Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Plodding along

The sky is almost
just like the pain
               of children
the loss of hope

The bird of poverty sits on their necks
   tighter, tighter

but it too will soar
into the almost

   "Are you happy there?"
                not really"

I now feel I have a

beside me

I run in circles
  to entertain

I just want to make
    a difference

now I have met people I
walk away from

I have met hearts
that will always be a part
of mine

I have experienced a
that will sway
   me forever.

a boy

He has become a
   before his feet
        the ground.

His eyes glaze from all of the
he has
in his

barely a
  does he
scooping rice
fistful by fistful

this may be the last

The ride home

We have been in South Africa for a little over 8 months! In seems that the weeks fly by, but sometimes the hours and days drag on. It is interesting to look back to how we felt in July compared to how were are doing now. I can really see a growth in both of us.

I would like to share a story about a semi-recent event:
I went to a near-by city to visit one of my good friends last month. At the end of the day,in my excitement, I decided that I would like to stop in the Pick N Pay in hopes of finding some goodies that we cannot find near our village. I certainly found some goodies, but I ended up staying in the store a little too long. The next thing I knew, the speakers were calling all shoppers to the front as it was closing time (it was 5p). After I picked up some soy sauce, I headed up to the cashier to wait in a very long line. After I was checked out, I left the convenience of the mall to the harsh, noisy, dirty taxi rank across the street. As I walked out the door, I realized that the sun was about to start setting. I would not have thought anything of it, but I had to pass into a township where I would catch the next taxi going to our village. The township was not one that I liked in the daytime, much less felt comfortable navigating in the darkness.

I found the taxi I needed to go on and only saw one other woman waiting inside at which point I started to get a little nervous as this guaranteed that I would arrive in the township after dark. As I had no other option, I found a seat in the taxi and waited. After a few minutes, more people started to take their seats in the taxi. One of these people was a woman who sat next to me and started to chat. She asked me what I was doing in South Africa and I told her that I was a volunteer. And she said "are you a Peace Corps Volunteer?" I was shocked. People rarely understand my garbled explanation of what I am doing in South Africa. She said that she knew a Peace Corps Volunteer from 6 years ago who worked at the school she where she is currently teaching. She told me that he held a workshop for the teachers where she learned a lot of good information. She was able to tell me about his character and it was clear that he had an impact on her life. This really made me think about our jobs here because sometimes it does not feel like we are really making as much of an impact as we would hope. The truth is that every single person impacts more people than they will ever know. We may never know the impact we have on others.

After our conversation, she asked me where I was going and when I told her she spoke with the driver to make sure that he would drive me straight to the next taxi that I would need to catch. She also asked around on the taxi and we found out that three other women were also going to the same area. We all decided to look out for each other and make sure we were safe. Sometimes my independent side comes out and I do not feel like I need to be looked after every second, but at this moment, I realized that I have not felt so cared for and accepted by perfect strangers.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to Eat a Mango

Back home in the US, Jennie and I once tried a mango. We used a knife to cut it in quarters around the flat pit and then skinned it.

Friends, there are better ways to eat a mango, and you don't even need a knife.

The video is poor quality because we're uploading on a dial-up connection. The good news is, those of you still living in 20th century America (mom, dad, aunt Stevie) will be able to view the video on your slow dial up connections as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Our New Home

Four weeks ago, we bade farewell to our home with the Nchabeleng's.
While we loved the family and the neighborhood we were living in, we found it too difficult to acclimate to cooking, sleeping, and living in a single room. Though our basic needs were exceptionally addressed, we have realized the necessity of having a place where we can feel at home and comfortable with some privacy.

We now live on the other end of town in a more rural area. We no longer enjoy the comforts of a bathtub and flush toilet, or a washing machine. We pump our water by hand, are again taking bucket baths and hand washing clothing. We are loving it. While the Peace Corps has always told us "don't have any expectations," these were things we expected to experience while living in South Africa.

The small house we now live in is about 100 sq ft more than the room we were in before, but there are two rooms and a thatch roof. The kitchen windows look out over the family corn field and each night we can watch the sun set on the village.

One of my principals was a great help in assisting us to find new housing. She and Jennie walked through this part of the village while I was away at an in-service training (IST) in Zeerust. They found a few houses, but they were similar to our situation at the time - one smaller room close to the main house. My principal asked a woman at work on her mealie crop if she knew of any accommodations available in the area. She pointed across the landscape, saying "the retired policeman on the hill, he has rooms available." The old man didn't hesitate when asked, he understood our purpose in the village and immediately showed Jennie and Ms. Thamaga the two rooms.

When I returned from IST, I went to introduce myself and see the rooms. My principal also suggested I sweep it out so it looked nice when my supervisor from Peace Corps came to check it out. When I arrived, they had already swept it out, someone was hanging curtains, and they had called an electrician to fix the lights and outlets. Our supervisor approved our move the following week.

Our family has been very welcoming but also allowed us a great deal of privacy. The grandfather is a retired police officer and the grandmother is originally from Botswana. She speaks a little English,but most of our conversations are in the native language which we sometimes understand and other times eventually figure out. To complicate our communication, she speaks seTswana, the language of Botswana and North West Province in South Africa. It is very similar to Sepedi, spoken here in Limpopo, but as we are still learning the language, to hear the seTwana adds a twist.

Grandfather's grandfather was the khoši (chief) who founded our village, and his father founded a nearby "suburb" of the village. He gets a kick out of the fact that two of his biological grandchildren have the names Monare and Bontle, the same African names we were given.