Monday, August 31, 2009

Aug 31, 09 Just when you're ready to throw in the towel...

Peace Corps throws you a bone. (Am somewhat kidding about throwing in the towel--I'm here for the duration.)

I think I've just checked into a 5 star hotel: Sparkling Springs near Rustenburg (sp?) SA. I'm here for two days for a workshop with my new, soon to be boss (all of us are here).

A bed that resembles a bed in the us, a BATHTUB, HOT WATER OUT OF INDOOR PLUMBING, HOT WATER, hangers, a closet, a TV, carpeting, etc. I'm in shock.

Not to mention a SWIMMING POOL, tennis courts, a luxury spa... Am I still in Africa?

Yes, many of you detected a disgruntled note in my last post, and yes, my family was only reacting to the Peace Corps "debriefing" with them about how our homestays were working out. My family loves me very much and is somewhat overprotective of me. They were distraught to learn that I will be leaving them soon to go to my permanent site.

Which is my big news:

After the workshop, my supervisor will take me to my "new home" which is, hold on to your hats: Vuselela College in a village in between Vrysburg and Tauong.

My amenities mentioned are: a studio apartment with OWN BATHROOM and mini-kitchen. Everyone here hates me and covets my housing situation. I'm hoping since it is on a college I'll have access to, dare I even dream, an internet connect, a LIBRARY, and perhaps a mailing address. I'm so excited I could pop.

What will I be doing? I'll be working with "outreach projects" which is very vague, but I'll be clearer by next week.

If I had known what my permanent post would be before leaving the states, I would have grumbled (I like roughing it). However, having lived in a rural village for 5 weeks now, I'm ready for an easier life. Anything involving making a wood fire, boiling water, hauling water makes for a long day. In short: I can't wait and am so happy!

Ok, so Deanna has promised not to come get me, so I'll relate my "bad camping story."

I was introduced to my homestay family my second week here and all of them were coughing and spewing from day one. I'm doling out Aleve all the while saying, "This won't help you; you need to go to the Doctor." I'm worried about them, am worried that my 91 year old go go (grandmother) is sitting/sleeping on the cold floor all day (she does sleep in a bed, btw. I've seen it.) having these horrible cold/flu symptoms.

On day three, the daughter who lives in some ambiguous place (Pretoria, probably: many family members live, work, and go to school in Pretoria while the remainder of the family lives at home in a village) and announces: I have SWINE FLU.

Ok, so I think, "Surely she doesn't know what she's talking about; doesn't she know how serious swine flu is? She's only nineteen. Surely she doesn't know what she's talking about." And I do not give it another thought.

I have, at this point, taken over dinner dishes duty, as they were washing their dishes in cold water with little soap. I'm happy, HAPPY to do the dishes now.

So, on day four of my homestay, I'm going to bed, turn off the lights, slip my foot down under my sleeping bag and ZING--this horrible pain shoots up from my foot. It's dark, I grab my reading light, shine it toward the pain, and a flipping SCORPION swinging his barbed tail saunters away. I feel like I am a horror film.

Ok, remember, this is me. It doesn't take much to derail me: I usually need weeks to recover from Thanksgiving Day holiday. :-)

So, it's thursday night, I'm EXHAUSTED, I've been living in Africa for only a few weeks, I'm trying to adjust to life at training (8-5 everyday of classes), and, I'm exhausted. So, I think, "I'm in no mood for anymore drama today so if I'm going to bed. If I die in the night of the scorpion sting, well, then I die.

So, God is good and I wake up the next morning, go to the college, call the Dr. about the scorpion sting. We decide I'm ok and to watch for any other symptoms to crop up. (I felt kind of sick the whole day and my foot hurt, but I was fine.) I hang up the phone, and hours later it occurs to me that I should have mentioned the swine flu scenario.

I call the Dr. again, and say, "Btw, this mystery daughter came home and announced 'I have swine flu' to the family, should I be concerned?" Thinking that he would laugh and say, "Oh no, it couldn't possibly be," he says instead "We need to get you out of there."


So, I felt sick all day from the scorpion sting on Friday, so it was decided that I would stay the weekend at the college. (D, this was when I was able to right the 8 page letter.)

Long story short: my homestay was evaluated for safety and determined safe for me to return and I returned on Monday after a weekend stay at the college.

The third week of August: we had three confirmed cases of swine flu in the group (Is it my fault? Should I have been quarantined? I haven't gotten sick, btw. My immune system must rock.), the military "demonstrated" in Pretoria and burned cars, scaled walls, etc., and I think my homestay family tried to "sell" my services to the loan shark for the money they borrowed to outfit my room. (This last scenario may have been misinterpreted, but as best I can tell, that is what was happening.)

So, I'm ready for a college campus setting with plumbing, safety, running water, lesser chance of scorpions, etc.

And, while I'm here, louisville has flooded and experienced a cool summer and one of our greatest statemen have died.

Thanks always for the words and news from home. It all warms my heart and makes me happy, so thanks for posting/snail-mailing.

I hope to have my own mailing address soon and I may have a phone by the end of the week.

I have taken photos of my homestay family, my village, and even this rocking hotel. I hope to post them too.

Love to all, and as always, PC is not responsible for or in anyway connected to this post.

(mo LAY boe hang)
Actually, the "h" in hang is a sound we make clearing our throats. I tell them that this is a rude noise in the states, but unfortunately, it is common in the Swana people's language. :-)


  1. It is so good to get news from you! Scorpions and swine flu are not what I was imagining but they both sound like they hurt. Were the 3 cases of swine flu in your PC group? Did they have to go back? I am so glad you will not be returning to your host family although I know you are probably not happy about their situation. A loan shark? Selling your services? What is that? It sounds like you got out just in time. Did you get there with all of your luggage? You never mentioned losing anything on the planes but it was a concern before you left. I know Bonnie will post when she sees this and she has an idea about how I can call you from her house. I will tell her you have posted. Thank you for letting us know you will be safe. Scorpions sting like the devil. I sent you letter today and will wait to see if you get it. Is your mail being forwarded until you get to final destination? I hope I get to send your next letter to your new post...or maybe you will have email.

    Love to you from home.

  2. Hi Karen!!

    Dee gave me your blogspot address so I can follow your adventures in Africa. I was of course horrified by the posting on the 31st of August but trust that you are better now and am very thankful that you didn't come down with the flu.

    You are on such a wonderful adventure there and I am certain it will be fun to follow you as time goes on.

    We all love and miss you here and look forward to hearing about your life and activities there!!

    Love John

  3. Karen/Molenboeng
    All I can say is WOW. I love your last blog, and knew there was some stress in the last few. This one made me happy!! But, now, I wonder what else has happened. Such a heavy load it seemed to be, and no time for rest? Everyone needs quiet time and time to regroup.

    Your assignment sounds wonderful. Will you be there for the full 2 years? I love the sound of your new living arrangements. God knew where you needed to be, and your new place pleases your Mother!! I hope the town has a good food market.

    I went to the new doctor on Tuesday. Very busy day. Physical, eye test, blood work and all the body parts. She took a lot of time with me..ha, she is new and I must have been the only patient for the day. Then I took Mom to her favorite Red Lobster, a little shopping then off for the mamogram. whew, what a day, but I knew that you would be pleased that I am now caught up on my doctor stuff.

    My life in Leitchfield sounds very boring, as we don't do much, so there is not much to tell. But we all love to hear about your stories. The national news is still full of Michael Jackson, and I am so tired of it. I was never a fan, but am beginning to hate him. Also the news the last few days is full of the story of an 11 year old girl who was kidnapped and held captive for 18 years. She bore her kidnapper 2 children. And the health care reform is not going well at all. The economy sounds to be doing a bit better. Our president Obama is almost totally grey haired.

    Pap and I are doing well. We are just living our usual life, so there is not much to tell. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, as are many, many friends of ours. Just stay safe, and please find time to enjoy.

    We miss you and love you so much.

  4. I'm so grateful right now for Google Maps. I found the college you mentioned and saw it from about 1000 ft in the air. It is between Retief St. and Kolbe St. on Auret St. It looks like a regular neighborhood although I did see something about state of the art dust suppression systems. I hope you will be comfortable there. Potchefstroom 2531, South Africa. When are you going to write? I will look around the area more later with the Google Map. It is very cool to actually see the place you wil be. I wish we could get you to hang out a window and wave at us! Be well.