Keep Calm and Shosholoza

Keep Calm and Shosholoza

I am not going to lie, May has been a rough month personally. The first three months of Peace Corps Service (Integration Period) are challenging for most PCVs. In my South African life, it has been a Murphy’s Law celebration! There have been many moments where I have requested the universe to hold off on the personal growth opportunities as I am still processing the last challenge. Work has been crazy, I had to move rooms, and my electronics are quitting (as I type on my laptop with cracked glass…eish). Last weekend my Indian Store Blackberry’s battery literally imploded the night I got a nasty stomach bug (the one time I had to call the Peace Corps Medical Office).

No big deal. Shosholoza.

What is Shosholoza (besides my tattoo design if I felt the need for a permanent reminder of this experience…highly unlikely parents)? It is a national folksong with a mixture of Ndebele and isiZulu words. Here is the tune according to my sort-of neighbors: the world famous Drakensburg Boys’ Choir.

Shosholoza
Shosholoza
Kulezo ntaba
Stimela siphume South Africa
Kulezo ntaba
Stimela siphume South Africa
Wen’ uyabaleka
Kulezo ntaba
Stimela siphume South Africa

A rough translation:

Keep going
Keep going
from those mountains
on this train from South Africa
Keep going
Keep going
You are running away
You are running away
from those mountains
on this train from South Africa

In other word’s Shosholoza basically means, keep going. As with any national folktune, the origins are disputed but it probably derived from mineworkers working in the Witrandersand (Johannesburg). During the resistance to apartheid, it was a powerful freedom song sort of akin to Spirituals in the Civil Right’s movement.

Shosholoza is a term with special meaning to me and members of SA 31. Not just because my South African families are also Ndebele and isiZulu, but It is the name of a national folktune that we sang when morale was low during PST. Sometimes it was annoying to sing Shosholoza at the sporadic request of PC staff. Yet when we hit a mid-PST slump or a cohort member choose to ET when the permanent site did not work, we sang Shosholoza. When tears of joy streamed down my face after swearing in as a PCV, we sang Shosholoza. Now I sing Shosholoza when I am dragging my feet to or from work.

When I think about how “rough” I have it, I am quickly reminded by the AmaZulu about the accurate definition of resilience. Resilience is not “bouncing back” from adversity, it is learning to ride with the pain. This is a country that is too familiar with pain. As the media will show you, South Africa has had its fair share of bad periods and continues to struggle as all countries do. Yet, thousands of years after the people who thrived at the Cradle of Humankind UNESCO site, there are still people living in South Africa. They live with some nasty social problems, but they are still in my remote valley and siyaphilla: We are alive!

My walk home involves direct eye contact with the Drakensburg on clear days . As my personified witness, the Drakensberg loom over the valley and have watched the valley’s people for thousands of years. When I have a rough day and seriously wonder if I knew what I signed up for, the mountains are a harsh reality check, that they have seen worse. The Drakensburg and seeing the Southern Cross (my favorite constellation) at night keeps me grounded and reminds me that if my community can Shosholoza, then so can I.

I am going to try to take the slack off of my poor tablet/laptop and take a break from posting for a while (plus I need to finish the Community Needs Assessment). Hopefully I will not be gone longer than a week but just in case….Shosholoza!
All the best,
Katey-Red

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