Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things I'll never again take for granted...

...potable water.

So, what can be worse, than developing the worst respiratory illness you've ever experienced? Developing the worst respiratory illness when the water is shut off.

Granted, I'm no longer living in a place whereby I must haul water, but believe me, I was on my way to haul some this morning!

When we were in training in Marapyane, the college there had a "water problem." The water problem arose from the fact that there often wasn't any. (Water.)

Now if there is no water available, of course bottled water must be brought in for drinking and showers forgone, but what about flushing the toilet?

We only stayed a week at the college in Marapyane, but believe you me, I was so glad to be out of there and in my village with my pit toilet!! I had begun to call my dorm toilet, "the typhoid toilet."

So, I'm very, very ill with very nasty expellations, (actually, according to Dictionary.com, "expellation" is not a word. However, I'm using it, because it is very fitting for my purposes here!!), not able to wash my hands and am trying not to drink too much.

Now everybody knows you're supposed to drink plenty of fluids while ill, but I was running low and didn't feel like walking the 1-hour round trip to the grocer for bottled. (It didn't occur to me, at the time, to walk to the village tap and have water to boil.)

I had noticed that the water seems to cycle off here on a regular basis (much like it did at Marapyane), but it had never been off for more than eight hours. Until yesterday. I think we were without water for a little over 24 hours and my bathroom and kitchen were not boding well.

So, this morning, the water still wasn't on and I rallied a bit (I'll lie down after breakfast, and if the water isn't back on by mid-morning, I'll go haul some.)

Well, God is good, because by 9:45 the water, indeed came back on. So, I flushed the toilet, washed my hands, and boiled water for an hour and a half!

I had planned to stock pile a water supply by reusing beverage containers, but I've only been here a couple of weeks (and bottled beverages are expensive! They are the one luxury everyone seems to spring for), and my bottle reserve hasn't grown quite large enough. But I'm working on it now, and making it a priority! I'll be wealthy in bottled beverages for awhile!

So, I'm thrilled, THRILLED to have water at my place, and am asking, if it is so inconvenient for me, how would I like to live here like every other South African villager has for generations!!

But I am feeling better today. I phoned the Dr. yesterday because I have a bad habit of thinking, "Surely tomorrow I will feel better." (An old beau once had to carry me to the hospital because I had similar thoughts through a nasty bout of strep throat.) So, the Dr. knew something was up with me, I feel better, and THE WATER IS BACK ON. :-)

An interesting aside... I've been asked if I have carried water on my head. Yes, I've carried water on my head. It's not hard at all and I thought, "Everyone should carry things like this--it's much easier," but I must confess I carried a very SMALL amount of water in a very big basin. I'm sure it's a different ball game for larger quantities/weights.

But it's nothing to see a South African woman carrying 25 pounds of maize meal on their heads. They're tanks, I'm telling you!

Other things I'll never take for granted again:

toilet paper... Toilet paper has become a commodity here. I feel guilty buying it (it really is a luxury here) but I have to have it. I'm surprised that I feel so "American" in this way, but I can't help it.

I've used toilet paper for the following reasons: as paper towels, napkins, dishtowels, potholders, and wash cloths. I'm not kidding! And lets not forget it's most important use!

Soap and water to wash hands with... I remember working for a former employer when the water heater went out. We had to wash our hands in cold water and it was PAINFUL to me. In Africa, I've long ago given up hope for warm water but I'm always, always, ALWAYS looking for soap and clean water in the toilet areas. There is rarely, rarely any to be found.

Good coffee... I'm a bit past this now, as I've found a tea that I like. However, in training, I was jonseing for good coffee so bad I couldn't believe it. In hindsight, I was probably in withdrawal. :-)

And you can buy beans, a grinder, and a french press in SA. I've thought of it, but don't want to develop a nasty coffee habit.

fresh vegetables... Here too, am a bit over it now that I have access to them. But you wouldn't believe how good a carrot butt and apple core can taste when you're finding fresh, raw food few and far in between!

grass... I miss grass. I miss it so much. The village where I'm living now must be better off than the village that I stayed in during training, because a few of the families here actually grow grass around their houses.

Back home, I loved to go "alley walking" because I could see how other people lived in their backyards. I'm happy to say, I can do that here too, as a favorite pastime will certainly be walking around peering at every one's yard! But yes, I miss grass.

I think that will do for now, because I'm feeling tired. But there are more things on my list that I'll resume with next time.

Thanks to all for continued encouragement and support--you're carrying me!


Ps. Peace Corps is in no way connected to anything mentioned in this post. All errors, misinterpretations, misinformation, are/is mine!

Monday, September 28, 2009

If you’d like to get an email notification of when I’ve posted to the blog…

Let me know either here (on the blog) or by email: karenkaye789@yahoo.com and I’ll add you to the list.

I hate these kinds of things because they seem so grandiose, but I’ve noticed that my mom is telling all her friends when I post… A notification system may be easier, and the Blogger people accommodate this…

I’ve been asked if there is electrical fencing where I am staying. I’ve only seen the electrical fencing in the large cities, like Pretoria. This seems to go along with the fact that there seems to be more money in the larger cities, and therefore the electrical fencing is more affordable.

There is still plenty of fencing here though: lots of barbed and razor wire. In fact, the picture posted is of a seven foot fence made of razor wire enclosing a garden. I’m not sure if the fencing is to keep people out, or animals.

How nice the fencing is indicates the wealth of the homeowner (as with everyone world wide, I suppose.) I’ve seen some very creative ways families have fenced their yards with whatever they could find.

I’ve had a blessedly quiet weekend as all of the students were gone! It was so quiet, in fact, that I was happy to see them return last night! (Sunday).

And my here-to-know rocking immune system has finally succumbed to illness: I’ve had a sore throat, coughing, etc. for a couple of days. I’m glad my illness has come at such an opportune time, as school is currently out of session.

I’m embarrassed that I’ve been so much “me” versus “them” in my description/narrative of my South African experience so far. As I’m the only white American around, it’s easy to think (and report) in terms of me versus them. And of course, one of the points of Peace Corps is to allow people from different cultures to LIVE TOGETHER. So from now on, I’ll be much more (hopefully) careful with how I’m thinking, writing, etc.

Because I do want it to be a “we” experience and not an “I” versus “them” experience.

That being said, I’m having a hard time trying to find a way “in.” When I work with students, even in America, it takes awhile for me to form relationships. I usually don’t bond with my students until at least a few months into each new semester. And of course, it takes a couple of years before you can accumulate several established relationships with students.

So, school is on break and I’m not “working” so it is difficult for form relationships with students right now.

I’m trying to put myself “out there” in the village but here too, it will take time to form relationships. I think I may find a “way in” with the community gardeners and there is a community center. Once again, when school is back in regular session, I’m hoping for better ways to connect with people.

I’m excited about working in the village primary school. The thought of it does intimidate me (I’ve never taught groups of primary-school age children and I’m not trained to) but I think I might have an easier way in with this group of people as my predecessor did not work specifically with this primary school. In other words, I have no big shoes to fill.

I think the principal and staff at the primary school can help me better integrate with the village community as well, because the college, like all other colleges, tends to be “its own little island” and feels quite separate (at least for now) from the rest of the community.

No more flying cockroaches this weekend, but I do seem to be breeding every fly that wants to live on the African continent this season in my bathroom. I have renamed my bathroom the “exorcist bathroom.” I’ve closed the door and hung flypaper, which they craftily avoid at all costs.

That’s all for now. I may be back this afternoon. The previous blog would have been posted last week, but didn’t go through for technical reasons.

Thanks for all the kind words as support, and for new additions: welcome Susan!

I cringe at the comments of “you’re so brave” and “you’re my hero” because I feel like the biggest fraidy cat most of the time and I often want to be anywhere but here. I know these are common feelings for new Peace Corps Volunteers and that they will pass, but it feels pretty icky right now. Comments from you all help immensely, so please keep sharing them.

I miss you all more than you can know, Karen

Ps: as always, Peace Corps is in no way connected to this blog post. All errors, misinterpretations, and misinformation are mine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hurry up and wait...

I may need to end abruptly, as I may be shooed out of the library soon...

As always, Peace Corps is in no way connected to this post. All error is mine!

This is a shot of the "spanish lavender" I tried to grow back home. It grows well here--even in the dead of winter! So maybe I'll have another chance...

Mom, did yours make it?

This shot was actually taken at a Backpacker's hostel--where we overnighted in Pretoria when I caused my whole group to be late. :-)

So, Peace Corps released me to this wonderful site to live and learn with South Africans. I'm all pumped, ready to go, only to arrive to: a 10-day holiday in honor of the third term's ending. So, I'm feeling like "all dressed up and nowhere to go."

It is quiet now, the students have all gone home! And I'm sure I will be able to find something to do!

I attended a Heritage Day celebration at my primary school today. Three hours of singing and dancing! I wish I had taken my camera! The kids were wonderful!

I'm still feeling kind of shy about carrying my camera around and explicitly taking picture. I haven't quite accepted the fact that I'll be assumed a "rich American" no matter what I do, but I worry a camera would only aggravate the situation.

It's hard enough to say no to pan-handlers in the States; it's super dooper hard here.

Everyone here believes that all Americans are rich and that all Americans are white. This is because, I am told, of American TV.

I haven't seen South African TV yet (it was blissfully broken in my host-family's home) but hear it is as ridiculous as American TV. Apparently, my fellow volunteers had a great time watching the very popular South African "soapies": Generations and Scandal.

A former volunteer has advised that when asked if all Americans are rich, I'm to ask if they watch Generations (to which they will certainly reply "yes") and then say something along the lines of, "Are all South Africans rich? They certainly appear to be on Generations." Or some such.

Regardless, I can talk until I'm blue in the face about how "NOT RICH" I am and it is not believed. But if I'm to think carefully, I am VERY RICH when compared to most of the South Americans I have met so far.

Just like in the States, those that live in poverty have cell phones. A family will forgo food, socks, shoes, etc., but all will have a cell phone and electricity to charge it. I can't lay blame here; my cell phone has become my most important possession as my one constant link back home.

Am glad all are happy with the pics. I need to take more. Those posted were just catching up on where I've been. I must say I'm feeling much more at home, especially with blogging, email, Facebook, etc. I'm a lucky girl. I thought I would want to escape all of the technology, but am finding it immensely comforting.

I've finally unpacked completely and am cleaning in stages. (Otherwise, it is too overwhelming.) Peace Corps asks you to pack two bags when you come to Africa for two years. To make matters even more challenging, we are asked to sort these bags into two categories: essential and non-essential. The non-essential bag remains in Pretoria while we are in training.

So, I've recently opened my non-essential bag and was wondering what was in it, since I'd long ago forgotten. I was surprised: yes, I did bring a swimsuit. The swimsuit would have come in handy for the two times I had access to a swimming pool. Peace Corps mercyfully throws you a bone or two: stays in nice hotels when we are transitioning. We stayed at a nice hotel during the supervisor's workshop (when I visited my permanent site for a week) and at Swearing In.

Now that I've passed these two goodies, it's not likely that I'll need a swimsuit again any time soon. :-)

Also, I had my regular batteries in my non-essential bag and my rechargeable ones in my essential. I would have been much better off if this were the other way around. :-)

And my camping gear. Yay! I can't wait to figure out how to go camping, but I WILL figure it out! Actually, the Backpackers accomodations are very reasonably priced and are found throughout South Africa. I must, must, must see a baobab tree while I'm here. I've read that there is an ANCIENT one--and it's HUGE--in the Limpopo province. I'm there!

Everyday here, around 1:30, a huge African wind stirs up. (It makes me think of the song "Hickory Wind" although Africa is so far away from South Carolina!!) It is quite strong and the whole of the afternoon is hot and blustery.

I've asked if there are tornadoes here. I'm told there are not but wonder when my windows are rattling and things are flying about.

From what I gather from observations, the Tswana people are afraid of the wind. When riding the taxi (which is not a taxi at all, but a very crowded mini-bus), Americans want the windows open (there is no air-conditioning) but the Africans insist that the windows be closed. This is true especially if there are babies on board: the Africans believe the wind coming in the windows will make the baby sick.

And speaking of babies: the babies here are wrapped like they are in Antartica instead of Africa! Thick baby suits with sleeves and hats... And then bound to their mothers in thick blankets. I feel suffocated just looking at them.

So, I've not encountered any scorpions in my new abode just yet, but I did get an interesting visitor last night: a flying roach-like insect that looked very much like the things in the toilet back in the village. (Which makes me wonder: did the ones in the toilet fly?)

So as I type, I can hear Deanna say, "did you get a picture?" No, I did not get a picture; I was afraid it would fly at me. But I will try, if I get another chance...

When my boys were very small, I was running around trying to kill a similar insect in the apartment we lived in off of Third Stree. It looked very much like a roach but I had never seen a roach fly. After the escapade, I did a bit of research. From what I remember, it was called a "wood roach." I had never seen another one--thank goodness--until now.

So, I was trying to decide if I wanted to kill it (it was awfully big and I didn't want to deal with the squish), try to catch it and let it go (yes, I'm known to do this with bees, spiders, etc, but have yet to try this with roach-like creatures), or let him be and hope he stayed on his side of the room.

I was not up for an adventure, so I let him be.

This morning, when I awoke, he seemed to be gone. When I went into the bathroom, I saw that he had only changed locations: he was now in my bathtub.

I felt somewhat rested and went about catching him to let him go. He was near the drain and I put an inverted cup over him to catch him. I couldn't believe it but he squished himself small enough to get through the hole in the drain.

Oops, I'm outta here, more later, k

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogger not letting post photos, but Facebook is...

So, there are photos at the following (I don't think you have to be a member of FB to see them):

Oops! I lied. Here is a photo of my new home. And again, more pics are posted to Facebook.

What I'm eating now that I'm cooking for myself...

pan-roasted Brussels Sprouts
steamed cabbage with onions
sauteed zuccinni
fresh sprouts (from lentils)
real butter
real cheese
fresh bananas, apples, oranges
whole-grain crackers
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
fresh ground salt and pepper

Basically, I'm pigging on veggies as I've missed them dreadfully in the village.

As in first world countries, the poor here can't access healthy food. So, in the village, I was living like the villagers and eating mostly bagobe (ba HOE bae) or the stiff porridge Afrikaners call "pap" (pop).

There was a nightly ritual whereby my host-mother would ladle on about 5 pounds of it on my plate and I insisted she remove most of it. While very filling (and fattening-fat on women is valued here), it is nutritionally very poor. Needless to say, bagobe is the basis for all of the villager's nutrition.

So, while I'm happier now with what I'm eating, it is not without notice (and guilt) that I am eating better than the people around me.

Monday, September 21, 2009


This is Kazer (KAY suh). Isn't he the most beautiful child you've seen?
He stole my heart a few days before leaving my village home. He played for six straight hours with nothing more than a desiccated lemon (it dried as hard as a rock so made a somewhat functional ball) and the heel of a shoe. Yes, just the heel.
While I was dismayed at his lack of toys, I was amazed at his ability to amuse himself with so little. (And glad his little head wasn't stuck inside a computer and/or TV screen.)
This child is three years old and sung at least 60 African songs to me. He is brilliant.
His grandmother, as far as I can tell, keeps him as her own (and is therefore raising him). It is not uncommon for grandmothers to raise their children's children. I'm told their birthparents are working in Pretoria and many have died from AIDS.
More later, Peace Corps is in no way connected to this post, karen


So, I've spent the weekend unpacking and moving in. I think it will take time, but I believe I will become very happy in my new home.

Why my assignment may be a stretch... :-)

Over the years I've learned to seek quiet and solitude. I abhor noise and usually would rather not listen to music. Why this is, I do not know. People think it inhumane of me to not like music. It's not that I don't like music, it's that I find it overstimulating.

In fact, I believe I have some sort of musical intelligence, as I often, very often, have a song in my head. Usually, they're very irritating songs: just ask Deanna. :-)

So, I'm living here on a college campus. Read: young people. Read: Noise? Loud music anyone?

So, I spent a great deal of this weekend wondering if I would be able to stand living in a dorm room on a college campus. I commuted when I went to college, so all of this boisterousness (?) is quite new to me.

My room is the second floor, corner apartment that sits on the edge of a parking lot that falls right in the middle of the boys' and girls' dorms. It seems that I'm located in quite a lively location.

The short of it is: I will need a retreat. I'm sure I can find one. Some little corner tucked away on campus, preferably the library.

Or perhaps I'll get used to the noise in the same way I became used to the roosters crowing at all hours?

I have found a place to walk, which will be a balm to my soul. I haven't found a water spot yet (although I'm convinced there is one because dragonflies were popping up here and there along my walk yesterday) but I have something just as good: a train track.

A bit of background on me and hiking. I don't like to pay attention to where I'm going: I like to meander along while being absorbed by my surroundings. So, when I hike at Bernheim, I like to go with guys who like to keep track of where we are so as not to get lost, etc.

In this way, very selfishly, the guys do all the work and I get to have fun.

When I'm walking/hiking by myself, I get grumpy because I have to pay attention. And grumpier still if I get lost.

Hence my fondness for train tracks: A foolproof way of not getting lost. I simply head in one direction and walk as long as I'd like, then when time comes to return, turn around a walk back.

So, I have a train track here. I walked out for an hour and a half. The tracks took me away from the village to the land of Africa. At last, I can hear Africa calling my name!

I very much like to find places where I can pretend that no man exists (no car noise, no airplane noise, etc.) Even when I went to Alaska, I had a hard time finding such places. (I lived very near two very large military bases.)

So I found this place along the train track. While I was walking, I wondered if the train track was active because I hadn't noticed any train activity (although you cross tracks when you turn into my neck of the village).

Then last night, as I was turning in, I heard a train whistle (a train whistle!), looked out my window, and low and behold, a train. I almost cried it was so beautiful.

This train was beautiful because it was a passenger train and had lit windows. It felt so, so, so what? -- so African, seeing it.

Now I can just hear my grandmother and mother worrying about me walking alone in Africa and being eaten by lions.

From what I've read, lions and other of Africa's "big five" are limited to game preserves. If anyone knows otherwise, let me know asap. :-)

Also, I wasn't really far away from the sound of man as I received a text while I was out in the middle of "nowhere." I also used the "hikers safety plan" and let another volunteer know of my plan, approx location, when they would hear of my return, what time to call for help, etc.

I also have these numbers with me: the campus police, the village police, and the police chief's personal cell phone .

I must say I've not felt happier since I've gotten here: being alone, ALONE in Africa. So far it's been impossible to be alone here. I'm glad to have a reprieve.

More in a bit, as always, Peace Corps is in no way connected to what is posted here, karen

Dimakatso is also referred to as "my daughter"

... in that when she would come visit me, my African parents would say, "Your daughter is here to see you."

Isn't she gorgeous? The little guy in the background I tried to shoo away to no avail. I'm glad I didn't succeed: he really adds to the character of the photo.

I'm trying to figure this whole "post photos on my blog" thing. I had hoped I could have albums posted (in the same way that Facebook allows). So far, I've only discovered how to post one at a time. Bear with me and I hope to figure it out.

A bit more on Dimakatso. (DEE mah kot so). I love this little girl. She is very sweet and kind. My Mma Emily would invite her over to dance for me. I was very uncomfortable with the sexually suggestive nature of the dance (she is only 10 years old) and would wince when Mma called her to come. Often times, girls would come in groups to dance for me. Again, the nature of the dancing, for such young girls, was unsettling.

I often wondered if Mma would call the girls to come dance, because really SHE wanted to dance and sing. At gift giving occasions and handing out of sweets she often behaved in a way I thought immature. It was gently pointed out to me that my host mother was probably married around the age of 10-12 and if so, how emotionally matured could she have become? Good point.

Now, back to figuring out photo postings. More in a bit, karen/molebogeng

Dimakatso my unofficial Setswana teacher

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rra and Mma

My African parents.

My go go Mma Rosina, her daughter...

Mma Leina, and her grandson, Kazer (KA suh).

It is not uncommon for women to birth children and the child is then raised by the woman's mother. So, to put it in American terms, if I had a child, my mother would raise him/her. How would you like that, mom?

Am trying to figure this photo feature out...

My village home.

It's official... and why South Africa is a stretch part two

I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was sworn in yesterday and my official "two years" begins today.

Happy Birthday mom! I'll call you later, after you wake up, (as it's 2:00 in the morning for you and 9:00 am for me!) because, I have a phone, I have a phone, I have a phone! I hated cell phones in the States but I LOVE HAVING A CELL PHONE IN SA! I think I love it so because it feels like an umbilical cord to the rest of the world.

Thanks to all of you for dealing with another login for my blog. I know it's a pain, but it is so much fun for me to read ALL OF THE COMMENTS. Reading them always makes me cry. There is no such thing as trivial news from home, all of it feels like nourishment for my spirit.

I'm at the college. I'm sorry my last post about my host-family stay was so negative. I think we were all beginning to get on each other's nerves. At one point, at listening to my family chatter loudly in the other room, I thought to myself, "This is why I moved out of the house from my OWN family." I think I need a bit more space than the average person.

But I loved my time with my host-family, and they are now, and will always be, my African family. They called me last night to make sure I had arrived to the college safely. I have some great photos of them, their home, and the village. I'll post them soon as I now have regular computer time. YAY!

Now, the other half of why I'm having a challenging time adjusting to South Africa.

Personal appearance is everything here. EVERYTHING.

A little background on me, for those who need a refresher. Very much to Deanna's chagrin, I care extremely little about what I look like.

I hate to dress up. HATE IT. My "professional attire" consists of blouses and dresspants. I also tend to buy colors of only brown and black so everything matches. I hate spending any time or worry about what I'm wearing. In fact, my biggest fear is to wear the same thing two days in a row. :-)

So why is this a problem in South Africa?

Everyone dresses to the nines here. Suits, dresses, hosiery, pumps, hair, make up, jewelry, the whole shebang.

I guess this wouldn't be so bad if I lived in a climate whereby there was anything but dust and handy access to washing machines.

That's the thing: as far as I can tell, everyone is handwashing their clothes and polishing their shoes. Are they handwashing those business suits? And everyone IRONS. I hate ironing and haven't even owned an iron for most of my adult life.

And polishing shoes? I don't even know how to polish shoes. My host-father had to show me. So now, on the regular occasion of polishing my shoes, I wonder what my dads would thing. Would they be proud? :-)

While the Peace Corps urges us to try our best to "fit in" with the expectations of our culture, it also stresses the importance of "remaining true to ourselves." I think I'm going to need to be true to my blouses/dresspants and hope the people can come to accept that. And no, I'm not wearing make up and no earrings either.

My host family gave me this beautiful African necklace that I wear on special occasions. And I can honestly say that I'd love to have a few of the beautiful African garments I've seen. Maybe by the time I arrive home again I'll be all colorful in African garb. Miracles happen.

I'm at the college now and for good. Did I mention this already?

I arrived about 5:00 yesterday (Thursday, 9/17). I spent most of the evening cleaning and unpacking. The room is very nice and I'm happy to be here.

As one who seeks solitude and quiet, it may take me awhile to get used to the hustle and bustle of the kids on campus as they happen about after classes. I didn't have the "dorm experience" in my college years (I commuted) so it is quite boisterous.

When I first arrived in Africa and moved into my home-stay in the village, I was startled by the constant crowing of roosters. (Other Americans commented on this as well.) I'm not sure why American roosters seem to only crow at dawn (or is this a myth?) and African ones around the clock (but especially at three in the morning). As startling as it was at first, after a few weeks, I never noticed them crowing again. I must have become accustomed to their calls.

I'm hoping this will be the case for the college kids as well.

I'm going to close for now and perhaps even logon to Facebook! (I haven't in ages!) I'm so happy to have regular access to a computer now and look forward to more regular communication. I really have felt lost without you all, and Deanna can attest to sitting on the phone with me while I cried for nearly a half hour just because it was so good to speak with family. It's amazing the emotional bonds we carry.

As always, Peace Corps accepts no responsibility for anything I've mentioned here. All error, interpretation, misinterpretation are mine.

Soon, Karen/Molebogeng

Friday, September 11, 2009

South Africa: why it's a stretch...

South African culture is VERY different from the one I experience in America. I have a hard time trying to make it all work for me and am hoping at some point I “get it.” So far, I’m sinking with it. South Africans don’t communicate directly. What exactly does this mean? Let me see if I can explain it a bit.

For example, I was told on Friday last week:“The car will pick you up at 9:00 am on Monday morning to drive you to Vryburg so that you can meet with other volunteers to travel to Pretoria.” In my mind, it meant, be ready at 9:00 on Monday morning so that my ride will have me in town on time to make this trip to Pretoria work. (We were given an “assignment” by PC to travel to Pretoria as a group so we get the feel of it before we try it on our own.)

On Monday morning at 9:00 am, I’m standing on my stoop with my bags packed waiting for my ride. At 9:08, I’m wondering if I’m in the right spot. At 9:10, I’m heading for the office because 10 minutes of my 30 minute trip to Vryburg are gone and I’m to be in Vryburg at 9:30. At 9:12 or so, I arrive at the office whereby I try to find out where my ride is. I’m not full-blown panicked yet, but am close.

The first person I ask invites me to sit down and have a chat. When I remain standing and point to my watch, the nice lady looks perplexed and proceeds to ask someone else. The someone else very patiently tells me I need to sign the register. Sign the register? I’m asking a question. No, please sign the register and note when you arrive and when you leave. So, I sign the register in at 9:20, and out as 9:21. Where is my ride?

As I try to explain that a ride has been arranged, person after person tells me they no nothing of it. I’m in full blown panic by the time an American arrives to my aid who quickly announces, “Urgency will get you no where here.” She was right. Urgency got me nowhere.

I finally arrived in Vryburg an hour late, and my traveling group was delayed by 2 hours, and we arrived in Pretoria too late to make it to Marypane, so we overnighted at a Pretoria Backpackers.

This is a pretty involved example, but it can be as small as, “Would you like tea?” If you reply yes to this question, and are the youngest woman in the house at the time, you’re expected to “make tea,” which is really making tea, coffee, and egg sandwiches for everyone in the household.

So, why is this a big deal? Well, I’ve personally spent many dollars in personal counseling whereby I learned that this type of communication is dysfunctional and one can’t function appropriately in it. Welcome to South Africa. Their whole culture is BASED UPON INDIRECT COMMUNICATION. That’s why I’m having a hard time.

But I jump ahead of myself.

Hello everyone, I'm back to training after a week's visit to my permanent site. Ok you guys w/ the google maps, I'm not telling the location exactly, b/c I don't think we're supposed to on a blog. Those of you needing my address/phone (YES, I HAVE A PHONE--FINALLY), the "heavy hitters" have it: family.

Ok, so site was great and I'll be fine. Everyone hates me b/c I'll have a flush toilet, kitchent, etc. In fact, I hate me. :-)

It'll be great. The campus has internet so I'll be in contact regularly, will be able to post pics, etc. I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

I'll be working with the college, of course, and a primary school for sure. There's also a secondary school I have my eye on and hope to be involved with community projects as well.

THERE IS A COMMUNITY GARDEN! I'm thrilled. One of the other trainees has already gifted me with marigold seeds (a favorite).

I think I'm mostly glad to be going somewhere I can finally unpack. I'm such a bad traveller.

I feel a bit nervous about coming in behind a leaving PC volunteer. She's a powerhouse dynamo--it's awestriking to see all that she's accomplished. I'm going to try not to worry too much...

What else...

I'm online instead of studying for my Setswana test. It's today at 2:00-2:30. I guess you guys are still in bed, or are just getting up (it's lunchtime here). I'm sick of studying and am thinking, "If I don't know it well enough, too bad.)

So, it takes awhile for internet to load here, so while I was waiting for the blog to load, I read some of the comments. It is always, ALWAYS good to hear from everyone at home, but it was a treat to hear from Deanna's brother in Atlanta: Hi John!

I so miss my family. I knew I would. I miss deciduous trees, lakes, rivers, GRASS. :-)

I'm sure I'll fall in love with Africa and that my falling in love will sneak up on me.

So, my dad and his wife vacationed in South Africa a year or so ago. She brought home a GAJILLION photos of South African sunsets. Now I know why. The South African sky is the most beautiful I've ever seen. Each and every sunset is picture-perfect. The night-time sky takes my breath away everytime I look up.

Oh, and there is no daylight savings time here. :-)
The sun rises about 6:30 am and sets about 6:30 pm. I'm glad of this, because somewhere along the line I turned into an "early to bed, early to rise" kind of girl.

My hair. Many of you know that I debated over cutting my hair or not before leaving. Boy, I sure wish I didn't have this mess with me. It is such a pain to wash in a basin. Ick. I hate it. But I'm still hanging on to it. More than one person has said that long hair provides natural insulation against the heat once it gets here. And it's getting here!

Coffee. (I guess I'm having random thoughts here.) They have this ridiculous drink here called "Ricoffy" and it is manufactured by Nestle (or maybe Nescafe). The first three ingredients listed on the label are three forms of sugar: dextrose, sucrose, fructose followed by "and the highest quality water soluable parts of select coffee beans." Yes, I'm drinking tea.

More on SA culture.

I've had some interesting discussions with my home-stay host father. One involved his opinion on my children. Although he's happy about my having two sons, he thinks I lag behind the ideal of 10 children and that I should have at least 3 more. (Although 10 is the ideal, he'll settle for 5). When I offer up that I'm 46, no matter. He knows of a woman in China that is 91 and still child bearning. When I mention the cost, he states this is for God to decide. At this point the question of "do you want to be right or happy" weighed in on the happy side, and I didn't mention anything about family planning or women's reproductive rights in America, or the fact that I didn't feel I did a very good job the first time around.

There was also great concern on why I was sleeping with my sleeping bag instead of using the family linen. Well, even before the scorpion escapade, I was using my sleeping bag because it reminded me of home. This explanation was completely unacceptable, but here again, I resolved to be happy rather than explain, and used it until recently (when it has started getting too hot and besides, I left it at my permanent site).

One day, somewhat early on, I had discovered a handkerchief in my suitcase that I had overlooked so it hadn't been laundered in Africa yet. I smelled of the handkerchief and was so overwelmed with the smell that I was quite distracted for a bit. It smelled of home. I must have closed my eyes and breathed in heavily because when I opened my eyes, the whole family was staring at me and asked what was wrong.

It's amazing what a fragrance can do.

We had a workshop detailing the emotions of Peace Corps volunteers. Apparently, the first 6 months are very difficult and the training is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster ride. It was helpful to know that I'm right where I'm supposed to be, emotionally, even if it is rather distressing.

I reviewed my journal last night and although there is a lot of writing, there are a few intances of :
I hate Africa.
I hate Americans.
I hate Setswana.
I hate English.

There are many better days, I'm happy to report.

Just another bit on language, then I really do, need to go study my language.

I suck at learning a foreign language. It is the most difficult thing for me to do. When I do it, I have to lock myself away in a room, make flash cards, do study sheets, etc. It is horrifically difficult for me. I almost didn't earn my Master's Degree because it took me FOUR tries to pass my foreign language proficiency test.

So, my host family thinks I should pick up Setswana by hearing them speak it to me. So, they say a phrase, the odd sounds glance off of my gray matter, and I have no idea what was said. So they repeat it LOUDER. The African people are very passionate and very demonstrative. After a few evenings of feeling shouted at, I retreated to my room and have basically disappeared. Needless to say, I haven't had a lot of practice SPEAKING the language, but hopefully I've memorized enough to muddle through. Will know in a bit.

Btw, science has shown that there is a "critical period" whereby if a child learns an additional language by the time or around the time that they are TWELVE OR THIRTEEN years old, they have a good chance of becomming fluent. Need I remind anyone that I'm 46 years old?

Ok, nuff for now, I'm off to it.

As always, PC is not responsible or in anyway connected, supportive of, etc., anything that is posted here. All thoughts, feelings, interpretations, misinterpretations, are mine!

Missing you all, more than you can know! k