Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year from South Africa: 2010!

Rainbows must be big business here, but I'm not complaining. This shot was taken 12/22, the night before my trip to Gauteng.

I didn't have my camera with me at the time, but last night, at the same time, in different areas of the sky I saw the sun shining brightly with a full moon peeking out above a brilliantly-white, puffy cloud and in the southern sky, black storm clouds punctuated with a double rainbow. It was hard not running back to my dorm room to grab my camera; I kept thinking, "You know the rainbow will disappear before you can get back." Oh well, should have tried. It was a very dramatic sky. I can't remember ever seeing a perfectly bright, sunny sky with a full moon, storm clouds, and a double rainbow all at the same time!

So I'm back to my permanent site after my lovely Christmas visit with David and Sally. Upon returning to my site, I was thrilled that the +1,000 church group who were supposed to rent the dorm (my dorm) cancelled. So, instead of coming home to thousands of people "invading my space," it is still blissfully quiet here. I am so grateful!

As I had new seedlings started before leaving for my trip, (nasturtiums, marigolds, herbs), I had worried about my seedlings dying while I was gone and very happy to find that they made it. My regular bird visitors are missing, however, and I hope the families of barbets and bulbuls will return.

I had a community gardening project awaiting my return and am happy to say that I've started a compost pile, or should I say, compost piles, which makes me ridiculously happy (and I can't explain why). I set up three piles in a far corner and collected yard debris from the college and then vegetable debris found around the garden. The watermelons are ripe and lots of the gardeners are refreshing themselves with sweet melon. There are lots of discarded rinds about--perfect for composting!

I've mentioned before my horror at seeing the grounds keepers here burning yard refuse. My horror was especially acute at seeing pine needles being torched. Pine needles make excellent mulch, which I paid dearly for last season to use in my yard in Kentucky. To watch them wasted was heartbreaking, especially at knowing that the cement-grade soil of African clay over in the community garden desperately needs amending.

Last night, as I was setting up my compost pile, I was gathering dry sticks and a bit of brush to serve as the bottom, aerating layer. One of the women gardeners observed my efforts and walked over with a box of matches: she thought I would burn this dry plant material. Apparently, they burn all of the plant material so none of it is returned to the soil.

After my piles were started, I walked over to the same woman and asked her if I could mulch her tomatoes. I proceeded to place a thick layer of mulch around six or so of her tomato plants. Since she doesn't speak English, I can't imagine what she is thinking. And another lady came over and I found them looking at the mulch and scratching their heads.

I came home and wrote out how to say, in Setswana, "If you hate it, (the mulching), I will take it off." :-)

The woman was wonderfully gracious and patient with me and I will find out later today if the mulch is still there, or if she took it off (and probably burned it).

I've also written out, in Setswana, how to describe what I am doing and why it is helpful.  I'll have my tutor check over it and make sure it is understandable.

While I loved, loved, loved my holiday visit with Sally and David, it felt good to return "home." I feel happier with my assignment here and look forward to the exciting new year. I think the holiday trip did me a world of good.

I was also a bit anxious to return home to some expected packages arriving in the post. I came home to two: one from Aunt Bea, who sent wonderfully rich pecans. She orders these fabulous pecans and I often help myself to a bag or two while visiting. She knows I love them. Although I hate to think of the cost of shipping pecans to the other side of the world (financial and environmental), I was very happy to receive them. So, I'm having Christmas pecans for breakfast in the mornings. Yum! Thank you Aunt Bea!

The other was a package from the Bonnie W's: Bonnie, Marilyn, Donna, and Helen, a wonderful family of women that I've come to know and love through Deanna. They are dear, dear women and they are huge supporters of my African adventure. Bonnie writes me wonderfully long letters that are witty and full of details of life in Louisville and of world news. I'm amazed that she can find the time/energy to frequently write such lovely, long letters, and I relish them.

The package from the Bonnie W's was quite a treat. It contained a huge letter, a Courier Journal Sunday Comics page, a key chain with a favorite prayer on it (Footprints), pictures of a fairy-ring (a ring of toadstools that popped up on their lawn--I LOVE these!), a picture of Deanna finishing her monster bike ride (how many miles was it? 150?), an offer to buy a film projector for one of my ideas for the students here (Thanks Bonnie, this is a very generous offer. I think I can apply for a grant to obtain the funds to purchase the projector here, to save on the cost and shipping, but thank you!), and latex-free vinyl gloves. (Deanna and Bonnie have supplied me with enough gloves now, for the whole of two years, so I need no more. Thanks to you guys, my hands will be much happier scrubbing the toilet!)

It was great fun going through this box: thank you Bonnie, Marilyn, Donna, and Helen!

I have also received "going on a trip" funds from the following: my sister, Kim, my Grandmother, the Bonnie W's again: Bonnie, Marilyn, Donna, and Helen, Deanna, Sparky, and Emma, my mom, Jody, and my bonus dad, Joe, and my Aunt Bea.

(Oh dear, I hope I haven’t missed anyone!)

Thank you all very much! How generous of you! I can't wait to take a trip and tell you all about it! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I'm so excited!  It's great fun planning a trip!

I know I have a few things coming as well, so I'll thank you in advance and eagerly await the packages.

I'm touched that you guys have gone to such trouble and expense, and greatly appreciate the gestures. I LOVE YOU GUYS! ;-)

I am very proud to say that I turned down a New Year's Eve invitation that required a trip out of town with an overnight stay with an educator who is known to drink (although not heavily, that I can tell). I didn't want to risk being stranded out of town and unable to get home on a night notorious for drinking--especially a trip out of town that required an overnight stay! I was very grateful for the invitation and graciously declined. I'm learning how to take care of myself in South Africa!

So I will spend a quiet night here, tonight, on this New Year's Eve, sitting at my IMAX window and sure to be watching fireworks. (My neighbors have been practicing for several weeks now.) I will not see the New Year ring in, as I can never stay up that late.

So let me wish you all, a Happy New Year!

Soon, Karen

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