I am glad it was just a drill. It was an exciting hour until I found out, but also a nervous hour. Being forced home with no notice at this point in my service would be hard. Being evacuated would be hard period having to return to America with only the stuff in my emergency bag, but even harder would not being able to say goodbye to my friends and family here.