Saturday, January 30, 2010

what would you do for e-lec-tricity?

We got home from our IST (training) on Wednesday night to find out the power had been out since Tuesday when there was a big storm. We called Eskom about 50 times and they finally fixed it on Friday around 3. It stayed on until about 7 and then went out for the rest of the night. We called them again today and it came back around 12. Who knows how long it will stay on this time. It wouldn't be such a big deal if we hadn't gone straight from eating 5 meals a day at training to surviving mostly on bread and peanut butter since we've been home. And we came home with the computer battery basically dead so we could not take advantage of our normal cheating by actually having entertainment when the power is out. Yeah I think we're pretty spoiled.

But the highlight of this instance of power outages (which does not top our 6 days of no power record) is that the old man next door had no power for two weeks so ma told Eskom that one of the many times we called. So they came to fix his power yesterday. He does not own the house, he watches it for a woman who we have met a couple of times and she seems very nice. Anyway apparently she is a sangoma (according to wikipedia "a practitioner of herbal medicine, divination and counselling") and the Eskom man said that he will never go into that house again because he was so freaked out by the stuff inside. I asked if it was bones and such (if you want a pretty horrific "comedic" rendering of sangomas, watch of Leon Schuster's awful Mr. Bones movies) and ma said no, but didn't tell us exactly what was so scary in the house and we were napping at the time so we didn't get to peek inside ourselves. So now we are aching to figure out the mystery of the sangoma.

We had a great time with our fellow PCVs at IST. It was a little surreal to see everyone for the first time since September since we've mostly just seen Kristen and Gabi, but once we got over the initial shock we had a lot of fun. We planned some great evening activities...a PCV costume party (I was a pussy cat vixem and James was a punk cop voortrekker), talent show, capture the flag game, and of course Peace Corps Prom. There were some genuinely really fun moments including an amazing Bohemian Rhapsody sing a long and Autumn, Kristen and I singing and dancing at the talent show (which for at least 2 out of the 3 of us are not talents). We also got to go back to our training site for an afternoon and visit our host family from training who were very happy to see us and meet their new baby.

Anyway it looks like the family has shown up from Rustenburg so I'm off to say hello and inshallah we'll actually be able to cook dinner tonight.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Boring Work Update

Since we last updated, the school year has gotten off to a fast start. We've both been pretty busy and happy to be so though what we've been doing isn't always the most exciting work. Though we are not here to do the work of our schools' administrative assistants, it can be difficult not to provide a lot of help in this area as we are more proficient (and most importantly fast) when it comes to anything involving computers. Actually all of the admin assistants are pretty proficient on the computer, but time management can be an issue for some of them. Anyway, this means that we've been helping out some which the schools really appreciate but is leading to us being asked to do things again and again. One thing we've been talking about doing to help in this area is creating templates and organizing them well on the computer so that in the future people don't have to retype everything. This helping with administrative work led me to work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend for a few hours at one of the schools to help them have everything prepared for the year. It's kind of crazy how they have to have all their work done now (time tables, schedules, inventories) for the opening of school because they are always getting inspected while the 'good' school still hasn't done their time table for the year yet which means that teachers just kind of decide when to teach randomly.

I've also been busy cleaning up and organizing the library at one school. I have a table to sit in their now and made pictures for all the initial consonants and consonant blends (tl, sw, kg etc.) in Setswana that I put up on the wall. Now I have to do English. One of the teachers who hasn't talked to me much asked me to explain the new lesson plan format to him so that was a victory. I've gotten educators to facilitate two after school clubs with me. And I had my first meeting of my teacher research seminar today. It's hard to tell how it went. There were 13 educators there, mostly because the one school that is hosting required their teachers to attend (though some of them were absent) so it was them and 4 educators from other schools. Some people seemed really interested but most didn't really show much emotion. It was mostly me talking and explaining what teacher research is and what we'll be doing this year so there wasn't that much time for participation. We'll see how it goes next time. I am a bit nervous because though I'm structuring it over the course of a year, I am requiring a bit of work from everyone (they have to write a paper and present it). We'll see how it goes.

James has been busy with much of the same stuff. He just discovered another messy library to organize as we're receiving some books that the old volunteers got donated soon. He's been setting up e-mails (or as they like to call them, websites) for everyone at the middle school because they now have the internet.

On Friday we're off for our IST (a Peace Corps training) for a week. It will be fun though weird to see volunteers we haven't seen since September again. It's weird to think that in just about two months my parents will be coming to visit and then in another couple of months we'll be off to Liberia for Matt's wedding and then Thom will be coming. I think the next year is going to fly by.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

twenty ten!

Well we've made it back home after a relaxing and amazing trip to Coffee Bay. In fact the last month or so has really been non-stop, so it's crazy to sit back and chill at home this week until the beginning of school next week. The end of the school year was chockful of parties and meetings so it went by pretty quickly. Then after school officially ended, our friend who we work with (she manages the education support center in our village) took us to Sun City for the day. It was quite the adventure, we mostly stuck to free activities (sadly didn't get to go to the valley of the waves waterpark which was super crowded since it was a holiday but we snuck into a hotel pool instead), walked around a lot, had some falafel, and met a talking bird. The most ridiculous part was waiting in line half an hour to ride the Sky Train which is literally like a metro car that goes 2 miles an hour (they have a commuter rail here so I don't know why it's such a novelty).

Then we made the speediest excursion to Botswana ever. We went one day and came back the next so the majority of the trip was spent in the taxi they had hired. Our cousin (the younger brother of one of our principals also) is getting married to a girl from Botswana so we went as part of the family delegation to the negotiations for the details of the wedding. He had already paid lebola (the bride price) so this was just about the details of the wedding. They both are really educated, independent people so it was interesting to see how they reconciled what they wanted with the tradition. James got to go and sit with the men during the negotiations while I sat with the ladies. The men did the actual discussions between families and would come and consult us at various times throughout. And of course we had lots of food including an amazing breakfast prepared by the bride's aunt who we stayed with. What we saw of Botswana wasn't too different from South Africa, poorer but the infrastructure was great, and the absence of Afrikaaners was noticable.

When we got back, it was almost time to head down to the coast for our vacation. We met up with 9 other volunteers in Pretoria and took a pretty excruciating overnight bus ride (with everyone who wanted to make it home by Christmas eve) to Mthatha where we got picked up to go to the Coffee Shack in Coffee Bay. We had an awesome time there. The coast was beautiful...rolling hills meeting cliffs. We went to the beach a lot, went surfing twice (the first time, our lesson, was more successful as we both stood up and rode waves into shore about 10 times each). We did a bunch of hikes...trekking through the dense forest next to a river to the sacred pools, a long hike to a waterfall that you had to swim the last part of, along the coast to the Hole in the Wall, and to the Mapuzi Cliffs where James did a pretty daring cliff jump and I did a less scary one into a river. It was really fun to get to hang out with other volunteers who we hadn't seen since September and just relax. It was crazy how unaccustomed we are to being catered to so we were kind of shocked by how nice and accomodating everyone was. We're definitely happy to be back at home, but also excited to think about future vacations and seeing more of the country.

Here are some photos: