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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CAMP GLOW!!! Condom races and musical chairs!

It was AWESOME!!!! I am not sure how to fully explain all of the awesomeness but overall it was a success. The girls had a great time, learned a lot, our venue was great, and we had fun.
Basic set up of camp:

Four PCVs each raised money and planned camp- me, Cate, Ethan, and Andrew. We each brought girls form our communities totally 32 girls ages 15-17 (ish). Two of these PCVs were male, therefore were mostly invisible during camp as this camp was all about empowerment and leadership for young women. It was important for us to create a safe and comfortable environment for these girls to learn, ask questions, and grow- therefore it was all female. We still took full advantage of the boys free time by having them help prep (blow up condom balloons, rinse tye die t shirts, etc) and had one session about 'inside a boys head'. We also had four other PCVs come help as counselors, and they were phenomenal! Kristina, Stephanie, Linda, and Teresa took time out of their schedules to be pretty much ‘big sisters’ to the girls. We split the group of girls into four teams and each counselor was the leader of one team. This was a huge help when we talked about sensitive topics and needed smaller group discussions. They also made sure the girls went to bed on time, lead energizers, made sure their girls were showing up, and just made sure everything was running smoothly. Cate and I facilitated all of the sessions and although we had a lot of fun with the girls our role was more of the serious teacher role.

We found it incredibly helpful to have each counselor be responsible for 8 set girls, and build a relationship within that team. Each team sat together, had bunks in the same area, and competed against other teams. We assigned colours for the teams but then with the help of the counselors they named their team, we had team green, The African Queens; Red, Superwomen; Blue, indestructible blue?; and yellow, Yellow Fever. Not only did we keep things running smoothly by screaming “LAST TEAM BACK DOES PUSHUPS” or “FIRST TEAM READY GETS FIVE POINTS!” but we ended on a fun note with a GLOW Decathlon.

We had a jam packed schedule with lessons ranging from the immune system, healthy relationships, HIV transmission and prevention, condom use, abstaining, early pregnancy and economics, myths & facts of HIV, peer pressure and negotiation, sex, goal setting, aaaand bunches of other stuff. We related pretty much every session to good decision making and HIV while trying to make them as fun and interactive as possible. One of the most important things for us was to continually empower these young women and make sure they know they have the right to choose.

Empowerment is a tricky thing, it’s great to talk about- but how do you empower a group? Especially a group of young females in a society where women are marginalized, there are few positive role models, and abuse and rape are so high many people consider it normal. I am no expert, I have just been pretty much guessing at everything I have done for the last 21 months (thanks for the great trainings, PC, not) but from my humble opinion information is the most important. Any theory regarding behavior change involves knowledge so I figure that is a pretty good place to start. But, these kids have information thrown at them all the time. School usually involved a teacher talking or them copying notes from a book- that is if there is a teacher- so we had to be strategic with presenting information. Then of course you have to take information a step further. Motivation. Give them a reason to use the information we are giving them and possibly make some changes in their lives. I find it is not that difficult to pump the girls up, just be excited tell real life stories, show how hard work pays off- but then they need the tools. So not just telling them not to have sex or do drugs, but giving them the tools to say no, fight peer pressure, and ways to negotiate. Not just tell them to be faithful and use a condom, but show what happens when people have many sexual partners and exactly how to use a condom properly.

Condoms were one of the biggest hits. We blew them up, we popped them, we raced to see who could put a condom on a cucumber the fastest (and properly), and we had them practice. Condom demonstrations are fun, debunking myths of them being too small (ha) and having them handle both female and male condoms so they are not scared is interactive and incredibly important. This is just one more way of giving the girls the information and power to make healthy decisions.

I think another favorite for some girls was taking the girls to the river. That was fun, but exhausting. Many of these girls had never been in water over their head and being in a river caused a little chaos. I had to revert back to my lifeguarding and swim teaching days and lay down the law a couple times, but it was worth it.

Another huge plus for me was hanging out with other PCVs. It was wonderful feeling productive and like I was doing something that matters for the girls, but it would not have been possible if the 8 of us were not able to come together. I have a feeling if PCVs were able to collaborate more often or placed closer together all of our services would be so much better. Pulling off this camp was stressful and a lot of work, but so worth it! So thanks again to everyone who donated, wouldn’t have been able to do it without you!



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some Perspective

WELL, America was wonderful. It was pretty much the same as when I left but my parent’s house was different, niece was talking (a lot) I had a nephew & many other babies in the fam, and a lot of political ads.

A lot of people were asking if it was weird, or if I was overwhelmed, or was I angry there is so much ‘stuff’- and really, no. Home will always be home. Do I think there is too much unnecessary stuff, DUH! of course, but I thought that before leaving. Some of my perspectives are a bit different but I did not have a break down in the grocery store when I saw several different kinds of lettuce or a whole isle of delicious cereals, I laughed a little and was super grateful.  That probably sums most of it up, I laughed a lot and was super grateful. Oh, but America is really vein- is it really necessary to have mirrors all over-not cool! But with that vanity comes pretty people- the first thing I noticed along with all the English when I got to the ATL airport was how clean and put together everyone was…besides me. And I do not like automatic flush toilets, also not cool- the one in the airport really got me.

Although I felt like I relaxed a lot, I actually did a lot. Several sleep overs with G, bachelorette party, wedding, family party, Emmett’s first birthday, sleep over with Mal, exercise and coffee with Brit and shawn, night with Nat, not one but TWO nights with Hill, Fiesta Charras w the crazies, meeting SO MANY BABIES- it was great. I didn’t get to see everyone but I enjoyed the time I did spend with everyone. I learned babysitting two children is way more intense than one (sorry about the black eye E) and above all family time is the most important. Just walking around Kohls with my sister and mom, Meijer’s with my dad, pumpkin ale with my brother, watching Mugsy be a multi tasking bomb ass mom- hot tubbing, sleepovers and family dinners which led to doing nothing in the family room- that was the best.

The wedding, which I guess was the catalyst that got me home- was great. Maggie looked stunning and I think we all had a rock’n good time. I was glad I was in the bridal party so I didn’t have to think about what to wear- and can I get an AMEN that the dress fit?! Whoop whoop!!! I am very VERY happy for Matt and Mags, and am so happy to welcome Matt into this crazy group we call family. It was also relieving to feel like I could slip right back in the family even though I have missed a lot, so- thanks for welcoming me with open arms! J

I felt a bit overwhelmed whenever I tried explaining anything because there really is no explaining my life- especially without sounding angry or cynical. At times I was probably too honest, and other times I was probably straight up lying and perpetuating the romantic idea of what everyone likes to think of our lives, but hey- that’s the shorter conversation (‘oh yeaaa its great, I love it, people are so nice, I hug babies’). But the truth is somewhere in the middle of hating it and loving it, I guess I am not really even sure how I feel about everything.

I feel more motivated after visiting home. I am in the home stretch of being here and ready to rock n roll! It is natural to talk more about successes rather than failures, so through talking to people I was reminded of all of the things I have done. Yes it is true, my language sucks and I have watched a lot of movies- but I realized I have actually done some legit stuff. To me some of the successes really aren’t that big of a deal- so what I did my job- but maybe if I felt a little more, I guess, proud of myself, and cut myself some slack I would enjoy the little things more. I would have more energy, hope, and motivation to do more.

 So. Here I go. Cutting some slack.

Bottom line. My family is amazing. I can’t express that enough, I am very very very lucky to have my family and friends in my life. So, thank you to everyone I saw and helped me not only raise money for camp GLOW but reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.

Ke a leboga.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Moms visit!!!

This is incredibly outdated, i kept wanting to put pictures in it but that takes much more internet strength than is possible... maybe soon
Blog july 7 2012

Its been about a week and a half since Mamma Spud has been rock’n & roll’n in South Africa! It started June 28th with my tired eyed bun headed self waiting at the arrival terminal in OR Tambo international airport. Her flight landed at 720 am, meaning I had to leave the backpackers at 545am to catch a train to take me to the airport from Pretoria. I got to the meeting place at 715am and was more anxious than I remember ever being on a Christmas eve or election day (maybe). A load of people exited the sliding glass doors of freedom, it was fun to see so many hugs, smiles, and kisses- and even better because that meant the good waiting spots were starting to clear up. I sat back with my coffee watching people struggle pushing their luggage through the doors to finally reach the point their loved ones could come and help them, and watched some confused tourist look through the many people holding small signs while they looked for their name on a sheet of paper, clearly having no idea what company their travel agent booked them through and where they are going now. As the flight trickled in and people left I was able to find a perfect waiting spot against the barrier, near the edge so I had easy access to step around but clear view of the glass doors.

Then, I waited. I watched other people run to each other and hug, little kids running and jumping- and couldn’t help but cry. I was so so so excited, happy, anxious, and nervous I couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed. 730, 750, 800, 830… jesus mom get here! Her plane was landed and according to the info board overhead it said everyone had disembarked. As the people trickled in the tapping on my foot and biting of my nails increased and I began imagining my mom at customs not being able to remember where we were going. Or maybe one of the suitcases full of donations was lost- ah! I was so nervous!

Finally a little lady pushing a big cart appeared, I stared at her and wasn’t sure at first if it was my mom. She looked confused, so it must be. I began to run to the doors (security is a bit…lax) and I think I scared the crap out of her. We were both surprised to see each other, actually I think my mom was still confused at who was hugging her. Apparently she didn’t realize she was already through customs and was shocked to see me. Ha. We may have caused a small scene, but I think we did our excitement justice.

I did not give my mom time to rest- we had a lot to do and I had some work to finish up before I could relax. We took the Guatrain to the best place in Pretoria, Khayalethu- the backpackers where I’ve spent more time than I should admit. But the people here are more of a host family than I have in the village, so my mom had to experience it! Since we had to rearrange suitcases and get my mom settled we stayed in the private guest house rather than the dorms (fancy I know) and it was great! We showered and immediately headed downtown so I could turn in some paper work for my org to the department and went to the PC office so I could take care of some medical nonsense. Looking back that was a little cruel of me, but she saw a lot of my PC life right away. The office, experienced tea with KZ, met one of the PC head people, saw the general crappy shady-ness that is Pretoria, lack of customer service of the department of social development, we even stumbled on a police station to ask directions, and saw Bosman (my taxi rank when I travel in) and we rode the train again.

That evening was great, one of my dear friends also happened to be in PTA so the three of us had a very delicious and fun dinner, drank beer, and went through all the fun things my mom brought from home (And of course ate chocolate).

Cape Town

The next morning we took the Gautrain back to the airport and flew to Cape town, and Cape Town was just fab, well it became fab after I was done fighting with a taxi driver. We stayed at an adorable and very friendly backpackers called Amber Tree Lodge. It was very exciting because two other PCVs trip overlapped with ours so we were able to hang out with them for a couple of days. We had an amazing wine tour that was SO much fun! The four of us did a tour with AfricanStory and consumed a lot of wine, learned more than I ever needed to know about wine, learned I really DO NOT like brandy, and ate an amazing meal. We had a great tour group and seriously laughed the whole time! My mom and I also did a tour all around the city, and on another day did a tour around Cape Peninsula, and of course Table Mountain and Robben Island. It was the most touristy week either of us has ever had! Considering we only had 5 nights there and there is so much to do I’m glad we did things through tours. We could have definitely spent another couple days just hanging out and exploring the great food choices, but we still managed to get to the markets and eat a LOT of great food.

I was so excited with all the salad choices I think I think I ordered a salad every meal, it was wonderful. Our favourite was a place called Davinci’s on Long street and Fat Cactus on Park. Fat Cactus was a Tex-Mex place and it was great. The four of us had a hilarious time there, we showed up and the place was packed. Apparently there was some important rugby game on, so we waited at the bar for a table, naturally, we got a pitcher of margaritas and an appetizer. Margarita was excellent and so were are nachos. Our table was outside, it was cold, and the service was very slow. So obviously we ordered another pitcher of margaritas and another appetizer. My mom stuck to Corona so the three of us enjoyed our drinks- the best part was they gave us BLANKETS because it was cold. This place was the best. Then we got our burritos (probably after 2 hours) and instead of tortilla chips we got normal South African chips (French fries!) ha! Awesome.


July 20th – rest of the visit!!

Back to Limpopo

I was ready to head back, CT was great but I was out of my element. I was overwhelmed with the city and my lack of knowing how to get around, what best to do, and well, I guess just being a tourist. I was exhausted!

When we got back to Pretoria we stayed the night at Khayalethu before heading to Limpopo. It was pretty crazy because a LOT of PCVs were there for various reasons- but most because a group just got done with a training. So my mom met even more PCVs and heard a lot of random stories and I think hearing us all talk probably gave her a more intimate view of our lives than she normally would have not got. Luckily for us, it was Pizza night! My mom became BFFs with the Kreate Pizza crew and we had a nice evening with pizza and beer.

The next morning we picked up our rental car (later to be named PoloPot) and headed to Mokopane for Lunch at my old watering hole with Seth and Cate- my lunch mates when I lived there- then to Polokwane. Being back in Mokopane is always weird, I miss it in a weird way. Mainly miss the familiarity and my shopping town buddies (Cate, Seth, Elizabeth).

Polokwane was excellent, as always. We stayed at Lyndas site- as in, the Polokwane Game Reserve. Cate joined us and it was a party as three other volunteers were there. So including Lynda it was 7 of us celebrating 4th of July. We didn’t have fire works but we had a great BBQ, plenty of beer, and Lynda made homemade apple pie. My mom loved the reserve, because it was great and Lynda is the best host ever, duh! We enjoyed driving through the game reserve to see some game and also walking through it.

From Polokwane we went to Tzaneen for two nights. It was really nice and relaxing, and we saw the giant Baobab tree! That was an adventure in itself- just trying to find the damn tree! I got directions online which I should have known would be sketch, but after many turn arounds and dirt roads (where we prob should have had a 4 wheeler) we made it! The tree was, giant. Ha, it was really cool- but the hype of having a pub inside it was a bit false. There is a pretend bar inside, but whatever it was cool. My mom pointed out how it would have been much nicer is there wasn’t piles of wood next to it, and plastic signs on it- but hey, TISA! (This is South Africa)

After Tzaneen we went to Phalaborwa, the nearest town to where I live. We drove through Kruger which was tons of fun- and of course hilarious when we didn’t see ANY animals at first. We eventually saw a lot of elephants, zebra, smaller game (different gazelles and boks) giraffes, and hippos. The drive itself was also pretty fun.


It was really amazing spending time in the village with my mom, although it was a bit cramped in my little house and at one point we were both miserable because we were sick- it was wonderful! She was such a trooper! Of course she was great with the kids and they love her! I am very lucky to have had her here, she brought so many donations that will keep my arts and crafts fun times up for a long time! I wish I could borrow her brain and motivation! She had so many wonderful ideas she showed me, and seemed to have tons of energy to play and work with the kids. After being here this long I am tired. Very tired, so it was refreshing to have someone so…fresh! I wish I could have done more with her in the village while here, but the flu kept us down for a couple days – but I think I still managed to give her a glimpse of my life. She worked in the office with me and saw everyone else sitting and doing literally nothing for hours. She was asked very awkward questions and was begged for money/gifts. She saw the pure joy in the kids when you gave them something as little as a piece of paper and crayons. She saw why I am in love with my kids. She experienced the taxis- something I can never really describe. And I think she had fun, I am very – very grateful I was able to spend three weeks with my mom, doesn’t matter how old I am she will always inspire me and make me feel better. I already miss her L





Friday, June 22, 2012

Bored and Annoyed

Ok, so these are a outdated a bit and written when I was having a rough week.... whatevs!

Blog June 7th 2012

The schools here suck. Testing time has begun, which means it is like pulling teeth to get anything done, then, there is a three week break- then a new term. It is week one of testing and the school is already off the timetable, and no one really knows what is going on. The grade 8 and 9 classes didn’t get the tests on time, so they aren’t going to school- because why on earth would a teacher teach? Why would they want to make use of valuable class time? My org supervisor hasn’t been in the office all week, and it only takes so much time to argue with the cooks and explain how to divide the food to make it last 13 days instead of 6… I know the bottom line with that is when they cook too much food they get to take it home, then we run out at the end of the month, then no one has to come to work. In the words of the coordinator “It’s no problem, we’ll just close and not feed kids” yeaa… actually it is a problem… Our funder is pulling out at the end of the month anyway, so I don’t know why I continue to try and “build capacity”… capacity shmacity.
But, that is why I work with the schools. Department of Education is not exactly ideal, they are pretty horribly corrupt and the system is broken, but at least at the schools there is some resemblance of structure. I have also met a couple teachers who seem to be fairly motivated and want to expand the clubs/after school program so that is a plus… but it has to wait until mid July… 

The only productive thing I will do today is go to another organization and continue a nutrition/HIV lesson. It is funny how projects start, I was leaving the school when three women (the org is next to the school) came up to me and asked me to teach them. “Sure!” I said, then looked at the “homework” they had to do (I think from a class the Dept of Health is giving). The questions were pretty specific about nutrition and how to treat different kinds of patients, so I asked if they had a book. Nope. Notes? Nope. “Did the department give you anything? Any notes, or a manual, any book?” I asked, but nope, the department told them to research it. I suggested going to the library, but that would involve transport money… After a couple minutes I finally got the message across that I would not do it FOR them, but I would gladly prepare some lessons for them. They got excited and said they could open a classroom so I could teach… now… WHOAAA… I need to prepare! I knew most of what I needed to know, but I need more than five minutes to become a nutrition and diabetes expert. At least an hour… so anyway, I prepared a lesson and went to the org the next day and got through about one third of it before I knew it was time to stop. So today I will go back and hopefully the connection between carbohydrates, sugar, and diabetes is still clear. Then, apparently, I will be preparing a new lesson for next week (topics TBA-next week). 

So I have about three weeks until my mom gets here (YAY!!!), three long weeks. I will push through with going to the school and hoping some girls want to meet, being a food nazi and rationing the food so the kids can eat, and explaining the food pyramid (and too much pap does not make you strong, it makes you fat and diabetic) to the other drop in centre. What can I say, Peace Corps, saving the world since 1961.

June 13, 2012

Two weeks until my mom gets here, thank god! This week has been pretty crappy, thank goodness Wed in almost over. Peace Corps would make lives for the volunteers a lot easier if they would explain to our organizations that we are community volunteers, not pets of these non-functioning organizations. PCSA sure is providing a lot of very overqualified chair warmers and clerical worker. We are treated like children while simultaneously expected to work miracles. 

Today was particular frustrating, actually, it was the first time “maybe I should just leave” came through my mind as my first instinct, which considering the last year you’d think I would have thought that much earlier. As quickly as the idea of quitting came through my head it left. I don’t want to leave, I am just annoyed. I think because I had such excitement coming into this new site that when people do dumb stuff, lie, or are just lazy I am even more disappointed. At least at my last site I knew people were stealing money and they sucked, but now I have to go through all the disappointments all over again. 

Thank god for my girls. I am in love with the two little girls that live near me and I think when the new term starts my girls clubs will be great. My garden project is on hold until next season, but that’s ok- it will be better then- until then I am just hoping the Gogos don’t burn my compost pile…again. So after a rather frustrating day I got back to my house, snuck in the gate without my little girls seeing me, got in my house and shut the door hoping for some peace and quiet. As soon as I got my hair in a ponytail I hear shrieks of excitement and confusion at my door, the first thing I usually do is greet the girls and give big hugs- this shut door was new to them, and I felt way too guilty ignoring them. Five seconds after I opened the door I was giving big hugs and smiling, what can I say- I’m so PC.

Friday, May 25, 2012


May 11 2012

Donation list:

So, my mom will be here at the end of June (HOLLER!) and I figure this is a perfect opportunity for her to bring stuff to my site that people want to donate. Over the last year a lot of people have asked how they can help- and now is the time! J

As most of you know at my last site my most exciting and successful program was a girls club. Because an after school program focusing on health education, female empowerment, HIV prevention, and decrease in risky behaviour is in great need and is something I can do as a secondary project, I have started a new girls club but also expand it to two separate age groups, both from the secondary school. This means I need more supplies and ideas for activities.

Groups will meet once per week for about 2 hours and lessons will vary with a main emphasis on HIV education/prevention and female empowerment. I found the girls loved doing any type of arts & craft, and the first time they used paint was beyond exciting! Arts and crafts allowed for lessons to be fun and interactive, and let the girls express themselves, when they would otherwise be very boring.

The first week of September four other PCVs and I are hosting a camp for the girls, each of us will bring about 8 girls for a week full of awesomeness.


Money is not always exciting to give, but it is the best and easiest way you can help. The money you donate will go directly to funding a girl from my community to go to camp. This is also a great option for those of you who are not in Michigan and wouldn’t be able to get supplies to my mom.

How to donate: That is a great question, I am in the process of setting up a account on PayPal where you can directly donate using debit or credit… but that is not ready yet. All money donated will go directly to sponsoring a girl for the Camp. More details to come J

Arts & Crafts

·         Tie die (for 60 shirts)

·         Paper

·         Paint

·         Paint brushes

·         Old magazines

·         Crayons/markers/coloured pencils

·         Colouring books

·         Beads/jewellery making tools/materials

School supplies

·         Notebooks

·         Pencils

·         Pens

·         Erasers

Office supplies

·         Pens

·         Permanent markers


·         Kindergarten – grade 12 (English as a second language)

·         And material to help teach English and reading


·         Seeds (cabbage, beetroot, green beans, green pepper, any legume, onion, spinach, carrots)


·         Any and all will help!

Shirts/screen print

·         This would be for the camp; we want to have t shirts made for the participants. If anyone has the hook up with getting shirts and/or screen printing donated or discounted we could have them made at home- and when I visit home in September I would get them and bring them back. It would be about 50 shirts with screen prints, so in order to make the transport worth it I would need it to be cheap cheap (ei, free or significantly discounted).

Other stuff (this may or may not be just for me…sorry for not sorry)

·         Crystal light/drink mixes (esp gatorade/powerade)

·         Coffee (I got a French press! So I can have real coffee!)

·         Healthy protein-ish bars (luna, cliff, mojo)

·         New music

·         American-ish candy to share with my families

·         T-shirts/baseball caps that are anything American (sport teams/universities) to give host families (3 babies, 2 ten yr old boys, 15 yr old boy, 15 yr old girl, 2 10-12 ish girls, 1 old man, 3 women 30-60)

·         Games, cards/board games, but would need to be small for travel purposes

Most of these supplies will be for children at the Drop In Centre (DIC), there are about 60 kids ages 5-18. I would use these supplies for the office, the DIC, and my girls clubs. If you have a preference of what your donation is for please let me know and I will do my best to respect your wishes.

All is well here! Just got back from an amazing vacation with Krystle and excited to be back at work! :) Any and all help will help!! Please look forward to more specific updates!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

“It’s like being 16 all over again, but smarter”

I have had my new site all to myself for a while now, I would say I am all unpacked and organized in my new home but anyone who really knows me would be correct in saying that is a big fat lie. Whatever, I am pretty much unpacked, it’s just the whole ‘organized’ part that I will never really be.

The ball is starting to roll at work, I am continually learning about the org so I can figure out what the hell I am going to do. I have a lot of ideas and thoughts, but like my room, they are not entirely organized- and I need some type of shelving to figure out how to make everything work. The biggest project, which will also be the most complicated, will be making the DIC (Drop In Centre) function. Right now there are several women who come and cook for the kids… when there is food. When there is no food, which unfortunately is semi often the kids do not come. We are currently receiving some funding from AFSA (AIDS Foundation South Africa) which pays for the food and some other things, but the food is not being managed well and runs out before the end of the month. So, first things first, I made a food tracking log and so we’ll be able to gauge if we are cooking too much in a day, legitimately do not have enough food, or if it is mysteriously walking away from the centre. Well that food chart hasn’t been filled out all month, so I talked with the manager again and he said he’ll make sure with this incoming batch of food the cooks track the food.

GARDENING!!! The org has a decent amount of land, two Gogo’s in charge of the gardens, and secure water. What we don’t have: seeds. Oh yea, and the little that does grow somehow never makes it to the kitchen, and the little that is sold- well money never makes it to the financial manager. So there is some serious work to do there. I am excited because I think I can get some seeds from the Dept of Agriculture, and I met a funder who will donate up to 20,000 rand in supplies from a builders warehouse place so I am pumped to get started on all that fun stuff. I plan to do a couple workshops/hands on sessions about composting and different gardening techniques to increase yield and save on water. I feel a bit apprehensive because my plan is to completely change the way they garden, so there will be obvious complications. I think I might leave one plot to the Gogo’s to do what they normally do, then do one plot my way and see what happens. Hopefully the veggies in the new garden will be better and I won’t have to do much convincing. Considering they have been using the same soil with little to no fertilizer for a long time I think it’s safe to assume there will be differences. We are currently saving material for the compost we will start next of next week, and after we have seeds and the donations it is GAME TIME! Now that I know we will be getting funding I am pretty pumped to start the garden project and hoping it will expand to having sustainable gardens at other community organizations and schools- so I am treating my first attempt as a trial run.
I am still pretty intimidated and apprehensive on the whole drop in centre front. There are no caregivers to work with the kids and no one really seems to be in charge. I need to find a magic wand, possibly one with a unicorn hair, because we are gonna need a LOT of money and committed staff, and in my experience it is hard to depend on others unless the money is flowing.

I was hoping I would have a bit more direction at this point. I don’t really like working by myself or feeling like I am forcing people to do things they probably don’t want to. It gets rather exhausting trying to brainstorm ideas when everyone around you is looking for a better job. It is a weird feeling being a month into this site being mine, but having been here a year. Sean, the PCV who I share a shopping town with put a very positive spin on it that “it’s like being 16 all over again, but smarter”. It’s true. Getting a second chance, a do over- to go back and be 16 but with more wisdom and insight. So that’s the cool part. But that crap part is getting projects started and feeling productive. I feel like projects are ABOUT ready to start and I am way anxious, I am about to be busy with fun stuff but what I’m busy with right now is all the boring stuff. But since I am getting ‘to be 16 all over again, but smarter’ I knew I had to get the ball rolling on at least one project that I would enjoy and would keep me busy that I could do by myself, so when other people drag their feet or get busy with something else, I can be productive. For me that is working with the teens and building a compost. HOLLER!

Good thing I packed extra patience!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

My normal is really fun

Friday, April 13th 

*side note: I finally put iTunes and all of my music on my dying little netbook, and iTunes shuffle is, as always, making me happier than a normal bowel movement. So, after I rediscover my love of Janis Joplin and Rascal Flatts what plays?

Jukebox Hero, Foreigner. Epic.

So what do I do? Well, obviously my first reaction is to make a fist, purse my lips, nod my head and pump said fist. Duuuh. What’s the second thing I want to do? I want to text Mallory Hick, and every other Alma friend from c/o 2008 who attended every Kareoke night at the B-heart… then I remember I’m in South Africa, so I just yell out every lyric and keep that fist-a-pumpin.
*side side note: that reminds me of sometimes the littlest things can make me miss home so so so much but at the same time not want to leave. Hhmm.. 

A lot a lot has happened since I first found out I was moving sites. I won’t try and get into the nitty gritty of where I have been, what I have been doing, or god forbid…my feelings, but I can say with confidence I feel great. I can also say I cannot flippin believe that it is April, it is exciting (the weather is not f’n hot, just hot) but also surreal and scary. 

If the universe forced me to one thing since December, it would be reflect. I like to think I usually do an okay amount of self-reflection, but apparently it was my time to do some seriously thinking. The universe slapped me across the face AND in the baby maker and made me doubt the one thing I’ve ‘just always wanted to do’, Peace Corps. I did not question the organization as a whole, but I questions PCSA (Peace Corps South Africa) and I questioned myself. I have wanted to do this since the first billboard I saw in high school, and I went through a lot of crap (3 years, but who was counting?) to get placed. I was confident that I was PC material. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I knew I was. Theeeeeen I failed. I didn’t walk into a small village knowing the language and save the world of HIV and poverty. Shame. I was lonely, sick, hated my organization, confused, and watched a lot of movies. Womp womp, I know, poor me. But not really. Tables turned, at first for the worst. I cried. I cried on the phone, for heaven’s sake (to my mom, my sisters, brother, dad, PC friends, shit- I could barely keep myself together for my niece-she’s 2!) never a high moment in anyone’s life.

Anyway, I didn’t start this blog entry to re-hash my low points. I decided to write because I saw a really beautiful Gogo (old lady) with a baby on her back passing by a group of goats that got chased away by a giant pig. I was lost, sort of, greeting people on my way back from work. I knew the general direction of my new house from my new organization and figured I’d find it after I decided to take a ‘new route’. I was enjoying the atmosphere, greeting friendly people that are getting used to seeing a new face. I even greeted a goat, seriously, I guess I’m just so used to greeting everyone. As I looked around and saw the dead cow hanging from a tree I wondered whether someone was getting married or someone died. The Gogo doing laundry shouted at me asking ‘O kea Kerabo’ (meaning she was asking where the previous PCV was), I responded, and kept walking.  I noticed a lot of work was being done to a tuck shop, so this funeral/wedding must be a big deal. Maybe ill go on Saturday, maybe I’ll sleep in. I kept walking. Then the Gogo, goats, and pigs. I laugh, greet more, and keep walking in the general direction of my new home. I feel good. I have pit stains and dirt all up in my Birks, but it feels right. This is my PC experience; as per usual I’m just a little lagging when it comes to my timing. I’m just getting started late. Dancing to the beat of my own drum. 

I am not entirely sure what it was, maybe it was the project manager at my new org being excited about my project ideas, the friendly faces greeting me, pigs, kids screaming my name as I get close to my new home, the fact that the sky looks so close I could touch it, or a year of shit, gone- but I realize life is great. A change in perspective was not just the Gogo’s and goats, it was everything. It was both conscious and unconscious. If I were to still be at my last site, I would be fine- I would consciously make it work. Things wouldn’t be great, but it’d be fine. Actually, when I first discovered I had to move I wanted to try and stay, I think as a self defence mechanism I never actually processed how crap it was until I was able to step away. The universe gave me a second shot at this PC thing, and I won’t let it go to waste. I cannot say I have regained all of the confidence I had before, that I was born for this- but I think it’s better. I have something to prove, to myself. This is harder than I expected, and what is hardest about it are the things I did not anticipate. I am also gaining more than I imagined from this, creating a sort of guilt complex of “I came here to help and really am gaining more (thanks tax payers) more than I am giving.” 

This is my normal. I walk 2.5 K to get to work, I hop across a stream, I talk to literally everyone, I see animals, and I love it. Everything seems very normal to me now, but ‘normal’ is so different for everyone. I enjoy that my ‘normal’ is this, that my normal is always different. I couldn’t remember a walk this happy in a year, a feeling that my ordinary is actually extraordinary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mac & Cheese, Marula beer, & a passed out Gogo

This post was written in several different days, I tried making it a semi linear train of thought while tying together several different points but I think instead it’s just a whole lot of words not really hitting any nail of the head, but whatever I hit something.

It’s been about 13 months since leaving the states, and there is no better reminder of how far SA23 has come than meeting the new group of CHOP volunteers, SA25. I spent the second week of their training facilitating sessions, then went back for the second half of week three. It was enjoyable meeting them, as well as having the dynamic of having me, who is about half way through service, along with two other volunteers who are about to COS (close of service) mingle with the group who has only been in country a couple of weeks. The two 21’s there are two wonderful volunteers who I have met before and admire as well as consider friends. They have done great work and have great advice. After being here for over two years and having departure dates ready I can’t imagine being in their shoes- seeing everything come full circle with going back to PST and answering all of the questions that would seem a concern from years past. Hearing complaints that now just don’t matter, and the culture shocks that are now the norm. I was able to look back and realize I have come a long way from PST one year ago, but recognize I certainly don’t know it all. I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the 25’s with rose coloured sunglasses, and the attitude/advice of the 21’s making me realize I need to take advantage of the fact I still have a whole year left at a new site with potential, even if before I thought I only have a year left.

I also appreciate all of the awesome supplies I got from one of the PCVs COSing- score!

I still really can’t get my head around that it has been this long. Sometimes I wake up and I feel like it was just two days ago I was packing (well, pretending to pack) in my parents living room and working part time at a gym, and just a day ago it was PST and I was trying to figure out who would be my close friends and hating wearing long skirts. 

Other days I wake up and I feel like I have been in this country forever, and I hear someone else I care about is pregnant, getting married, divorced, sick, graduating, or living the same day to day I used to think is normal but that all just seems so foreign. My sense of time is possibly more warped than my digestive system. Not really sure how I got here, ‘here’ having more meanings than I can really put in words. 

‘Here’ is not horrible, it’s not great, it just…is. 

It is a place where a normal day might consist of locking my door and sitting in a bucket bath while watching a whole season of an American television show I would normally show little interest- I might feel completely lost and incompetent- I might have a baby on my back while drinking Marula beer with Gogo’s out of hallowed butternut- I might play Frisbee with kids- I might actually do some work at the organization- or I might just sit online and stalk friends and family and try and think what to blog about to try and impress the masses. 
This week was a weird mix of all of the above and more.  I said goodbye to my original community and hello to a new home. I cried and went through all of the ways maybe things could have been different, plenty of ‘what ifs’ and regrets. More tears were shed than my own and I wasn’t really sure how to handle that. 

Then, I arrived to Makhushane, a large village outside of Phalaborwa. The ride from Mokopane was about four plus hours and I learned that when people say Phalaborwa is hot, well, they mean it. I was received with a very warm welcome, something I never really had at my last site and my first couple days let some of that excitement I was trying to be cautious about creep up. Sometimes I wish I could put those rose coloured sunglasses back on, the ones that allow us to think service would be full of smiles and make a huge happy impact in no time with grace and confidence, but I guess it is good I recognize some immediate and potential problems and I can handle them. Is this new ‘home’ perfect, hell no- but if I thought anything would or could be, I would be delusional. It has great potential and I am excited. 

I hate and love that I am starting over. I hate being the new kid in the hood. I hate the laughs when I greet is Sepedi and the demands of greeting if I do not. I hate and love meeting all of these new people. I appreciate that I have been taken in and am being carted around to meet important figures and to a funeral, but i just wish it all happened a year ago and I was already in the groove. However, the opportunity for a second chance is something I am trying to embrace. The same stress I get that no one knows who I am, and I do not know anyone- I will try and use to my advantage and try not to completely sabotage. I guess that is the beauty of changing sites during the scheduled ‘mid service slump’. Ha.

So, today. After going to meet an Induna and two local police officers, and making an appointment to meet the chief my community ‘escort’ (sister? Friend? I dunno) finally took me back home where I climbed back into bed. I enjoyed finishing season two of glee and drinking a lot of warm (hot) water and eating a sleeve of 5 rand lemon crème biscuits and several apples. I worked up the nerve/energy to start using the frig is the main house so I finally had cold water around the time I talked myself into cooking a proper meal for the first time in a while (4 days?). 

I am crashing the pad of the PCV who has been here the past two years and will be leaving in about a month. She is at SA25’S PST so I have full range of her kitchen. By kitchen I mean the corner of the room, so I went wild. I raided her food and used some Kraft mac & cheese powder. Holy moly, wonderful. I made myself some mac & cheese with green beans in it, with a side of canned baked beans. Talk about an American meal and a digestive disaster. I indulged in an amount my former health conscience self would have not approved of and drank my nalgene of cold water in no time. As I sat down to continue this blog of word vomit some of the kids came to get me. Apparently knocking (ie saying ‘gogo' before entering) doesn’t happen and they almost kicked over my chamber pot, sorry for not sorry kids. Well, it was time for me to go drink Marula beer with the old folks, and I am not one to argue against that. I walked across the street and joined the circle of family members, conveniently right next to a super drunk Gogo who wanted to test my Afrikaans. As I got the first ladle (hallowed butternut) of Marula beer I smiled and drank it in one chug, as that is what is expected. By number three I was wishing I didn’t finish that Nalgene of water right before, and by number five I was regretting that wonderful mac & cheese. An hour and a half later, one Gogo passed out on the ground, 6 ladles of Marula, and one baby pee stain on my leg I went back to my room with a bowl of weird fruit and a watermelon.  My walk back led to a sprint to the latrine, which I am getting rather good at these days. Then I got a call from a caregiver from my old site, just seeing how I was and to tell me that they miss me, making me miss Mokopane- also making me blink and get the reoccurring feelings of ‘is this real life’ and the time loss come back.

**Side Note Marula is a fruit which the locals make a traditional beer when it is in season. Fun Fact: all the the Marula that makes Amarula (the crème liquor) in SA is exported from the area where I live! Yowzers! They do something with it here in northern Limpopo then it goes to Cape town, then I dunno really know what happens, and all of that might be BS but I believe it. There is a lot of Marula here **

As much as I was enjoying bouncing back and forth from wallowing in my own self pitty to huge joy and excitement of getting to start over and a new site I have to realize I need to try and accept what this crazy boring confusing exciting life is. Hold on and let go, try and work hard and just chill. And when in doubt, just dance it out.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Soooo long, Mokopane. Stay dirty.

Well Hello Blogity blog blog. 

Waste of a year or lesson learned? Well, I am an optimist (and would never admit PC being a waste) so I guess I will vote for the latter. Lesson learned. But what lesson did I learn? Life isn’t fair? Some people suck? Shit happens? I hope that wasn’t the point. 

So what had happened waaaas… but I think this tale will be like a movie ‘based’ on a true story, no I won’t have someone much more attractive play me and make it more dramatic with a spin to make me look good… but the PC version will only tell you what well, is PC.

It is no secret the organization I was assigned to as my primary project was not rainbows and butterflies. It was a very low functioning org (most PCV orgs are) with little work ethic and little interest in improving. So, why would they apply for a PCV? We are supposed to make the org function better and train people, in turn, making people have to actually do their jobs. Ah, there is the rub, the part where they are supposed to work. Well, my ‘counterparts’ were not shy at telling me they did not want to work. Oh great, this will be fun.
We all come to Peace Corps with expectations, PC warned us to ‘not have expectations’ but I think that is stupid. We have to have expectations, of ourselves, of others, of work, living situations, we are human- we just do. After getting in country I began to understand why they want us to have no expectations, because we would have to lower them. Well, I did, and I did it with a smile and set realistic goals when I arrived at my site at the end of March, 2011. 

So, what happened? Why am I no longer working with the org? Why did I have to leave the community, even though I had established work with the schools and clinic?

Well, I was threatening. 

Around October/November the Risk Management of South Africa along with Dept of health, and Dept of social development began an investigation looking into allegations of fraud and embezzlement. Around this time was a noticeable change in attitude with the managers, now not only did they not want to work but they were, well, mean. The project manager suspended a caregiver who she thought might have called the department, management was purposefully hiding things from me and the best part this all coincided with a campaign I just started. Sweet. 

I had been in regular contact with my APCD (pretty much my PC supervisor) for months, she knew about the problems with the org and the general attitude of my counterparts. After every meeting or discussion I had with her it usually ended with me saying “but it’s ok, ill be fine.” It would be far too much to go into what exactly happened at the org and what people said, but my APCD and I decided it would be best if I started working at the clinic. I established a relationship with them, and it was agreed I would work there a couple days a week doing health education and plan campaigns (yay, what I actually want to do!). After pulling teeth at the org I had three small projects to do there, it would take maybe 2-3 days a week there to complete them in a ‘sustainable’ manor. 

I tried to go over my schedule with the management, and well, they flipped their shit. All of a sudden I was on the defense and tried my best to explain why I do not need to spend every day there. First of all, I am a community volunteer, so, I work for the community. I also had almost nothing to do at the org, and after a year of trying to find things to do with little results it was obvious I needed to branch out more. 

Cut to a couple days later and Kori comes to my site. She met with the management, and I was glad she came. I was optimistic about the meeting and thought we would get some things clear and maybe set a schedule and work plan. I of course I felt like I could do this with the org by myself, but it was past that point. I knew my org wasn’t thrilled with my plans of working so closely with the clinic, but I really didn’t think anything was seriously wrong. After sitting outside of the office where Kori was meeting with the managers for an hour a half I began to worry. What were they talking about? What possible could they have to talk about?

Well, they were explaining to Kori how I am horrible and  they want me to leave.

Pretty much the deal is, they think I was involved in reporting them to the department, and now they were getting in trouble and wanted me to leave. It was of course not said that plainly, they first wanted to paint a horrible picture of me. They told Kori some pretty horrible lies about me, which I later had to sit through accusations and try and defend myself. Luckily for me, Kori knows me and some of the accusations were so ridiculous it was easy to see they were lying. The two best parts were 1) the reason they think I was involved in reporting them is because a letter was written to the department in English, so it was obviously me (REALLY?) and 2) they would say these things to me, and asked Kori to not tell me certain things they said (mainly the part about me turning them in) but after it was clear I was not going back to the org she spilled the beans.

This led to me fearing my PC future and questioning, well, everything. The first thoughts that went through my head were leaving the clinic, girls club, and host family. Then I immediately thought about projects I had planned with a volunteer near me- then of course the horrible worry about what PC staff will now think of me.

Just like any situation I have been reflecting on what was said, and everything I have done the last year. Was I too pushy with them? Am I mean? Intimidating? Culturally insensitive? What if I had done something different? Did I fail?

Well, I had to answer all of those questions to head PC staff, which was tons of fun. It is no secret I sometimes care a little toooooo much about what others (especially authority) think of me, but how do I prove I am not a bad person? Shouldn’t they have to prove the accusation? Innocent until proven guilty? Well, I recognize the PC staff has a job to do, and they need to make sure I am not a horrible person and even though at one point I felt as though I was not being supported by PC- I am still here- so I guess overall it is understood that the org had a claim that was false which led to many other false claims.

Oh yea, and NO I did NOT write the letter or ever talk to department.

So I headed to Pretoria, then I went off to facilitate some lessons to SA25 PST (the new group who is training now), and two weeks later it is today and I am back at site. I should be packing right now, but that does not at all sound appealing. The GREAT news is, I ALREADY have a new site!!! This must be one of the fastest turn overs for PCSA, two PCVs just left Pretoria after two months of living at the backpackers because they needed a site change! I am very lucky that this crappy situation happened when it did and VERY thankful to a couple PCVs who pretty much pushed for me to get this site. 

I am taking over a site outside of Phalaborwa in Limpopo, this area is described as “the surface of the sun” by a fellow PCV who lives near there, but I don’t care. I am STOKED! It is currently the site of a PCV who is finishing up her two years there, and although she is not done she thought I would be a great fit so she did me a favour and talked to Peace Corps. There are still a lot of logistics to work out, but I think I will be moving later this week and we will be there together for a little while (couple weeks? Days? I don’t know) then she will move. I am sad to leave certain things, not only the things I listed previously but also the three PCVs near me and our Saturday castle dates and the friend, Leah, who is a missionary who works around here. But bottom line, this site is crap and I need to get out. I don’t know too much about my new site but from what I have heard it sounds wonderful, as in, there is a functioning board of directors.

I am also very grateful of all of my friends and family, I have a wonderful support network that I am able to cry/yell/laugh with them. It is also really amazing how much I rely on my fellow PCVs, although we have not been together that long I have found such amazing people and would have probably freaked out (even more) if I didn’t have friends telling me I am not a horrible person and I will get another site. We have a lot of time in our heads here in Peace Corps and it is a great to learn and grow, but sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. I am still reflecting on what happened and trying to figure out why and making sure I make the best of it. 

I haven’t told anyone is the community, but I am sure the past two weeks the project manager has said something, and I am sure I was not talked about it the best light. Tomorrow I will go into the org and clinic, pack up my stuff and say my goodbyes. Really not sure what I am going to say, should I give my side of the story to the caregivers I work with or just let it go? Should I tell management exactly what I think of them or just bite my tongue? And I am REALLY not looking forward to talking to my host family, that won’t be fun. And I can’t help but think how unfair it is I get to leave and go to a new site, but the caregivers at the org have to stay and all the of the plans for the kids for the next year are just, not going to happen. 

So again, I wonder what this past year really was all about. Oh the emotions.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

500, 26 hours, 600 minutessssss

HOOOOOOW DO YOU MEASURE, MEASURE A YEAR!? In condoms distributed? In boxes of wine drank? In international phone calls? In testing campaigns? In the number of solo dance parties or times I have watched Rent?

Welp, it’s been a year since leaving the land of the free, I feel like I should have something epic to say or some profound motivational tear jerking story, but I don’t. I took a nap today, that was pretty epic.

Today is also my sisters birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATY!!! Also give a shout out to Papa, miss you! 
So one year ago I arrived in Jozi, struggled to carry my bags while sweating and wearing a stupid business casual outfit. We arrived in Mokopane to a group of singing and dancing people, I was exhausted and greasy. I felt like I should soak in all this wonderful culture but really all I wanted was to get in the shade, bathe, and go to bed. 

The last year has not been what I expected, but what ever is? Adjusting to food, fetching water, bucket baths, latrines, bugs, and transportation issues were very easy to get over. I feel like I have adapted to ‘village life’ fairly easily. The things I find difficult are hard to explain- and not being able to explain things to friends and family back home is one of the hard parts. I find it very difficult to work with the group of people at the organization I was assigned to. Gender, race, age, and language are just the tip of the ice berg. I walked into Peace Corps with all sorts of formal education, damnit I have my Masters of Public Health- I know things- then realized the org doesn’t need someone with an MPH, they need me to take viruses of their computers and someone to explain what a ‘goal’ is. The organization doesn’t need me, they need a new manager that doesn’t steal money, or blame others for the lack of function at the org, a coordinator that does his job and doesn’t abuse his position, and just plain doesn’t suck at life. Not sure where my MPH comes in there? I have zero experience in management or NGO development, but hey I am a resourceful person and know how to use google. 

After I discovered how much money is ‘missing’ from the organization (and also knowing where it went) and several situations of management blatantly dis respecting me, I decided I didn’t really want to work there anymore. So, I don’t think I will. I am starting to work at the clinic, which is very exciting! Health education, planning health campaigns, and working directly with people on prevention- that is more like it!
So was this last year a waste? Of course not. I will still go into the org probably one day a week and work with the kids and caregivers because I am hard headed and can’t let go of that part of the org. Just because some people suck, doesn’t mean the kids don’t deserve a better place to go! After being here a year I completely understand why our service is two years. It has taken me this long to get a better understanding of what is going on. It has taken the year to really understand the culture and how the history of this country has moulded the people today. I have also had small success at the org and the World AIDS Day event was pretty successful. 

Not only will I be changing where I will be working, but I recently moved homes. I hated my last housing, and there is no questions that Peace Corps should not have put me there in the first place. I, however, got rather complacent and it took me being scared for my safety to finally demand a move. I am now living with a very friendly family and very happy. The young girl has woken me up far too early several times for various reasons, but I still like her. I also have to now cross a river to get to work, which has proven to be eventful, but makes the day more fun!

The year has definitely had its ups and downs. I have had plenty of days where I wonder ‘’what the hell am I doing here” and others when I think I will never want to leave. Some of the best experiences have not been saving lives and bonding with a family (I wish, and now a potential since i live with a fam) but have been the other PCVs I have met, what I have learned about myself, and small conversations/activities with community members. Who knew I would travel half way around the world with intentions to help a community and absolutely fall in love with other Americans? Many of the other PCVs I have met are amazing and inspiring! I also have a lot of time in my own head, I think the mix of mid-twenties, first time not in school, and being thrown in a crazy different environment has forced me to do so much self-reflection that I am really sick of myself. 

Do I hate it? No, actually I love it. I love the challenge, it is not easy or glamorous but it is worthwhile. The work I am doing is hard to quantify, I do not see a lot of results. That is one reason why it is hard for us to talk about what we are doing, or having a lot of really satisfying experiences. But I know the girls who now know that abuse is, in fact, illegal is a start for something positive. Or now the caregivers know how to properly use a condom, they will hopefully teach others, that is also a start. I can give a lot of small stories like that, but most of the day to day things are difficult to explain.

So what is next? Well, I love LOVE my girls club, they are hilarious and beautiful. They also have so much potential and a thirst for knowledge- so I will continue to work with them. I will grin and bear the org once in a while, trying to get some people to quit, and give others training so they have little excuse to not do their jobs. Another volunteer and I want to start a way for learners who are about to matric to get internship, teach them how to apply to schools/scholarships, and set up a way for them to apply for jobs. With several other PCVs, we will put on a camp for young girls and teach them how awesome it is to be a young female. At the clinic I will be doing all sorts of health ed, but my goals there are, before I leave, to have a functioning and sustainable HIV support group, peer educators, and a support/educational group for young mothers. I also got pretty involved with Peace Corps stuff and am the chairperson for the Diversity committee and helping train SA 25 so I think I will stay busy. Who knows, maybe I’ll run another marathon… 

I guess I have done more than take naps and read Harry Potter.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

You donate, I run, a child gets an education

As I believe most of you know I am a fan of running. I am not fast or competitive, or really even look like a runner, but I enjoy it. Running has changed dramatically since living in SA but for the most part I have continued on, even completing my first ever marathon through SOWETO in November! WHOOP WHOOP! And the next race I do will have a little more meaning...

The Longtom Committee with two of the KLM scholarship recipients who just graduated and are now off to University! From right: Veronica (PCV), me, Sandile Tshabalala (KLM scholar), Jordan (PCV), Alan (PCV), Uplands staff, Gugu Nyathi (KLM scholar),

Sandile's story
Gugu's story

Although I live and work in the community of Danisane I will also be helping raise money for another long term Peace Corps project. The KLM foundation was started by two former PCVs and each year sends a worthy learner from a rural area to one of the most prestigious schools in southern Africa, Uplands College. One way we raise money to be able to sponsor a learner for 6 years of tuition and board is through the Longtom Marathon. This is a very exciting time for PCVs as the majority of us participate and one of the only opportunities we have to see each other.

Please check out the KLM website for more detailed information on what exactly I am raising money for:  http://www.klm-foundation.org/  for the general organization site, and to meet the learners currently being funded through KLM and the Longtom fundraiser:http://www.klm-foundation.org/our_scholars/meet_our_scholars.html. I was lucky to be able to visit this school and meet several of the learners KLM is sponsoring one on one, and after listening to their stories I can promise you this is a worthy cause!


The marathon is either a half or an ultra, 21.1 K or 54K. I will be participating in half marathon. After the marathon I did in November, and the hike I went on this December, I thought my mom might actually come here and slap me across the face if I did the ultra, and really that is just a lot of K’s.

The race is March 31st in Sabie, Mpumalanga Province. This is a personal goal for me to train and completing the race, but also to help a worthy cause of helping a child receive a better education. I have committed to not only running but to also raising a minimum of $100.00, and any amount you could spare will be appreciated and helpful. All donations are also tax deductible. To donate money please go to the KLM website to make a donation, just click on the 'donate' photo. Make sure to put my name in the white box where it asks for the Longtom runner you want to sponsor so it goes toward the minimum I committed to raise.

If you have any problems with the website let me know, if you tend to get equally frustrated with websites feel free to send a check, see below!

The online donation is preferable, but if you need to mail in a check, please make it payable to "Kgwale Le Mollo (US)" and send it to:

KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107
Please make sure to include a note that your donation is on my behalf.

Thanks so much for your support, and especially for supporting the child who is chosen next year to attend Uplands College. I'll let you know how the weekend goes, and how many funds we, Peace Corps volunteers, collected.