A SA PCV’s Gratitude List with an Anecdote

There is a joke I share every thanksgiving, punchline is at the end of this post.
What three world disasters happen when you drop the Thanksgiving platter?

Recently, more Americans are embracing gratitude as a year-round reflective process. Still Thanksgiving is an excuse to share the clique, “What we are Thankful for” list. In spirit of the holiday, I wanted to share a few areas of appreciation I have as a PCV.

1. Seat-belts. Most taxis do not have accessible seat-belts (if they have seat-belts they are wrapped around the backs of the seats and cannot be untangled without elbowing another passenger in the face) except in the coveted front seat and most South Africans do not opt for the life-saving privilege except. One of the main perks of staying in Pretoria or taking a Greyhound bus is that seat-belts are available. Americans, use your seat-belts daily for those who wish they could.

2. Good Taxi Drivers. What I mean by a good taxi driver is one who keeps passenger safety in mind and does not pack the taxi beyond what it is capable of. Most taxis have enough space for 15 (maybe 16 if there is a middle seat in the front). The 3rd row really can only take 3 occupants not 4. Even though it may be inconvenient, I have utmost respect for the drivers who tell me that their taxi is full and block my entry.

3. Crips Pink Apples (or Pink Lady Apples), since I am in a country with competitive grocery stores and excellent national produce, I sampled many varieties before I found Crips. They are crisp, sweet, healthy, and keep my fiber intake.

4. South Africans in America. I am not just saying this because seeing him live is one of my highlights of 2015, but we need Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. He is genuinely funny we need people from other countries to bring an outside perspective. With America’s recent debacles with handling racism, who better than a South African to facilitate the conversation? Also, I would welcome Dancing with the Stars giving Keo Motsepe a decent partner so a South African has a shot at the Mirrorball. Finally, we are about to lose a staff member in PCSA, as they are returning to Arizona where they will support Native Americans. With their cultural sensitivity and compassion, I know they will be an excellent medical professional. I am excited for the community they will serve.

5. Chacos. PCVs either love or hate Chacos sandals and I am grateful for them. They provide arch support, easy to clean, ventilate my feet, and they prevented an accident last Saturday( I am sharing only because I learned my lesson).

I was in Scotland navigating taxis for an upcoming adventure (you know you are an autistic PCV when you use your allowance to head to the shopping town, just figure taxi routes before you actually need to use them). I also had to get groceries and collect data for the CNA but anyways, the errands were completed and I was ready to head back home. Getting back to site from Scotland is a bit of a process since the name of the taxi to look for is not my site, it is another rural community in the area. Just to be safe I decided to ask the taxi driver in Zulish if they were going to my community. They were not but I asked one last time just to make sure.

Now South African taxi ranks display a rare show of efficiency, in that once a taxi leaves a driver rolls up ready for the next passengers. In the middle of this conversation the space opened up and the jerk of a taxi driver moves the taxi. I try to step back to the vendor curb and realize my foot is stuck…because the tire is rolling on top of my toes.

My immediate reaction is to fail my hands and yelp “stop” multiple times but the jerk driver ignores my shrill outbursts. After the 5 seconds pass, I am bracing myself for the searing pain and embarrassing conversation with the PCMO when I notice that my toes are still intact. The extra room in the Chacos took the brunt of the tire. The only sign of injury were tire marks on my nails and they came off with the next bucket bath. If my toes were scrunched, Scotland serves as a district seat and I would have been able to access PCMO approved medical care. In the end, the jerk driver’s taxi filled right up, and the good taxi driver that came after was heading to my community. Y’all can be that I am going make sure my toes are out of the way when talking to taxi drivers and wear the Chacos (which also escaped the incident without harm) often.

6. Communication Technology: I would have taken any assignment Peace Corps offered and probably could have handled limited interaction. With that said, I am grateful that I am able to take advantage of the access and maintain friendships and connections back home through my Catmail (and thank you beloved graduate institution for not having international firewalls), personal e-mail, this blog, Whats App, LinkedIn, and my personal favorites tangible postage and Skype. I prefer video chat because body language is visible and there are less social cues to try and decode One of the highlights of my site-less period was being able to skype my grandparents.

7. Along these lines, support from the states. Not all PCVs have unwavering family support, and I am very fortunate to have this from my biological family. The Math Teacher and Engineer do not have a burning desire to explore countries with severe infrastructure challenges but they do not try to curb my desire for this lifestyle. My New Mexican friends are ambitious and busy people (this year alone one was married, two entered medical school, one finished an intense political internship, and another entered year 2 of her doctorate). Honestly I was nervous about how Peace Corps would impact our relationships. I am really lucky that they have adapted to my communication changes, and care enough about me to make the effort to connect when possible. I skyped 5 friends while I was in Pretoria and their interest in this South African life helped me at a time when my service was derailed. The future is unpredictable and while it would be nice if we continue to grow as adults together, I am grateful they were there during the low points of my service in 2015.

8. Finally, this blog. The one activity I can record on my Volunteer Reporting Forms is Eish and I am blown away by the visitor statistics. Recently I have found out that PCVs serving in other continents are reading my blog…and some actually like my irreverent commentary. My writing always stands improvement, and this blogs serves as my practice. Ngiyabonga kahkulu for the patience with my grammatical errors and the recent delays. Hopefully we are back to our amaZulu specific cultural programming soon.

Wishing y’all a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

All the best,

PS: The punchline: The breakup of China, the downfall of Turkey, and the overthrow of Greece. In these tumultuous times, please be careful with your entrees!-Credit to CNN


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