CAMP GLOW TIME

Two of the scariest words from my Peace Corps experience are “month’s end.” Really. I shutter just typing them.
At the end of every month, every single inhabitant of South Africa is paid, whether it’s grants for their children, pension, or a paycheck. Since many villages are really far from town, many people only come in at month’s end to buy everything they need until next time. (This means buying in massive bulk, but without a Costco or a car or any sort of convenience.) Thus begins the monthly descent on our shopping town. Most women are there for food, while most men are there for drinks on drinks on drinks and to harass women of all colors and ages. If you’re in town during month’s end, good luck. If you’re in town during month’s end trying to buy all your materials for a camp for 75 people, God bless your soul.
We spent last Friday-Monday (month’s end) planning, dissecting our budget, and buying all our materials and nonperishable food. We went to the more packed, more chaotic supermarket, because their prices are better than the store we usually go to. We got on line immediately, and one of us would wait with our carts (PLURAL AND FULL TO THE BRIM) while the others navigated past women and babies and carts and broken 10kg bags of flour. (If you are claustrophobic do NOT attempt.) We all stayed so positive despite the joke we were living in and got everything we needed. Have you ever spent three hours on a line at the grocery store without pulling your hair out? Mission accomplished.

All that’s left to do is finalize sessions, make the final bus deposit, and buy the perishable food, all before Thursday. Then we’re off! Wish us luck!

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Valentine’s day, a week later

Last Valentine’s, when I didn’t have a blog yet (OOPS) the school had a great celebration and I got some pretty adorable Valetines. (I think many of them were intended for the children’s family members, but back then they were still infatuated with the American girl at their school.) On the walk home that day I was with a 4th grader, Kokeletso, and we passed a sheep giving birth. I reacted much more strongly than she did, because it was both gross and awesome and because I was still adjusting to the village life. Then, all on her own, she suggested we name the baby sheep “Valentino.” She made him Italian without any help from me. You go girl.

This year was just as cute, and I got a candle from a 7th grade girl, a coffee mug from a 6th grade girl, and Valentine’s Day themed shot glasses from an educator. (Clearly not intended for their American college purpose).

In other news, last week, when we called to make the deposit for our accommodation for the Girls Camp, the lodge owner told us she gave our booking to another group who was staying longer. Are you kidding? You don’t even have the decency to give us a call and let us know you’ve totally screwed us over? The dust has settled, so I’m not as furious now as I was, and we’ve all been searching frantically for a new place. We think we’ve found a good one, so keep your fingers crossed. There’s no way we’re disappointing these girls OR those who donated, so never fear.

Meanwhile, my mind’s been all over the place trying to pick a law school, pick a job, pick a life post-Peace Corps. I know I’ll figure it out soon, I just don’t like being so uncertain. And if anyone knows of any job openings involving Hillary Clinton in any way, shape, or form, LET THIS GIRL KNOW.

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Term 1 Update

After a slow start, Term 1 has finally picked up the pace. My main project now is computer lessons for people in the community. Parents have been consistently coming since last week to learn typing and Microsoft Office. We charge a small fee, and it has already helped us raise a ton of money for the school. My only concern is sustaining it after I leave, so I intend to trap some educators and staff into lessons very soon.

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My typing minions

Speaking of computers, I taught lessons to the out-going Grade 7s when I first arrived in 2011. I tried teaching the basic ASDF but was also trying to survive my first few months at site so wasn’t too concerned with their form. One of the former Grade 7s, Kutlo, just received a laptop from her mom for Christmas. I am SO incredibly happy for her, and I know it was  a huge financial burden on the family, but it was so heartwarming to see them support her. She came over for some help with her modem, and when she began to type, she lined up her fingers on the keyboard just like I taught her over a year ago. I was so impressed, maybe she’ll take over lessons when I leave!

Kutlo

PLANTING HAS BEGUN.  Every single blog post has been “maybe next week” and “maybe next term” but it finally started. We’ve got a schedule of when the learners can go in and water the seeds and clear more ground for more plots, and they’re very eager to get their hands dirty. We’ve been getting some rain too, so the wetter the better.

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Look at all those green thumbs.

The girls club and camp are coming along well too. We’ve made a plan to buy the materials in March, so now we’re making final arrangements for transport and choosing girls (which is far too stressful for my liking). We’ve made a Fundrazr page for people in America to donate to this GREAT cause: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/aQCJ2

It’ll help us pay for accommodation, transport, food, and supplies (bracelets, t-shirts and tye-dye) that our grant didn’t cover. Every Peace Corps Volunteer we’ve spoken to has said that Camp GLOW is inspiring for both for the girls and the volunteer. We’re hoping to build up these girls’ self-esteem and prepare them for high school and beyond. Please donate and pass it on!Photo 9

Some of the sillies going to the Camp.

I also traced the map onto my blue rectangle, but it’s hard to see in a picture because it’s in pencil. I’ve been so busy with the community computer lessons that I haven’t had time to start painting, but that is OKAY. I have no problem with being busy.

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And now, some weather shots.

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Not the ugliest view I’ve ever had.

IMG_1101Hail in 90 degree weather. Not global warming, just Africa.

And some school shots. IMG_1072

IMG_1075Grade R’s (Kindergarten) and Grade 3s

Less than six months until I’m home. WILD. Hopefully these projects keep going so I’m not twiddling my thumbs until August. Wish me luck!

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The Best Day I Almost Never Had


It’s rare, so I’m really lucky to have a few amazing volunteers who share the same shopping town as me. We get together every couple of weeks, and this weekend we all spent the night in town for Julie’s birthday. I planned to stay only Friday, but was quickly convinced to stay Saturday too. The attraction was a sink hole that the owners of the guesthouse offered to take us to. (A sink hole? I know, we had no idea what to expect either, but we went with it.)

We hopped in their truck and took a beautiful ride about 40k outside Kuruman. We ended up at a game park, and saw galloping elon, wildebeest, and impala. (Not making these words up. They are majestic creatures.) We finally pull up to a hole, filled with these huge rocks, with a lake way down at the bottom. We climbed down and checked out the water. (More of a work out than I anticipated, but SO worth it)  It was covered with green sprouts, so it may look gross in pictures, but you only had to move them away with your hand to see clear beautiful water. I’ll be dreaming of that cold refreshing water whenever I’m drenched in sweat at site.

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Stranded, don’t send help

We were all so grateful for that day trip and we’re definitely blessed to have such great friends at the bed and breakfast to take us along for the ride. I doubt any of us will be forgetting that weekend for a while.

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On the way back, the ride was pretty windy. Our friend Jerry’s eyeglasses literally blew off his face. We turned around to go search for them but they were gone. 😦 Only a few minutes later, my Ray Ban’s blew off my face, but fortunately they were lying in the middle of the road. These glasses are fighters.DSCN0562

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Lebola

When two people get engaged in South Africa, one of the traditions they typically practice is lebola. Lebola is the equivalent of a bride price or dowry (or engagement ring in the States.) The men of both families meet to decide upon an appropriate “price” the man’s family will pay to the woman’s. It could be money but around here it’s usually cattle. People have told me my lebola would be very high- ten cows! twenty cows!- if I married here. I’m flattered, but no thanks.

My host dad’s niece just got married, but in order for her to receive a lebola, her father needed to pay a lebola to her mother, which he didn’t. Her father, my host dad’s brother, passed away, but my host dad had to complete a lebola ceremony in his name in order to complete his niece’s lebola process.

Friday night, a few relatives came to our house for the ceremony. I’m still unsure why, but tradition says the exchange of lebola (in this case, 6 sheep) has to happen after midnight. They made the exchange at 3 am, so I was already fast asleep, but I heard them screaming and singing at 4:30 when they were finished. Only the men can participate, so the women had to stay up the whole night just to cook. Fun.

In exchange for the sheep, my host family received buckets of traditional homemade beer. Apparently the screaming and singing in the wee hours of the morning is a “siren” to the men in the village that the beer will be drunk the next day. My host family doesn’t drink (which is AWESOME) so men came from the village to our house and drank the beer in order to complete the tradition. I’m not really a fan of any tradition that perpetuates the male drunkenness here, but oh well. Their job was to drink the beer and sing traditional songs until the beer was gone.
Singing African songs and dancing under the shade of a tall tree evokes a beautiful image, but their appearance and demeanor left a lot to be desired. Three words: This is Africa.


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Traditional beer, can you smell it through your screen?

In other news, my body is on fire, my electronics are on fire, and this little lizard found escape from the heat in my sink bucket.

IMG00029-20130126-1650Can’t blame him. Lucky guy.

 

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Happy 2013!

Hello again! South Africa is just as I left it, sweaty and uncomfortable, but adjusting back to the village life is easier than I’d expected. It was wonderful seeing my host family again, and I hope they enjoyed the copious amounts of “I Heart NY” gear I bought for them.

I haven’t written about my trip to America because all 3 people who read this blog (Hey, Mom) are pretty familiar with the country. Chipotle, ever heard of it? Target, ever heard of it? I did almost cry in Target because of all the colors and gadgets, but never received any discounts by showing my cool Peace Corps ID. (It’s not that cool.) I was able to appreciate all the little American things I’d taken for granted before, and loved spending the holiday with my friends, family, and pug. See ya in a few months!

Without teaching English and Math, this first week has been a little slow, but I know it’ll pick up when my projects start. Planning for the girls camp is in full swing, and I’m sure I’ll be asking for help ($) in the near future. We received our grant money, so the next steps will be to purchase materials and re-start the girls club at school to make sure I actually have some participants to take.

I’ve been working more in the library too, but it’s a mobile library and literally (literally) 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. So it’s bittersweet when children ask me to let them read in there because I’m a huge fan of literacy but not so much of sweating to death. But so far so good!

We’ve also had some developments with water at the school, so I’m hoping things work out and we get to really start planting. Keep sending prayers to the water gods!

Other than that, I’ve been enjoying the slow afternoons of reading and goat watching. Everyone says your last year in Peace Corps goes incredibly fast, so I’m trying to take it all in before I go. Stayed tuned for updates and stay warm Northern Hemisphere!

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Wrapping Up

IT’S DECEMBER!! How did that happen? My full year in South Africa is coming to a close. Since exams began at school two weeks ago, it’s descended into chaos, as expected. To keep busy, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the library with the learners and researching possible funding for water sources. There’s still no water at the school, and learners have been forced to bring bottles with them from home. Our garden is ready to go, but there’s no point in starting it if there isn’t a consistent water source. I’m praying by next term there’s some sort of progress so there’s enough water to cook with, drink, and garden with.

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Our fence and our tires ready to plant. 😦

I also started painting for my World Map. There’s currently a big blue rectangle on the side of my school, but next term I’ll trace the map and get it finished!

I’m not going to be teaching Math or English next year, and instead I’m going to focus on secondary projects. I’ll keep going with computer lessons for the learners and community, expand library and remedial time, and focus on my girls’ club and camp. Three volunteers and I just submitted our grants for a Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) for March. We are SO excited, and know it’ll be a wonderful experience for our girls.

My last “project” for this term was holding a Talent Show for the school. We used the Community Hall and the learners had a blast. It was good for fundraising for the school and the teachers are already planning a bigger one next year, complete with a sound system.

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Arriving in the Community Hall. They’re ready for their close up.

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Grade 5 Drama. I smell an Oscar.

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A grade 4 learner reciting a poem about Africa. She nailed it, and won second prize!

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Judges deliberating.

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This is a 7th grade boy, with the drum set and car he made. The car has a working battery; the kids went WILD. He struggles to read and write, so seeing him shine yesterday (he won first place) was fantastic.

In other news, my host family got a new puppy. He’s currently sleeping on my rug as BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL RAIN pours down on my tin roof.IMG00860-20121130-1447

Now that it’s December, it’s only ELEVEN days until I’m on a plane for America!! I cannot wait to spend Christmas with my family, friends, pug, and Chipotle. I’ll be going to Pretoria early next week for a doctor’s appointment and then I’m off! So grateful and excited for this upcoming month, and grateful for this year in South Africa. I got a lot accomplished, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m excited to see what my last year in Peace Corps brings.

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