Wednesday, October 28, 2009

home again home again jiggity jog

Well I'm home from school today for the second day in a row, and I actually am bored enough that I wish I was at school (which is kind of shocking since it's been a bit difficult for me to have any desire to go lately). Yesterday, we had to take care of some things. Today, Telcom (the state run phone company) is supposed to come to fix Mma's land line phone. The RDP (reconstruction and development program) trucks hit the phone line when they were delivering bricks to our neighbor's house (they are in the process of constructing them a little brick house as they've been living in a shack...the shack is actually one of the nicest I've seen, painted pink and black and not too small, but they call any house made out of tin a shack.) So now the phone doesn't work and Telcom is supposedly coming to fix it "this morning". After many days waiting for the phone or cable guy in America, I know it's unlikely they'll be here before the afternoon or even at all, but I can't just leave on the off chance that they do show up. So I wait.

Though I've gotten the chance to teach every day last week and this week, it's been a bit crazy. I haven't gotten much time to plan (though the teacher I'm working with did show me her lesson plans/let me know what to teach about) so my lessons haven't been terribly creative. The kids still have seemed to enjoy them despite the classroom management issues that I feel are beyond my control as basically a substitute teacher. In your own classroom you can set up a routine and a system of rewards and consequences, but that's a bit harder to do when you are approached and asked to teach a lesson about the Earth's rotation in 10 minutes. It's been fun though, and I've gotten to know some of the kids better because of teaching. We now have a steady, but not overwhelming, stream of visitors almost every afternoon.

We had a visit from the Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams on Sunday. It was awesome getting the chance to speak with him. He seems like a great guy who will do a lot for the Peace Corps, and it was fun just to have the chance to sit and chat with him for an hour. We had an eerie number of connections...his son graduated from TJ a few years before me, we know the woman who replaced him at his site in the Dominican Republic, and he was sworn in as a volunteer by Jack Vaughn (the second director of Peace Corps who we met in Tucson last year). Overall, it was a great day and reminded us how much we cheesily love the Peace Corps.

Well I really can't think of more to say right now, but all continues to go well here in Afrika Borwa. Hopefully I can find something to entertain myself until Telcom gets here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am not good at blogging

I have found R18 in 5 cent increments since being SA

I now know T- Pain, he is in my ninth grade English class.

I found a universal remote on the ground in my shopping town the other day it had batteries and was still in the box

I ate a samoosa the other day and it was delicious

I learned from South Africa's got talent that a career in ballet in England logically leads to isolation at a game lodge in South Africa.

I really disappointed a crowd of 7th graders when my volcano science project failed to erupt.

I found out that you can make vegan BBQ sauce to add to textured vegetable that has only been soaked in water without electricity.

I have confirmed that God cursed the papaya to taste like poopie diapers because it was the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

I have been asked if I like tripe more times than I ever have before which was never.

I think that the Cleveland Browns could use my help because I would not only have traded Braylon Edwards but would trade every other skill player they have for some conditional picks from the Philadelphia Phantoms and a bowl full of freshly cut papaya, see previous comment

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chad, the Bop, and Townships

So again a week has gone by and I think I'm going to make James update this next time since it's been a bit one sided lately. We had a good though rather long week. We both spent the week in one school (me in the closest primary school to our house and James at the middle school). We're supposed to be working with one teacher for a month, teaching with them. The teacher I am going to be working with was not ready for me so I spent the whole week observing foundation phase (K-3) classes which are almost entirely conducted in Setswana. It was actually a really good experience to spend so much time in each class and really see how the whole day goes. I did get to teach one English class to grade 3, and this week I will begin working with my assigned teacher in grade 4-6. James did get to teach almost every day this week and is helping to coach the soccer team as they are preparing for some youth world cup related activities. So some random thoughts...

What about Chad?
The most common questions we have gotten from other PCVs are how South Africa and Chad compare and how is Peace Corps different the second time around. In terms of how they compare, well, it's pretty darn different. The infrastructure here and there don't compare, etc. Culturally, it's very different. You can really see the difference in the way that the British and French treated their colonies as people here are not afraid to use their language which is wonderful. Peace Corps the second time around (or maybe because we are married) is much less stressful and emotional. We feel like our life here is much more connected to the rest of our lives not like we have been separated from who we are or where we come from. We are older and more comfortable with who we are and why we are here.

But what I really think about in relation to Chad a lot is what I perceive as the 4th goal of peace corps (at least for us) to share knowledge of Chad with South Africans. Though most South Africans have an idea of America (and you can argue how accurate that is) from TV and movies, they don't know anything about Chad. Most have not heard of the country though they are familiar with Cameroon and Nigeria since there are Cameroonians and Nigerians living here in South Africa. It's hard to explain to someone when they are concerned about your well being in the village that you've lived without much less amenities. I feel like we had one of our first successful conversation about Chad the other day as we showed some friends pictures of our friends from Chad. They were shocked that not all of the school children's uniforms matched (in Chad, they just had an assigned color for shirts and pants or skirts whereas here you have to buy the whole matching outfit...there are dresses, shirts, pants, skorts, knee socks, track suits). They were interested to learn that everyone ate from one plate (and exclaimed that that would be nice since there wouldn't be so many dishes to do). I hope we'll get to have more such conversations in the future.

The Bop
During apartheid, the Batswana lived in the Bophuthatswana homeland. Unlike some of the other homelands, it was scattered across rural areas inhabited by the Batswana not just one contiguous area. Marapyane, where we had our training, was part of the Bop as is where we live now even though one is Mpumalanga and the other is the North West. The Bop had it's own government and in our village there are people who used to be in parliament. Though I don't want to get into politics too much, we've found that it's very interesting to see that many people express that they thought things were better then as the Bop government build roads and schools and valued education. Though we can't know which government has done more for the people, we are constantly coming into this conflict between the old and new South Africa.

James apparently knew more about townships than me before coming to South Africa, but if anyone is as confused as I was, I feel like you get this misleading idea of what a township is when you hear about them from America. People are always talking about the contrast between life in the cities and in the townships which led me to believe that townships and shanty towns were practically the same. Though there are shanty towns outside of the major cities, townships (like villages) have houses that range from metal shacks to nice brick houses, nicer brick houses than you find in most villages and more of them. The houses are closer together than in a village and there's more amenities...the closest township to where we live has a KFC and a Pick n Pay (grocery stores) as well as banks and other businesses. Within a township, you will see economic disparity just as you do everywhere in South Africa. Soweto, the most famous township, is actually a thriving cultural center (or at least that's what I've heard, we aren't allowed to go there).

Alright that's all from me for now.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Life in Anecdotes

We've been busy for the past week and instead of writing a narrative, here are some anecdotes/things we've learned or seen, etc

There are many private game reserves near to where we live. We visited the biggest this week for a braai (bbq) in honor of the school governing body at one of our schools. It's kind of creepy to enter the world of vacationers while with friends from the village. But we know just a 20 minute drive from our house there's mini golf, swimming pools, and various other luxuries.

The national park down the road is a little less fancy. On an impromtu tour with one of the teachers who is also the chief's brother, we saw giraffes, warthogs, monkeys, impala, and water buffalo.

Vuvuzelas (the toy horns that are controversially a staple of South African soccer games) are not just popular at the stadium. They are often heard around the village. In fact, vuvuzelas, roosters, and house music are the top noises heard in villages.

When you cook for yourself, you miss South African food. When you eat South African food three days in a row, you miss protein (at least for us veggies).

In the same week, we had a conversation about how factory farming was unnatural and found out they are building a feed lot right outside of the village and are excited to start raising fat cows who aren't moving around to graze.

All you need to start a brass band are empty two liter bottles, deodorant containers, and wire.

Catholic church is still only an hour and 15 minutes in a place where all the churches last anywhere from 3 hours to all day.

We're not the only people in the village who get excited to talk about gardening, compost, and pest management.

A conversation about what age to teach children about menstruation can really derail a meeting.

Gogos (grandmas) are the best people to hang out with, and suprise gogo birthday parties are the best.

But the biggest lesson of the week is just that what you expect when you wake up in the morning is rarely how the day turns out so go with it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hangin Out

We're in the midst of a week and a half school break (the 3rd quarter just ended, they have school here all year round with longer breaks in December and June) so we've had lots of free time. Our host mom is still in Rustenburg with no word on when she'll get back so we are holding down the fort. She asked the man next door to come over and sweep the yard so he's been doing that, but we've kind of taken over garden duty. There seems to be a neverending need for weeding. We're waiting for to get back to ask her about planting some of the seeds we have but we did just start some herbs in some pots. James is digging a hole that we are going to use for compost.

There's a mulberry tree in the yard with lots of ripe berries so we decided to try and make some mulberry jam. The process was flawed from the start. As we were picking we noticed that it was hard to get the berries without the stems (because they'd explode all over our...gloved...hands) so we just picked them stems and all. Then instead of removing the stems right away we crushed them, thinking that would somehow make it easier to get the stems out. Well it made it much harder, and I gave up after about 10 minutes leaving James to spend the next two hours removing stems from mulberry mush. And for some reason the smell of the mulberries made me nauseous so that didn't help. As he was hulling, I took over the cleaning of the bright purple mulberry juice that seemed to get on just about everything. After we had stemless mulberry mush, we put it in the refrigerator to deal with later. Then we began cooking it following a combination of different recipes for mulberry and other berry jams made without pectin. It was going well, it started to actually smell and taste good, but in an effort not to undercook it, we completely overcooked it and created mulberry paste. Sadly we had to throw it all away. The question now is will we ever make mulberry jam again. I think so as James is determined to get it right.

Well you would think that we'd have more interesting things about our community to report. We have met some great people. We've visited the youth center (though we haven't been inside because it's closed right now, we've met the peer educators who work there) and the Lighthouse foundation (a USAID project that does HIV/AIDS education). We stopped by the Catholic church last weekend and will actually attend mass this week (it's at 7 AM!). We got invited to a funeral this weekend too. Next week, when school starts again, we'll be observing classes.

We were just commenting to each other yesterday that we haven't really felt uncomfortable here. Our home is wonderful and we do feel at home in it. Everyone in the village is very welcoming, and they are used to having Peace Corps volunteers around. The one difficult thing will really be making friends. People are pretty content to leave us alone when we are at home, and we have to go out of our way to go out and meet people. It's going to take us a while to find people who we can go visit with in our free time.

A note on soapies...It's somewhat ridiculous how addicted we have become. Yesterday on Rhythm City, this very exciting event was supposed to occur and literally I had been looking forward to it all week. I don't think I ever imagined that I would choose to watch soap operas every night of the week. Also, we've been watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on the puter and that's really good. Not a soap opera.