Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, Aug 25--happy belated kim!

Hello Everyone!

Peace Corps is in no way connected to what I say here; all error, misinterpretations are mine.

My goodness, my note came off as grumpy last time. So sorry.

Pre-service training is officially half way over! I’m so glad… This part of the experience has been pretty miserable for me…

Suffice it to say, that there is a future blog post titled: things not previously mentioned because a) Deanna would stop what she was doing, borrow my friend Ann’s canoe, and row across the Atlantic to come fetch me; or b) Deanna would stop what she was doing, go borrow a gagillion dollars, and fly to Africa to come fetch me.

For those of you who know me well, these stories have everything to do with a) the curse of the “Milam luck”’; or “bad camping stories make great stories” or “Karen has a HUGE learning curve.

I’m fine, I’m really fine, but it has been a hard week or two.

The good news is that I learn of my “permanent site” on Friday and will actually go spend a week at my new site and get a feel for how things will actually be. The biggest part of my problem right now is feeling like I have people crawling all over me all the time and have no space or alone time. I’m pretty grumpy.

The good news is THAT I CAN HAPPILY STAY HERE! We did a shopping trip (well, actually a window-shopping trip because we’re all so broke) to Bella Bella (Warmbath) this weekend and I found, guess what, hold on to your seat: fresh ground pepper, BLUE CHEESE, olive oil, balsamic vinegar… ANY fresh fruit or veg that I can find in the states: blueberries, strawberries, lettuces, mushrooms. I was so happy to know that yes, these things are here and are available, only not in the villages.


I could have stayed here for two years without these things, but now I can HAPPILY stay here for two years.

What else…

So, I’m not up for trying to cook with my host family. Making a meal seems such a huge effort: boiling water, cutting, chopping, COOKING food I’m not familiar with, so, I’ve tried to find other ways I can help out.

I’ve found that the family seems (seemed) happy with my doing dishes (I wanted to quickly take over this task anyway because of some things having to do with “not previously mentioned…) and hauling water for the family from the community tap.

So, every morning I rise before “school” (a day at the college) to haul about 450 kilos of water (three to four trips with 3 containers of water hauled in a wheelbarrow). And in the evening, after dinner, I was the dishes on the front porch under the stars. Both of these tasks are the highlight of my day… My “that thing which we think of as God” has given me meditations in water. (A favorite thing about working for Bunton’s was watering the plants. It took at least 6 hours and I loved every moment of it.)

So, anyway, I thought my family was pretty happy with me. BUT, the families debriefed w/ Peace Corps this weekend and I’ve since learned that my family is not happy because: a) I’m not cleaning my room and b) I’m not cooking.

So, when I asked about this whole “cleaning of the room” deal, I was told that I am supposed to “sweep my room” (my room is a concrete floor with filthy carpet tiles), open a window to let fresh air in, and “make my room tidy” in case anyone wants to “see it.”(I lock my room when I’m not there, per PC instructions.)

So, I told my family I would be happy to assume these tasks and to please forgive the fact that I had no idea I was supposed to be doing them.

So, on Saturday, I “cleaned my room.” I swept, generated such a cloud of dust I’m still sneezing a coughing three days later, opened my window (was actually glad to be shown how to do this—I love fresh air!), and threw everything back into the suitcase. J

They seemed pretty happy with this.

And last night, I attempted to make bagobe (pap) the stiff cornmeal porridge that most of the Africans live on. (It’s very similar to corn grits without tasting anything like corn grits.)

So, I think I’m making peace with my family. I had no idea they were so perturbed.

Oh yeah. They’re very happy I’m doing my own laundry. Actually, the whole village is happy that I’m doing laundry and has even asked me to show another volunteer how to do it. J

That’s plenty for now, I’m sure. I’m told that SA is experiencing a mail strike. Apparently, Zuma promised everyone a 20 percent pay raise and strikes are very common here. (A phone company is still on strike.)

But I did get three letters from home! Yay!

Again, I love hearing every word: electronic and snail mail. I can’t respond to everyone personally, but I love, love, love reading every word.

I love all of you more than you can know. Hugs, Karen (Moleboeng)


  1. Dear Moleboeng,

    I promise not to come and get you although you are right, I very much wanted to after hearing 'clues' to your well-fair in your posts and letters. I got letter #2 Saturday and another card yesterday. Yesterday was one month since you left. It really seems like a year.

    Well, I can barely stand it until you send more details about your experiences and am hoping to hear your lovely voice soon. It looks like I am one of the first to see your post. It is very good to have internet at home and get this in a timely fashion...your post. Letter #6 went in the mail today with the items you requested.

    I love you and miss you. Deanna

  2. Also, dear Moleboeng,

    Hopefully, PC is not advising you to leave your room unlocked. It would be very unwise. You would not be able to accuse without the highest insult and a thief would have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I'd rather see an indignant host than a shoeless post!

    Love you

  3. Dear, dear Moleboeng:
    I love reading your news.

    Kristin and I had dinner at Baxter Station on Friday night and wandered up to Pine Street to look at your garden. Which was fabulous. The green beans were perfect and that viny spinach that kind of looks like a begonia (sort of) was huge. But, the best treat was seeing Deanna ride up on her bike. She was kind enough to share your last letter (#3 I think). We stood in the garden getting eaten alive by the skeeters, which these days takes about 3 seconds, then went inside to finish. The dogs were very well behaved and they both asked about you, wondering when you might be coming home. :)

    We celebrated Kristin's birthday on Saturday night with a dinner for her family. The weather was so cool, nearly chilly, that we have been able to keep the windows open to all the deliciousness of weather that feels more like October than August.

    It's tomato heaven here, and I feel guilty with our abundance knowing that you are getting 3 kinds of starch at every meal. I wish I could fax you some produce. Last night we ate an orange whose label proclaimed LARGE NAVEL SOUTH AFRICA. Will your navel enlarge while there, I wonder?

    I just had some tai chi in the street and now I'm ready for the rest of my work day. I realize just now that I've known you for ten years.

    Thanks for being my friend
    Large love all around

  4. Hello Moleboeng!

    Sorry, I just reread your post and it does not say you have been asked to leave your room open as I thought. I do think the family is just curious about your things and want permission to go see them. They already know what the room looks like, yes? You said you were shy about displaying your stuff. It is a good policy to be shy for all ocncerned parties. How do you say your name? My guess is mole-ben'-gay.
    It will be so nice to hear your voice and know you are safe...safer.

  5. I think your family loves you so much, but they had to find something to say, so PC would know they were doing their job!!

    Really I cannot imagine you cooking on an open fire.

    I've read up on President Zuma. Ha! Do I have to say all comments are mine, not the Peace corps? I really didn't know there was so much corruption there (and here too)

    I'm reading a series of light mystery books set in Botswana(The no. 1 Ladies' detective agency, by Alexander McCall Smith), and finding some of the things you've talked about, altho, the woman detective lives in a city, so the setting is different from yours (electricity, radios, etc.). Several of the Setswana words you have mentioned are in the books. (It is also a series on HBO, but I don't get HBO)

    And, what should I imagine that the "previously unmentioned" is? Now I am thinking of all the yucky critters (in the outhouse) I was very happy that you had a bit of privacy with an outhouse. Perhaps the things you have eaten, only because you do not want to hurt someone's feelings?

    Local news: Not much.

    I had a preview visit with my new doctor yesterday. She seemed good, and I have another appointment next week for a physical, a mammogram and an appointment with a dermatologist. So my children will be pleased that I have re-started my personal care (which had been neglected for several years). The only thing is that she does not seem to like the trazodone, said it was an older drug, but gave me a prescription anyway.

    Mom went with me, with a lunch and a little shopping thrown in. She is good and so happy to get your blogs. She said she reads and re-reads them all the time (as we probably all do)

    I don't know how much news you get from the US. Health care legislation is not going well. Seems like to me the republicans are going against anything that the administration proposes regardless, just because it is the administration. So far, all reps., are against it. In any form. I, as you know am not political, but I know that there are so many people who need health care, and suffer because they do not have any coverage. We have it, as most middle class do, but we seem not to want to share with folks who do not have it. We are a country blessed, but today everything is about money. Ted Kennedy died this morning. Weather is cool in Kentucky with forecasts of 90 tomorrow, and by Monday high 70.? A few more cases of husbands/boyfriends killing their significant others. Children being murdered. Makes SA sound better! A few cases of the H121 virus is in the schools. Rick Pitano is going to court with the woman with whom he had sex. He is mad at the press. Michael Jackson is still the most important person on the news.

    Again, nothing of note going on in Leitchfield. My days do not change much. I miss you. Everyone is living your experience with you!!

  6. Dear Moleboeng,

    Someone stole the knight from his mount on 3rd St. Either that, or he is vacationing somewhere.