Friday, September 18, 2009

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

1 comment:

  1. What beautiful pictures and what a wonderful surprise to see them there. I think you will come to love the ritual of dress there and develop your own that will be true to you. It will be awesome to see what you come up with. Just smile whenever you can and enjoy your life there and everything else will fall into place. It is what I am trying to practice here and it is working fairly well. I think it would be fun to re-create my image in a place where no one knows me. Here, I would be afraid to do something so drastic as what it sounds like you are seeing, but there, where everyone is a stranger, you can become something you dream up! I say go for it. Find some bright colors and throw them on your earth-tones. Sing, dance, laugh at the dust. I love you and am so glad you are in a safer place and that you might have a salad tonite for dinner. Here is a good oil and vinegar recipe: 3/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh if you have it), 2 cloves garlic crushed (if you dare), salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Shake it up in a bottle and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Do you have refrigeration? Your own kitchen? Be sure to refrigerate your olive oil. It might get rancid in the heat you will have there. Just take it own to thaw about 1/2 hour before you use it. As the legendary chef was so fond of saying; bon apetit! I don't suppose you could post a picture of yourself for us could you? I am hungry for a look at you and that will be all I will have for a while. Take care and congratulations on being sworn in. 2 more years! OMG.