Friday, January 28, 2011

Moshaweng International Airport

Several months ago, I hosted a community meeting to inquire first-hand into the needs of local residents. I was mildly surprised to hear overwhelming support for a casino-resort complex over additional clinic facilities and improved sports and recreational areas, but I was genuinely shocked to learn of a burning desire for more direct flights along the Loopeng to London route. OR Tambo is just too far, the people complained. I listened.

I applied for, and was granted, funding for the construction of Moshaweng International Airport! Construction wrapped up this week. The airport, which boasts four terminals, two McDonald's and a Starbucks, hosts daily flights between Loopeng and major cities throughout the world, including: New York, Shanghai, Paris and Helsinki.

The people really love it. Students at Moshaweng High School particularly enjoyed a field trip to Athens to visit the Acropolis. "It looks just the chicken coop my gogo built, except way bigger," enthused one grade 10 learner. Residents are also pleased to visit family in far-flung regions of the world, such as Barrow and Cabo.

Now I feel as though my work here is done. I've achieved something that I can really be proud of. Moshaweng International will stand in testament to the united efforts of the Loopeng community for generations to come. Therefore, when the next 747 departs for Dublin, I will be on it. Goodbye, SA!

Okay, okay, where did I lose you? The Finnish capital? The Acropolis? I knew Machu Pichu would be more credible...

As you are no doubt aware, the vast majority of the above is not true. (The suggestion of a noveau Sun City is actually not entirely false. It came up during a discussion of how to lure local Kurumanites to the area to spend their money. Everything else is a blatant lie. Forgive me.)

The existence of MIA is a long-recurring fantasy. One of my personal obstacles to ending my service early is the sheer difficulty of traveling from my site to Pretoria to process tons of paperwork. Early termination isn't terribly hard, but it definitely requires more effort than just boarding a plane. I have never wanted to leave SA so much that I was willing to put in all that effort, but many times I have thought if a plane landed right on the main road, or on the playing field next to school, I would be on it faster than any of you figured out my community meeting above was an imaginary absurdity.

This past week has been chock-full of such moments. School is a pit of exhausting work and endless frustration. Our teaching staff is reduced, but enrollment is up. My classes have nearly sixty learners in them, all crowded around broken tables, sharing chairs, pencils and stationary. The time table is a wreck. Often, educators are expected to be in several classrooms at once. To deal with this, I've taught combined classes, and even spent a few hours running two different classes simultaneously. It's the beginning of the school year, so I expect things will settle down eventually, but for the time being hectic is an understatement in regards to my worklife.

Back at the ranch, a problem has arisen between my hosts and the beast we all know and love as Shaka. The family is attempting to grow mealies (corn). The dog wishes to protect the family from the very real and present danger of donkey carts by growling in their direction through the fence. To achieve this, he sprints through the mealie field, supposedly leaving Apocalyptic-destruction in his 10 kg wake. I don't see it. Sure, there are occassional prints, but no holes filled with plant material he uprooted. In fact, nothing's been uprooted at all. Of course, the extent of the purported damage is not my decision to make. Seeing how distraught my family was over Shaka prancing through their field, I was more than ready to do whatever they asked to make up for it.

Did they ask for payment for damages? No.

Did they ask that the dog be tied up, a practice I stopped as the dog's rope was continually split in half to be used for other purposes by my host family? No.

What did they want?

The dog to be sold.

So, does anyone want to buy a dog?

No? Good. My solution was to buy a length of chain and keep the dog under either constant supervision or firmly secured in a safe area, far from the mealie field. The matter has not been discussed for several days. I hope this is the end of it. Shaka has adjusted well to his lack of freedom. Have no fear, dog-lovers, he's only imprisoned during hours when he spends most of his time asleep in the shade. He still gets plenty of exercise, companionship and clean water.

However, the dog has not been the primary source of my domestic discontent this week. My lack of electricity has been, by far, the greatest annoyance. The power supply in the village was fine. My host family's power was fine. It was only my tiny, one-room hovel that went without. I spoke to my hosts to absolutely no effect on a daily basis, beginning when it first went out on Monday. Thursday I demanded action and got it, in the form of a learner from school who took about 30 seconds to figure out the problem and fix it. I guess the staff was tired of me charging my phone at school. While I am thrilled to be back in the boiling and chilling water business, I am less thrilled that I was forced to spend an incredibly hot work week without. Thank goodness for tuck shops and Coca-Cola. Open happiness, indeed.

If my fantasy airport did exist, pets would be welcome aboard all aircraft, the water supply would be endless and I would have been en route anytime during the last few days. Alas, MIA remains a fantasy and I've got big plans for exploring the now flooded Moshaweng River with my trusty sidekick, Shaka. Airfield construction is, again, put on indefinite hold.


  1. So glad you have a sidekick / dog! Long may he prosper!

    Egypt International Airport used to be about 2 miles from us. Now it is a housing development.


  2. KELSEY, It sounds like you had a really bad week but you are getting lots of good stories out of all of these trials and tribulations. Keep smiling and hang onto that dog ! Tell your host family that in Ct. we had deer, rabbits, woodchucks, moles and squirrels eating the garden, not to mention the insects and slugs !