3 january 2012
happy new year! 2012 means back to america come september! a bittersweet but mostly happy wahoo!
host mamma #1 covering up the drying amakwakwa (monkey apple- fruit) on the kitchen roof.
highlights from october-dec 2011
mst(mid service training)
i was able to bring my counterpart sindiswa along to pretoria for a 3 day series of workshops. sindiswa and i do the girls club together. she is wonderful and is many times my saving grace at school. i can have a real conversation with her and she is very passionate and dedicated to the girls club. we both had a great time at training and learned a lot about hiv/aids from two men by the names of david patient and neil orr, authors of positive health. they were truly wonderful and i learned more about hiv in one day than everything i previously knew. i highly recommend googling them for anyone interested in up to date research and living with hiv. david has been hiv positive for 27 years, one of the longest survivors in the world. we received great resources which we will be using with the girls and i'll also use for other projects. aside from the workshops it was tons of fun to see all the other volunteers from my group, take showers, and eat lots of delicious food.
danny and i went to lesotho, the kingdom in the sky. it's a monarchy and has the highest low point of any country in the world. it also claims to have the highest pub in africa at about 2,800m. which is not true as they're a building and a drinkin on kilimanjaro! we took a public mini van up a ridiculous road known as sani pass to the tiny border town of sani top where we stayed for several days. (google sani pass! so beautiful.) we went hiking and rode basotho ponies around and froze ourselves silly. they get snow every month of the year there.
school, term 4 oct-dec
its common knowledge that nothing happens in term 4 in government schools in south africa. the focus is on the grade 12 learners final exams and so everything else kind of shuts down. at the primary school teaching was still going on but in a much more relaxed manner. summer also approaches in term 4 and some days it was so so hot that no one could really do anything. we just sat under the trees and sweated. i continued teaching english and managed to train a crew of learner library monitors, with much help of another teacher, to run the library. we will start borrowing books this 2012 school year and we have library card fundraisers planned. exciting!
at the high school i helped prepare the grade 12's for their english exams and worked on the school library. a group of teachers and i cleaned out several cabinets full of ancient learners books and found lots of library books scattered about. we organized them and repaired a cabinet to make space for our corner library. 17 learners from my grade 9 english class signed up to volunteer in helping catalouge and organize all the books. we are almost finished and will complete the work at the beginning of this school year.
i always look forward to our thursday meetings. sindiswa and i taught lessons about role models, the reproductive system, the menstrual cycle, and hiv/aids. our most successful lesson was on the reproductive system which lasted for several meetings. we all drew our own diagrams, labeled it and discussed what's going on in there. we divided the girls into groups and played a game of labeling the diagrams on the board and gave prizes to the winning team. they loved it and it was great to see them remembering and arguing about what goes where and what it does. we finally finished making their name cards featuring each girls picture and handed them out. they went nuts and loved them! the boys were all jealous as were some of the other teachers and we got many requests to join the girls club. at the end of the year we had a party to celebrate the formation of the club. sindiswa, the principal, a girl from grade 6 and 7, and myself all gave a short speech about why the girls club is important and something we've learned. its definitely what im most looking forward to this next year.
and then there is the kids club. (the club for the orphans and vulnerable children in the lower grades) which has mostly dissolved. the main reason being a lack of support and interest from the teachers and me not wanting to do it alone. i'm not sure what's going to happen with it this year but if i can get someone who is interested and wants to do it i'll be happy to continue it. if not i can't do it alone because it would be too much on top of all the other things i'm involved with.
ah! for thanksgiving all the volunteers in the area went to stay with workers of an ngo nearby on a beautiful farm. the couple who started the ngo are from america and they managed to get two turkeys mailed. we had a crew of about 18 and we all brought side dishes and ate so so much. it was tons of fun to be together for the holiday.
new project- community based organization
one of my best friends in the village, dumisani (dubbed my male twin by my principal as we are the same age), a brilliant science and math teacher at the high school and i have started a new project. we have been talking for a while about the issues the community faces and he has opened up a lot to me in recent months. at the training i attended i learned that lots of money is available from the government to start community based organization focused on agriculture, skills development, youth, etc. i told him about what i learned and shared with him the resources and he got really excited and wanted to get started right away. he organized some responsible interested members of the community to join us. we held a meeting in which we did a needs assessment where we listed the problems, needs, strengths, and possible solutions to community issues. we used PACA (participatory assessment for community action) tools, which is a strong block in the foundation of the peace corps philosophy. its probably the most idealized 'peace corps' thing i've done so far- co-facilitating a meeting, having a translator, making an action plan based on voices from youth, women, children, men, and the older generations. it was really really cool and felt amazing to finally begin work outside the school. from that first meeting we had several more where we decided our focus (youth), elected a 7 member leadership committee, and wrote a constitution. we visited the department of social development and completed all the necessary paper work. it takes four months to be registered but we can get started in the mean time. we'll all be meeting again once school gets started to form our youth group.
my host sister thandeka had a grade r (kindergarten) farewell which is possibly the most adorable function i've ever attended. the kiddos wore full gowns with hats and danced in pairs under a terrace to their seats. they squirmed around and sweated for 6 hours or so as people prayed, spoke, sang, wished them well, and presented them with certificates that i finished while the ceremony was going on. oh africa. the teachers cruelly put the enormous cake on display right beside their chairs. but mostly, it was adorable and the parents loved it, which i suppose is the real purpose of those ceremonies. the grade 7 kids also had a farewell where the same things went on. it was held on world aids day and so sindiswa and i had a time slot to speak about the day and present art work done by the kids to celebrate.
world aids day art exchange
last year a volunteer started this project. its an all volunteer art project where PCVs engage community members to make art based around the year's world aids day theme. PCVs incorporate the project into existing hiv/aids projects, classes, girls/boys clubs, anything really, or use it to start new projects. the art is then traded with another PCV so the kids can see how another village interpreted the theme, to use for further discussions, and to emphasize this as a common issue. the art is displayed as part of world aids day activities.
i was way too over stimulated with just getting to my village to participate last year so i emailed in july asking if she was doing it again. she told me she was too busy this year and asked if i wanted to organize it and so i said id love to! i sent some emails and met with a staff member during the training to organize an art show of the finished products in the peace corps office and the us embassy. over 20 PCVs living all over the country participated. we sent our best 3 pieces to peace corps which were then framed and are being displayed in the us embassy this month. i am planning a trip in the near future to view the show.
i loved coordinating this project and doing art with the kids. sindiswa and i did it with the girls club and the boys in grades 6 and 7. this year's theme was 'it takes a village to fight hiv'. we had discussions about hiv and how we can prevent the disease, how we can be healthy, and how we can support each other. we got some beautiful drawings of kids exercising, playing soccer, eating fruits and vegetables, being with family and friends, going to clinics to learn about hiv, getting tested, and even a few explicit drawings of condoms being used. these kids know whats up! many kids got really into the drawings and spent lots of time on them. it was great for them to get time to think about hiv, this white elephant that no one really talks about, and to share very sensitive feelings and beliefs about the topic. this project reminded me why i love art so much and why i studied art education. the work we received from the kids and the effect of these drawings was nothing short of profound. the potential of this medium of expression transcends culture and language barriers and is boundless. really, i can't wait to come back home and be an art teacher.
holiday! cape town, the wild coast
danny had two friends from home come and visit during december. after a while i met up with them in cape town for a few days. i took a 26 hour bus from durban. woa man. we had an amazing time and saw the major sites of cape town. we hiked the famous table mountain, which was really fun and exhausting. it's so cool to me that a popular attraction is a hike. we visited robben island, the island prison apartheid political prisoners were held in, famously where nelson mandela stayed for 23+ years. we went to the cape of good hope, the southwestern most point of africa, and absolutely gorgeous. we saw penguins, seals, sharks, whales, baboons, and lots of antelope species along the way. we ate good food and enjoyed the diverse city. cape town feels so absolutely different from anywhere else ive been in south africa. it felt much safer and more peaceful. right when i arrived i headed for the public taxis, which are usually only ridden by blacks, and inside i saw white people! woa! something ive rarely seen here. while i could still feel racial tension at times, the city largely felt much much more peaceful than say... johannesburg. outside of cape town we visited the wine lands and went wine tasting by bicycle. this was my favorite part of the trip. we went about 20k and visited 4 wineries. so much fun!
danny's friends left and he and i took a bus up the coast heading home. we stopped in the eastern cape along what is known as the wild coast. we stayed at hostels and hiked along the shore for about 6 days. the xhosa people live here and speak xhosa, which is very similar to zulu and we found we could converse pretty well with locals and understand most of what was said. this part of the country is a haven for old white hippies and bohemian types, rastafarians, and people wishing to live 'off the grid' and along the coast. still though, its a weird dynamic of lots of xhosa villages and then bam, white people and lodges and hostels and tourism glory. still not sure what i think about it. several of the places here claim to be 'fair trade in tourism' meaning the lodges are community development projects and community owned. we celebrated christmas by going to a brazilian band's show at a hostel and swimming in the warm indian ocean. christmas is just not a huge holiday here like it is in america. there isnt the christmas fuss or stress over presents and decorations and all. it's really nice.
i was so thankful to have been able to join danny and his friends. they were so kind and welcoming to me and i really enjoyed getting to know them. they are so much fun. thanks guys!
we made it back home before new years and celebrated at danny's house with his host family. and we bought some fireworks! his 5 host sisters hung out with us during the evening. at 12 they screamed and screamed for like 10 minutes and we shot the fireworks. things were going well and then they got more bold and started shooting each other/forgetting to throw them after lighting them. everyone still has their fingers!
and now i'm back home relaxing until school starts up again either this next week or the next. it's kind of unclear. haha. i'm really looking forward to this year and im stunned that in 8 months or so it will all be coming to a close.
the most advanced english ive heard in south africa was in the back of a pick up truck. on the wild coast we got a ride to our hostel in a rural beach town and on the way picked up three urban xhosa teenage boys visiting the place for the first time. their english was perfect. we were talking with them about the place and what we saw around us and one of them said,
and we laughed. and he was like but wait, you know what i mean. like nice. they have cows. like, nice. cows. not, oh those are nice cows. hahha. soooo funny. nice. cows.
happy new year everyone! wishing you many blessings and much love in 2012 and always.