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.

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.

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