I have a lot of explaining to do concerning town, what it is, where it is, why I go, and how I get there.
When I refer to town, I am talking about Kuruman. In general size and appearance, it reminds me of Estherville, IA. It's got a few grocery stores, a couple decent restaurants, a smattering of guest houses, and a nice park around the Eye (the only permanent water source for miles). Most importantly, Kuruman is where the post office and my school's PO box is located, along with Rusty's veterinarian, the bank and ATM.
Kuruman is approximately 90 kilometers from Deorham. Oddly, that is the same approximate distance from my house in Pittsford to the lake house in Ovid. Anyway, it's hardly walking distance. Hence, I must provide you with a crash course in South African transport.
The most common form of transport in rural (poor, black) South Africa is by taxi. Locally known as khumbis, taxis are really minibuses. To attract a taxi, all you have to do is stand by the road and wait and wait and wait until one comes along that has space. Space does not necessarily mean a seat. I have stood, I have sat on people's laps, I have spent any uncomfortable hour or so on the floor even. It happens. Anyways, there used to be one taxi that served my village. It would pick people up at a few select spots around the village about 7 am, transport them into town and back again (this time dropping them at their door). We paid 56 rand for this service. A few weeks ago, the taxi people attempted to raise this to 70 rand. The people of Deorham responded by boycotting the taxi. The taxi responded by ceasing to come to the village.
This brings me to SA transport, part two. The other form of transport most common in my area is a truck with a cover on the back and benches for people to crouch uncomfortably on. Locally known as bakkies, these vehicles are owned by a few community members. When they either need to go to town themselves, or just need some extra cash, these people will operate their vehicles as taxis. With the official Deorham taxi gone, we now have to relie on the whims of the relatively wealthy to get to town.
All of this now brings me to today. I needed to go to town for groceries. Thus, as the sun rises, I hike out to the nearest taxi pick-up point and wait. I wait for nearly any hour. A bakkie comes. I climb in (the cab). Two people squeeze in next to me. We begin the bumpy journey to town. I lose feeling in my left leg. The bakkie breaks down. People climb out, try to push it along. This strategy seems to work for about ten minutes. Then, another breakdown. The cycle repeats itself for about any hour. We head back into Deorham. I climb out of the bakkie, check to make sure all my limbs are intact and that feeling has been restored. Seeing all is well, I wait for a new bakkie. The new bakkie arrives. Everyone who couldn't get to town on the first one, climbs into this one. I counted 16 people in the back. Try to imagine that. It was crazy! We begin the journey to town, but it seems doomed. We pull over four times to "fix" whatever seems to refuse to work for more than twenty minutes at a stretch. Almost four hours after I stepped into the first bakkie, I finally arrive in town.
By this time, the post office is closed, so there's no point in trying to pick up or send my mail. Might as well have lunch!
Spur is one of my favorite South African restaurants. It styles itself as an American steakhouse and the inside is decorated as kitschy as can be. There are cheesy references to American-Indian culture everywhere! Headdresses adorn placemats and the stained glass lamps bear vaguely Western patterns. Believe it or not, the food is actually quite good and by American standards, cheap to boot. Today I had the guacamole and bacon burger. Fantastic!
Then I trudged back to the rank to try desperately to make my way back to Deorham. I made it, but, like everything else here, it took a lot longer than strictly necessary. If patience is a virue, I'm headed to sainthood.
Once again, a big thank-you to my Longtom sponsors (especially the mysterious one my mom had to tell me about, thank you!) and to everyone else, there's still time to give and I'd really appreciate it! Thanks!
Please excuse any typos. My Blackberry has gone auto-text crazy and editing is difficult. I hope to hook up my computer soon.