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.


  1. sooo exciting to hear from you! your adventures sound great already! thinking of you! :)jamie