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.

1 comment:

  1. i love your stories! how come you can't go to soweto? i'd love to see more pictures! :)