HEY THERE BLOG! so below are some posts i wrote throughout training, i was told many times by Peace Corps that they screen these blogs, so this is my edited version of life. All in all life is good. Training is over, which is exciting and sad, and I am chllin at my perma-site. I don't feel like writing about the last couple weeks yet, but I'll get to it eventually. I am missing my fellow SA 23ers like crazy, being on my own is going to be challenging, but super pumped to start the needs assessment on monday. and my super pumped i mean 'omg i have to do a needs assessment'
anyway- if you actually read all of this then you deserve a gold sticker for procrastination of whatever it is you should be doing, but anyway- love and miss everyone!!!!
FEB 6HELLO WORLD! Or I guess I should say 'MINJANI?' which means, 'how are you?' I am currently writing this on my laptop and will save it until i someday am near the world of internet. It is Feb 6 and I am in the in the village of T-something or other that means 'sit down' finsihing up the first full day at my homestay. I have already found different uses for my mosquito bed net and my britta water filter pitcher than what it is intended for, meaning I am that person that global health workers are constantly battling. But using my britta pitcher to pour water over me during my bucket bath is waaaaaaaaaaaay better than actually filtering water after the boiling thing...
<dont get scared, i am also filtering my water>
OH YEA, i got a new name. it is 'Tsakane' and it means HAPPY, be jealous. My Vamhani named me. (host mother) but hey mom, dont get jealous, i like your cooking waaaaaaay better.
My time in South Africa has been, well, intense. The slower pace of life is something I will need to get used to, and the first week of training was, well, whatever it is over. The training group is pretty rad. One lady is 78 years old, and she rocks my world. Friday was our last night all together before our homestays so we were all hanging out having a themed 'tourist/mustache' party, and we taught her how to do the 'stanky leg'. If you don't know it, well- you have internet, google it! So yea, there are 46 of us and we are all very diverse. I think there are only 2 of us with MPH, lots of different backgrounds which makes it fun. Now I am in a Shangan family where the kids laugh at me and follow me around and I sit in the front meeting a lot of random people who just wanted to 'come see the mulungu' (white person) My family is pretty rockin! There are a ton of kids everywhere, but only three are actually in this immediate family. The litte girl, Kentzie <ill check that spelling later> is adorable, she is two years and i flippin love her. She loves me too which is funny because she clinged to me right away and it took G two months! Speaking of G, i miss that little nugget!!! <and everyone else too> Anyway, this little Kentzie girl is so funny, but she is tiny-waaaaaay smaller than G.
COKE. IS. EVERYWHERE. it is easier to get coke in this joint than water. something wrong with that picture. but of course it is not called pop, it is 'cold drink'. HA and 'PAP' <pronounced pop> is what we eat. all the time. it is 'meelie meelie' <not sure about that spelling> or corn starch stuff boiled with water. it gets real thick and you put a giant pile on your plate and eat it with your hands. speaking of that, they gave us a bucket bath lesson but no lesson on how to eat without silverware, thanks peace corps. I have consumed a LOT of pap.
The language I will be learning is called XiTsonga <the X is pronounced as a 'she' sound, kind of like shit-songa>. There are only 6 of us learning it and it is in a way the outcast language. maybe one day i will explain it but involved a lot of Shaka Zulu history that gets involved and I am just not ready to type all that. It is also considered the 'romantic' language of africa, also spoken a little in zimbabwe and mozambique. i think.
this post is going no where. i feel like i have a lot to say, but its time for bed. so i will leave you with this:
Shangan man: 'i heard you come from amerika, i had to come look at you."
me : 'yup, ndzi huma eAmerica"
man: 'do you know silvester stalon?"
me: 'um. yeaaaaaaaaaaa'
aaaaaaaaaand that is all for now. more to come lateeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer.
Feb 8it is flipping HOT
Feb 9still flippin hot. i want to rebel and sleep with the windows open but i think my family would see since they wake up at the butt crack of dawn, i think we have to shut them b/c of mosquitoes but whatever, its freakin hot.
things have really picked up this week. sessions are more interesting, we are working in smaller groups which makes it less painful. talking more about the culture and comparing it with the states. more about HIV, sex, drugs, and rock n roll.
my stomach is rebelling against all the pap im eating. it hates me.
let me tell you about a little run in i had with a posse of roaches at the toilet. i thought i saw some monster roaches in new orleans but those looked like ants compared to these jerks. i sprayed the crap outta of the latrine then by the time i got home from lessons it was ok. but let me set the scene for you: i am dehydrated because it's balls hot and filtering water is annoying, but decide i should pee before bed because that is just what i do. i open the door, it is around dusk-ish, not dark, and see lots of cockroaches. i decide i dont have to pee. next morning i wake up to the roosters and other random animals having a dance party on my metal roof and need to pee. i walk out to the latrine, and look at that. more cockroaches. i shine a light on them, they do NOT scatter, instead they laugh at me. i got some spray with dead bugs on the canister which i thought would be a good indication of what to use and i spray the crap outta of them. they are slowly dying, i feel bad so i want to put the ones in close proximity to me outta commission. i take one of my sandals off and while hopping around on one foot i am swatting at them. THEN more come from above, i think it was the second brigade coming to get me. have you seen Men In Black, you know the part with the giant cockroach? the part where someone kills a roach and the giant roach appears to kill, well, that is what was going through my head. i then hear laughter as i am hopping on one foot spraying spray and swatting around aimlessly with a sandal. i look, and my host sister who i see hanging out of the window laughing at me. this is when i decided to just hold my pee (cant just p outside like i would normally want to do b/c kids are all over). I used enough spray to kill a couple small children, shut the door, and hoped for the best.
all was fine when i got home, besides the dead roach bodies staring at me while squatting.
i understand this journal should be more about my life changing epic experiences, but roach stories are more fun.
yes, it has been epic. my host father is worried about me b/c he thinks im not eating enough, but he eats a ton and well, i dont.
Race relations and learning more details of the history and culture is interesting. I could go on and on about how i am a woman so i should be doing everything for the man, polygamy, the fact that blacks were institutionally segregated against for so long and the fact that i am white in this village is shocking to so many, sex is taboo even though ppl openly sleep around- but its ok, men dont get HIV, its just the women- and AIDS is not real, it is witchcraft... im rambling at this point, but it really is mind boggling.
so much of RSA's (republic of south africa) is parallel to ours. people 'discovered' it, Brits and Dutch ended up screwing everything up. there were slaves and segregation. People told where they could and could not live. However, the institutionalized government enforced separation here is crazy considering how recent it was and the fact that the minorities were oppressing the majority. It is also crazy because I am working side by side with people who know first hand what the apartheid was like. In the states we see the effects of slavery and jim crow still even though there are several generations who did not live through it. Here, most of the people literally lived through it. reading some of the speeches and documents it is sickening!! aaaaah!
on a completely different note. my fam has one of those loud blowy things ppl use at soccer games, ya know the ones that make that buzz like sound at the world cup. yea. that was fun.
well well well. my homework is done, face is as clean as it is gonna get, teeth brushed, and so it is time to hit the hay. this morning i woke up snuggling with my alarm clock. i dont even know.
maybe next time i will write something worth reading.
living and loving life! :)
there is a giant chicken walking around outside, i named her becky. i was excited to one day eat her until i saw her little chicks following along. i think maybe ill go for the rooster that never shuts the hell up.
actually, i kind of enjoy hearing the rooster in the morning...
oh, tonight was a beautiful sunset over the mountains! rad
im about to go to bed, veeeeery tired. i am really dirty and i think i smell. stomach still hates me. today was a bit rough. i think we are all getting tired. language is very, very challenging and it feels like i will never get the hang of it- then i remind myself it is still the first week of homestays.
tomorrow i think will be a better day, we have more uplifting sessions and the whole group (all 46 of us) will be getting together at some point. that will be nice because within our language groups and 'village clusters' i think ppl are going crazy. it seems like people are complaining more than necessary. i think we all just need a break.
stomach still hates me.
oh 5 AM will come too soon. goodnight world.
FEB 11happy birthday hill-o-beans!! aaaaand happy 21st anniversary of getting out of jail to my man nelson mandela!
FEB 12its flippin hot.
its officially been one week at our homestays! yippyyy!!!! i am enjoying my time here, its not all butterflies and rainbows, but i dont want to dwell on the negative so whenever i am frustrated pissed and stressed i just look outside. the mountains are beautiful and it is just in general a great feel. the sunsets are especially magical and the stars crisp. lovin life.
FEB 19Roaches in the latrine had babies. Roach babies are just as gross as adult roaches.
We went on a 'field trip' to Pretoria today. It was the highlight of my year because we got pizza and beer- there was also running water and soap. amaaaazing. The reason for the fieldtrip was a visit to the peace corps office, some random orientation and to go to the Vortrekker museum/monument. That was interesting! The Vortrekkers are a bit controversial, and this museum (and tour guide) gave the white dutch version of history. He actually even said the Boers (whites/dutch) were 'indigenious' to South Africa and the brits came in and made them run. THIS I have some problems with.
1) Dutch are NOT indigenous to South Africa. They came over in the 1600's and 'discovered' it <kind of like how Columbus discovered America...> they killed a bunch of black people and tried making them slaves. THEN the Brits came and took over and the dutch whities had to make the 'Great Trek' and they were known as 'Vortrekkers.' of course killing more native south aficans along the way. Dutch then got power back and then apartheid. look it up.
2) i had about three more points but it was getting a bit political so i decided to delete it...
The segregation and Land Acts can be partially blamed for the poverty levels today. If people do not have education, water, or work, how can we expect people to get out of the trap?
ANYWAY, the fieldtrip was amazing. I did, however, realize what people were telling us before of how it is very difficult serving here for different reasons than other countries. I currently am in a house with no water on a street with no water. Many people have nothing. Nutrition is non existent and 1 in 5 people have HIV. We drove a couple hours and had a choice between plenty of restaurants with potable water and wonderful beer. People were driving fancy cars and had beautiful houses. Seeing the disparities is very frustrating.
Feb 241 in 5 people have HIV- some sub-popultations the rates are between 40-50%- and even more have or recently had TB. Thats a lot of people.
we are learning a lot about the culture of HIV here and it is giving me a better idea of what we are up against. the stigmas and false information is mind blowing. the teenage pregnancy rates are SO high and for very sad reasons. the lack of condoms simply because women have no say is scary. the fact that many people think men dont get HIV or that is it general is caused by witchcraft is insight to the type of barriers we will be facing. some other factors- patients get grants when CD4 counts are under 200ish (i think 200) so when time for there appointment comes around people often stop ARV's so their CD4 counts go down and they can continue getting assistance. this allows the body to build up resistance to the medicines and they will soon not be able to fight infection and HIV will become and AIDS and they will get sick and die much sooner than if they continued ARTs. BUT people need money so it the only option for some.
**(CD4s are good, lower CD4 = HIGH viral load, viral load means HIV in your blood)**
**(Anti-retro-virals,, also called ARTs, call them whatever its what keeps HIV + patients healthy)
**(CD4<200 is very bad, pretty much considered AIDS at that point. CD4 is what is attacked by HIV, most deaths occur when CD4 is lower than 50)**
WOW- its been a month since i have left my family!! it really does feel like it has been longer, i think because this month has been packed with learning, change, and emotion! Even though I feel like I have been in South Africa way longer than a month it is also going by quickly, it at first was NOT but now that the ball is rolling and i feel like i am learning a lot it is flying by.
I have a 'midterm' tomorrow. I have an oral language exam which is going to suck and midterm interview. the language test is going to suck because we have not had much time at all for language. My LCF (language and culture facilitator) is the bomb diggity, her name is macy and she rocks my world. However, she is not a miracle worker and PC only gives her a little time each day to teach us language. We'll see how the test goes, they can't expect much considering everything.
HELLO! Today my host parents are getting married and it is a very big deal. They are already legally married, but they are doing something else, traditional type thing. I was supposed to go with them today but I started my period which means I am dirty and I cannot go to the church, apparently GOD doesnt like blood....WELL, stomach issues are back and have been puking and hanging out in the latrine. I puked mostly out of my window, there were also several buckets involved.
ANYWAY, i have been laying in bed and people randomly come in the see if I am alive. I feel horrible because I think some of the women think i am just lazy and dirty and dont want to help. I went out to take some pics of my mom before they left and i looked like hell, then crawled back to bed.
One thing to make me giggle during this sickness is that when you greet people you always say the same thing, and culturally you HAVE to greet and stick to script:
(not literal translations)
1: Avuxeni : (good morning)
2: Ahee (heeeey)
1: minjani? (how are you)
2: ndzi khona, n'wena minjani? (I am fine, how are you?)
1: ndzi khona. (i am fine)
SO. its pretty much, 'yes i am fine- BARF'
March 2I am enjoying feeling the wind through my hairy legs.
Last night dinner was pap and chicken intestines. I tried to eat them but literally couldnt, good thing was- i didnt puke on the table. A ndzi nga dyi intestines ra huku na vuswa. A Ndzi henthle. (i did not eat chicken intestines and pap, i puked)
March 4Just got my site announcement.
my permasite is in a village that doesnt speak that language i have been learning.
need. more. chocolate.
March 10--AT SITE ORIENTATION/VISITthis is the longest game of charades that i have never wanted to play.
i am at my permanent site for a couple of days. we had a fancy shmancy 2 days at a fancy shmancy hotel in Tzaneen where we met our supervisors and did some sessions. it was a HORRIBLE first impression. We got there late so we had to rush to the session, i accidentally left the paper that said my orgs name in my bag in the hotel room and they decided to have up go up by language group introduce ourselves and announce our site and then the supervisor comes up and is all happy, you hug and are happy. WELL. let me tell you what happened to me.
**The Tsonga group was second to go (my group) and i stand up there and say "Avuxeni, vito ra mina Samantha. Ndzi a huma iAmerika IMichigan. Ndzi ta tirha....well, im not sure the orgs name but it is a OVC HCBC in Mapela" <insert cricket noise> **
this was a problem because
1. my sup does not speak Xitsonga, nor does the village
2. the org is not in mapela, its in danisane
>way to look like an ass sami!
SO. after i looked like a FOOL for about 20 seconds standing there trying to guess and say the orgs details and what my paper said about where it is, they told me to sit down, then the APCD (assistant peace corps director) finally looked at her papers and said the correct info. thanks for the delay, ma'am.
So then my sup finally stands up, he is cool as shit but said "why do you speak tsonga, and why did you say mapela?" i happily blamed peace corps and promised i would get sepedi language material and find a tutor. he seems nice.
I was told later from my fellow PCTs just how funny i looked up there, hey, at least i make people laugh! I wish I could write it out better because it was rediculous!
SECOND IMPRESSION BLOWN
so i all of a sudden got real sick and landed myself in the hospital b/c my heart rate wouldnt go below 110, i was all red and couldnt breath. they took me to some shwank (using the term very loosely these days) africaaner clinic/hospital. two shots in my ass and blood test later they said it was an infection. no specifics and they didnt do an allergy test so i hope they are right. i am now on 4 meds and feel fine. BUT i missed the second morning of sessions and no one told my sup i was sick so he thought i quit. yup. when he finally asked they were like 'oh yea, shes in the hospital' yea, oops.
the staff speaks some english- the head ppl do so thats cool. they are all awesome, laugh a lot and seem like cool people. most are pretty young.
so let me talk about my 'home' yeaaaaa. i live with a very old man, mdela, which i think means old man in Sepedi, i wouldnt know since i am learning tsonga. its just us. he does not speak english.
he has 4 dogs, they cornered me last night on the way to the latrine, but this morning mdela yelled at them when they were barking at me so i think ill live. hope so b/c the day we were supposed to get our 3rd rabies shot they ran out, lol, i wish i was joking.
i am surrounded my beautiful mountains, i LOVE them!!! there is also a very low river that runs through. my supervisor, jonas (or 'sepeke' not sure what ill call him) took me all around the village and it was fun. we hopped on stones to get across the river while litte kids ran after me screaming "LAHOA" and asking me my name. when i screamed out Tinyeko they just burst out in laughter.
oh yea, they gave me another name. it means gifts. put a bow on me. im a gift.
oh. so today they had a meeting that i was not invited too, so i sat outside trying to talk to kids. they were afraid of me at first then i started making funny faces and trying to talk to them in tsonga, well, none of them speak tsonga but they loved my faces. they were repeating everything i did so i taught them 'head, shoulders, knees and toes' and played a version of simon says with them. they were real cool, then when i needed to go back in the office they didnt understand the game was over and continued to follow me around doing whatever i did. it was funny, but i need to learn sepedi reaaaaaal bad.
March 14thSo I am back at my training homestay in tshamahansi. The site orientation went well overall, but it was rather interesting. Saturday morning i went to a funeral, its was really hot. as a woman i had to wear a shall type thing over my shoulders, long skirt, and a head wrap- it started at 630am and it was real hot. After that I went to a board meeting that started at 10am which means it really started at 11:15 am. it was all in sepedi, it was real fun....
OH. how could i forget to mention the fact i got locked in my room. so while inside my room the door handle broke and i couldnt get out. there are burglar bars on the window so no sneaking out of those (like i do at my training site) so it ended with me yelling to jonas to come rescue me. it was pretty hilarious. OH. and i woke up to a rockroach falling on my face. not so cool- but the shop worker noticed my window was left open one night and she warned me to shut it when the sun goes down because of the snakes. aaaaaah. thats what i get for not sleeping under my bed net. whoops.
only ten days until swearing in. super stoked. super sad to be leaving training though, we have a lot of fun! well, some of us do- others just complain in their own pessimistic misery.