Monday, October 12, 2009

African sky, toi toi, rain, and my fan

If there is one constant in South Africa, it is the sky. The sky here is BEAUTIFUL every second of every day and every night.
I have a tough time capturing the drama of any sky setting, but this photo comes close. This is the view from my window in the evening. Isn't it gorgeous?
I thought I would get to update on Friday last week, but found the library, and therefore the "internet cafe" closed. And no, the library doesn't really house an internet cafe, in that no beverages are served, but a plain ole computer lab (which is what we call them in the states).
So yay, I'm here now, but time is ticking... (The library closes in a bit...)
So, protesting is big, big business here in South Africa. When workers strike, or protest, it is called "toi toi." Since Zuma's recent election (the South African President), many, many companies/organizations have gone on strike: the phone company, the post office, the military, etc. As with any democracy, I suppose, the people have a right to protest and call attention to any unfairness, want of policy change, etc.
Last week the students at my college campus--or actually, it's THEIR college campus, I just live here temporarily!- toi toied. (I'm not sure what the verb form for this word is; in any case, the students went on strike.)
And strike/protest they did. There was fire, destruction, shouting, arrests--the whole nine yards.
Gratefully, I was at the primary school all last week and was gone for most of it. And although the students repeatedly assured me of my safety, it was a bit disturbing to be around so much, uh, disruption.
As a PEACE Corps volunteer, we are strictly advised not to participate in or support any of protest, demonstration, etc., this goes not only for student organizations, but professional ones as well. Many of the educators here are in a teacher's union and invite me to meetings/ events, etc., and of course I can't go. I can see why PC wants us to keep a low profile. Emotions run high regarding politics, workers rights, etc.
So, I tiptoed around all last week and I believe the 20 or so students that were arrested were released today, and I'm not sure of the status of the strike.
Oh, why were the students striking? As best I can tell, there is an issue of the "bursaries." From what I understand, bursaries were promised--a form of student aid--but did not come through. So, the students expecting the bursaries were expelled from the roster, and, of course, were upset with this. So the protest was to bring attention to their perceived unfairness in this matter.
That was pretty exciting...
Also, the RAIN has begun! Since my training, I've moved seven hours closer to the Kalahari desert. While I still have trees, many of my fellow volunteers are even closer to the desert and are without trees. (But apparently, they have monkeys and rhinos lounging on the side of the road, which I think would be pretty cool.)
In my area, rainfall is limited to the summer months, and October begins the summer season. I'm told that in January, it will rain every single day, beginning at 4:00 in the pm, and raining through to the next days morning.
So, I'm very happy to see the rain, because rain means: GREEN THINGS BEGIN TO APPEAR! I"m so excited! Also, the storms are pretty intense and fun to watch... Maybe I can capture a shot of a lightning strike during a thunder storm... I'll try.
I got to hike a bit on Saturday and followed my train track out. I found a few wildflowers blooming and identified a tree or two. And of course, stared at a few birds. But the thrilling thing was: I SAW MY FIRST AFRICAN SNAKE! He scared me to death! Of course, I scared him to death too, so he skedattled on out of there. He was a deep, golden yellow and HOODED! I can't seem to get my hand on a snake book and haven't had time to try to find him online... He was every bit of six feet long! He was rooting through the rocks along the railroad track looking for some breakfast.
When I saw him, a shot of adrenaline pounded through me... I think I know what "fight or flight" feels like... I felt the same way during my bear encounters in AK. But, wild animals being what they are, thank goodness, don't like me anymore than I like them... I always want to "monsterize" them and think they will attack me, just like in a monster movie. But they move away as quickly as they can and I do the same.
It was a thrilling encounter.
Along with the summer months comes a need for A FAN! It was one of the things I bought with my settling in allowance (and one of the things I lugged awkwardly around marking myself as a "rich American"). I hadn't needed to use it until last week and guess what? It is my new, second most favorite thing--after my mosquito net.
I love it very much because it has a FANTASTIC white noise effect! If I have my fan on, I can't hear a THING going on outside! I can't hear the students outside, below me, in the halls--I can't hear them period!
I'm so happy! I was worried to death on how I was going to afford those $300 Bose noise-cancellation headphones! Now I don't have to: I have peace and quiet while enjoying a nice breeze!!
Soon, Karen
PS. Peace Corps is in no way connected to this post.


  1. Loved your post!! Sorry to miss the phone call. Joe said you sounded good, so does that mean you are completely well?

    One of the seminary students from Kenya said when asked about the wild animals, "more people are killed by snake bite than any animal". I do not like your snake experiences.

    I had a wonderful 4 days at the confvent. I had two days completely by myself, doing what I wanted and visiting with the sisters. Then I had a spiritual retreat that was good. Made new friends, etc. Nice time, but back to real life.

    Everyone here is good. I'm going to mom's tomorrow to take her for an eye check, and spend quality time with her.

    I sure love that you are getting more settled, and perhaps happier with your home. The fan can run year round to stop the noise. Love the facilities, and love the fact that the teaching part is good.

    Know that you are loved and missed .

  2. What a wonderful post! Can you hear Jody's voice saying she did not like your snake encounter? I can and I concur (in my voice). You really did a good job with your picture and the effect is really dramatic and lovely. Very good! It is very good news to hear of your second favorite thing and I am enjoying the image of you lugging it through town...not your discomfort or anything, just the excitement that you probably stirred up. Be safe and keep us posted.
    Love you!