Tuesday, October 5, 2010

up to the date

Well it’s been a while since the last update because things have been pretty busy since the strike ended. Coming back to school, there was lots to catch up on. I had planned for the third term to involve the bulk of the work for my after school clubs so there was a lot of improvisation to be done. My community service club ended up doing their presentation for the 4th and 5th graders at their school instead of for 6th graders from other schools, but it went very well. Each child got a pamphlet (made by the club members) to take home with them about HIV and nutrition so that will be a great supplement to what they learned during the presentation. As for the magazine, they are still working on it, but we should be able to print it in the next couple of weeks.

We just spent a week at a few different Peace Corps workshops with counterparts from our village. The first workshop was just for volunteers and we reflected on being at the half way point in our service, the second focused on the Peace Corps’ Life Skills Manual (which contains lessons about various life skills topics like decision making, peer pressure, etc.), and the third was a great hands-on workshop about permagardens (i.e. gardening using compost, double digging, less water, etc.) It got us really pumped to help out with gardening in the village and did not leave us so sad that our tomato seedlings didn’t make it through our absence (Mma has more that are still going strong and we bought some sweet pepper and watermelon seeds). We are going to work with our counterparts to put on some trainings for school gardeners as well as parents or grandparents of OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children). With that, planning our next camp, and all our normal responsibilities at school, we are going to be pretty busy for the next few months.

This time last year I was writing about our misadventures with mulberry jam. Well I am happy to report that we found a much easier and less time consuming solution…mulberry jelly. By crushing the mulberries to juice them, we did not have to worry about hulling them which was the most difficult part of the whole jam making process. Adding pectin also meant that we didn’t have to guess how long it would take to cook so we did not overcook our jelly and it congealed nicely. The whole process took about an hour to make 4 jars, and even the clean up wasn’t as bad. Just one mulberry tree could yield quite a lot of jelly but since we only have so much pectin and so many people to feed, we’ll probably just make one more batch.

Another characteristic of this time of year is the lack of water. The last time it rained was in May, and though the weather forecast keeps mentioning scattered showers, we have yet to see one. As a result, the municipality has been very stingy with the water. Months ago they cut off water in one of the pipes that comes into our yard (not so bad for us as we have another pipe, but for many people it means they haven’t had water at their house in months). The pressure in the other pipe has been so low that we have not been able to fill our water tank (which is maybe 10’ high) in at least two months. And it’s gotten worse. Yesterday it trickled out and took maybe 5 hours to fill a very small bucket. Luckily for whatever reason our neighbor’s water was coming out pretty hard, and we filled quite a lot of other buckets. One of our schools is completely out of water, and the children were pressing their mouths up to the tap of the water tank hoping that something would come out. When the water is on, we’ve seen lines of twenty people outside of abandoned houses that do have working taps, waiting their turn to fill their buckets. The whole issue really does show the divided nature of South Africa. In Pretoria, though they may issue warnings to cut back on water usage, this would never happen. Yet, in our village less than two hours away, people are resigned to the fact that they may go months without water at their homes. There are very few wells in the village, another issue that seems related to the development of the country. People expect to receive municipal water so there is not another system in place even though for much of the year, municipal water cannot be depended upon.

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