This is not a paper I would turn into grad school that was proofread, spell checked, and cared about but never or barely read. This is a blog that people will actually read but not grade. I write like I think and talk, which is not organized or correct in many ways. I was diagnosed with chronic sarcasm as a child, its genetic.

The views expressed on this website are entirely my own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bloggity blog blog. Wudup. 

I ran a marathon on my birthday, it was pretty legit. It was in SOWETO which is kind of a big deal. 

“Soweto is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter misery and new prosperity,
squalor and an upbeat lifestyle, it’s a vibrant city which still openly bears the scars of the Apartheid past
and yet shows what’s possible in the New South Africa”

Anyway, it was a great time! I clearly have recall bias since I finished the race without breaking anything I am really only remembering the joy! It was a very challenging course, lots of hills. I walked most the up hills and not ashamed, it was hard. It was certainly a birthday to remember! I wrote “it’s my birthday I can walk if I want to” on the back of my shirt, causing a lot of people to wish me happy birthday and several people even sang to me. Running through Soweto was different than any other race I have done, the crowd support was amazing! I was offered beer plenty of times, and once a man even tried giving me his lit joint, I couldn’t help but crack up when we started to trot with me and ask ‘heeeey want some fire, take some fire’ haha! I respectfully declined and the runner next to me said ‘that’s why I love this race’. My favourite times were the groups of kids cheering us along, I heard cheers and songs in several languages and one group of girls yelling ‘GIRL POWER’ to me and another female runner. I have to say it was also the first time I had kids begging for water and energade after the water stations. <water and energade were in little bags that you pop and drink, not cups, so a lot of ppl grabbed several and carried them> OH and the first time I have seen cold drink (pop-soda) at the water stations. I drank some pepsi at one station but stuck to the water after that. Between aid stations there were plenty of spectators outside of their houses with water, salt, and some even had Vaseline! I most certainly took advantage of that- shame there was no sunblock b/c I got fried! It was the first time my thighs and shoulders had really seen sun, so yea, nice and red. 

Speaking of sunburn, now I am really confusing some people. Some people in the community were surprised how quickly and drastic my skin colour changes, then when I got back from the race my face was red, now it is pealing. One woman at work looked at me like I was dying, ha. 

Anyway, it was also a wonderful weekend because I was able to spend time with other PCVs in Pretoria then the other 6 who ran the race. I swear, seeing other PCVs is better than weeks of therapy! I am very grateful for time spent with my friends, being able to drink beer (FROM THE BOTTLE!), speak English quickly, cuss, vent, and not have to explain myself is a treat to say the least. Being in the city still really messes with my mind, and probably always will. I live in one of the nicest houses in the hood and we have to fetch water and just got electricity to the whole house, people are very poor, most have little formal education and opportunities seem dismal. Then, you go to Jo-burg or Pretoria (or any city for that matter) and the disparities smack you in the face. Joburg is one of the largest metropolitans in the world, in the top 40 I believe. I think it is a good thing that it is confusing and disturbing, it should be. We all know that people throughout the world live very differently, the rich and poor is a huge gap blah blah blah, but having these two worlds so close together highlights how f’ed up it all really is. 

I am not really putting my thoughts together very well, it’s hot and I am pretty spastic right now. Moral of the story, it was a good weekend. 

In other news, I GOT A GRANT YIPPPYY!!! It is for World Aids Day and 16 Days of Activism. I am a little nervous about it because it will be a lot of work between now-dec 10, but it should be good. This is the first large project I am doing, it will be a lot of health and gender empowerment education, some fun activities like painting murals and doing pledge activities and stuff. Hopefully my ‘counterparts’ step up and do some legit work. I am also hoping that some of the gender stuff I do will eventually lead to a support group for females regarding gender based violence/discrimination and all that fun stuff- but we’ll see. 

Work has been weird. I decided I needed to take about ten steps back to try and get anything I do with to work. We are now rewriting job descriptions and re-structuring everyone’s day. And by we, pretty much me. I really thought I would be further along with progression on the org by now, but whatever, I guess that is why we are here for two years. After the holidays I have high hopes, that is when a lot of the changes I am trying to do will be implemented. 

Now I am just rambling, but that is my update. I’m still here, doing well, sweating a lot and always talking to myself and usually confused. 



Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Me, I like the testicles"

SOME of the food, in the new not-so-done kitchen
I woke around 4 am clings and clangs, chops, and fire. The women were up early, beating the sun by about two hours to finish preparing all the food for the Baloyi family reunion. Lucky for me the outdoor light and little bit of cover from the blowing winds is just outside my door, so the women were chatting about not having enough green pepper and ‘why the hell did she shop at pick’n pay not fruit ‘n veg’ at my door. Because I am a firm believer that too many cooks is just silly, I stayed in bed until Emily knocked on my door because she needed a box of food that was in my room. I opened by door, with my messy bun on my head and not wearing pants (that’s another story which I will not get too much into) trying to smile and give a proper morning greeting, that I think just came out as a grumble. I gave Emily the box of stuff, which turns out was spices and fish- which was also great to wake up to in my 10x10 room with windows closed. Then I grabbed some pants and a headband and went to try and help. I looked around at all the food and realized they must have been up for hours. Turns out the two older sisters were up at 2:00am to finish prep. “That is just silly!” was my response, but they didn’t seem to understand my disgust. The night before I snuck into bed around 10:00pm, I had been helping chop things and clean for a couple hours and they told me it was someone else’s turn. With six women, all with children ranging from 9 months to 25 years the house was pretty busy and I was fine to escape into my room. Especially since my bed time is usually 8:00pm. 

I have learned that when groups of women get together to prepare for an event, there will be a lot of sitting around and observing, but everyone pitches in. I tried to compare the preparation to Thanksgiving, which usually requires a lot of preparation and experience to know what to do when- but it’s just not the same. First of all, turkey- you leave it. Come back, spew some juicey water on it, leave it. The night before you have to do a lot of prep, with the stuffing and all, and (at least at my house) someone wakes up either throughout the night or very early to keep it juiced. At least I think. My role usually is the day before chopping and day of chopping. For some reason my cooking skills and experiences tend to cease after chopping. But that isn’t what I was trying to explain, where was I? oh yes, night before prep. So anyway, the Baloyi sisters live all over, spread between three provinces. They arrived Friday afternoon and I was relieved when I greeted them they spoke English and welcomed me with smiles. We sat around for a little bit, I slowly got the little ones (2 babies, 1 toddler, 4 other kids) to not be afraid of me, bubbles worked the best, and sunglasses. The sisters talked about money and made sure all that was straightened out, and from what I gathered just caught up. That is when it was time for me to go across the street to funeral prep. 

Funeral, wedding, and reunion on one street in one day. 

Kiddie corner to my house a young girl died about a week ago. I did not know her, but I am told she was a very bright nice beautiful girl. She managed to pass her matric (final national high schools exam) which is a very rare thing in Danisane, and was in tertiary school, even rarer. As described by Mr. Baloyi (the eldest son of old man, owns tuck shop) her boyfriend was garbage and running all around with other girls, ‘she probably got infected’. It is customary (mandatory really) for women to help with preparation for the funeral. I often see Gogo’s carrying the giant black cooking pots and water barrels to someone’s house to help. I have never actually helped, and it’s not that I don’t want to, but I haven’t felt like I’ve had an opportunity. I live with an old man who takes little interest in me- or just can’t really take interest because of language- so I never have anyone telling me what is going on or what I should be doing. But that day, Mma Baloyi (wife of Mr. Baloyi-project manager at my org-doesn’t live in Danisane but it town) was still over to help with prep.  So she told me we had to go to the funeral or else the women would talk about her- so off we went. I put on a skirt and covered my head with a scarf and we went to the house to help. We do the normal greetings, with extra greetings for me, because people still think it’s funny and start to chop some cabbage. “AWOA, TINYIKO” is the immediate response, which is normal, no matter how small I chop it, it’s not small enough. I give my normal sassy response to Mma Baloyi and tell her to her to ‘pump the breaks I got this!’ She laughs, makes fun of me in a language I don’t understand, Gogo’s laugh, we are all happy. I manage to chop about half of what Mma Baloyi does, but speed doesn’t really matter, ever. We are chopping at a table with about 10 people around it, but only two of us working. After one woman gets sick of watching me do everything wrong, she takes over for me. After looking around at another group of women around the fire and big pots, and another group sitting around something else –and of course the men sitting around drinking away from everyone else- I realize there really isn’t work for all 30 of us, but still we HAVE to be there. Paying respect, I guess that aspect of community and Ubuntu is not dead, and I think it’s a beautiful thing. 

So Mma Baloyi and I start to leave to get back to our own prep but stop when we see the funeral home minivan approaching. Soon everyone is gathered around singing, men on one side women on the other. I recognize all these songs by now, but still just stand there pretending to understand. The mood at the cooking tables was pretty happy, but the mood goes south very quickly. I never met this young girl, and I do not know the family but damnit I get all choked up. As the coffin comes out and a few men carry her into the house I can see a young boy crying, which is rare. I have only been to a few memorials and funerals, but I have only seen tears from a few people at the actual grave. I have to ignore the songs and the people around me to regain my composure. I start to realize all the little ones running around which just reinforces the idea that funerals and death are all too common, and it has become a normal part of the culture. However, seeing the little boy wipe his eyes, then another, a bit older girl, crying- reminds us even though it is common, it is still tragic. 

So, we are now back at my house and I am more comfortable in my jean knee length shorts and start the prep! I take a seat and start on peeling some potatoes. Two large bags of potatoes at my feet made me really happy that I invested in a peeler. Hone looked at me and said ‘those are too hard to use, I like this knife’ well you go girl, I like my peeler. We peel away as some of the other women cook that night’s dinner and chase around some of the now 7 kids around. Before I know it there are about 20 of us around doing all sorts of things, but I just stick to the one table going from potatoes, to carrots, peppers, beetroot, then cabbage and onion. I satisfy my duty long before it is all done and another sister takes my knife and tells me to rest. I have a Skype date with Mal, so I don’t refuse. 

Shortly after I went to bed the chopping and chatting dwindled down, and just as I thought it was going to be a quiet night, the drums and singing start. Oh yea, funeral, all night prayer service, across the street. Although I enjoy drums and all, not gonna lie, when it gets to be too intense in the middle of the night it can be a little creepy.

So now it is event day and I am back outside ready to help, but I see I am too late- chopping is done, damn. Emily informs me she has been up since 200am, jyo! Was my response. I spend a lot of time sitting with different people around pots of whatever, and try and help clean. I am happy to see Mr. Baloyi and family around 6am, and go to investigate what animal will be slaughtered. There it is, a goat hanging from the tree and about 5 men standing around to skin and dissect it. This is ‘man’s’ work, but that never stopped me before so I head over to see how you dissect a goat. Not that I really make it a habit of seeing the face of what I will later eat, but it just seemed like the Peace Corps thing to do. Mr. Baloyi quizzes me on different parts, and I am happy I went through anatomy so I could surprise him with correct answers. After I correctly identify the liver he tells me that is only for the men, and I am fine with that. 

Old man and Mr. Baloyi
“Me, I like the testicles.” Mr. Baloyi says with a boyish smile. Luckily I know him well enough I don’t have to mask any reaction. The look on my face makes him laugh and he goes into detail of why he likes them, I told him he could have the balls and I don’t want anything to do with them. We laugh then start talking about the intestines. 

Mma Baloyi and I, CINA!
I stand by the giant vats of pap, then the ones of meat, then other random items, and then finally decide I am useless. I take pictures of people which seems to make them happy, and get ready. I put my South African skirt on that Mma Baloyi gave me, and even some mascara. Big day. 

After sitting around with some women, pretending to know what was going on, Mma Baloyi said it was time to go to the wedding. Wedding? Okay. So three houses past the funeral was a wedding, we stood around for a while and watched the wedding party come in. They were very beautiful, and the choir was also great. After a couple songs and more standing around, she said we were there long enough and needed to get back. Again, just showing face to make the community happy. 

First the funeral, tragic life ending- then wedding, celebration of two families coming together- then reunion, continuing the family bonds. All that in a span of about 6 houses. 

Some sisters, grandkids, great grandkids... 
The next 2 hours are me sitting around, I blow bubbles for the kids which makes the coolest person, EVER. A little four year old girl, who I named princess, had an exceptional amount of energy, and questions. She is Mpho’s (one of the younger daughters) daughter. They live in Pretoria therefore her English is impressive, and she was not afraid to use it with me. She asked “what are you doing” “why” “why” “why” “why” after everything. Although that can be an annoying trait, I thought it was cute. Like many children, she was surprised when she discovered I do not have any kids. “Why” she asked, and everyone laughed. Well, “I am too young” is not an option considering the people around me. “I am not married” certainly is not an option. “I don’t want kids” might be worse than saying I don’t go to church. “Well” I say with a laugh “if I had kids, I would not have been able to come to South Africa.” She thought about that for a couple seconds, then, “why”. Eish. 

The rest of the day was fun, before I knew it there were at least 50 people around. Men were circled up drinking tall boy Black Label beer or the traditional brew I was jonesing for- but never got. The core group of women were busy finishing getting everything ready, and I took periodic breaks hiding in my room. Dancing started after we all ate, somehow Mma Baloyi whisked me off, got my skirt off and put me in her shebelani (the big skirt) and I had all eyes on me (and camera phones) when I was doing the Shangaan dance. After Mr. Baloyi announced that I do, in fact, live here some more people came up to me to greet me and ask questions. Many of the men got progressively drunker, and since the Baloyi women don’t drink, we just hung around dancing, dancing, and dancing. 
Some of the Baloyi sisters showin me how it's done

The sun set, the music kept going, and I was tired. I finally took the shebelani off, mainly because i did not want to battle that in the latrine. A lot of the families began to head home, but a lot stayed to keep going. Everyone had a lot of fun, but I wanted so bad to point out how only a hand full of people did all the work- and if they just agreed to have food ready later, we could have all got a lot more sleep. But, that just isn’t how it works- so I kept quiet. As the women started to clean, many of the men remained drinking. I uploaded the 200 pics I took throughout the day and burned all of the sisters a cd. They were all very happy, and I no longer felt bad for not getting up at 2:00am. I praised the hardest workers for what a wonderful day it was, and snuck off to bed. 

There was still a lot of cleaning left to do when I went to bed, but having no idea what to do and feeling in the way I didn’t feel bad. When I woke up this morning around five, to more clinging and clanging and old man yelling about something and church music blaring on the radio- I refused to think it was necessary to be awake- so put the pillow over my head and didn’t brave the outdoors until around 700, and decided these women are crazy. I like sleep too much to be a part of this family.

Well, around noon Sunday morning, all the family was gone. They will be back in about a month for one of the sister’s wedding, and we will do it all again. I was a bit bummed to see them go, it was fun having a host family for a weekend. The event also made me miss my family more, but I am grateful to have been a part of this reunion. I look forward the November 12th wedding, and I’ll make sure to have plenty of bubbles for the little ones! 

Oh, I never did get to why I didn't have pants on. But I think I'll save that for people who understand chamber pots. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sassy Sami and the Secondary School

It’s hot. Damn. I want some cold drink, think I’ll go get some Tab.
                Reasons why that thought is all sorts of weird:
1.        “cold drink”
2.       It is going to get a lot hotter
3.       Wanting cold drink
4.       Tab

So the week or so I have had some blog moments, but chose to not relive them. I have spent some time at the secondary school which was overwhelming, depressing, but also exciting, hopeful and fun. A teenager fell in love with me and another called me fat. I made and devoured French toast, puked my brains out (not in that order), and had some very good conversations with several people at Bathuseng (the org I work for) which were very frustrating but overall promising.  

Secondary school:
Arranging work at the secondary school has been less than awesome. The broken appointments and general poor attitude from admin and teachers should have given me sufficient warning to how this last week ‘observing classes’ would go, but I still show up every day refusing to accept the bullshit as normal. Tuesday was my big day with the 12 grade learners, so I show up to the school at 8am and stand in the back of ‘assembly’ (all the students stand in the courtyard and someone prayers, they sing some, most don’t pay attention and sometimes there are productive announcements) waiting for classes to start. The first class I am supposed to be a part of is at 9am, so I sit in a random room a couple teachers share as an office. <teachers don’t have their own classrooms so they keep their things in an office> The teacher that I am supposed to be with is not around, she is still at home. No one is surprised or seems concerned. I ask the other LO teacher (who I am supposed to be observing later that week) what we are going to do about it. He seems to think I will teach that class, and all of her other classes (including Afrikaans and geography). I am very aware of how many the schools work and classrooms filled with learners and no teacher is normal, but, I like to be a pain in dumbasses and ask questions. I ask what would happen if I was not there, where her lesson plans are so I could teach a proper lesson, and ask if it is against any rules for a teacher to not show up without warning or reason. That didn’t go very far. 

Next thing you know I am standing in front of a classroom of 12 grade learners, ages ranging from 17 to 20-something. The room had broken windows and an aluminum/tin door that did not shut, and on that windy day was very annoying. We ended pushing 3 bricks and a desk to try and keep it from disturbing us too much, but I couldn’t help but think about when these kids start eating me alive it will take longer for my crying lekgowa ass to escape. Luckily for me, the students were great. It took a solid 25 minutes for me to get them to answer any type of question, I tried not to push too much and made sure to explain what I was doing carefully remembering the general teaching style is lecture and silence from the class. After we went around introducing ourselves and giving one fun fact they lightened up a little, and I got some information from them. We talked about school, challenges, successes, what they want to do after they finish secondary school, and what they want to change in the community. Most people do not make it to 12th grade, there is little incentive to stay in school and plenty of reasons to drop out, so these learners are more likely to be model students simply because they have made it this far. It was wonderful to hear what they want to do after school, most said either doctor, nurse, or social worker and several explained that the community needs these services and they wanted to be the ones to help. I am not a pessimist by nature, but it was also a little sad when we were talking about it because there was a clear disconnect between what they wanted to do and what they thought they could do, and although I think they have the ability to become a doctor- it is not likely. Especially when no one is willing to teach them. 

An example of the defeated mindset was when we were talking about school conditions and one girl said “I am not mad at the school, we are in a rural village, we can’t have things like other places.” AAAHHHH!!!!!! Was how I wanted to react, but I chose to contain myself. That mindset is so widespread, and I am afraid has gone from the apartheid generations to the first free generation. I think many young people understand they deserve better, but I think people have been desensitized and there is little fight or motivation left. So maybe the ones who know they deserve better do not think it is attainable, or have no idea how to reach it- so feel hopeless. 

SO ANYWAY, after that class was lunch. I sat and ate my apple, and about 1/5 of the food they put in front of me. The teacher finally showed up, and informed us that she will not be attending the rest of her classes because she doesn’t want to, and she thinks I will teach, this was of course was not in English and I had no idea what was going on. Again, I found myself in a classroom by myself. So for the next two classes had discussions with the classes and actually did really well with one of the classes. I had them do a little exercise about how they can all solve a problem in the community, next thing you know I am like some motivational speaker that the learners are listening to and asking questions. Where did that come from? Not sure but it was cool. After the last class I found the teacher and tried having a little discussion. Fail. Worthless.
When I went to the school today to observe another LO class, the morning prayer went to 830 which is dumb but typical- class starts at 8 so the first period many times just doesn’t happen. So go to the teacher I am observing. He asked what the plan was, and I reminded him. He then informed me that there is no LO today, its PE b/c it’s Friday. That of course made me chuckle because he is the one that told me to show up at 8 for LO. Worthless. Part of our convo went something like this:
Him: today is PE because it’s Friday, I don’t know what we can do. Maybe you can teach them, you know aerobics, no?
Me: yes, I do know aerobics, however, I did not prepare anything because you told me I was observing your LO class this morning.
Him: but there is no LO class today, its PE
Me: I understand that. Why do you need me to teach PE, who is supposed to do it?
Him: I am. Its my class.
Me: ok, so it is your class. Not my class. I do not understand why I should teach it. I will observe LO next week, and we can all meet again and discuss the next step of our plan.
Him: you are leaving?
Me: yes. I came here to observe LO because you asked me to help make the classes better. Since there is no LO class I am not going to waste my time. 

The rose colored Peace Corps goggles that most new PCV wear, the ones that can make lazy co workers look hardworking, well those faded away about week two at site, but I still refuse to accept the irresponsible behavior that is standard at too many organizations and schools acceptable. I have been walking on egg shells, trying to be so damn culturally sensitive and not offend anyone since I got here and I am kind of over it. Being a horrible worker is not a cultural difference, and I feel no need to be sensitive about that. I am 100% aware that the reason many of these problems are around is because of the history of South Africa. Let’s be real, the white people really F’ed things up. It is the old oppressive government at fault for the horrible education system and much of the poverty, but continuing to excuse this attitude will not help anyone and the young generation needs some role models. 

Well, so I have a lot of work to do at the schools. As much as I would like to give some of the teachers the bird and leave, the students deserve teachers. If I can help them study for their national final exam which decides if they graduate (8 ppl passed at this school last year), then great. Maybe I will meet some other teachers that are motivated and we can work together. Maybe stars will align and some of the not so amazing teachers will improve, I have to try. 

So that was my week at the secondary school, sorry for the rambling. I could have gone on for a couple more pages, but I’ll stop. Now on to a brief summary of the good things that happened at Bathuseng this week! YAY! I had a really good discussion with Mma Baloyi (manager) about some major changes that need to happen at the org. I explained my frustrations with the organization and certain people and she was supportive. Without getting into the details, it was really good. Done with egg shells.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

extrordinarily ordinary

August 17, 2011

I need a date book
<but don’t send me one>
Reason #26 why I need a date book, I just remembered I am a Master International student and I have all sorts of stuff to turn into USF. Whooopsies.
Reasons 1-25 range from
            #5 to make me feel important
#7 because I am working at 2 different schools, Bathuseng, and trying to write two different grants all while refusing to lose sleep or miss an appointment
# 11 I am supposed to be training for a race in November and another in March
# 13 So people think I am busy
# 3 Something else to doodle in

So I guess with all this extra money that I do not have laying around I will make my way to a stationary place, I hate datebooks. It’s a big commitment, usually a whole year! Oh life is such a struggle.


Things are starting to pick up a bit. The secondary school wants me to help with grade 11 and 12 ‘Life Orientation’ class. By ‘help’ I mean take over, but I am learning from my peers and standing my ground. Explaining ‘sustainability’ and the Peace Corps goals as reasons why I won’t take everything over gave the teachers and principal a glazed over look, but what the hell, I tried. Not to mention I have zero training, but that doesn’t seem to matter. 

From what I understand Life Orientation (LO) is a catch all for subject matter that teens need but are not getting in other subjects or from home. Things such as health, stress management, possible career choices, human rights, and any other subject you can think to throw at teens. I am excited for this subject; I think there is a lot of potential to make it interesting and really helpful. I am most excited about the health stuff and the potential to throw in some gender/youth empowerment and gauge interest for after school clubs. Maybe I’ll actually use my degree? Maybe. High hopes for now, hopefully they don’t eat me alive. 

The primary school principal wants me to work on the curriculum for a couple different subjects, it’s not looking promising. There was an education volunteer here from 2006-2008 and after talking to her I realized they asked me to do exactly what she did. Not only is that school not my primary assignment, but I have no education training and reinventing the wheel seems semi-pointless. Mah. 

My workshop series with the OVC carers is going well. Not exceptional, but good enough. We have been working on goal setting and program planning. I had to extend the number of sessions after I realized just how foreign these concepts are. Now I know why I am here for two years. 

Another reason why I love it here: the OVC carers are sick of fetching water, so they hook up three different hoses to stretch across the road to the municipal tap and fill up a giant Jojo bin intended to catch rain water. But sometimes still walk to the tap and sit there for 45 minutes to get away from the Centre when our staff pissed them off. They also fill me in on the dirt of what is going on. You go girls. 

August 21
It's Sunday. whoop whoop. lived another week. This next week I actually have some legit stuff to do, tomorrow I am supposed to be meeting with a couple teachers from the primary school, too bad the principal still hasn't told me what time this meeting is. Tuesday I will be shadowing the secondary LO class and working out a teaching schedule. They asked me to lead the morning prayer and sing, i said no. They thought I was joking, i then said 'absolutely not' and i think they got the hint.

OH. so friday was supposed to be the carers first planned activity with the kids. didn't go perfect, actually almost didn't go at all. i ended up just playing frisbee with a bunch of kids while the carers played volleyball amongst themselves. ill write about it later and post some pics, despite it not going how it was supposed to i had fun. at one point there was a baby on my back. whats not to love?

My favorite carer is on leave for the next two weeks, she speaks the best english and actually has interest in improving the centre, i think i might alter the workshops while she is gone, do some review of what we have been doing. i also am giving more responsibility to the coordinator, so we'll see how that goes.

I have a 'bagobe' (pap) lesson wed, haha. The favorite carer (Mokgadi) is coming over and we are going to cook pap, i am also cooking her an American breakfast. Should be interesting. I am not all too concerned with learning how to cook but I figure since i ultimately don't have a host family or anyone around me ever i should try and weezle my in somehow. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oh hey, I'm still alive

Bloggy BLOG BLOG. 

I realized I have not written in a while, and I am also behind in e mails to friends and family- this is mostly because I don’t really have anything exciting to say. BUT I suppose I should give a general update on life. I have received some more questions from people making me realize I have done a poor job of trying to explain what I am doing here, how my living situation is, and just how I am in general. I will do my best to explain this with an edited version of life in PC SA. 

I am now out of the ‘Lockdown’ phase, which was our observation phase. During that time we had to complete a needs assessment. I did mine pretty well, there are a couple things I could add too to make it better, but I am confident that it good enough. I turned this in almost two months ago to Peace Corps, considering this was supposed to be a big deal I hoped it would be at least read by someone, commented on and maybe we would get a little feedback, however, this has not happened.  I guess I am still in grad school mode, and need to snap out of it. 

ANYWAY, so lockdown is over, ‘real’ work begins. 

The first mountain for me to climb is getting the DIC (drop in centre for orphans) more productive. We currently have motivated caregivers and (some) food to feed the kids. Drop in centres are supposed to also work with the kids of life skills, fun activities, homework – and other things like that. Apparently once upon a time this centre did that, but now there are no activities and kids are not coming consistently making it difficult to start activities. So, this is where I come in. The caregivers told me the biggest challenges are 1)the inconsistent timing of children coming/kids not coming at all & 2) not sure what to do with kids/having no activities. Seems to me if we can get some activities going then maybe the kids would have reason to come, and they wouldn’t come just to eat shortly before we close. So, that is what we are doing. So I am doing a series of workshops with the caregivers about all of that. I am focusing a lot on planning and goals. I hope to eventually have them making daily lesson plans, weekly and monthly plans. This is something that is pretty standard for DICs, but has not been done here. I am also trying to tap into my creative side and am teaching them activities we can do with the children that do not need resources. For example, we are saving newspapers and will have a fashion show and contest who can make the best wardrobe out of newspapers. We are also making a volleyball net out of old plastic bags. I have to admit these ideas are not original- they are out of an awesome book I bought. It is exciting though, after the first workshop I did with the carers about the importance of play and how to facilitate they were already playing with the kids that afternoon.
One very, very important step I am taking is meetings with another DIC. A PCV (I would like to give a shout out to Elizabeth/Metja of Moshate) who is another SA 23- her and I are having monthly meeting between us and our respective OVC/DIC Coordinators. These group meetings make it easier for us to share ideas and I think make it easier for the staff members to express ideas and learn from each other. It also holds them/us accountable for changes we say we will make. 

Another project will be working with the primary and secondary schools. This, however, will be challenge to say the least. It is exciting but scary. The primary school wants me to pretty much get the teachers to teach and implement lesson plans, haha, oh yea no problem. The secondary school I think wants me to teach, which I am very willing to do if we can get the schedule to work out. I would most likely be teaching some health stuff which would be awesome! BUT we’ll see. 

Long term project for me is a mentoring/afterschool program. This is a major project that will take a lot of planning, and I will need to get a grant. My plan is to train some of the secondary school students to be mentors, have them mentor some of the primary school kiddos and ppl here at the centre- and also have them be able to train more mentors. This will also be an afterschool program focusing on all the fun stuff that we should be focusing on. Ya know, female empowerment, physical activity, passing school, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, fun stuff, sex ed… all that good stuff. There is currently nothing to do here, so, kids have sex and drink a lot. The sex ed is sub par and there are very few good role models. The challenge right now is finding some good counterparts to work with- once I can figure that part out I can write the grant. Oh yea, and I have to find a bunch of other donations and plan it all. No problem. But this will be the big project that when I walk away from here, if it is successful and looks like it can run without me being here- I will be happy. 

What other questions have I had? 

Missing home-Yes, I miss home, a lot. August in MI has always been my favorite, this will be my first time not spending at least half of it there. Shame. I miss everyone very much, but feel very lucky I have access to the internet so I stay semi connected. 

What do I eat?- A lot of rice. A lot of eggs. A lot of beans. A lot of apples. A lot of junk food if it is around, although I am really trying to cut that out. I recently did some real grocery shopping, so i have had some more veggies, and made some wonderful hummus. I cook over a propane stove which is pretty awesome. My workout regimen is improving, so that is also good- but damn, I miss running on bayshore. I MISS ELTON (my bike) SO MUCH!!!

Water/bathing- I fetch my water using 3 buckets and a wheelbarrow. It isn’t too far away so not bad. I go usually every other day. The municipal taps are spread out around the village, but rarely work so I go to a house that has a bore hole and buy it for 1R per bucket (25 L). The family is nice, doesn’t really speak English but sometimes they don’t make me pay which is cool, but really that price is super low so (for me) isn’t a factor. My limiting factor for water is laziness. I use buckets to bathe, I have got myself down to using very little water. It is a pretty pathetic game I play seeing how little water I use. 

How is language going?- its not. My tutor is not nearly as awesome as our language teachers during PST and the ppl at my org are more interested in learning English than teaching my Sepedi. I understand this, and support it. They have to write all reports in English (which is stupid), and if they ever want a better job need to have better English, so it is important for them to know English. I am still trying to learn more, but am struggling. My PC experience would be DARASTICLLY different if I spoke the language, it’s frustrating, but whatever I guess that’s life.

What else have ppl asked? I don’t remember. But please feel free to continue inquiring about whatever, I am happy to answer!!! 

6 months down, 20 to go.