The Policeman and the Provocative Question


This Entry’s Theme of the Blogging Abroad Boot Camp Challenge: crazy moments (aka 90% of this blog’s content). Just for clarification, the amaZulu and Republic of South Africa are not the crazy parties. I am the crazy one, bumbling around rural KZN to the lighthearted amusement of my communities. South Africa is never boring and it always keeps me on my toes. Every day there is at least one cultural curveball from the Rainbow Nation. These moments come in many forms including conversations where English is a second language for one of the participants, which was the case last Monday…

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Washing day for the cars of Schnitzeland’s SAPS (South African Police Force) office. You can see the distinctive trapezoidal shape of SAPS cars.

Here in Amajuba, a policeman visits my house once a week. It is actually a spontaneous arrangement I am happy with, as at site 1.0 the police did not know I was in the area until our Safety and Security Manager visited due to a sudden escalation of violence in the area. If another PCV supports this organization, I will certainly have a discussion about boundaries and how they with differ with each person. For now, Sargent is very respectful and never enters the house. He always stops by in the early evening on his way home so I can anticipate the brief visit which usually consists of exchanging greetings and I confirming there are no concerns.

Last Monday, our conversation was a bit longer than usual as he indicated there were problems at the schools with feminine hygiene products being stuffed down the toilet. I offered to join him on visit to the schools and see what was going on (because if a policeman lectured me about my menstrual behaviors at age 13 it would have intensified my existing embarrassment). Puberty was not that long ago for me and sensitivity to the mater could move towards a solution with minimal hurt feelings. Anyways he was open to the idea and while plans were made to stay in contact(will keep y’all posted if anything comes out this…I am still trying to understand why the police monitors the female toilets) we joined my host family’s spirited conversation under the rondavel’s shade. 5 minutes goes by and the isiZulu translation part of my brain reached daily capacity. So I zoned out, until Sargent asks me a question that I did not anticipate.

“Simphiwe, do you have AIDS?”

Now there were 3 thoughts that flashed through my mind..

1.) That was a very forward question in a valley where stigma is so prevalent that patients will not openly declare they ae picking up ARV (antiretrovirals) prescriptions, at the local clinic. They will say “pansi/down” gesturing to the HIV ward but never describe the amaphilisi/pills with “HIV” or “ARVs.” Also, World AIDS Day 2015 in Schnitzeland did not feature a single speaker who talked about being HIV positive.

Then the more irrational 2.) Crap. They know about autism (which I keep private at site…post explaining why is coming within the month) and have extrapolated my life experience to the prominent life-threating condition that also starts with the letter “A.” Great.

Finally 3.) Eish, South Africa. How do I respond to this without adding to stigma? I have every reason to believe that I remain HIV negative, but taking the literal interpretation of the question and firmly responding “No” could indicate that HIV is something I consider shameful. Not the accurate let alone productive message I want to portray in the community.

Once I remember that no one could find out about my identity as an autistic as the internet capabilities are limited in my area (let alone I have not divulged any hints), I use my 1-year-in-country knowledge to determine that no one would openly diagnose a community member in South Africa outside of a clinical setting (and Sargent is not a sister/nurse at the clinic). He meant to ask something else and I calmly ask him to please clarify.

“Do you have American Money for HIV/AIDS?”

Turns out a creshe serving orphans and vulnerable children just lost funding and Sargent wanted to know if there were American based options. Still not a fun conversation to have  but a dramatically different request. I tried to explain the confusing situation through a 1 minute summary with basic English. In a sentence, there is limited HIV related funding available in South Africa and organizations in Amajuba do not currently qualify for assistance because we have one of the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the province. Sargent apparently understood, as he responded by saying we should write a letter to Obama. Eish, if only international aid was that simple.

Another day in South Africa with another Eish inducing moment. Life is never boring in the Rainbow Nation.


Phezulu Position


Every year, Amajuba Host Family has a huge braai (barbeque in South African Jargon) to have a festive eve with visiting relatives that come as far as Gauteng.  My 19 year old host cousin claimed that I was still going to have a sleepless night and the family would rally. Even though my body does not allow all fighters (I can make it to midnight in a calm environment), turns out she was right.

2015 did not want to take the whimper route for exiting, and I spent the last hours feeling crappy. Definitely not the worst malaise I have experienced in South Africa (I was back eating amaZulu food 12 hours after this episode), but any gastrointestinal issues in the heat puts me at risk for dehydration. Which is probably why my body took its time to decide if it wanted to be ill that night.

Around 7 PM, I came out ready to party. We watched Scandal! per our evening routine, and once the next soapie came on (which I do not like) I went outside to enjoy the fresh air. That was when I started to get a headache. A light sprinkle starts and I head back to the house make sure my house is ready if the rain intensifies and to switch the lights for an illumination of the courtyard.  At 9, my host cousin comes and asks me for a plastic dish (one of the corners stores a few of Amajuba family’s supplies). I grab the dish and then go rest.

Around 10:30 PM my host sister (arguably the most vivaciously of the bunch screams repeatedly, KATE…I’ll explain why Kate has surfaced another time). I muster enough energy to meander up to the door, and explain that I am sick. She says that I am lying but lets me go back to bed. At this point my body decides that the digestive system really wants to be sick and I spent the rest of the hour curled up into my bed. It is New Years Eve and Kosi FM is blaring, so I am hearing the South Africa loudly move towards midnight in my semi-consciousness.

 The DJ exclaims, “6 minutes to Midnight” and seconds later, I hear “KATE, SIMPIWE” alternating .All three host sisters I live with are right at my bedroom window, saying that they are waiting for me. I try to explain, “Ngiyagula…I am sick” but they are not budging. My body was not going to let me sleep any time soon, and since you are never off the clock as a PCV (and me sitting in my room all night probably made me look unfriendly to the visiting family), I had nothing to loose.  I quickly wash my hands, throw on a skirt, and decide it is dark enough to be braless (which would have added another 2 minutes). I walk out the door with my bucket just in case, and the host family starts to get that I am actually sick and not trying to get out of this party for a good night’s sleep. They greet me dancing with a bunch of sticks (my first hunch was a type of braai stake that emulates amaZulu heritage) and tell me to leave the bucket on the step.

The compound was hazy with excitement and braai smoke. One of the host sisters gives me a stick which turns out to be a cardboard tube telling me, “Don’t worry it is not dangerous.” Considering the fact that I was cognitively delayed (more so than usual), surrounded by intoxicated amaZulu and children up past their bed time, there was no other way to make it more dangerous. Before I can protest, the countdown starts and after everyone says Happy New Year a visiting sister lights a match to tube. Sparks started to fly, the mystery is solved. It is a firework.

The first flashes nearly hit my host brother, and I was pulled towards open grass by the latrine. The children were not far behind, inadvertently pointing their sticks like cattle prods. The mothers were not far behind, commanding “Phezulu”/up…towards heaven. Once the children safely adjusted the fireworks, we stood and watched our tubes sent illuminating projectiles into the calm Amajuba night. My firework stick expires after a couple minutes and an aunt passes another stick. I support that stick for 30 seconds, until my cousin asks for a replacement for his dwindling stick. In the end, nothing caught on fire (though the projectiles had a few near misses with the rondavel’s thatched roof) and it was fun.

I run back to the house for my phone, take a few photos, and embrace the small energy surge that I have. Most of that energy is wasted by asking the family members not to touch me as I did not know if I was contagious. The uncles still hugged me, the aunts dragged me for a dance (I swayed my hips for 15 seconds), and my neighbors still crammed next to me for a selfie. Then my cousin offers me a plate of food for tomorrow, and that was when I reached my limit. I wish everyone a
Feliz Ano Nuevo (yes I was out of it) and  crawl back into bed  to get some rest. With a blaring radio, I managed to be half asleep with earplugs for the rest of the party.

Around 2:30, I hear my host cousin scream, “KATE.” Putting my body upright triggered the nausea so I try to pretend they are not there. If there is one talent that my host family has, it is that they are impossible to ignore. Anyways I get to the door and host cousin is completely wasted hilariously declaring she is so drunk. She apologizes for waking me and asks for several blankets (what composes most of host family’s storage corner).

Now, to get said blankets out I would have to open my burglar bars with my keys. I thought the keys were on the nightstand, and it took 10 minutes find my lanyard buried in the bedding. Once we get the blankets out the door, I watch host cousin stumbling and thinking it was a tie between which one of us was more impaired that nigh. I am sure my slow movements, groaning, and need to grab the bucket every time I bent down to search for the keys was also a site to see. I went back to bed and slept for 5 hours. The next morning, I awoke to fresh green cow crap stains on the floor (must have stepped in it while shooting fireworks) and crazy selfies on my phone that I barely remembered. I clearly do not need alcohol to have the “morning after” experience.

It was not the most ideal circumstances to celebrate 2016’s advent, but it was still a good event. When we were standing with the fireworks, all of our community was holding their fireworks piercing the Amajuba night with colorful stripes of light. As I held my stick in phezulu position, I had a steady smile. Even though I felt physically awful, by holding the firework and facilitating this beautiful view of our corner of Amajuba I was a part of the community. It did not matter what my skin color was or my isiZulu ability, if I did not live in Schnizeland that firework would not be in my hands. Moreover, my host family cared enough about this event that they made sure I was present.

When you talk to PCVs and ask what integration looks like, there is an endless stream of answers. For me it is living life like my South Africans colleagues without special treatment. Until New Year’s Eve, the closest to integration I got was being in ques and taking transport when I was in a good mood. When I am in a bad mood, I air all my American grievances privately and do not focus on appreciating the experience. That night in Amajuba, we were all celebrating life and my host family (who has told me that I am one of them several times) made me feel like a part of the community. After months of stumbling, I finally felt that I was on the right direction (in this case phezulu).

I have confidence that 2016 will continue to move phezulu from here!

Also, if future conversations require me to share my most memorable New Year’s Eve, the one in rural Amajuba will be hard to beat!


If Hitchcock was a PCV in Amajuba

The animal antics continue. I am not referring to the area’s attraction “The Unsupervised Livestock of Amajuba” but the organization failed to mention that the amaZulu compound that I live on includes a bird sanctuary, and I happen to live in it.

I have a lovely and modest 2 bedroom house (tour is coming) and until last Friday the complaints were minimal. I have a bed I fit into and privacy. The one concern that I had was the bird nest on my roof. Not because I have a vendetta towards birds but nests attract izinyoka (snakes). While researching PC blogs, I read a post from a neighboring country where a PCV woke up to a drip from the ceiling and turns out it was a spitting cobra…and I may have been scarred for life. I have yet to see an actual cobra in a PCV’s house, but I am not taking any chances. Yet the removal kept being postponed due to work, other chores, and even though the 5 AM chipping and fluttering performance were getting old and I was really sick of sweeping up bird crap in the bedroom, there was no urgency. Then again, I did not actually fathom last Friday’s shenanigans.

Two things to mention 1. It was a long week and since the municipality shut the water off my place was a mess (I will explain at a later date). I had no desire to have anyone enter the house. And 2. Adding to the damsel in distress archetype, my outfit that Friday happened to be a bright pink dress. For your amusement, feel free to think of me prancing around through out the following events.

After coming back from another frustrating visit at Schnitzeland’s post office, I was exhausted and taking a few hours of introversion time before watching sopies with the host family that evening. I was on the lap when around 5 PM I hear a loud fluttering. It was too early for a moth and initially I ignored the noise for five minutes. The noise remained so I went to investigate and there is an actual inyoni/ bird trying to fly out of the one broken window I cannot open. I am no Bindi Irwin with wildlife, so I simply open all the other windows in my house and wait for the bird to figure it out. 30 minutes goes by and the bird still insists on trying to fly through the broken window and I am concerned that they are going to break a wing…when a second bird flies in. Eventually this second bird (who displays some intelligence) gets out but the other bird is continuing to panic. I have no choice but to give up introversion time and head outside.

As I am tapping the window, my host sister comes to see what is going on. She starts laughing hysterically, but comes with me to inspect the nest. Turns out there is a second nest…goody. We are in agreement that the nest need to go now. I found the holes between the roof and walls where they flew in. I asked what the amaZulu method was for bird nest removal. Turns out they have never had a bird problem until the American showed up…typical. Since it was now 6 PM, the plan was just to remove the nests and seal the holes with concrete in the morning. I start to bang on the tin roof with my broom and no less than 6 birds shoot out which freaks both me and host sister out. We try to poke the nests out but they are really wedged in the roof. My feet are too fat for the block cracks required to access the roof so we subjected my 14 year old host brother to the task and I am demoted to light duty. At this point the sun is down and we have limited time before the birds come back. My host brother who understandably does not want to spend an exorbitant amount of time on the roof in the dark, just yanks the feathers and straw out of the crevices. Turns out one nest had eggs and the other had two baby birds that miraculously survived the initial impact. Still I had no wish to actually cause harm to the birds, I just wanted them out of my living space. The deed was done and we all headed inside thinking that the excitement was over for the evening…lies.

Might I add that this happened when I was a PCV, in the Amajuba district which literally means “the doves” in isiZulu. Even though these were more sparrow like, not doves or pigeons (which they sometimes call doves in South Africa) this is still a bird friendly place. The closest thing to a mascot in Peace Corps is a dove so I probably garnered some bad bird juju that framed future events.

Remember the initial bird that caused this ruckus? We kept the windows open the entire time host brother was on the roof. Maybe the bird was a slow learner and would eventually stumble on one of the open windows. We waited 5 minutes for any sounds of the invader and I was trying communicate the bird battle with cluster 1.0 on What’s App when at 8 PM I hear fluttering. At this point I believe the birds have driven me batty to the point I am now hallucinating. Then rising from a pile of blankets like a cursed phoenix, the panic bird starts to lap around the room. Being the immature 23 year old, I scream out of shock and as my emotions turn to anger, irately squawk “GET OUT” and “HAMBA” repeatedly. I tear open the blasted windows again and my irrational force tears down the curtain rod for my bed room.

The host family who has heard my…noise, comes in anticipating that I am being mugged. When I tell them that the bird is still in here, my host sister (the one that was helping me with the roof) doubles over with laughter. I am out of options and suck in my pride so the host family can enter my messy house. I apologize profusely for the mess as they confirm the rod is broken and use plastic ties to re-position the curtain for a temporary fix.

Once the curtain was up, we had to get the bird out since the culprit was not taking initiative and I have. The host brother, sister, and I gather in position. We get the bird in to the kitchen and living room, and I shut the bedroom door, barricading the massive hole in the middle with my Osprey pack. The frantic fluttering reaches a new crescendo and then no sound. I hear squawking and think that they killed the bird (and more juju is on my hands, I may become the first PCV to experience a bird attack that would inspire Hitchcock from the grave). Nope host brother catches the bird in 5 minutes and it is released unharmed.Finally despite my protests, my host brother starts to mix concrete, climbs back on the roof and manages to patch one hole before we decide his safety is not worth it that evening.Once again the South Africans manage a situation (and one they have not had to deal with before) better than the American. Or to use an American analogy, they are Cam and I am Mitchell.


No really I am Mitchell, Credits to ABC and fellow New Mexican’s acting for the photos in this post

That night there was an intense thunderstorm, so even though the birds kept their distance I still did not sleep with the leaking roof. Then I woke up the next morning and the moronic izinyoni are building their nests in the same spots we removed them. Since the incident, they have not dared to come back inside but we will have to seal more holes up this weekend. Also, my trauma to the broom (whacking it on a tin roof) broke it in half but it works. I can wait until after Christmas for that and the curtain rod, because I do not want to bumble around Duke City’s hardware stores in December if I can help it.

South Africa: never a dull moment.

A Very Venda Weekend

All photos courtesy of the Psychologist! Thank you again!

There are many reasons why I opted not to E.T. (early terminate or quit Peace Corps) during this long wait but if I can place credit in one spot, I stayed because Venda skirts are awesome. When I was pulled from site, I had an irrational aversion to being placed in Limpopo. I do not know why, you would think that the most linguistically and arguably culturally (in a tribal sense) diverse province would be my preference. In the midst of a security pull, the brain complies some bizzare thoughts.

Example of a Venda Skirt (someone graciously let me borrow this one.

Example of a Venda Skirt (someone graciously let me borrow theirs for a couple hours).

Anyways, Venda is a traditional culture in Northern Limpopo’s Southpansberg Mountains. The woman’s traditional 2 piece skirt is with cotton striped fabric (which reminds me of sarapes), elaborate embroidery or binding and engineered to withstand the extreme heat. As a graduate student in Tucson the heat control skirt peaked my interest,.

On the weekend I was pulled from site, my New Mexican magnet was functioning and I finally met the New Mexican PCV from SA 29.  She is a rockstar with at least 13 different projects serving various Venda Communities (the organization manages Drop in Centers and Home Based Carers in multiple Venda communities). We hit it off well and she shared some amazing projects and an invitation to visit. Week 5 the backpackers was overbooked (again) and I decided to take this opportunity to explore Venda. On the 7 hour bus ride, I saw the general areas where most Limpopo PCVs reside, and while they do not have a 9/10 bus ride to Pretoria, I can appreciate how Limpopo PCVs also deal with South Africa’s vastness in terms of distance.

I met my friend (the Psychologist) at the suburb of Elephant Head City (the capital of Venda). We walked to her beautiful place where she has a big avocado and mango tree in the back yard. We would sit on the porch with our drinks, discussing life’s events each evening. We went to bed early, preparing ourselves for the long workday.

The next morning we had a healthy breakfast and walked to her org. The Psychologist is the only non-South African at her organization and it is awesome to see how she integrates with her Venda cowokers. After being introduced to her organization’s staff members we gathered our equipment for the day and set off to work with the day’s task.

One of the 13 projects under the Psychologist is bee keeping, aka out of my comfort zone as I do not like flying insects with stinging capabilities. I think are at least 8 hives in the project, and various drop-in centeres under the psychologist’s Org try to produce honey that they can sell. The first community we looked at was about 30 minutes from town, and the bee hive was on the chief’s land. When I say Venda is a traditional community it is not a hyperbole. I had to greet the chief in the traditional way; waiting  with bare feet on a blanket and then when the chief approaches, kneeling head down with a flat back, and then laying sideways and hiding my face. Once we gained permission with the chief, we evaluated the hive. The chief mentioned that the hive was dead and upon investigation the box got wet. So we cleaned the hive out and used corrugated iron to make a roof-like cover.

After an hour we went to another community on top of a hillside. The chief (who also hosted the community’s hive) recently passed away, so we gained the permission of the uncle. That hive was also inactive probably because it was in the sun. So it was back to greet the acting chief for permission to move the box, and we placed it under a shady tree. By the time we maneuvered the hive into an amiable position with another makeshift corrugated iron roof, it was 4 PM. The Psychologist really wanted me to see active bees so we quickly gowned up and checked the organization’s hive. Despite my delayed timing on the smoker, the bees did not sting and I did not panic.

Making bees unhappy for the sake of honey

Making bees unhappy for the sake of honey

Holding the most bees I have ever encountered in my life

Holding the most bees I have ever encountered in my life

Smiling, not grimacing...see I was a willing participant and not traumatized!

Smiling, not grimacing…see I was a willing participant and not traumatized!

In the end, bees are tolerable. I still hate wasps.

The next morning I sat in on the psychologist’s co-piloted project juvenile diversion program with the district. About 8 youth in conflict with the law and social workers came for a session on conflict resolution. Even though the entire session was in Tshivenda, I could see how much the social workers sincerely cared about their clients and that the participants loved acting out the dramas! We had to leave early for the SA 32/31 Venda area meet up in Elephant Head City, but it was rewarding to see a small part of the program.

Before we met up at the post office, the Psychologist and I stopped by the fabric store to look at the patterns available for a mosisi. Neither of us bought anything, but we marveled at the myriad of stripe patterns on the skirt. As for the lunch outing it was awesome to see the 32s thriving and I thought enjoyed my mango lassi and Pakistani food. The most eventful thing that happened was my lawn chair I was sitting in broke…one second I was right in middle of a conversation and suddenly BAM… on the floor to the shock of 12 PCVs! The poor waiter was alarmed but I guess the chair simply buckled. I was pretty calm about it, no bruises or injuries. Soon the group went our separate ways and the Psychologist and I chilled with a delicious and local fruit salad (Limpopo is known for the abundance of fruit) with grapefruit, pineapple, papaya, watermelon and sprinkles of cinnamon. Ah the semi-tropical lifestyle.

My finally day of the trip consisted of laundry (believe it or not, it is challenging to hand wash clothes in a back packers, I sort of cheat and only wash underwear and underarms of shirts) and one of the few times (the Gogo let me take advantage of her organization’s  laundry facilities) I was able to fully wash my clothes during this site change. Then we toured to Phiphidi waterfall for a nice hike and picnic lunch. For some odd reason Phiphidi reminds me of a Greek organization.

The main waterfall

The main waterfall

The Psychologist called this the Wonder Woman Pose...I call it keeping my balance while my feet ae on two rocks.

The Psychologist called this the Wonder Woman Pose…I call it keeping my balance while my feet are on two rocks.

It was a lovely weekend shadowing an amazing PCV and exploring a dynamic culture. I hope this is not my last trip to Venda, as there is so much more of Northern Limpopo I want to see (and I still need to get one of those skirts)!

My attempt at a Venda pose, while checking on the Drop in Centre's library, yet another one of the Psychologist's 13 projects.

My attempt at a Venda pose, while checking on the Drop in Centre’s library, yet another one of the Psychologist’s 13 projects.

A Bit of Excitement

I have been in South Africa too long. When I look out of my window and see a streak of fire in my neighbors’ yard, I do not race out with bucket of water or call the Safety and Security Officer. Instead I contemplate, “is this a prescribed burn or an actual fire?”

My area is active in agriculture and one of the practices to maintain the soil and create a fire buffer before lighting wet season starts. Still the New Mexican sees fire and thinks that it bodes instant doom.

Outside my is on the hillside.

Outside my window…fire is on the hillside.

I was returning from a mid-afternoon stroll and along the road to the house, a family started to burn their field, as spring is approaching. The women and girls carefully ignite a boarder of the field while the men sit under the tree and wait and a gust of the wind sweeps the valley. The fire, inspired by the movement, builds itself into a millisecond frenzy and crashes against a wooden fence pole. As I run from the fragments of ash and plume of smoke flying into the road, the women start to pound the fire with all their might. Clenching their shirts, they fiercely slam the blazes with consistent blows. Their firm action stifles the conflagration within minutes and protects the community from a possible disaster.

A safe view of the incident

A safe view of the incident


In case anyone doubted the strength of amaZulu women…here are a few attacking fire!

In the Drakensburg, there is no need for electronics for entertainment. The wind provides it.

I Need to Extend Compassion to Animals

The Izikhomo strike again.

It was another sleepless night in the Drakensburg. Sleep is one of my main coping mechanisms to keep agitation at bay. The ideal amount is 7 or 8 hours, but if I go below 5 it is not pretty. If there is an emergency I can deal with sleep deprivation, as long as I do not work the next morning.

Last Wednesday I had to pack food orders for support groups that are facilitated by wonderful but currently very demanding caregivers, while running on 6 hours of sleep. My isiZulu is not capable of explaining how while a caregiver ordered jam, sugar, onions, and oranges, it does not change the fact that the director forgot to put it on the shopping list. That and we were out of tea this morning so our data staff accidentally took from one of the caregiver’s tea orders, because the other caregivers wanted tea. Even though I am confident that the caregiver did not need 100 tea bags, she was still unhappy.


This is what I mean. For the sake of world order, I need adequate amounts of sleep.
Yesterday I had a rough day at work and after cleaning and bathing, bedtime was established at 8:30 PM. At 9 PM, my host sister (who lives in the same house) yells through the door asking if I am awake. I was half asleep but asked what she needed. I cooked that night on the gas stove and she smelled gas. I had to get up, check that I turned it off (I did).

Throughout the evening one of the cows was particularly loud. Y’all know how beagles bay? Well I have learned through Peace Corps that cows are also capable of baying. I figured that it was another case of a lost cow. I did not have any earplugs so I hunkered down for a long night as the cow continued to wail right at the fence.

Around 2:30 AM, I wake up to the cow’s cries reaching a new pitch. 3:30 AM a calf starts to add to the nighttime opera, and I am thinking unkind thoughts. In my state of semi-consciousness I conclude the mother and calf were misplaced due to farmer error. There would be a fun discussion with my host family in the meantime I fall back asleep around 5 AM. I get up late, scramble to get ready, glare at the black cow hovering over the hillside and while I walk out the gate I see this…

New life!

New life!

Apparently my night was not as bad as this poor calf. The first time mother delivered a calf right outside my room right next to the pasture fence. Bit of a reminder: My homestead is carved out of a hillside.
(my backyard).

My "backyard" the black culprit...err cow is in the foreground.

My “backyard” the black culprit…err cow is in the foreground.

The night of the birth, the mother delivered the calf and right after her entrance, the calf rolled down the hill. The “baying” was the panicked mama searching for her bewildered child. Childbirth is an intense experience for humans, I cannot imagine adding the pitch black Drakensburg night to the affair…and not knowing what happened to the baby after it arrives. Thankfully the calf did not break any bones in the tumble. Still, poor mama and calf…and uncle/cousins who woke up at 4 AM to attend to the ruckus.
This brings the total to 13 calves this winter, we have one more to go. The reason why calves are born during the winter, when the grass is brown, is there is disease (a worm like parasite) in green grass. If the baby is born in the winter, they can build up immunity to the green grass. If they are born during the spring, consuming the worm will kill them within a couple days.

A 14 year old cow is due to give birth to the final 14th calf. She looks beyond ready (besides the telltale swollen udder). Both my host sister and I are hoping this will be a daytime birth!

More than ready!

More than ready!

In the meantime, my side of the house has earned another title besides “a Gentlemen’s Club for Chickens”: the Borning Room. Also, I need to make my way to Pretty City soon for better ear plugs.

I’d like to Teach the World to Sing…about Adult things!

Currently there is an awesome contest happening with Peace Corps Blogs. The Office of the 3rd Goal (3rd goal=sharing host country culture with the US) is currently hosting the 3rd annual blog it home contest on Facebooks. One of PSCA’s response volunteers up in KZN’s battlefields, is a finalist! I have met Annette several times, and she is as epic in person. She is fantastic and generates a much needed love of the sciences in KZN…in other words she deserves a free trip to DC!

Although Eish did not place, it is still a great competition. Peace Corps experiences are as diverse as the countries and volunteers who serve them. In the spirit of redefining nations outside of the US beyond the single story, I am encouraging my communities (and my big Catholic family…lots of people) to donate their votes to the blogs they think have merit (Annette’s cough cough). Voting (aka liking the blog picture on the website) ends August 10th. Enjoy your trip around the world through PCVs (I am biased but nice to see Botswana and Ecuador represented)!

It has been quiet on here as of late. Well for 13 days I was away from site partaking in In-service Training (IST). Unfortunately everyone’s favorite power utility was working on the power lines, and the electricity was having a heyday. My plans to skype my friends and blog were derailed. However not even the lack of hot water and dark workshops could quell SA 31’s enthusiasm. We made it to month 6, and are now allowed to implement projects (and leave the country for annual leave).

Honestly, I was under the weather for most of IST. In addition to random agitation I could not shake, there was a nasty cold that hit me one week into IST. Hilariously the day before I had to give an impromptu speech for PC committee elections, the bug struck and my voice was compromised (that never happens to me). I had to do my 90 second spiel with half my usual volume! Even though I did not win the election, I am still proud that I pulled the speech off!

Honestly when I reflect back on IST, the highlights involved music. It all started with my supervisor. We were trying to find a Zulu phrase for our proposed program. She started to sing Masidose Kanye Kanye.

Masidonse kanye kanye. Kanye Kanye, Masidonse kanye kanye. Sijabule sonke!

Rough isiNgisi: Pull Together, together, together, Pull together, we are happy together!
This is the tune for your creepy throw back Friday: In creche they have a rope children play with as well.

So we may have the Masidonse Kanye Kanye Impilo (health) Adherence clubs in the future (TBC).

Fast forward a few more days, and I am in a group (PCVs and South African counterparts) who have to create a song on safe sex( I try to be “G” rated but I am a health volunteer in an HIV concentrated program). This is our brilliant musical opus to the first verse of the tune!


Then on day 10  (out of 13), my group has to do a creative and educational travel health skit, covering the entire alphabet (A-Z) based on the medical office’s presentation! Using one of our older PCV’s mad puppet skills, the Nutritionist’s general entertainment, and the Anthropologist’s insistence on education (they got REALLY competitive) we revived Sesame Street. My group we won the hazelnut cream filled Belgian chocolate seashells based on our education component.

We were winning as they say in SA!

We were winning as they say in SA!

Not all of health education is cucumbers/bananas and condoms…but I will not psychoanalyze what our tendency to use childhood references means about our first 6 months in Peace Corps!