Saturday, August 21, 2010


A quick update on previous posts:

1) The field trip to Heuningvlei never materialized because the Department of Education failed to make any provision for the transport of 40-some people 80-some kilometres. Was I disappointed? Yes. Surprised? Not one bit.

2) I hunted down the bird in the computer lab (not too difficult considering the loud and continous tweeting). He appeared to have a broken wing. I resisted my urge to find a box, bring him home and raise him to wellness. Instead I set him outside under a tree. I have not seen him since. While I hope he managaed to waddle somewhere safe, it is more likely that some other creature got to him first. Shame.

In other news, I'm getting a bit sick of the strike. A few days off was nice. I cleaned, re-organized and de-cluttered my hovel. I went to visit another volunteer (dinner was Sprite and cupcakes - YES). I picked up supplies to complete my World Map project. I re-stocked my food corner. I washed my floor. I'm ready to go back to school! I have no idea when that will happen. I know for certain that the strike will last through Monday, but it could potentially last much longer. The last SADTU strike, in 2007, went on for a month. Oh joy. In the meantime, I will be soaking up the village ambience with as much good humor as I can muster. Right now I'm sitting on my stoop, listening to the sheep baa and squinting to keep the sand out of my eyes. Spring is coming to South Africa. It arrives with a hot, hot sun and plenty of wind. Not the best of weather, but it sure beats freezing cold.

Monday, August 16, 2010


After spending the better part of last week in town, avoiding the strike, I spent all of this weekend hanging about in Loopeng. J came to visit and brought supplies for a very important element of my Peace Corps service: sharing American culture through that most delicious of campfire foods: s'mores.

Graham crackers are not available here in South Africa, so we used Marie biscuits (a very thin cross between a cookie and a cracker). A package of biscuits, a packet of marshmallows and a bar of milk chocolate and we were ready to roll. We waited for darkness and then trooped out to a corner of the yard in search of appropriate tree branches. Four branches were selected and sawed off with J's pocket knife. He then sharpened the ends into points while everyone else gathered in the backyard to build a fire. In our little group was J, myself, my host sister R and seven children from the neighborhood who happen to stay with the family (3 are AIDs orphans, the mother of the other 4 is a drunk who ran off).

After a quick demonstration of marshmallow roasting technique and s'more construction, we were off to the races. We had plenty of supplies for everyone, luckily, and photo opportunities abounded. Some day I might actually get some of them online.

Even though it's winter here, I got a little taste of American summer with s'mores that I think everyone enjoyed.

Uhh, there's a bird in the computer lab. Better run!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The strike is on. Learners have been asked not to go to school, no classes are being held, and educators are protesting. It's a confusing time right now. I've heard the strike could last anywhere from just a day to the rest of the school year. Some schools aren't striking at all, some schools have been on strike already. Eish! I'm following the official Peace Corps line on the strike: I have no opinion and no involvement. I'm staying home until it all blows over.

This past weekend was a one-year party in Kuruman. Volunteers came from across both the Northern Cape and the North-West for dinner at a local Afrikaner cafe and dancing at an Afrikaner bar down the road. It was fun. Nothing like doing a waltz to Afrikaans pop music. This weekend was also host to J's surprise birthday party. I was in charge of locating a cake. It was more difficult than you might think, but I managed to get it done. I was given the phone number of a local woman who baked cakes to order, and wow! It was awesome. It was enormous and dripping in frosting. So. Much. Sugar! Delicious, of course. So delicious in fact that we ordered another cake for no other reason than to eat more of it.

In other news of the weekend, well, frankly, it was all chutney. A bunch of volunteers met at Die Oog (the Eye, oasis of the Kalahari) for a picnic. One of the many conversation topics covered was that of chutney. Had we tried it before coming to SA? What exactly was it? Wikipedia to the rescue! Chutney was defined by the rather dubious internet source as "anything that does not contain raisins... with the exception of raisin chutney". So, everything is chutney? According to Wikipedia, yes, yes it is. One friend commented that she couldn't believe we'd spent the last hour cracking jokes about chutney, but another friend quickly pointed out that really, we've spent our whole lives talking about chutney. I guess you probably had to be there.

Enjoy your week, I'll be spending it at home pending further notice from SADTU.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Week

Yesterday's post makes my life sound terribly boring, so I thought today I'd list all the little things that are going on this week that spice things up a bit.

On Monday my backyard hosted a donkey slaughtering. Donkeys are primarily used here attached to carts to fetch water, but when they grow old and infirm they're eaten. The donkey was killed and the meat cooked in a big iron pot over the outdoor cooking fire. Because donkeys are considered communal property (they roam free and you round one up when you need one) a whole crowd of people came over to get their fair share. It was kind of distressing. I think donkeys are cute. I passed on eating this one.

Tomorrow is a field trip up to some caves in Heuningvlei in celebration of National Science Week. I'll have more on that later. I'm excited. I've been to Heuningvlei before, but in the summer when it's just too hot to walk anywhere.

Today was the last day of negotiations between the government and the teaching unions. A strike, if it happens, will begin this Friday. We should know by the end of school tomorrow what's going on.

This weekend is another Kuruman shindig/fiesta, this time in honor of our first year of service. We will eat, drink, make merry and shower. I'm excited about the shower, the food is a close second. I had instant soup for dinner. I look forward to chewing something with substance.

Judging from my blog, Peace Corps is all parties! It's tough out here in the Kalahari, but we manage.

In other news, I've just finished another round of antibiotics and other pills. It was exhausting, but the good news is that with all the pill-swallowing practice I can now swallow my elephant-sized multivitamins no problem!

One more thing: I forgot to post about last weekend! So here goes...

It had been months since I last saw my dearest PCV friend. Months! She doesn't live far from Kuruman and spends most weekends in town. It was quite ridiculous that we went so long without seeing each other. We decided to meet for dinner on Saturday night. I arrived in town in the morning. With nothing to do for most of the day, I wound up at the usual PCV hangout where a couple of PCVs were chatting with some locals. The conversation turned to horses and before we knew it, we were all given a lift to the local Rugby Club. The Rugby Club was also home to stable housing three horses belonging to our hosts. We saddled up and went riding. It was a complete and total disaster. I was in a dress and ballet flats, so I was hanging onto the horse with one hand and trying to keep my skirt down with the other. J's mount had a spasm and he was tossed to the ground. N proved to be a decent rider, but his horse kept heading home (back to his stall). Horse whisperers we are not. Dinner was great though (and J is uninjured).

The Rugby Club in general was a bit surreal. The atmosphere is so European, and yet the acacia trees and black groundspeople remind you that you are, in fact, in Africa. It felt very colonial. Interesting, but also uncomfortable.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Usually when I post on this blog, I'm posting about something unusual or exciting. As delighted as you likely are to read about all my awesome vacations, perhaps more enlightening would be a description of my everyday. Here it is:

6:30 am
My alarm goes off. I go back to bed.

6:45 am
My alarm goes off again. I can hear my host father building the cooking fire outside and my host mother bustling the younger children out of bed. I get up too.

7:00 am
I am not happy to be awake, but I boil water in an eletric kettle for a quick wash. I dress, gather my school things and generally putter until...

7:30 am
I walk to school.

7:35 am
I arrive at school. I hope the gate is unlocked. If it isn't, I wait for the security guard to let me in. Don't ask me why we have 24-hour security personnel. I haven't the faintest.

7:40 am
There is a morning staff meeting. Sometimes it's long, sometimes short, almost always boring. The principal leads it in English. The educators come from all over southern Africa and not all of them are familiar with seTswana. English is used at school.

7:50 am
On Mondays we have assembly. The learners line up, and there is singing, announcements... Every other day of the week classes start at this time (Mondays are delayed 10 minutes).

From this time until 4 o'clock or even later, I will be at school. I teach my classes, assist other educators, and generally act as a potentially useful hanger-on. I fix computers, tutor learners, attend meetings... It's all very boring once you get used to it, and I am nothing if not used to it. I leave whenever the other staff members do.

5:00 pm
I fetch water. It's a long walk to the tap. It's a longer walk back.

6:00 pm
I cook. By "cook" I usually mean boil water for pasta and smother it in butter and cheese. It never gets old.

7:00 pm
Wash dishes. Empty water basin outside.

8:00 pm
Get ready for bed.

9:00 pm
In bed, maybe with a book, maybe a movie, maybe with 10 episodes of Friends, or maybe with nothing... No matter what I'll be asleep before 10 pm.

Then I do it all over again. On the weekends I substitute trips to town, laundry and washing my hair with attending school.

Just finished Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. Excellent! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the experience of white Africans.

Just started At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie. Peace Corps South Africa has a great library, huh?