Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Well we are about to head off to the Wild Coast for 10 days of fun and sun relaxing on the beach! But before we go I wanted to compose the traditional fake Christmas letter, I'm not going to attempt to write about what the rest of the family is up to so it will be even more egotistical than ever...

Dumelang Family, Friends, and Peace Corps Blog Stalkers,

At the end of 2008, we left our heroes Thabs and Lebza on their way to the Outer Banks for another New Years Eve extravaganza with brother Thom and his posse. After narrowly escaping being swallowed whole by the ocean miles away from the nearest road only rescued by the internet's knowledge of Suzuki gear shifts, they returned to dusty Tucson to finish their studies at The Academy for Superhero Studies (known to laypeople as The University of Arizona). They were blessed with visits from both of their families which, contrary to expectations, were actually quite fun. In May, they earned their masters' in Bilingual and Multicultural Shapeshifting and Teaching and Tail Growing Education.

They left Tucson after destroying all their opponents at Himmel Park at one last kickball game and all the beers at Bob Dobbs' (well Thabs did, Lebza was still taking a unique shapeshifter medication that did not allow the consumption of alcohol.) They trekked across the country, accompanied by their magical kitten Omar who entertained them by whistling 'The Farmer in the Dell' the whole way. They stopped at such exciting destinations as the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Vail, and some Days Inn in Nebraska.

They spent a month in Ohio and a month in Virginia using their newfound skills to rid the dangerous streets of South Denmark Road and Spring Beauty Court of crime for years to come. Numerous side trips were taken to relax from all the crimefighting they were doing in the peaceful and crime-free spots of New York City, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Islesboro. Lebza made her first foray into the great white North gambling the night away at Niagara Falls.

Finally, they felt their training was complete and were ready for their next challenge. Under the guise of Peace Corps Volunteers, they undertook the journey to South Africa. Though they easily could have teleported themselves directly to their training site, they chose to undertake the 18 hour flight so as not to reveal their identities to their Fellow PCVs.

After two months of nightly crime fighting practice at their training site, they were well versed in the ways of the supervillans of rural South Africa, and they moved to their permanent site. There they began to delve into a number of crimes committed by unruly giraffes and hungry hungry hippos. During the day, they continued their front, working with the schools and district office. They actually managed to convince some people that they knew something about education when they were really plotting their revenge on their giraffe adversaries.

Now we must leave our heroes again until next time as they head off to the next adventure, a week of shark fighting on the Wild Coast. Will they be able to fight off a pack of hungry great whites? Will Thabs ride a dolphin to Atlantis? Will Lebza ever stick to one eye color?

Until next time, sala sentle...

Thabs & Lebza

P.S. This is obviously not true.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dont worry becca hasnt gotten rid of me...yet

I grabbed a wild monkey by the tail.
Opening an old age home is a huge priority.
I realizes that the Steelers have a four percent chance of getting into the playoffs but I still believe.
Finally understands cricket but still doesnt “get it”
Is surprised that there not more statements like “That was a master piece of fielding by Alistair Cooke.” (starter for England Cricket team) are made especially because cricket can be 3 days long.
They call me mister Thabs.
Two words for tonight Crazy Games
My favorite part of the holiday season is watching 7 year olds with firecrackers throwing them at each other.
I have a pet frog named Omar.
I am convinced that Botswana is going to be exactly like South Africa.
Nobody reads this blog.
I am surprised that since so many people like Kenny Rogers and chicken that Kenny Rogers Roasters is not as ubiquitous as KFC.
I think President Obama should accept my invitation to visit me during the World Cup.
I want the rancheros and I want them bad.
That is what she said

Friday, December 11, 2009

what is development?

I know it's crazy...two posts in two days...but I've been contemplating this for a while now, and James is off at a meeting for who know how long so I've got plenty of time to post.

Two weeks ago a girl was hit by a police car and had both of her legs broken. She and many other middle and high school students were out in the streets celebrating the end of exams. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital. She'll be fine and ready to start 10th grade in a month. In Chad, she would have been crippled for the rest of her life unless her family was one of the richest in the village and could afford to take her themselves to the hospital in Kelo or Moundou. It led me to start thinking about how I see development in terms of my experience in one of the richest countries in Africa compared to one of the poorest. So here's some of the differences I've noticed.

Electricity - In South Africa, electricity comes from the power company. It goes out some times, and you call them to come fix it. Everything uses electricity...refrigerators, tvs, stoves, toasters, hot water heaters (geysers), kettles, fans, heaters, lights, computers, fax machines. When the electricity goes out, everyone complains about how boring it is. In Chad, electricity comes from generators if at all. It is used to power lights, to charge cell phones at the local shop, to power the one blender in the village that makes smoothies (if you are lucky) and the one refrigerator in the village that keeps soda cold.

Building - In South Africa, tin roofs are for poor people, tile roofs for the more well off, and thatched roofs are for safari lodges. In Chad, thatched roofs are for poor people and tin roofs are for the more well off. In South Africa, people have cement patios and plastered houses (if not brick). In Chad, people cement half way up the wall just to show that they could afford that much cement.

Water - In South Africa, there are water faucets in people's yards and houses. The one well that you have to pull from yourself is a funny anomaly at the Catholic church. The water may not come, but the infrastructure is there. In Chad, pulling from the well is a daily reality and carrying water from the water tower back to your house is a luxury.

Towns - In South Africa, towns are places with industry, chain shops, malls, restaurants, and grocery stores where people live in flats or houses with electric fences. In Chad, towns are bigger versions of villages with bigger markets, where you may be able to buy vache qui rit (Laughing Cow cheese) if you are lucky.

Transport - In South Africa, taxis belong to taxi associations. They have routes and must follow certain rules. There are never more than 13 or 14 passengers in a taxi. People travel all the time to go shopping in town, to visit relatives, to go to work. People commute hours every day or week or month. Many people have their own cars. In Chad, taxis are piled high with baggage on top and usually 20 people inside (or in the back of the truck). People hardly ever leave their villages and if the do travel they stay for months because of the cost of the trip. No one has a car, but those who can afford them have motorcycles.

Police - In South Africa, the police are people that are looking out for the best interest of citizens. You can file a police report and they will investigate it. They are seen as an asset to the community (except to our host mom). In Chad, the police sit around drinking tea, harrass and sometimes arrest people for no reason.

Schools - In South Africa, teachers are monitored and receive support from the government. They are constantly being encouraged to attend workshops, given new information about the curriculum, and encouraged to use participatory learning. In Chad, the curriculum for each subject for each grade is a page long and references books the teachers have never seen before. They don't receive much support from beyond the principal and there is no effort to reform the educational system.

And these are just some of the many blatent differences that strike me every day. I don't want to say that South Africa is a better place than Chad because I don't believe that at all, but instead to look at how development plays out in the everyday. I think people have a tendency to look at South Africa negatively because of the huge gap between rich and poor, yet there is so much going for this country even in the rural areas that people take for granted. They have the tools to close the gap that it will take poorer countries years to develop in infrastructure. That is one of the reasons I am so excited to be working here as I feel like I can do a lot to be a part of that in a short time. I hope I can take what I learn here and bring it with me when I return to work in countries that do not have these resources.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


After 6 days electricity free, Eskom finally came and fixed it for us this evening. It was kind of amazing since we had kind of gotten to the point of thinking they weren't coming at all. Mma tried to seduce them into coming with lies about us having very important work to do on computers. James tried to attract them over from the neighbors' yesterday with his impressive Setswana skills. But we still had to wait our turn and they got to us on the list around 6 tonight. It's crazy how dependent you become on electricity when you have an electric stove, kettle, fridge, tv, etc, but after a week of sandwiches we are definitely happy to have our electricity back.

But I shouldn't say we haven't been eating only sandwiches. The week has been full of parties. On Sunday, we attended a confirmation party for Mma's brother's granddaughter also named Lebogang. It was in her home village, a bit south and west of here (it's not that far, but it took 2 hours on a taxi since we had to go to our shopping town and then there). It was nice to meet more of the extended fam as Mma has lots of brothers and sisters and various cousins, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren were also there. We didn't go to the actual confirmation, but showed up at the house around 11 thinking they'd be back from the church by 1 (there were lots of people already there when we got there cooking and hanging out). They didn't end up getting back until 3:30 and we had to leave shortly after the big entrance (people love to parade into parties and it's super fun. They have a brass band and you dance down the street) to make it back before dark.

Then we've attended two farewell functions at our schools this week. These involve 3 to 5 hour programs with lots of speeches and performances by the children followed by lunch (one was at a reasonable 2 o'clock, but the other wasn't til 3:30 or so and I was about to die of hunger by that time). At one, we made the program and I gave out awards to the best children in each subject. One of my potential friends was there (the mother of one of the children and a former school governing body member) and I asked her if she would help me with the service learning club I'm doing with the 6th grade next year and she's super excited about it. Tomorrow we get even more free lunch as we are both going to all day planning meetings with two of our schools.

Things have been really falling into place lately. We're excited for our plans for next year, and the principals also seem pumped. A few of the curriculum specialists at the area office are really interested in working with us and have already asked us to do specific things. The education support center coordinator has a long list of programs for next year that she wants us to work on with her. We're helping the learnership kids and some community members to start an old age home (or trying to help). We may be a bit overwhelmed next year, but it's in a good way. Though we haven't done much in the way of work in the past three months, we've really started to find our place here, and it's just crazy the relationships we have already built and to think how much more time we'll have to build on them.

As for the near future, we're excited to go to a wedding in Botswana with our host mom, 2 of the principals, and some other friends then off to the Wild Coast with Peace Corps friends. And for the immediate future, we have to catch up on all the soapies we have missed with no electricity the last week.