Dumelang! (Hello to you all!)
WHERE to begin. Well, first, I'm wiping the tears from my eyes reading your posts! It is SO good to hear news from home! I can't believe how much rain you guys are getting. What is going on!! Thank you so much for writing. Any news from home is a blessing. Yes mom, I got your post.
I'm well, very well. I'm living w/ a host family in the Moletji section of the Sekolo village. I hear that you guys are having a hard time finding me on a map. The closest town is Bela Bela. You should be able to find it. There is also a town called Warmbad (or something like that).
I live with a mother, father, and a grandmother. I'm so grateful that my family had a "cabin in the woods" and had some time hauling water and using an outhouse, b/c that is what I'm doing here! (And am fine with it.)
I do wish my grandma Simon were around to help me with handwashing clothes. I'm really bad with this and am feeling that I'm not getting my clothes very clean.
I had a really rough transition b/c my 91 year old grandmother sits on the cold floor all of the time and I'm afraid she probably sleeps on the floor as well. I'm mostly upset about this b/c the family has given me the nicest room in the house: I have a nice big bed, a table and chair, and a burea for my clothes. I cried about it when I told the PC staff, but they have tried their best to assure me that the grandmothers here are happy on the floor and would be very uncomfortable in my bed. (I can't fathom.)
I'll give you a daily blow by blow:
I get up early because our classes at the college begin at 8:00 am. As I need to catch the bus at 7:15, I'm up at 6:00. My mma (sestwana word for mother) rises earlier than I to make sure I have a bath and a hot breakfast. They seem very concerned about my cleanliness as they make me baths twice a day. My bath: I bath in a basin. My Mma collects water from a community tap, heats it for me on an open fire, then cooks my breakfast. She usually makes me oatmeal with coffee and hot milk.
I'm at the college from 8-5 with lessons in language (I'm drowning in language, but anticipated much difficulty), technical stuff (teaching), and culture. The bus ride to my village from the college is about 40 minutes, so I get home right at dark. My maa has another basin bath ready for me and then we all sit around a shovel full (literally, a shovel full) of hot coals to keep warm and they help me study Setswana. My Rra (father) speaks decent English but my Mma fusses at him if he speaks to me in English as they're supposed to be helping me learn Setswana. I shrug my shoulders a lot and they are very patient with me.
My African name is Moleboeng (Moe lay bow ang) which loosely translates as :gift from God. Although I'm humbled with such a wonderful name, I rarely answer to it (my brain doesn't recognize it) so my Rra, at least, has resorted to calling me Karen (KAH ren).
They are wonderful to me and I feel very lucky.
Mma cooks a lovely dinner every night which is no small task. Again, she is cooking over an open flame. Deanna is quick to notice people's hands and I'm sure she'd be mightily impressed with hers: the skin on her hands seems three inches thick. To manage the flame under the fire, she uses her hands to grab a burning log to move the flames around under the pot. She lifts amazing amounts of weight and carries heavy items on her head. (I'm going to have her show me how to do this.)
They like carbs here and it is not uncommon to have three starches for dinner: pap, rice, potatoes. My Mma and I have a nighly ritual whereby she must remove 2/3 of the pap from my plate. :-)
We have a ritual washing of the hands then we, again, sitting on the floor around the glowing embers in the shovel, eat our dinners with our hands.
My Mma is growing a garden. She has beets, cabbage, and spinach planted. I almost cried when she showed me. She has a big heap of thorny branches covering the small plants to keep the animals off.
My family has chickens and goats. They slaughtered a chicken for me on my second day in the home.
My Rra was born in 1940 and I'm not sure how old my Mma is. She seems younger than I, but they told me they were married in 1975. I guess she could still be younger than I. They have a son and a daughter who live, I think, in Pretoria. It is not uncommon for family members to live and work in Pretoria and come to the village on weekends. Pretoria is where the jobs are.
What else. I'm still feeling overwhelmed and this too, I anticipated. I figure I'll feel unsettled until February or so. I'll learn of my permanent site on Aug 28 and will move there around the 18th of September. It will be the end of the school year, so I'll have from Sept - December to settle into my permanent village, observe my schools (I'll probably have two that I serve), and figure out what the heck I'll be doing here for two years! :-)
I found a small pond in my village that is quiet and attracts wildlife. I can't wait to get my hands on an SA field guide.
Please, no one send me one! I can pick one up in Pretoria and will probably have one by the time one arrived from the states. Also, we have to pay hefty duties on packages received.
What I am very glad I had brought: Dr. Bronner's bar soap. I use it for EVERYTHING. I'm also to grateful to have brough several handkerchiefs (thanks mom!) and some bandanas.
Life here is such a contradiction in so many ways. And my time here is pushing my comfort zones in so many ways! I'm having loads of learning opportuntities! Anyone who knows me well knows I don't give a hoot how I look, much to Deanna's chagrin. :-)
Well, in SA, appearances are VERY IMPORTANT. S. Africans hold every esteem in proper dress. What is proper dress: dress shirts/ties/dress pants/jackets for guys; blouses, skirts, dresses, tights for women. Why is this a problem? This is the dustiest, driest, rockiest place I have ever been. You can't wear a pair of black shoes around the yard without having them coated in red dust all day. The red dust shows on black dress pants, etc.
And laundering? You HAND WASH everything with boiled water from an open flame. Ever checked the lable on your nice clothes? Ever see: dry clean only? So, what a contradiction: you SHOULD be wearing clothes suitable for the out of doors yet everyone walks around in their Sunday best.
I did have to buy a skirt to meet the chief, who was a no-show by the way! :-)
The other thing. If anyone else knows me well, they know I dislike idle chatter. What's the point? Well, everything in SA village life revolves around GREETING people. The most important interaction you can ever have with an African South African is to greet them. People are late to work (and acceptably so) for stopping to greet everyone in their village as they make way for work. And, once a day isn't enough. If you see your neighbor eight times a day, you have to formally greet them eight times a day. It's exhausting. So, I'm exhausted. :-)
What else. Back home in the States, we fence our animals. Here in SA, they fence their yards to keep out the animals. So you see these animals: cows and donkeys roaming the streets lookiing for food. The villagers fence their yards to keep out the animals. It doesn't make sense to me.
S. African African women love to work. They always work. My Mma, I catch her everyday sweeping the yard. What is wrong with this? The yard is nothing but red dirt. So she sweeps the yard of red dirt. I don't know why, other than African women love to work.
I hoard my candy (PC training is like any other business setting I've ever been in: they slam you with candy hoping you can sit through 8 hours of nonsense) and carry it home to a little girl that has stolen my heart. Her name is Dimakatso and she is 9 years old. She is the best Sestswana teacher i have and she follows me everywhere. I found out last night tho, that my Mma and Mmagogoho (grandmother) want candy just as much, so I'll have to spread the sweet around a bit.
We're going on a trip to J-burg this Saturday to see the Apartheid Museum. Rumor has it that we'll be in a shopping mall as well.
I currently make 100 rand a week as a "walk around" allowance, but learned today that I'll make 2, 500 rand per month when I move to my permanent site.
The stars here at night are magnificent. I think I can see a band of the Milky Way but don't know enough about the stars to know if this is indeed possible, or if I'm seeing smoke from the cooking fires. :-) Regardless, it takes my breath away to see them and I almost cry.
Believe it or not, I was teaching English grammar to African children in grades 4, 5, and 6 today. None of them knew what a woolly worm was and I'm not sure they grasped my description. I miss woolly worms.
More than one person has commented about my "southern accent." I never think of myself as having an accent, but guess I do.
I'd better skiddattle. I'm using the Internet when I'm not supposed to. (It's not my turn.)
Love to you all, thanks for posting, will be in touch, k