Friday, October 22, 2010

Thobela! (Hello!)

So I’ve been at my village a little over a month now and I really like it. I’ve been getting to know people, how to get around in taxis, where things are and whatnot. Transportation is a bit chaotic here, but I’m getting used to it. The taxis are kind of strange, way different than how they work in the US. They’re mostly big vans that drive around the villages cramming in as many people as possible before they’ll head to town or wherever you’re going. If you say you’re going to town that means Polokwane here, the main city 35K from me. You point up when you see a taxi if you want to go to town, point down if you want to go somewhere local. They also often stop to get gas with a full van.

Today I went to a nearby township called Lebowakgomo to meet Mike, a fellow PCV for shopping and lunch. I took a bus up to the main tar road, maybe 3 miles, then got off and took a taxi the rest of the way. There are some taxis that go directly to Lebowakgomo from my village, but you never know when they’re going to come around, so a woman waiting with me told me to get on the bus and showed me when to get off to get a taxi. People are really friendly and like helping me with things like this. One of my favorite things here is how everyone talks to people they don’t know everywhere they go. It’s like people are instant friends just because they live in the same area, which we all know is way different from the US.

So here’s some random info for you. Most people here speak enough English for me to have a conversation with them, which is nice, and there are a bunch of different English phrases that they use here which I like. One of my favorites is “that side,” or “this side,” which has a lot of different uses. Instead of saying “I’m going over there,” they say “I’m going that side.” When I asked my principal where he grew up he responded that he grew up this side. It’s quite entertaining. Another one is instead of asking where do you live, they ask where do you stay. I often reply “I stay that side” with a wave to the big hill. And instead of saying they don’t like something they say it’s not nice. And as I’m walking around people are constantly asking me “How is the morning?” It’s fun incorporating these different phrases when talking to people. They’re also very nosy and blunt here. Someone I don’t know is always asking me where I’m going, what I’m doing, and where I stay. An example of the bluntness is when speaking of the 66 year old woman in my Peace Corps group, my principals like to refer to her as the old lady. It’s not considered rude, the elderly are highly respected here.

The electricity goes out every once in a while. Last week it was out for 8 hours one day and 4 hours the next. The first day there was a lightening storm that night off in the distance. It was beautifully creepy with the lightening lighting up the sky over the pitch black village. The only lights were from cars driving over the hill on the tar road beyond the village. It was pretty gnarly. I sat outside with my “brother” Eugene watching the lightening and waiting for the power to come back on. He told me that he doesn’t like lightening because it’s associated with witchcraft here. They are very serious about witchcraft in South Africa. Eugene said he’s seen a love potion work a couple times. He says a woman will get fed up with a lazy husband, go buy a love potion, slip it into his food or drink, and he will become subdued and helpful. Eugene was trying to convince me it’s real, but I’m not so sure.

So we finally got some rain here a few days ago. It poured and there was more lightening. It is SUPER loud in my room when it rains, I liked it though. There’s a big tin water container right next to my window that makes a lot of noise in addition to the loud roof. I was glad to see that there are no leaks in my roof though. A friend in a different province said she has 6 leaks in her room when it rains, but it’s ok because she has 7 buckets.

Ok, that’s all for now. I hope everything is good that side!



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pictures and new address!

1. Bokgobelo Lower Primary School
2. My house.
3. A view of the area.
4. Cows at the little pond down the hill from my house.
5. The "library" at Mphakanyane Higher Primary.
I'm going to fix it up.

My new address is:
Maggie McDonald
PO Box 1964
Republic of South Africa

Should be much faster than the
Peace Corps Office address, you
can send letters or packages.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fellow Human Beings,

So I finally went to my schools yesterday for the first time, and today for about 30 minutes before my Principal decided he would take me to town to show me around. But yesterday I was introduced to the teachers and learners (their word for students here). Both are small primary schools, Bokgobelo Lower Primary is grades R-4 (Grade R is what they call kindergarten here), and Mphakanyane Higher Primary is grades 5-7. Both schools have about 120 students each. The lower primary has 7 teachers and the other only has 3, one class of each grade. They’re a five minute walk away from each other, and about 5 minutes from my house, so that’s nice. The facilities are pretty run down at the lower primary, old buildings, chipped paint, cracked walls, old desks and chairs. And the “playground” consists of painted tires that are half in the ground. The kids mostly play by running around or chasing each other with sticks. But on the side of one of the buildings there is a world map that the previous Peace Corps Volunteer painted. The kids like to look at it and it adds a nice bit of color to the school. The higher primary’s facilities are a bit nicer, but not great either. They do have a computer lab though which is pretty cool.

A couple days ago my principal showed me the trail behind my house that goes up into the mountains. You can see really far and it’s beautiful with the surrounding mountains. There’s also cactus everywhere and weird trees that look like small palm trees but have weird red cactus things coming out of the top. It reminds me a little of Arizona.

So things at my house are good. Ramoraswi left for Johannesburg on Sunday, so I have down time again which is nice. She’s a fun kid though. Her sister also left to go somewhere else for school, so it’s just me and Eugene (the social worker tenant) here right now. But Pinkie (my host mom) is here during the days working in the yard and doing other stuff but still staying at her house down the hill at night. She gave me a stove a few days ago to keep in my room. It’s pretty gnarly being able to cook in here now and not having to carry everything through the yard into the kitchen.

There are two dogs and a bunch of cats (at least 3) that live here too. One is medium sized black dog, probably a mix of some sort, maybe part lab, and the other is a small white dog, probably a Chihuahua mix. Pinkie calls the dogs Blackie and Whitie, quite creative. So Amber helped me rename them Whistle and Kazoo. Whistle because she misread “Whitie” when we were typing to each other, and then Kazoo because we thought it kind of goes with Whistle… and it’s a fun word. They’re both pretty hyper, fun though.

Ok, that’s it for now.