Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31st, 2010

Now that I’m all caught up on my blog, the blogs will be current. As usual the past couple weeks have not been lacking in adventure, craziness and chaos. Lol

I spent two glorious days in Tzaneen with Maggie and Peter at their Avocado plantation. Tzaneen is absolutely gorgeous as well as the Plantation. I spent two days following Maggie around learning about gardening, compost, wormeries and seeing what life is like in the area. Fascinating! I learned so much and I hope Maggie would be proud to know that i got a small wormery set up and the compost is on the way. We also spent plenty of time in the kitchen making homemade pasta, and hot fudge sauce for dessert. The plantation was so peaceful and offered a break from everything, not to mention it is always wonderful to have a hot shower.

I then headed to Skororo to visit Wendy and help her with a world map project. 15 girls from Rodean School in Joberg came out to the area for 5 days to do service projects with the kids from the many Phedisang OVC centres. I didn’t know what to expect but ended up having an amazing time. I was so impressed by the girls. They were compassionate, mature and knowledgeable and had a desire to soak everything up. The experience was profound and I could see a marked change in them when they left. Rebecca, Nicola and Ayanda were the three girls that I helped with the world map. With a little ingenuity and lots of hard work we managed to complete it in time. Thanks Wendy for the amazing opportunity!

Travelling home proved to be quite insane. There weren’t very many people at the taxi rank (come to find out it was due to the strike). I waited and waited for the taxi to fill up and an hour later was still the only one there. The driver came around to me and told me I should hitchhike (‘no thanks!’). Out of desperation I offered to pay him a few extra Rand to take me the 20 miles, he agreed but then 10 minutes into the ride reneged the offer and left me stranded at a cross road and told me to hike. Finally another taxi came along and I was able to make it home. Whew!

I came home to find that things had indeed been affected by the strike. The water had been out since Thursday (I got home on Tuesday of last week). Themby has several gallons of water stored up for exactly this situation but we started to run low the other day. I finally got a friend to come with his pickup and he took the bottles and filled them for us. So now we have enough to last a few more days. The strike is in its third week now. Pretty crazy.

Last night the transformer by our house blew up, so now I’ve no running water (in the yard) and no electricity. No worries, I’m coping and I swear I don’t stink. Lol

On Sunday, some fellow PCV’S came over for Mexican food and Chocolate Ganache cake. It’s always so nice to spend time with them.

August 16th, 2010

After returning from training I decided to give the bake sale a go. We made exactly what we spent. But we learned a lot and think we're gonna try again in a couple weeks. The most frustrating part of being here is trying to get people to help do the projects they've wanted help with and then to get them to follow through and take ownership. I.e. Getting them to work for the compensation. You help bake the goodies and then you'll get money for transport. There's the notion that they want the money without having to do the work. I try my hardest not to give and say 'never mind, I'll do it myself'. :)

I got to go to part of a circumcision school closing ceremony with Rhandzu. I got to see the part where the young boys are brought home out of the bush where they have been for a couple months. The women will gather a ways away from a small arena of sorts and will start to dance and sing. The boys are led to the arena where older men who have already been to the bush will fight one another with a long willowy stick in one hand and a shield in the other. A little while after we arrive and were standing with the women and a very few men, Rhandzu turned to me and said 'I just want you to know that only men who have never been circumcised stand over here with the women' lol he was making a big sacrifice so that I wouldn't have to stand there alone:)

Last week I spent most of my time trying to hook up a new computer and then fix our two sick computers. Viruses abound here and most computers are not protected well. I’m still trying to encourage people to take ownership and responsibility for the garden. Between that and the lack of water it’s proving to be quite difficult. It's growing fast but could quickly die if there's not consistent care.

On Thursday the water truck destroyed our gate when they were backing out of the project. I calmly called the owner of the truck, who is hired by the municipality to deliver water, and asked him what he could do to rectify the situation. His response? 'Well then we just won't bring you water anymore'. What?????? He replies 'we were doing you a favor bringing you water and we just won't bring it anymore'. Ahhhh! Glad to say I remained calm and got him to consent to come out to see the damage the next day. I was just informed that he didn't come so we'll have to continue calling him, just like the Borehole guy, and hope he can fix it.

Friday I left again and travelled the 7 hours back to Kwandebele college to participate in diversity fishbowl training for the newest group of PCV's that have been here for about a month now. The concept of the fishbowl is to have some people represent different aspects of diversity, I.e. Race, color, religion etc. to show them the diversity of the PCV and to encourage them to support one another. They asked me to talk about my experiences with religion in South Africa. It went well.

After the session I travelled a little ways to Emily's site which happens to be in one of the two villages we lived in during our PST training when we first got to SA. We celebrated her birthday with Mexican Food and brownies and on Sunday we went to visit my home stay family.

Today I am on my way to Tzaneen, a beautiful city in Limpopo province. I'm going to be staying with Maggie (a lady who is often recruited by PC to be on the South African diversity panel representing the diversity of SA she represents the British population) for two nights before heading to a village about an hour from Tzaneen to visit Wendy and help her with her world map project.

As much as I love to travel, I feel like I've been gone a lot from my site the last couple months and long for the familiarity and comfort of my home in Rolle.

Anyways, that's it for now. Hope you are all well.

August 8th, 2010

Hi everyone! I'm really trying to be better at updating you all more often. So I decided to take advantage of the two hour taxi ride to write you and hope I don't get car sick in the process.

It's been a whirlwind the last couple weeks and the next three are looking to be about the same. Training went ok. It was a little hard and somewhat (ok very) boring to sit through lectures for 8 hours a day after being free and active at site. A lot of the stuff they talked about was good info but it was stuff we already knew and it was geared for the supervisors. Joyce(my supervisor and the project manager) was unable to come because of health reasons so Clara (caregiver coordinator) came to the training with me. She seemed to enjoy herself and I got her to be a little
proactive and try to figure out some of the stuff on her own.

After classes every day I spent about 4 hours cutting hair for my fellow volunteers, most of whom were very shaggy since it has been about 4 month since I last saw them (read: since they last got a hair cut). Some insisted on paying me so I had a donations box and I used the money as start-up capital for the bake sale last week.

It was great to see everyone and it was nice to catch up and hear about everyone's unique situations. It really is so interesting how different our sites and situations are even just a few miles apart from each other. By the end of the week I was excited to return to my cozy, peaceful room in Rolle :)

July 26th, 2010

Hi! I'm sorry its been so long since I've written a decent update. With the back thing followed by a bad cold and going back and forth to Nelspruit, trying to play catch up at the project, world cup festivities and spending time fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and other friends it's been a little crazy.

The Back:

So after my ER visit, I stayed in Nelspruit and went to the Physiotherapist twice then came home. I continued to take the drugs the rest of that week and then stopped. After the Dr. injected my back, the spasms stopped and then it was matter of slowly making the muscles relax. I had a follow up appointment on the following Friday but it was postponed to the Tuesday, cause I got a bad cold and wasn't able to travel.

The Garden:

The garden was planted, while I was in Nelspruit dealing with the back thing, by the caregivers who work closest to the project. They planted lots of cabbage, green peppers, onions, lettuce, spinach and beet root. They are growing! :) Now it’s just a matter of making sure it gets watered...

The Borehole:

The JoJo ran out of water as soon as they finished planting the garden. Turns out the borehole isn't working for whatever reason. When we called the guy who dug it for us, he informed us that he was no longer with the company and had moved to KZN. We called the company and they informed us that he had been fired for pocketing all the money from our job and that they have no idea about our borehole. The boss has promised several times to come take a look but has never followed through. In the meantime we asked the municipality to come fill our JoJos for us, two weeks later they still hadn't come, only to find that they hadn't paid the guys that they contract out to deliver the water....sigh....evidence of the lack of organization and initiative in the area. The municipality finally came and we're hoping they can keep returning until we can get the borehole situation resolved. There were a couple days there where we had to carry water from 3-4 blocks away. I got the kids to help out, but it was no small task.

World Cup:

It was an amazing success and Africa is proud that such a big event was held here without a hitch and hopes it proved that there are plenty of misconceptions about this place. The country was abuzz with energy and it even trickled into the rural areas. You always knew a goal had been made when you heard vuvuzelas throughout the neighbourhood. I watched the first game at the fan park in my shopping town with some fellow volunteers and community friends. I caught glimpses of other games on TV and listened to a couple on the radio. Everyone is sad that it’s over but we're all hoping that people will go home and tell all their friends and families how incredible South Africa is. It really really is!


This week SA21 is attending IST (In Service Training) at the college we stayed at when we first arrived in South Africa. It’s really fun to see everyone after so long. Not sure I'm excited about being in training all day though. At the end of the week we get to go visit the families we stayed with during our PST (Pre Service Training). That should be really amazing and I'm excited for that.

Anyways, things are going well. Everyday is about a dozen rollercoasters and I'm often exhausted and completely overwhelmed at the end of the day. I often feel like I cannot make a dent in the massive amount of need here. Sigh, doing what I can....

May 16th, 2010

Our Ocho de Mayo party was a blast! 9 of us got together at Jasen's (The same Jasen who came to help with our language class during training, turns out he lives 30 minutes away) place. We managed to get all the ingredients for an amazing Mexican Fiesta. Mexican food is hard to find here and expensive when you do find it. I was ecstatic that after two months of searching I was able to find dried frijoles negros! We really did have way way too much food, but it was so good! Especially the fresh salsa and guacamole. :)

Last Monday the staff at Wisani asked me to help them in the kitchen where the water man had just inserted a huge hose through the window to fill up our water jugs. Needless to say it was an instant disaster as we were not ready and he had the hose on riot disbursing strength. They didn't have the other water jugs ready and in the process of me yelling at the top of my lungs for the man to turn off the water(which he didn't understand cause of course I was yelling in English) I got completely soaked. Good thing I decided to wear a white skirt that day huh?!... Sigh...

...AND then I found out that while I was in there getting soaked, my supervisor left because she got a call that her niece died. And that same morning the cook quit. It was a very interesting day!

A few days before that I got a text from my language teacher telling me that her father had passed away and she invited all of us in her group to come to the funeral. Even though I've heard about a death almost every day (there really is too much of it here) this was the first funeral I was invited to. The funeral was held on sat and since two of us live really close to where the funeral was, the other four from our language group travelled here and stayed the weekend. Her dad was a regional magistrate (judge) and so there were A LOT of people there. It started at 6am and the service itself didn't finish till 10 am. We didn't leave until about 2. It was a long day.

I had a very interesting surprise during the funeral. So, I'm sitting at the funeral service and they start to play a recording of some choir singing hymns. It catches my attention and I think 'whoa! I think this is motab' so I start listening really close and think 'naw can't be, we're in the middle of rural SA and I'm the only Mormon around for miles'. THEN 'Come Come ye Saints' starts playing!!!!!!!!! What the random!!!!!?????? I couldn't believe it! They were playing Mormon Tabernacle Choir!

So after a very long day Wendy (one of two girls from the group who slept at my place) and I fell asleep at 7:30 pm (don't tell anyone, I feel retarded and old!!).

Yesterday I went to church with one of the orphans, Jordan. He's 19 and still in 10th grade. The education system is here is a bit messed up and often it itself is the reason kids don't graduate or why they stay behind. He's the one I chose to be my Shangaan tutor and he's really stepped up to the challenge. He's doing much better than I expected and is a disciplined and demanding tutor :) Anyways, he invited me to his church (I think he assumed I wasn't Christian or Religious or something. It was a cool experience.

So then we come to today :) I went to town before work to purchase some paint tint for a mural project the art teacher is going to do with the orphans. I got Medal Paint to donate 25 gallons of white paint and then the Huish's donated $100 for me to buy the tint and brushes etc. I hope it turns out to be a fun project for the kids.

On the way home I saw a huge crowd of people gathered in a field and people setting up food stands etc. I asked and found out that it was pension day. What happens is that portable cash machines are brought to a specific location in the village once a month so that people can collect their pensions ($ for kids and the disabled). After dropping the paint off at work I decided to walk over and take a look. Edith accompanied me and she got one of the government workers to show me how things work. It was fascinating! They electronically scan people's fingers as a signature (I guess because some people can't write).

When I returned I found out that we were out of food for the orphans for the rest of the month. Sigh... this is the frustrating part. I guess the cook that just quit has been stealing food or making more than was needed and then taking home the leftovers. We only get $150 a month to buy food for them in the first place. And I also discovered that that grant will finish in July and there's no backup after that. I need to start encouraging the staff to start writing grant requests. Lots of work to be done....

Kori, my APCD (Assistant Peace Corp Director) will be here in the morning to do a site visit. Should be interesting, this is my first one so I'm not sure what to expect. Joyce, my supervisor at Wisani, told me not to worry about Kori coming (I'm not) that she and Themby, my host mom, are proud of me:) it was really sweet and encouraging. I was beginning to think they might find me annoying and too vocal.

So there you are, you're now all caught up on my life:)

oh wait!! I almost forgot! I gave the orphans a class about Mexico and I made them quesadillas and guacamole to taste. They loved it! Coolest thing of all? I carried a sack of oranges all the way home from work on my head!!!! :) that was one of my goals while I'm here, to learn how to carry things on my head. It was awkward and a little difficult but I did it!!! :)

March 25th, 2010

Well today I was sworn in as an official PC Volunteer. Up until now I've been a trainee. I arrive at my permanent site a couple hours ago and am starting to settle in. It will take a while.

I found out that there's a branch of my church a couple hours from me in Nelspruit and after getting in touch with the Branch President there I found out that there is a new senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Atkinson,from PG, Utah that just arrived in country the same time I did.They've emailed me and are going to let me spend the night at their place on the Saturdays I can make it down so that I can attend church:) I'm very excited about that since I haven't been to church in over two months....

March 10th, 2010

This is it! The room that will serve as my studio for the next two years. We finally arrive here for a week long site visit just after 7:30. I really wish they could make it so that we arrive during the day instead of after dark. I think I'd feel a little less vulnerable if I didn't have to sleep at a new place five minutes after arriving there and not getting a clear picture of people and things. Sigh...I have to do this all over again, the first two weeks are the hardest but it always gets better after that.

March 5th, 2010

I thought I'd give you a brief glimpse of my schedule the next few weeks.

Tomorrow we find out about our permanent sites and about the NGO's we'll be working for. YAY!!!!!!!

Sat we go to Pretoria to the Vortrekker museum.

Sunday we are holding a village 5k fun run to raise some money for the home care clinic in the next town. This might be utter chaos since they only informed us that we would be doing it this last Friday. We are scrambling to pull it together. Upwards of 2 thousand people may attend. Gah!!!!!

Monday we have language and get out early to pack for our week long site visit. We meet our supervisors on Tuesday and spend the night at Kwandebele College where we first stayed when we arrived in country. Wednesday at lunch we head to our individual sites with our supervisors. We will be making our own way back to Machipe on the following Monday.

We have classes Tuesday-Thursday. Friday we go to Pretoria to do all our shopping for our site I.e. Fridge, pots, plates etc.

Saturday we have our last language class.

Sun the 21st we have our Host family farewell.

Monday- Wednesday we have our language tests etc then on Thursday the 25th we have our swearing in ceremony where we officially become PC volunteers(PCV) instead of PC trainee's (PCT). Yahoo!!!!!! :)

Then it's off to our sites for the next two years. I found out the close of service (COS) is on March 24th 2012. So it's really 26 months not 27 :) unless I decide to extend for some reason.....

Sala kahle!!!!

Feburary 23rd, 2010

Today was really interesting! I was woken up this morning at 5:30am not only by the VERY loud rooster that stays outside my window but to a whole chorus of chickens, chicks and roosters! I had earplugs in and I could still hear them! I have no idea what was going on but I had to close my window so I could go back to bed!

Language went well today, we started learning the vocab for clothes and we have a current Peace Corps volunteer, Jasen (from SA18. We're SA21 meaning we're the 21st PC group in South Africa. He’s an education volunteer who arrived in July 2008. Education volunteers come in July and CHOP volunteers arrive in Feb. so they get a new group every six months. PCV's come help train us PCT's) who speaks Xitsonga (Shangaan) come sit in on our class.

One of the trainers wasn't able to make it today so instead of her session we discussed the diversity panel we had a few weeks ago and our trip last Saturday to the Apartheid museum. It was interesting but so sad what people are capable of when driven by greed and fear. It's amazing though to see how fast race relations have progressed here in the last 15 years.

After lunch we had some training about working with NGO's and I totally spaced out. I've had a hard time focusing the last two days, not sure why...

After that training we split into our language groups for PAL(Practical Application of Language) for about an hour but we were interrupted by the Vervet monkeys who were trying to steal some food. At one point a baby monkey jumped up onto the fence behind Julie. She screamed, the baby screamed, they jumped about 5 feet. The baby monkey climbed high into the wood rafters and proceeded to cry for its mother. Some other teenage female monkey nearby heard it and came over while making threatening moves at us to get away from the baby. She went up and got the baby and the hugged each other (awwww). They finally got down and both quickly ran away. Then a large male came over to steal food and was actually charging people!!! It was a little intense!!!!

So then I get home, very tired and having to pee. Well something I've come to learn about pit toilets during the summer is that there are always flies inside and if you slam the door or the lid to the toilet they will all fly out. Well I did that and one fly came out. I was thinking that they were all out so I sit down to pee and as I start to pee I hear this incredibly loud buzzing sound coming from beneath me. I look down and see TONS of flies flying up out of the pit. I can't remember the last time I jumped so high!!!! ARGH! Bloody flies!!!! I think I got pee on my shoes :(

So that was my day. I'm just sitting here anxiously awaiting dinner and contemplating baking something tonight. By then it will be time for my bucket bath. Machipe is out of water and I'm not sure when the municipality will be coming around with more.....

Feburary 16th, 2010

Well, I had a few firsts today I thought I'd share. I saw zebras in their natural habitat (oh and did I mention that I've seen monkeys and baboons at the reserve where we have our training? I know this is really random but in this species of monkey (Vervet monkey), the male's have sky blue balls...seriously!). The other first for today was that I took my very first bucket bath. Although the family I'm staying with has a shower, the water tank that feeds the shower is empty till the end of the week. You know, it really wasn't bad at all! I used a five gallon bucket and stood in the middle of the bathtub and yeah, it works. This might not be so bad after all! But to be fair, it was more of a bucket shower than a typical South African bucket bath. Attached is a video of our favorite monkey at the reserve, we called her stumpy. She is missing half of her left arm.

Feburary 15th, 2010

Hi everybody! Well, I'm into my third week in SA. We arrived at our home stay’s last weekend and I'm living in a small village called Machipe. I found out the day before I came to the village that I would be learning Xitsonga (x is pronounced sh). I've had a week of classes and a little is starting to seep in. It was an oral (as opposed to written) language so it's often difficult to teach us as we assume there should be lots of rules etc but there really aren't any. The teacher always responds 'it just doesn't sound right' when we ask why it is structured the way that it is, when we think there is a pattern and then she writes something that breaks the pattern. I am staying with the Moloko family. I have my own room inside the house. Gogo Joanne lives in a room separated from the main house with a nice thatched roof (it is much much cooler than a tin roof). Maggie and her three kids, Hope (12), Letabo(8) and Silo(18 months) stay in the main house and Umpo (25?) stays in a room on the other side of the house. Umpo also serves as my translator since Gogo, Maggie and the kids don’t speak English. My host father is a construction worker (he lives and works in Joberg). That might explain why they have a shower and a kitchen 5 times the size of my last one in DC. Don't worry though; I do still have to use a pit toilet (sometimes called a ‘long drop’) that is located outside about 20 feet from the house. Too bad it’s in the front yard where any passerby can see where you’re headed... it's not that bad though. Anyways things are going well. Class schedules are crazy busy but I'm trying keep up with all the info.