Thursday, June 2, 2011

Town Bound

It's been a while since I recounted an average day as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, so let me tell you about my day.

Due to some administrative error in the States, volunteer stipends were delayed by almost two weeks. Due to my recent vacation, I had no savings to fall back on. Basically, I've been living off scraps for about two weeks. It's been rough, though not impossible. Anyway, a recent paycheck, a desperate need for groceries and an opportunity for Shaka to see the vet all led me to pop off to Kuruman on a Thursday (it's exam time at school, nobody missed me).

Wednesday night I called my favorite taxi driver.

"Hello, buti (brother), are you going to town tomorrow?"

"Yes, I will pick you up at 7, ne?"

"Gosiame (okay)."

Of course, he showed up at 7:30. I waited by the fire my host mother had built for breakfast and attempted to de-freeze my hair. In preparation for visiting a white town where people know what clean hair looks like, I washed mine the night before. The temperature then dropped, and it quite literally froze. Once I was sufficiently warmed, I took Shaka for a short walk. Out in the nearby veld I saw something terrifying: frost. Ulp. Apparently due to all the rain this past summer, we're in for an especially long and cold winter. What fun.

The taxi pulled up, Shaka and I climbed in and settled down for the two+ hour trip to Kuruman. Well, it actually doesn't take that long to get to town, what takes so long is wandering around the village picking people up until the vehicle (a mini-bus) is full to bursting. I'm not complaining, all the people made the trip cozy and warm.

Once in Kuruman, I paid a single fare (R33) and began a brisk walk to the local animal clinic. The doctor was busy, so his wife prepared a cage for Shaka and I left him there while I did my shopping.

Or, at least I tried to do my shopping. The power was out. I had only a debit card. You get the picture. Luckily, I had a stash of borrowed cash at a guesthouse. Another volunteer was kind enough to lend me some funds to tide me over until our payday finally arrived. Due to school commitments and an unfortunate transport situation in my village, today was the first day I was free to pick up the money. I walked up to the guesthouse and settled in next to a space heater for a chat. What did we talk about? Oh, you know, mining strikes, the bush war against Swapo, literal battle scars, lack of service delivery in the villages... the usual.

Armed with cash, I finally worked up the inner-strength to leave the space heater and actually run my errands. That done, it was back to the vet's office to hear his verdict on the state of Shaka. The good news is that he'll be fine. The bad news is that the wound on his chest is a chemical burn. I have no idea how he got it, nor what sort of chemicals are used at a cattle post that would cause this kind of damage. Anyway, I've been given a special ointment to apply several times a day for a couple weeks. That's right, I'll be spending the rest of June playing doctor to a dog.

The good animal doctor gave Shaka and I a ride to the taxi rank in his bakkie. Shaka managed to not fall out this time. I was relieved. Near the rank were a few Loopeng taxis. The first two were full. The third was practically empty. It took two hours to fill. Actually, it left slightly less than full. No one wanted to sit next to my dog. While his wound was dirty and covered by matted fur in the morning, in the afternoon, after the vet visit, the area had been shaved, cleaned and covered with a greenish goo. Apparently, some people were afraid they'd become sick if they got too close. Nevermind, I paid for two seats and got some extra stretching room.

We arrived back in Loopeng after dark. Once I hauled all my bags back to my room, I realized I left my jacket in the taxi. Brilliant. It's likely gone forever now. It wasn't particularly cute, but I'm that much colder now. After wrestling Shaka to apply the ointment (it stings just a tad), I wandered over to my host family's indoor fire.

In a small building, just a couple metres from the main house, is an indoor firepit. At night, my host mother builds a fire and shuts up the building. The result is a refuge of warmth. I love it in there, even if the highly flammable thatch roof makes me nervous. Tonight I brought a bag of coconut marshmallows, a bar of chocolate and a pack of biscuits to make South African s'mores with my host mother, her grandchild and the three orphans. The kids and I did this last year, but it was new for my host mother. She was pretty pysched. So was I, for that matter. Coconut marshmallows are pretty great, especially when hot.

When I was sufficiently stuffed and thawed out, I ventured back to my room and crawled into bed. I get a lot of sleep in the winter here. It is simply too cold to be awake!

And that, is a fairly typical day for me here in SA.

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