Saturday, August 11, 2007

Greetings from South Africa!

Dumelang! Re dula South Africa!
Greetings! We are living in South Africa!

We haven't had access to the internet since we left Colorado. Today we are at an undisclosed town near our village close the the Botswana border (Peace Corps asks us not to post our specific location for security purposes).

Our eight hour flight from New York has a 12 hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany where coincidentally, Jennie's uncle Rans was on a business trip. He met us at our day hotel for some schnitzel (we'd never had any - it was pretty good). Everyone was talking about my cool Uncle Rans!!

That evening we flew for 11 hours from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, where we were greeted by Peace Corps country staff and driven on buses to an educational center in the Northwest Province.

We were welcomed at the college by our Language and Cross-cultural Facilitators (LCFs). They are native South Africans responsible for language training. They greeted us with traditional South African singing and dancing. It was pretty cool.

Training took place at the college for the first week, before we climbed on the buses again to ride to our training village and move in with our host family.

We live in a rondaval separate from our family's main house. It has teal walls and a thatch roof - very stereotypically African. Our training schedule is fairly rigorous, so we get to see the sun rise and set every day. Each morning begins with one of us fetching the water for our bucket baths. We then heat up some of the water in an electric tea kettle and mix it in with our cold water, then bathe and clean our shoes before dumping the water out. Then we eat breakfast (usually corn flakes or porridge) and head to training. Lunch often consists of peanut butter and jelly and some fruit.

Dinner consists of rice or a staple food called bogobe or pap. It's made to a stiff mashed potato consistency from cornmeal and water. It's pretty good, especially when you cover it with meat or chicken and gravy. This week we also sampled a South African delicacy - mala, or cow intestines. They were actually pretty good, we would compare them to a chewy noodle.

Laundry is done in a bucket as well, by hand without a wash board or anything like that. It's kind of hard work and many of the trainees have sore on their hands. We have a group of neighbor boys who come over every week to play games and help with laundry.

We went to a funeral the first Sunday that were here which was pretty intense. There is a funeral pretty much every weekend. One of the traditions is for men and boys of the village to help put the sand over the casket during the service and Ben went up to partake in this.

We have met so many wonderful people in the last couple of weeks who we are very excited to continue to work with. There is another couple who lives just up the dirt path from us and they come over on the weekends to play cards and to go on walks.

The weather has been nice. It is usually cold in the mornings but a very pleasant temperature for the rest of the day.

We are running out of time on the computer! We have really appreciated the letters we have received so far (I have read each one at least three times). Please keep sending letters, they mean the world to us right now. (It is also helpful if you write airmail on them).
We love you all. Thank you for your support!

Ben and Jennie

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Update 7/27/07

Latest update from Jennie & Ben (they do not have email access so Mother Olson is trying to do this!)
"Things in South Africa are wonderful so far! We have met so many wonderful people & this is just the beginning. When we arrived at the school our language & cultural trainers were singing & dancing to welcome us to South Africa. Myself (along with many others) had tears in our eyes. I am already blown away by the strength, compassion and wisdom of the people I have met so far. All of them have been through so much yet they are always willing to give whenever there is a need. We are leaving in the morning (7/28) to meet the family that will host us over the next two months. We have learned that we will be learning Sepedi (language). We have also learned that we will be moving to Limpopo after training. We have broken into small groups to learn culture and language. I have a wonderful trainer who knows a lot about language and culture."