Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An update from James

Lazy Saturday today. I am sorry that I have not contributed to the blog yet but life is going quite quickly here and time has been hard to find. Our host family is avid fans of these late night soaps and I am “forced” to watch them unless there is a relevant soccer match on. I have become a full fledged fan of the Orlando Pirates because they seem to be the maple leafs of SA football because they are always disappointing every season and they have a great fan base. It is also fun to poke fun at the best team in south africa the kaiser cheifs, who I have dubbed the kaiser thiefs, because they have stolen all of their championships because of the rampant corruption of the soccer officials, just like in the states.

We are getting along pretty well. The big stir is that a new grocery store has opened here and they have brought things such as exotic cheeses and cow tongue. It was so packed the first that it opened that people were not allowed in and it took about an hour to check out. This morning we got to go to two funerals and it was a really interesting experience. I am really in love with the fact that people bury their own dead here. That is something that I am always going to want to do for myself and for the people I love the most.

As you can tell this is some sweet stream of consciousness stuff that you get from me. Becca will give you the bigger better picture if you want it. We are about one week away from learning our site and I could not be more excited. I have been telling everyone that it is the time when you find out who your real friends are going to be for the two years because now you will know who you will have to put up with. This monday is also our fantasy football draft. We are doing alive draft during our lunch break and then we are going to enter them in online. This makes me extremely happy because even though I have been here a month my only contact with sports has been one day we kicked around a soccer ball for a little while. Hopefully, this will be a sign that I will get to be a little more active.

The last thing I will report on is that we went to a mall last week in Joburg and wow. I am really creeped out by that place. I cant even describe how much I did not like it. Good thing we will be far away from there and not have to do with such silliness.

Thanks for listening

Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Post from SA!

Well, we've been in South Africa for approaching three weeks and are having a great time so far. We moved in with our host family after the first week here, and they are awesome. Our mother is in her 50s or 60s, and then we have two host sisters – one who is the same age as us and the other is in her early 30s. They each have 5 year olds (a boy and a girl), and then their other sister who lives in Pretoria has a 12 year old son who lives with us as well. There's also a brother who lives in Pretoria, and his daughter stayed with us for a week. The house is definitely female heavy and so James is basically the man of the house, except that they don't really treat him like that so we mostly sit around in engage in the exciting activities of watching soap operas and playing with the kids. There's a cat who had two kittens except one of them was murdered possibly by another cat down the street so the other kitten is very timid. We were playing with it the other day, and one of the kids decided to pick it up and bring it to us in a very violent manner. So we are working on being nice to the cats, but of course that's not normal here. The house itself is a lot like a house in America. People hang out inside a lot more than they do in Chad (partially because it's been cold, the first week we were in hats and gloves every day, but now we just need jackets in the morning). We mostly eat in the living room in front of the teevee sitting on the couch. The kitchen has a sick, refrigerator, stove, etc. It's nice. The bathroom is also great though we don't have a shower hose so we mostly take bucket baths in the bathtub to save water. Our bedroom is more spacious than our bedroom was in the US.

The village we are staying in is more like a large suburb of Pretoria (though it's an hour and half away). We've heard that there are 250,000 people there, and we believe it. It's big and sprawling but very rural. Most everyone has a field in their backyard so the houses are pretty far apart. There are paved roads going through the village but our house is a few back from the road so you have to go on a dirt road to get there. There are some houses that are far from the paved road. We live in clusters of our language group. Our group's trainer, Charles, is hilarious and great at teaching us Setswana. He has tons of funny stories so our language classes are very fun. I think our favorite was when he got 5 rand as a child (less than $1) and went to the store and described himself as being like a “mining magnate” filling his cart with tons of candy. It's hard to learn Setswana since everyone speaks English, but we have the basic grammar down and are working on improving our vocabulary.

We went to a wedding this weekend which was very interesting since we thought we were just going to watch people prepare food and then come back for the actual wedding. We ended up helping our host sister's (who lives in Pretoria) social club cater the wedding and worked a full day. It was quite the experience, chopping vegetables, serving food, and then being asked to give a toast and dance with the bride and groom. The funniest moment was when James asked everyone to raise their glass to toast only to find out that the champagne had not been poured yet. There was a lot of traditional dancing, and the wedding was a mix of the traditional and the modern. The bride wore a white dress and then changed into the traditional outfit. People hear are very proud of their culture and want to share it with us which is quite different from Chad where you had to get to know people better before they would share their traditions.

In terms of training, we've been visiting South African schools. We aren't doing as much teaching as we did in model school in Chad, but we did teach a lesson today and will teach again one day next week and the week after. Today we team taught with another volunteer about similes. It went pretty well. Though there is an effort here to make instruction more learner centered and interactive, change comes pretty slowly. We've seen a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the teachers, and we are excited to get to our site and get to know our community and figure out the best ways for us to get involved. We have the option to teach, do trainings for teachers, help the school management, and help the school governing bodies or any combination of those things. We'll spend the first three months at our site figuring out what we are going to do and getting to know the community. Other exciting stuff is that we'll find out our site in two weeks, we're going to be able to get a SIM card soon, and we're going on a field trip to the apartheid museum in Johannesburg tomorrow. Alright, that's all for now, hopefully future blog posts will be more funny and less all over the place.