isiZulu word of the post: Siyaphila
isiNgisi: part of the traditional Zulu greeting: I am alive
A:Sanibonani: I see you all
A:Unjani: How are you all?
B:Siyaphila. Wena Unjani? : We are alive, and how are you
A: Nami Siyaphila, we are also fine
Today marks one month at as a PCV (I will probably never get tired of calling myself that title)! My one month at site will fall during the holiday weekend (South Africans like to cram most of their public holidays in April…that and Easter fell in April this year).
Traditional isiZulu greetings work well with inability to fib and tendency to take things literally. I do not have to fake saying, “I am fine” when I am really tired because my infant roommate woke me up at 4:30 (again, poor thing had the flu this month). I am alive, but I still tell my host family that I slept well (Ngilale Kahle). That is how I am doing. I am learning and finding everyday adventure here in the Berg.
A few highlights:
- Completing almost one month straight of daily bucket baths and learning how to not splash water everywhere (less water is more in this case), yet often experiencing a cockatil effect with my hair.
- Learning how to operate the hospice data base and seeing all the diverse needs in the valley.
- Experiencing low-shedding during the work day (with hilariously bad timing): The power went out at 10 AM during a day when all of my org’s 21 carers were swapping out their visit sheets, and our tasks were completely dependent on the hospice database…online. I have to admire our carers’ dedication. Apparently the inability to access electricity was not an adequate excuse to delay their files!
- The first time I felt underdressed: I was co-facilitating a support group session for caregivers and stealing local insight for my community needs assessment. That day I wore my longest skirt, but suddenly felt self-conscious when I realized that with the exception of one other woman, I was the only one with my hair exposed. Everyone else had a head covering or duka!
- A hike into the Berg in Royal Natal. It will not be my last, I plan to take full advantage of my site location!
- Formally meeting my induna (a local leader in AmaZulu culture) and his wife, and unsuccessfully asking her to teach me how to make beaded jewelry. She was not impressed when in response to her question, “can I make anything with my hands”, my only ability is a basic crochet stich (and I am not able to create doilies). I am not giving up yet!
- The first solo trip to my shopping town during the dreaded end of the month (when the Government of SA releases their payments and pensions). This consisted of walking up the valley about 20 minutes, taking the taxi up 30 minutes, and then towards town. Verifying my bank account at an ATM to check my finances online involved a 30 minute cue to enter the bank, and yet I still cannot view my account on the internet! Then when returning home, I had to maneuver my groceries from the back of the bus and leap over the 25 kilo bags of rice, sugar, maize, and flour at my stop. It was a good call to wear tennis shoes and capris (the only time I am not in a skirt is when I am in town), especially when another woman disembarked behind me and need help getting her 25 kilo bags out of the taxi.
- My first South African party. I woke up Saturday morning with goats in my yard, and we do not own goats. My host family tells me about an impromptu party and I decide to go into town. I get back around 3:00, and there are literally 30 drunk men on my stoop and lawn and the goats are now meat. That is the largest amount of men I have ever been around, let alone near my house so I was a bit freaked out. The left after sun down but were back Sunday morning, but I still stayed locked in my room for most of the night and Sunday, until my caring host mom came and bailed the irrational PCV out. I met most of the extended family and they kept me safe on the female side of the party (apparently it was segregated by gender…just like middle school!).
- Finally at said party my first actual marriage proposal. I have had men wanting to hook up with me (because I am an American walking down the street) in both South Africa and Botswana, but never a proposal. One of the intoxicated men came up to me and the cousins, kissed my hand and started to talk in a mixture of isiZulu and isiNgisi (English). I tried to make every organ create a unified body language that translated to not interested full stop/period, but alcohol tends to impair brain capacity. He then starts to say he needs me and proposes lebola, the bride price of cattle. I try to tell him he could not get x amount of cows into the US with customs, and besides my father would just eat them as opposed to using it for my brothers in 30 years. That did not work so I appealed to Peace Corps, and saying it is against our policy rules to marry The man still is not getting it and once he says he loves me, I finally told him off.
Zama: Ngiyaxolisa (I am sorry) but I do not love you.
Zama (in blunt English): Well for one thing we just met 2 minutes ago and you are completely drunk.
At this point, my host family decides that they have had enough entertainment and asks the man to leave. Apparently he is usually shy, when not under the influence of alcohol. Leave it to me to bring out another side of his personality.
Cheers to more experiences and remaining on my toes for the next (life willing) 27 months!
All the best,
PS: Huge congratulations to Fort Lewis College’s class of 2015! While I wish I could be there to cheer you on, I will toast to your futures and hard work with a Rooibos Milkshake (8 hours early…I will probably be asleep for the actual event but am still very proud of you).