(My) Interrupted Service: it is what it IS

I have a feeling this is going to be a melodramatic cluster of words; regardless of what diction I try to maneuver. Here is how I broke the news to my cohort with my dark humor: latrine fiasco of 2015, instead of sending a general courtesy e-mail saying that my phone was out of commission, SA 31 received an obituary for Ruby A. Blackberry. And ETing is Peace Corps lingo for early termination ie quitting before the 27 month commitment is up

Hey y’all,

Someone said my blackberry obituary of April 2015, made it sound like I was ETing. So in the spirit of my ironic predicament, here you go.

 After a 9-week valiant search for new housing, Katey Redmond’s Peace Corps Service came to an unfortunate but peaceful demise at the age of 15 months. Throughout a 15-month tumultuous service consisting of phone mishaps, unstable sites, and lots of reluctant backpacking, Katey gained invaluable field experience and renewed passion for her pursuit of a career in global health. Her service will be remembered as (among other things) the unofficial Pretoria concierge for med-evaced PCVs and new PCSA office visitors, the girl with 6 South African Names and 5 phones, and brief time as M&E Champion. While she wishes she fulfilled her commitment of 27 months, she remains extremely grateful for the 15 months she experienced. It was a privilege to live in the beautiful Drakensburg and Amajuba “place of the doves” as a PCV. The opportunity to experience rural South Africa on the level she did will probably be a source of entertaining stories and reflection for the rest of her life.

Katey wishes to thank SA 31 for their kindness, shelter, laughs at her quirky sense of humor (seen here) and companionship. She also would like to express her gratitude to the Peace Corps South Africa Staff. Together they tried everything they could to make South Africa work.

Optional Condolences can be sent via email (Katey realizes that it is hard to find the right words to say in this situation, do whatever works for you). She is also open to any suggestions to the question, “If you had a free year and 3 months, with limited funding what would you do).

As of May 11, 2016 I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer, after my country office petitioned the regional office for what they call an interrupted service (IS). IS simply means that PC headquarters viewed that my ability to continue my service was out of my control,basically an honorable discharge. Despite mine and PCSA’s best effort to make things work, South Africa did not work out.

I wish my blogging absence was because the organization put me to work and my service was finally evening out. To be fair, until middle of February things were going well. After the Blogging Abroad challenge, I was reenergized with post prompts for Eish. The host family relationship appeared to be going swimmingly. At work we were having a focus group fiesta to wrap up the Community Needs Assessment and a potential grant application. The organization and I were planning a World TB day event and a few other projects. I was hopeful that I would at least have a project under my belt before Mid-Service Training in April.

Then my plans came to a screeching halt. On February 25th while in Pretoria for a meeting, I was suddenly informed by my PCSA supervisor that I needed to move again as the host family wanted the house back by the following Friday without a clear reason. At this point anything I would tell you would be speculation but PCSA told me it had nothing to do with my behavior. This commenced a 9 week search with Mr. Swazi and the staff. I was back stateside for planned annual leave/vacation for 3 of these weeks but returned with confidence that this would be resolved.

When I got back to South Africa in mid-April, I waited in Pretoria while staff diligently searched a 3 more weeks for options in the community without luck. The only other health program site available at the time was in an area notorious for harassment, and PCSA did not want to put a female there.  With that in mind and the fact I just past my Mid-Service Training with a prior site change experience, they contacted the regional office in DC for an interrupted service. When D.C. gets involved, things have to move quickly. The morning after the decision, we made it to Amajuba at 4 PM,quickly sorted through all my stuff before the 6 PM sunset and said good bye to Mr. Swazi. After a night in Duke City, I went back to Pretoria where I scrambled to complete all the logistical tasks to close of service. I flew out May 11, 2016 as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, one week after the decision was made.

And yet here I am. For the past two weeks I have been sitting in New Mexico in the humbling situation of moving back in with parents and 3 teenager siblings, trying to process what happened.  As for next steps, I do not want to share anything until something is concrete but I am scrambling with applications and the battery of medical tests required for all PCVs when they close their service.There are a few more entries I want to post for closure’s sake by the end of June.

In the meantime, I want to be clear: I do not regret my time with Peace Corps South Africa. Even with all the site instability, I would do it again.

If I only got 15 months in South Africa, it was time that I may have not had without the opportunity. I am still sad about what happened, because I feel like my time in Peace Corps should not be over but my description of service is still 3 pages in Word.

As always thanks for reading.

All the best,

Katey-Red RPCV extraordinaire

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Disclosure: Silent at Site and Screaming Online

 

Before I begin, a family friend shared this article written by a 13-year-old girl on the spectrum and it was so well done that I had to pass it along. Please read her articulate descriptions about the challenges verbal autistics face. Also I have a blog category peace corps autistic style where I occasionally reflect on peace corps from an autistic view.

Sanibonani and hope you are having a nice April 2nd (which happens to coincide with autism awareness day … in my life as autism education is a 365-day job.) I have had a few requests lately to share more open my life as an autistic PCV and after a year in country, it is safe to say that I experience a unique service. In response to world autism day and the challenges I and all people on the autism spectrum navigate when the blue lights dim) here is one aspect of my South African life that s that is probably important to know when trying to understand my service (unless everyone has a meltdown-contingency-plan and I am just ignorant).

The first way I manage autism at site is I keep it private.

 In a sentence, mental health stigma is not my current job and the chance that disclosing compromises my ability to connect with communities is not worth the risk.

During PST (Pre-Service Training), our Volunteer and Support Committee asked us during a group session called “Fishbowl” if anyone was going to hide their identity or change their behaviors at site. This was directed towards LGBTQ+ identities but anyways, 10 seconds of silence go by before I finally shared behind my decision. When I was an exchange student in Botswana, I took abnormal psychology and heard from my classmates about how Batswana in rural areas perceive mental health concerns. Without access to adequate education on the mater, my classmates’ communities viewed labels from the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Illness) as bad and applied them to witchcraft. In the context of autism, it easy to extrapolate self-stimulation behavior towards supernatural beliefs in areas that struggle to even talk about disabilities full stop. I knew before staging that my initial plan would be to keep it private at site. Also, I want to have contributions to the world beyond my identity. I rather be remembered as Katey is autistic and this is the work she does with her brain’s capabilities than just Katey is autistic.

A year and two sites later, keeping it private still seems to be the best option. It is hard choice because not only is it emotionally tedious to keep a secret but mental health stigma is rampant and it could be a missed opportunity for education. However, I can barely describe stimming without Americans freaking out let alone in isiZulu! Yet if you take a page from one of my favorite psychological theories Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, people need to have their physical health maintained before they have the energy to focus on anything else. If my communities are barely coping with HIV, they probably are not ready to contemplate something abstract like mental health. People need to be open to constructive conversations about their biases for change to occur. Amajuba is not at that stage of readiness.

I reevaluate this decision often and If disclosure would benefit someone in my community, I may consider it. Also, I am aware that many South Africans have internet access and some have found this blog. Yet, there is limited access in my community, English use is limited, and again mental health is barely a conversation. I still have a contingency plan if this happens it does not seem to be a concern for the immediate future.

I acknowledge that my experience is vastly shaped by white and cisgender privilege and also I have the option to keep this private because autism does not threaten my life.  If I had a life threatening condition where the host family would need to react and get me to Duke City in an emergency, then I would have no choice but to disclose. Also there has been excellent progress with humanizing autism in American culture but until the day arrives when I have no fear of how people will react over my mental health history, I am allowed to say that I experience oppression.

This is the world I live in: I can obtain every international global health experience available and there is still the risk that potential employers will lack confidence in my abilities. If the solution proposed for my dilemma is to hide that experience from Americans a.) that reinforces the message that autistic behavior is shameful and b.) I cannot really hide autism, just ask my cohort who noticed my subtle rocking back and forth two days before I disclosed to the group (because a fellow PCV made a derogatory statement where autism was compared to living with HIV.)

Until more people openly serve and work with chronic health needs, this painful stereotype will continue to exist. I am very public about my experience online, within the PCV community, and in the US. I may keep my behaviors private in Amajuba just so I can get by but I want to try and address the root problem: Derogatory stereotypes derived from America’s medical profession that are ingrained in other cultures.

That is enough of my living paradox for today, but we will continue the conversation another time.

All the best,

Katey   

Human Rights Day in SA

Sanibonani,

Another South African Holiday is coming to a close. March 21st is called Human Rights Day but it is the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. One of the ways the government under Apartheid rule maintained power was the use of passbooks which contained identification specific the racial classification.  If someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the police would look at the passbook and depending on the race of the person the office could slap additional charges or worse.

Understandably the people of Sharpeville (in Southern Gauteng Province), became fed up with this arrangement today 56 years ago, between 5,000 and 10,000 people marched to the Sharpeville police station to turn themselves in for mass arrest for not carrying their passbook. The police were not prepared to handle this demonstration and ordered the crowd to disperse. The crowd did not comply and the police fired on the crowd. 69 people were killed and 180 were injured in the Sharpeville Massacre.

Like most days of observance South Africans are encouraged to reflect on their lives today and how it was a vastly different reality from just 20 years ago. For human rights day, they are specifically asked to contemplate their rights. Today there are thankfully no passbooks that are mandated to be on the person constantly, because numerous people fought against the law. Many paid for their beliefs with their lives. The Sharpeville massacre was the final straw for many anti-Apartheid activists and the resistance towards the government ramped up. Sharpevillle is never forgotten and Nelson Mandela made it a point to sign the South African constitution on December 10, 1993 which is the day the Deceleration of Human Rights was signed in the United Nations. The date is observed as human rights day in the world.

 

Today I finished “Cry the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton (highly recommended if you are looking for a thoughtful book recommendation). Paton creatively developed his own characters that shadowed real events in Apartheid South Africa. He was also articulate about the shared internal battles humans face that transcend cross cultures and justice. In the midst of resent events with terrorist attacks and the continued healing process in South Africa, I wanted to share a bit of Paton’s wisdom. Some people may interpret as a disheartening meaning but for me it is inspiring. I was reminded to not let fear get the best of me and engage with people who are different. Also we cannot let prejudice dictate how a country functions, in the end the entire nation will suffer (even those with privilege.)

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.”
Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country   

All the best,

Katey

Sounds From an amaZulu Compound

Sanibonani,

It has been awhile. There are many stories to tell, and my hope is to share them with my wifi access this week. Anticipate a You Tube music Fiesta for the next two days.

When I was doing a blogging boot camp, some bloggers shared sounds of their community for a few of the prompts. I am using their idea with a twist. My Amajuba family had a 14 year old boy who LOVED to blast his pirated music from his phone on the family speakers(there are somethings about adolescent behavior that transcend cultures ) At times it was annoying but it left me with an appreciation for house and Kwaito (house with African rhythms that originated in Johannesburg in the 1990’s) music. With my current internet access I finally am able to research the titles and artists. Here is a snippet of the rural Amajuba soundtrack (just imagine the random amaZulu shouts from a gogo and goat belts in-between and it is basically accurate.)

Full disclaimer: I do not know the translation of most of these songs, my objective is to just share the sound. I have tried to share translations if they area available, but my isiZulu translation skills are mediocre and my Xhosa knowledge is minute (yebo they have the same palatal clicks but trust me are very different languages.)  Also all credit goes to the artists, please feel free to purchase these catch tunes and spread them outside of South Africa!

Susan: The Soil with Khuli Chana

 

I love this retro-inspired Xhosa love song, and always want to swing dance when it comes on. A few of the lyrics involve singer implores Susan to remember him and explain themselves.

KOTW (Kings of the Weekend) Anthem: SPHEctacular and DJ Naves

 

I call this the “Amajuba Anthem” because Arny Mkhizeis phoning from Duke City. It is extremely catchy and the kids on my compound would break out dancing when they say BOOM BOOM BOOM! Side Interestingly on the singers started off as an accountant from Durban who got involved with DJ gigs while attending varsity/college in Gauteng. Quick note: This is the music video (because it is not the same with the Amajuba reference) with a lot of partying scenes. I just listen to the sound in the background while working on my laptop, so I am not aware of the full extent of the video.

Shumaya: DBN Nyts, TradeMark, and Zinhle Ngindi

 

 

I shared my spontaneous encounter with DBN Nyts and why it is a given on this list here.

Nguye lo: Arthur and Kelly Khumalo

 

Nguye lo translates to “this is” in Xhosa and Nguye lon’ owami is “the one for me.” The amaZulu love their love songs so I had to include one slow one on the list.

Sweetie: Heavy K with Nokwazi

 

Here is an example of how people use English in the middle of a song in an ingenious language. The gist of the song from isiZulu is I been looking for love for a while and now I’ve got it. I been looking for a honourable man and now I’ve found him. Hey sweetie sweetie, death will do us apart. when they ask me who are you, I  tell them that you are my hope and my true hope.” I direct all translation credit to YouTube users, thank you for making my task easier!

Akulalwa: Dr. Shimza and Dr. Malinga

 

Akulalwa means “rest now” in isiZulu. Beyond that I cannot find any other translation to English. All I can say is that is played often in the compound and on taxis.

Umoya: Heavy K, Professor, and Mpumi

 

Umoya is either a spirit or the wind in isiZulu. I often say Kunemoya (there is wind or it is windy in the battlefields.) Also a song with an elusive English but one of the main lines translates to , “ This song  makes me breathless.”

Zimbiri: Alaska featuring Maphorisa

 

This is one song where I can actually sing a lyric even though it is in Xhosa, “ Hey Wena, woza la” is “Hey you, come here”. Plus the beat is super catchy! And Yebo, the band’s real name was Alaska.

The Choice to Enter the Empathizing Soup

I wrote this shortly after I moved to Amajuba. As I was struggling to integrate and at a loss for amaZulu cultural topics, I used my psychology background to reflect on human behavior. I still struggle to connect with the PCV community at my post and after gaining permission from the Mozambique girl, decided to share this article. Maybe my lesson gained will benefit someone else.  Even though my college’s saying is actually “in the stew,” the message is still relevant.

Also Brene Brown’s work on empathy and vulnerability got me through college and currently maintains my sanity. If you are curious about the practice of empathy, here is a heartwarming animation of one of her talks.

The phenomenal counseling department at my alma mater describes empathy as being “in the soup” with someone. “In the soup” means a variety of adages, “meeting people where they are at” is my favorite, but essentially it is providing a safe place for emotional catharsis through reflective listening.  Being “in the soup” is the epitome of vulnerability. It is not fun or convenient (who would want to be covered in any soup especially on a day when you emotionally feel like crap) and like soup it is easy to make mistakes. Will your approach with the person heat up like a gazpacho with an unpalatable intensity or shut them down like a cooled chicken noodle neglected on the counter? We live in an intimating world with no Goldilocks guarantee with human beings, where we are in the “just the right” emotional state all the time and empathy is flawless.

Recently another member of SA 31 involuntarily joined the site-change-in-the-middle-of-service-club, and I asked how their interactions with the cohort have been. The reply that was they have not talked about this the cohort much because everyone has problems. This point was valid and it is a challenge. How much support is too much to ask for within the PCV community, where everyone struggles as living in an unfamiliar country with limited infrastructure is hard full stop? Honestly, I have not found a comfortable middle ground in honestly sharing my experience with the cohort and not overwhelming other PCVs. I am now intimidated to talk about the new site, and wish that I could simply express my thoughts without fears of judgement or evaluations of how I am integrating. These challenges make times when another PCV is empathetic especially meaningful and less stressful when the balance is set.

The Mozambique girl and I met when we were exchange students in Botswana. We both had challenging application processes but now she is a PCV in Mozambique! PST is an intense time for any PCV, and with this realization I tried to keep my emotional upheaval away from her experience. One weekend in Pretoria, I had a crappy day and Mozambique girl What’s apped me to check in. I dumped my frustration on her and held my breath to see the response. Instead of judging my approach or attitude, she simply let me vent and acknowledged that my situation sucks.

During a Sunday laundry session, I thought about the above conversations and it hit me; empathy is a choice. We can have automatic emotions when a loved one is in pain, but being supportive is a choice. We volunteer to step out of our comfort zone and subject ourselves to a situation that could “bring us down” because it is depressing with there is no fix. Everyone always has emotional baggage in their life. Seldom is empathizing with someone convenient, which is why the effort to be “in the soup” with someone is so meaningful. Empathy takes thought and practice, because it is individualized, means becoming vulnerable and willing to be checked.Empathy is not about our validation as “good people.” The person in pain is the ultimate decider of whether or not you are being supportive. Also, pain takes time, and the choice to be empathetic also means being along for the entire process. Grief for example, is a lifelong pain and people do not “get over” loss.

Any of us are capable of being empathetic, but it involves a decision that our relationships with other people outweigh our pain. In the middle of her PST, Mozambique girl was willing to enter into my unaesthetically pleasing service in South Africa. Peace Corps is in many ways a microcosm of life. All PCVs will be occupied with our own challenges and stressors, but we are still capable of balancing self-care, supporting our communities, and being there for other PCVs. It is intimidating because PCVs come from all different backgrounds, diversities, and we are constantly subjected to stress. In other words, we are Americans with a unique work context. You do not have to be directly impacted by a cause or even like the person to display empathy. Yet the option is there if you want to let another person they are not alone.

Unless there is another 23 year old, autistic, anxious, female and white PCV/public health graduate student in the Amajuba district of South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal province, I do not expect you to walk in my stinky, size 10, wide shoes. It is impossible for you to understand my experiences fully and because I interpret things literally, popular shtick like “be positive” and war analogies actually make me more distressed.  I am admittedly a hard person to support. However simply listening to my thoughts, and trying to be in my “soup” gives me validation. As my thoughts on empathy evolve, I want to challenge this community to think about empathy in their own lives. The more we choose empathy, the less intimidation people will feel with asking for help and sharing their vulnerable experiences.

All the best,

Katey-Red

 

 

 

When “Going to the Mountain” Does Not Involve S’mores

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The final prompt for the Blogging Abroad Boot Camp: My new normal (aka the behaviors we required). One of the biggest PC adages in existence is that service makes you a completely different person. Some PCVs do undergo a personality transformation, yet I cannot say South Africa completely changed me. Hopefully I am less brash and gained bit more tenacity with humility but honestly I feel like the same Katey-Red that left. What South Africa has impacted is my view of the world and patterns of thought. These new perceptions I have obtained applies to serious topics and fascinating cultural interpretations of concepts I was  familiar with in the States.  Like I will never think of camping or mountains in the same manner.

I am a proud mountain girl and regardless of where life leads me, mountains will always symbolize home. Every place I lived (North Carolina does not count as I was a baby) had dramatic conglomerates of rock that pierce the sky. This pattern has continued in South Africa where for the first 5 months of service I lived in the Central Drakensburg foothills and here in my Amajuba site I can see Utrecht’s Balele Mountains on clear days. Anyways, like most mountain appreciators two of my hobbies are hiking and camping. South Africa’s natural beauty happens to be breathtaking.

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I rest my case: South Africa is aesthetically pleasing. Taken on the way to Tugela Falls, March 2013.

As time passed in South Africa, I felt uncomfortable because my communities did not share my enthusiasm. There are black South Africans who enjoy hiking, but the people I usually encounter in outdoor stores like Cape Union Mart are other whites (usually Afrikaaners) There were other signs as well like in May when I hiked in Royal Natal and a prep school class comprised of Indian children from Durban was there but I did not see many Black people. When I wanted to hike the hill that overlooks my site to get a photo of the valley for the Community Needs Assessment, my host cousin just balked.  

Last month I was attending a PCSA training of the trainers and gained an answer for why the lack of enthusiasm exists. I was at breakfast with three PCSA staff (our training manager who I believe is Pedi /Northern Sotho and siSwati and Xitsonga Language teachers) who happened to be men, when the conversation arose about mountains. Then I asked if they shared my admiration for the outdoors and with wide eyes they shook their heads as they started to share their childhood cattle camping trips.

Little boys in the rural areas would join the male adults of the family in herding the cows wherever the bulls wanted. Sometimes the bulls would decide to spend the night on the mountain in spite of Southern African elements that can be lethal. After the training, I related my discussion with Mr. Swazi who laughed and then proceeded to tell me about all the snakes he encountered during those forced hikes in Swaziland. Eish. He may have ruined my hiking plans if I make it to Swaziland.

When typing this, I remembered an additional connotation for South African mountains. “Going to the mountain” is another way to describe boys attending South African initiation schools where circumcision takes place. Unlike the United States where most infant boys are circumcised at birth, many African cultures use circumcision as a rite of passage. These days the events usually take place during the winter school holidays (June-July) and every year initiates experience injuries and some even die during this process. There is a continuous and conscious effort on part of the South African governments to incorporate medical procedures with traditional practices in order to keep these boys safe.

 Surprisingly while other Nguni cultures like the Xhosa practice initiation schools, the amaZulu do not generally participate. King Shaka banned the practice in the 19th century because it put warriors out of commission for months during the recovery time and it has become part of culture to abstain from the practice. However the advent of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) as a reliable method to prevent HIV transmission, the amaZulu King has encouraged VMMC and some teenager boys are opting for the experience in medical facilities. Like most things in South Africa, circumcision is at the heart of a debate of preserving traditional cultural practices or adopting modern practices to address problems.

There are two ways Americans would not usually perceive mountains! Moving forward I will continue to enjoy the local scenery (and maybe attempt hikes) but respect that the amaZulu will not feel the same way.

Side note if anyone was curious about what initiation schools are like, Nelson Mandela vividly describes his Xhosa initiation in “A Long Walk to Freedom.”  Granted things have changed since the early 20th century but Mandela did a beautiful job explaining the cultural significance behind initiation schools.

This concludes the Blogging Abroad Boot Camp Challenge! Thank y’all for the likes, comments, visits, and a special thanks to Blogging Abroad for the opportunity! I now have at least 20 new post ideas and enjoyed exploring other cultures through the other bloggers. Also, Blogging Abroad has an awesome blog directory of Peace Corps Blogs. Please check out the directory and meet more of the stellar bloggers (there are some incredible voices currently in the PCV field) and once the stipend comes in I will update my own directory with a few blogs that encountered through the challenge! Feel free to continue following Eish. My intent is to keep the commentary on South African Life until March/April 2017!

All the best,

Katey-Red

 

The Domesticated Big 5: Amajuba Style

 

Blog-Challenge-2016This entry’s prompt for the Blogging Abroad Blog Contest: Top 5 (aka a condensed set of community highlights).  In Southern Africa, Safari Companies have a promotion called “Big 5” which refers to 5 large species of game: Cape Water Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, Elephant, and Leopard. It is a source of excitement to spot all 5 animals on a game drive. As an exchange student in Botswana, I saw 4 out of the 5 in the wild(minus the elusive lion). Yet as my time continues in South Africa, I realize that animal excitement does not require expensive stays at a national park. The unsupervised livestock of Amajuba keep me plenty  entertained.

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A blurry photo of the big 5 (minus elephants, those stamps were already used) as illustrated by the South African Post Office…just to prove that I am not making the concept up!

In honor of our neighboring municipality’s seat Utrecht and its designation as the only town in South Africa completely surrounded by game park (alas with no Big 5 there for the sake of Utrecht’s residents), here is one of Casa de Izilokazane’s activity options: game viewing (Amajuba edition). Presenting: izinkomo, izinkhuku, izimvu, izimbuzi, and izinja.

Casa de Izilokazane offers prime game viewing for the Amajuba “Big 5.” We guarantee our guests will at least see 3 if not all 5 on the list.

Izikomo or Cows

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Typical life in rural South Africa. One day I walk to work and a cow is tied up next to the gate.

South Africa competes for the title of “Beef Country of the world.” The amaZulu love cows and consume most body parts including tripe (the stomach) and livers (an excellent source of iron with a bloody taste). Cows are also the heart of a traditional practice called lobola. Common in many indigenous cultures of Southern Africa, lobola is a bride price where a man provides a certain number of cows to his hopeful father in law.

Best time for viewing: Cows are present year round but calving season is in the summer (January-March) when green grass is readily available.

(Side note: calving season depends on the area. At site 1.0 calving season with its nocturnal births was in the winter from June-September. In the Drakensburg there is a parasite in sprouting grass that kills young calves. Even though the grass is sparsely availably in the winter, the calves would build enough immunity by the time spring hit).

Prime Locations: Any place with grass.

Izinkukhu/ chickens

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Right outside Casa de Izilokazane’s windows. In the late morning our building’s shadows provide an oasis from the South African heat.

Chickens are the best source of protein with meat and amaqanda/eggs!

Prime Locations: Chickens are free spirits and wander through out Amajuba’s bucolic terrain. Ideal settings are blanketed in corn kernels (Our Gogo can provide some if you are pining for a chicken encounter).They are the only animal our host family domesticates on our compound.

Best time for viewing: Anytime, according to our Hosts, “Goats, sheep, and chickens birth like humans.”

Izimvu/Sheep

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I am cheating here because the izimvu were elusive this past week. This is from site 1.0 in the Drakensburg.

The amaZulu use sheep practically for food and wool in the cooler Battlefields regions. Utrecht is also a major producer of wool in KZN. However an interesting use for sheep is a common prize for amaZulu dance competitions because sheep are the least expensive animal to obtain (although if funding is great goats or cows are the first choice). The winning team kills the sheep and enjoys mutton.

Prime Locations: the rolling hills covered in luscious grass (and often they trail behind cow herds).

Izimbuzi/goats

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My corner of Schnizteland’s taxi stop for Duke City, occupied by izimbuzi. Immediately prior to this photo, the izimbuzi were engaged in a passionate albeit inconvenient (for everyone else) head-butting competition.

The clever goats are important in isiZulu culture, as they are the only animal who can communicate with the ancestors. They are traditionally slaughtered at ceremonies called umsebenzis where families communicate with the ancestors. At Casa de Izilokazane, the adjacent rondavel is the ancestor house with a small shrine. Space is limited for our large host family and people live in the rondavel full time. Yet in the event of an umsebenzi they would offer the goat inside the rondavel before cooking it for the guests.

Prime Locations: Everywhere. Goats are the real mayors of Amajuba, they own the street. Their favorite place to exert power is at the local taxi rank for Duke City, where they frequently strut in front of moving vehicles.

Izinja or dogs

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A typical February izinja scene, scrambling for food at the taxi rank.

As my former host uncle said, dogs are security systems not pets in rural South Africa. Casa de Izilokazane is not liable for all potential events that could perpetuate if you touch said dogs.

Best time for viewing: February. The isiZulu word for February “uNhololnja” means “dogs in heat” and this time of the year, dogs all over KZN are desperately trying to procreate. Come see females devouring every scrap of food insight and hear lover’s squabbles at 11 PM!

Prime locations: any trash can in a resident’s yard, especially after dinner.

Guests who spot all 5 animals win a pair of earplugs and eye mask! If the sightings occur at night or in the workplace, they receive a paid meal (their choice of South Africa’s chain restaurants) in Duke City!

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Imbuzi butt, scuttling out the door after being caught red-handed in my organization’s building. This was my first work day in Amajuba.

 

*extra isiZulu cultural note: You may have noticed that all of the animal names start with “izin” or “Izim” This is because they belong to noun classes for plural animate objects (these classes are primarily composed of animals but as in every language there are exceptions to the rule). To talk about one animal the vocabulary is as follows:

Chicken: inkukhu       

Cow: Inkomo

Dog: Inja

Sheep: Imvu

Goat: Imbuzi