Hello Family! I can't tell you how much I miss you all, and am, once again, wiping away the tears as I write this after reading about news from home.
First things first: Peace Corps is not responsible for anything I post on this blog.
Secondly, please, all of you, quit sending me American stamps. They do not work here. I will save the forever stamps b/c I'm told at some point I will use them when people return to the states and can "carry" them for me. But for now, I can only use SA stamps.
My whole postage/stamp situation is ironic bc This first 8 weeks will really be the only time I'm relying on snail mail. After the 15th or so of Sept, I'll have a cell phone--YAY! Postage is pricey here and we're only allotted a "walk around allowance" which is 100 rand a week. It costs me 20 rand to buy postage for three mailings.
Have you guys gotten any news from me by mail? I'm mostly sending to Deanna as she can spred the news to everyone. But Kim, I sent you a postcard, Mom, you one too (but worry I didn't have correct postage) and the Bonnie Wademan bunch (thanks for the card--I loved it.)
So far, I've only received two letters from D and read them over and over. I had no idea how much I would be moved by news from home. I crave every nugget. And again, by the time you read this and all of you feel moved to send me mail, I will have a cell phone and lots more money to mail cards/etc.
Also, I understand that calls from my cellphone to the states will be very expensive but that I can receive incoming calls for free. I'm worried that an international call from the States is very pricey as well... Could someone do a bit of research for me? One source told me a call to Africa from the States is $10. I do hope it is not that much.
My African mother taught me how to do laundry on Sunday and it isn't as bad as I thought it would be (and will be much easier than how I've been attempting it on my own. She "washes" in one tub w/ laundry soap (she uses a flat board to scrub on... She was letting me try it, but was quickly disatisfied with my efforts and relegated me to rinsing). She had two other tubs for rinsing twice. I learned that rinsing is really the trick, so no wonder the washing machines have 2 or more rinse cycles. I really miss my energy-efficient washer...
She also wasn't crazy about how I hung the clothing to dry, and came behind me "fixing" my arrangements.
I've felt very guilty with all of the brand new things that have come with me from America. In fact, I often feel like Karen Blixen with her crystal and china when I open my suitcase full of goodies and gadgets (batteries, over-the counter pain reliever, etc.). But I was greatly pained to see my brand-new clothes hanging along side with my African family's. Many of their clothes are in tatters. It breaks my heart to think of the clothing I sent to Goodwill before I came.... I wish I had brought those items with me to Africa.
I've had a rough week emotionally, probably because Chris turned 22 this week. It was so hard to be so far away from him and to not be able to call. Can someone (D?) phone him and tell him I was thinking of him all day?
I've also missed Marilyn's, Helens, and Kristin's. Kim, I will miss yours as well (but will be thinking of you ALL DAY on Monday), Kara's, and Mom's. Mom, maybe I'll have a phone in time for yours!
But mostly, I miss you all dreadfully. I knew I would.
Tammy, happy wedding day! I wish I were there for you!
I'm also missing the Gillian Welch/Davod Rawlings show on the waterfront. How was it?
And of course, I'll miss the big bike ride that Deanna and a bunch of my peeps will be riding in. (Including my uncle Terry, who is a cancer survivor--among many other wonderful things).
I haven't taken my camera out because I'm so conscious of me being the "haver" against my family who are the "have nots." But I've borrowed a friend's field guide and have seen the following if any of you have time to google images.
First, and sadly, I'm too far south for the baobab. I'm terribly sad about this but hope I will be able to see some in my travels.
Along that line, I'm told, although I haven't seen any evidence of this yet, that I can do lots of camping/hiking here, and hopefully will see bunches of cool stuff someday. As far as cool African game, I've read that the cool animals are restricted to wildlife reserves.
But I have seen some cool stuff. But remember, I'm easily entertained... I stopped traffic in AK because I was admiring a magpie. (He WAS magnificent!)
cattle egret: they stand by the cows and eat the ticks off of them! COOL!
gray go away bird: this is a grey bird that has a crown and a long tail. I swear I've seen this one in zoos. It gets its name from its call: gweey (go away). I like this bird very much.
crimson breasted shrike. Love this bird too. He has a bright red belly. (But his call reminds me of the pathetic cry Deanna's little yellow finch made back in June. Is he still hanging out D?)
Blue waxbill: a beautiful little bluebird the color of the sky.
Pied crow. I know, it's a crow. But he is BEAUTIFUL. They soar in the sky hear like our hawks back home and they're black with a white belly and collar. They are very striking.
White browed sparrow: lovely little sparrow with a striking mark on its head
White faced whistling duck: I watch these guys at the "damn." (That's what the people here call the pond.) They look exactly like that: a duck with a white face that whistles.) They love to fly as a flock over the pond and soar and soar together.
My favorite so far: a grey heron. He's a magnificent bird that reminds me of our great blue heron. We only have one at our pond and I can watch him for hours.
Cactus here literally grow on trees. It was weird to see a prickly pear cactus growing out of a tree trunk! Other more regular type cactus grow here as well: naboom, and queen of the night.
Trees I've been able to identify so far include:
umbrella thorn (there are lots of thorn trees here, but it is winter. Trees are hard for me to id in the winter and hope to be able to identify more as spring arrives and things begin to bloom).
sacred coral: favorite so far b/c it is blooming. It reminds me of our saucer magnolia that has the beautiful pink blossoms before they leaf out. This tree has beautiful fuschia blossoms before the tree leafs out.
A lot of cool aloes too. I've seen one type that grows 8' tall. But another grows out of a tree trunk: eastern tree aloe. Another cool one: mountain aloe.
matumi, jacaranda (some of these are beginning to bloom), English oak (an import), weeping willow, small knobwood, and paperbark thorn.
I think I've spoken a bit about two of my favorites that are grown here, and seem to grow year-around: geraniums and marigolds. I found marigolds at the primary school I'm observing and cried when I realized what they were. I couldn't believe it.
Mammals and such, sorry guys. Again, I haven't seen any of Africa's BIG FIVE. But I've seen plenty of mammals: cows, donkeys, goats. A few dogs and cats (actually, my family has a cat--a black cat and I was surprised by this. I was told naitive people don't like cats. Actually, it's kind of funny. My bonus dad hated cats while we were growing up and then took a surprising turn later in life and has become quite fond of them. I'm reminded of my bonus dad when my African dad coos to the cat. Actually, I don't think my ma and go go (grandma) care much for the cat. And I smile too, watching the cat eagerly lap up bogobe (pap) while Deanna ususally struggles at home trying to get the dogs to eat expensive dog food.)
Oops, I digressed. Most of the families in my village have cattle. The cattle live in the bush but are rounded up every day and are walked to my "damn" (my pond) for water. I was there yesterday, trying to have a quiet lunch when at least 20 farmers brought their cattle. It was amazing to see so many large animals being handled by one man with a stick (or whip). Amazing.
My family also has goats and chickens. I feel sorry for the goats as they are confined in a small space and lie in their own excrement. (But they too, are released everyday to forage/feed.) I like watching the chickens because they are everywhere and are so new to me. There are usually a couple of hens leading a batch of peeping chicks around too.
I wouldn't want to be an animal here, b/c life is very hard for them. But of course, the same can be said about the people who live here too.
I hear jackals at night crying out in the bush. I didn't know what these calls were until recently when my African father explained to me. (don't worry tho, my African father refuses to allow me to go out at night, even for the toilet. I use something akin to a chamber pot--we all do.)
There are some rather interesting insects that hang out in the pit-toilet. I'll leave these for your imagination. I don't remember these from home. :-)
The mosquitoes aren't bad here yet, but that is because it is winter. I hear they are on their way. :-)
I'm all typed out today, but want to tell you of my experiences in the schools these last few weeks. I'll save that for next time.
Again, know I am will and miss you dreadfully, k