The Policeman and the Provocative Question

Blog-Challenge-2016

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.

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Phezulu Position

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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!

 

Postal Problems

(A Lesson on South African Bureaucracy)

Sanibonani,

I have a bunch of posts in the pipeline and as of yesterday the organization is closed for 5 weeks (yea December/January Merriment). I have received several requests for my new address and wanted to provide an update on the information.

Do I have a PO Box? Yes…and no. In a sentence I paid for a PO Box in Schnizeland but it cannot be accessed. If you do not want to read why I am address-less for Christmas 2015 feel free to exit now.

Ironically I have a brand new post office in the service centre 1000 meters from my house, but no PO Boxes are available (typical South Africa). The nearest PO Box is in Schnizeland, a 30 minute taxi ride away. I am frequently there for Municipality meetings anyways, so it is (supposed to be) convenient. Unfortunately right when I arrived, the post office changed the locks for the exterior PO Boxes. They have been waiting for the national office to send the keys for 3 months now.

That is where we are today. At this point I am not sure of a course of action besides waiting until after the holidays. If I do not get keys by the end of January, I may go down to Scotland and buy another box (even though that is out of my way and a couple hundred rand) as walking around Duke City’s taxi rank with potential parcels would be a security risk. Rest assured, I have to have a box (so can PCSA sends my passport with the official South African Visa for international travel…but that is another story) and there will be a chance to send your coveted snail mail.

Anyways, or the first month at site I visited the PO Box and the polite clerk refused to give me an address until they received the locks. Peace Corps requires emergency contact paperwork completed within 30 days of arriving at any site, and I finally had to pull the “I work for the American Government…not really but gives me clout” card. They agreed to give me an address so I could get the site locator form in, but I have no key to open the box.

At a glance people may wonder why this is a problem. Could they not just get one of the many Indian shops in Schnitzeland to make keys for the boxes? Or leave the boxes open and risk postal theft? This is where the most valuable lesson from my exchange student days in Botswana applies: Disregard preexisting standards of American or European efficiency, else you will be perpetually frustrated. Because bureaucracy.

South Africa is this interesting dichotomy of cultures that value bookkeeping (Afrikaaners and English) and indigenous  cultures who until record-valuing cultures established powerful governments, did not care about said bookkeeping. The other half is that corruption and identity theft are concerns here. For me to even access the address I had to provide proof of residence (handy letter from PCSA office) and my personal passport for identification. There is also no capability to cancel a registration.

The first month at site I visited the PO Box and the polite clerk refused to give me an address until they received the locks. Peace Corps requires emergency contact paperwork completed within 30 days of arriving at any site, and I finally had to pull the “I work for the American Government…Not Really but Provides Reluctant Priveledge” card. They agreed to give me an address so I could get the Site Locator Form In, but I have no key to open the box. I had problems paying with my card (Schnitzeland is not amiable to PCSA’s bank of choice), and I bought the PO Box 30 minutes before I had to run to Duke City for a meeting because the previous Friday the manager told me Monday morning was the time this could be done to meet PCSA’s deadline.

 The transaction was going well until the machine did not register my card. 2 tries and the manager demands that I go to the Caltex station a block away and obtain a few hundred Rand for the transaction (which is right next to the local taxi rank…not happening). I told them I was leaving and to cancel the transaction I would deal with it later. Instead of moving to the  5 people behind me in the que, the manger gives me an exasperated look while the clerk explains that I am now in the system and it cannot be altered. Nice Clerk saves the day by trying the card one last time…and success. Third time was a charm and bureaucratic equilibrium was maintained.

In a group-oriented culture that values power (amaZulu and a lot of the indigenous cultures), the customers are not the priority. It is the validation of every government official involved with a process that matters. With so many levels to appease, realities of a rural post office in rural KZN are not at the forefront of shakers 5-7 hours away in Pretoria. Does this sound familiar (cough the US)? This is not a situation with political parties, but it is the challenge of governing a large country in terms of geography and population. My bet is in Pretoria is that the Head of Department is thinking about how to reduce corruption and minimize security threats. Until they have the locks ready they will not send them because that risk is not worth it. The local office staffed by amaZulu are also trying to maintain their influence, and are not going to circumvent Pretoria and offer unsecure mailboxes.

Hence, this Christmas I have no PO Box, cannot switch my Pick n Pay Smart Shopper card to stop the onslaught of promotional mail probably hitting site 1.0’s postal box, legally leave the country, and am forced to wait until the holidays are over to figure out alternatives. I am done being upset over this, thankfully a PO Box is not one of my PC negotiables and there is more to service than snail mail. In the end it is an epic story to tell, unique to life in the Rainbow Nation. My adapted goal is to have a functioning mailbox by my birthday (you have 6 months Postal Service) and obtain an absentee ballot for the 2016 elections. My frustrations pale in comparison to the local staff. I am sure that if they had control, they would have fixed this a month ago (and not just because the annoying American keeps asking about progress…but PO Boxes are the core of postal services aka their job).

Ngiyabonga for the patience and for thinking of me. I am really fortunate to have people who like me enough to make the effort to send mail. I will be sure to share the address once I can open the actual box. In the meantime blog comments and e-mail work. When snail-mail returns as an option anticipate lots of responses, as I can send mail and buy stamps at the post office 1000 meters away (but not receive mail).

Oh, South Africa…

All the best and Shosholoza,

Katey

 

 

 

 

I Need to Go Back to Grade 12

Earlier this week, learners from a local high school went to my supervisior’s house for help with a school assignment. They had to interview My supervisor who knows how to set boundaries, sent the learners away and coordinated with the teacher to conduct the interviews. Wednesday we sat and waited
The poor learners had transport arranged, but had not arrived by 1 PM. My awesome supervisor decides to go find them at 2:00 PM and they arrived at 3:30 PM. The patient carers divided the learners into 4 groups and my supervisor decided this was an excellent opportunity for isiZulu practice. So I join one of the carers and look at the assignment.

One page of questions...there were two others and my "doctor's signature".

One page of questions…there were two others and my “doctor’s signature”.

EISH!

The first time I had to analyze an organization’s mission statement and challenges, was last semester in graduate school. These questions would take a paragraph in isiNgisi to explain and my isiZulu ability barely obtains groceries. One of the questions was how I got involved with the organization! My language groups during PST did not cover how to explain how Peace Corps works, how to list 5 volunteer roles within the organization, or 5 obstacles we face! I tried with slow English and substituting isiZulu words when possible, yet I was told that I spoke too fast several times! Also, we struggled to find our mission statement so I stood up to grab my laptop for the website and…BAM managed to slip in my sweaty croc flats right on my butt!

Anyways, the girls were very clever and great to work with. This is a great experience for them to learn about resources in the community. My supervisor asked me to take pictures of the learners (so we had proof that they came) and in response the teenager girls whipped out their phones. I asked my supervisor to ask for permission to share the below photo, and after asking she turned to me and said, you know they are going to share their pictures on facebook!

Teenage Girls: Somethings transcend cultural Boundaries.

I could pass off as a student at their high school right?

I could pass off as a student at their high school right?

In true South African fashion, there was a twist to the story. This morning my director informs me that 6 other schools have contacted her (as in learners go to her house and interrupt an errand at the clinic). Turns out all grade 12 Life Orientation classes are doing the same assignment…and we have over a dozen high schools in the valley! Around 10 AM, two other learners came unannounced. I got to do another interview, lucky for the learners. They were very professional and even asked for our organization’ stamp. I am curious to see how my director and supervisor handle the influx of requests. There is no way I can struggle through 12 more isiZulu interviews with my existing workload this month!

Apparently Pinafores Make You Look Married

I have not been able to put my clothes or dishes away since I switched rooms. A couple days ago I walked out and shoved a dress skirt over jeans. One of the home based carers called me out on my frumpy fashion choice, and gave me permission to wear jeans or a skirt but not both! When will I ever learn, wearing jeans is okay in Southern Africa (in some areas pants are not okay I was also called out for a fashion violations in Botswana). Regardless, I live in a tribal authority and I have only seen my Zulu supervisor done jeans once. If I am working with gogos, I build more rapport with skirts.

Yesterday we had special visitors (more later), but the home based carers generously waited an all day for a high school to show up. While we were waiting I tried to do a small activity for the needs assessment. We finished the activity and the same carer who gave me permission commented on that day’s outfit.

Carer: Zama you are wearing Jeans. Just jeans!

Zama: Yebo, I have not had a chance to put all my clothes away since I moved rooms. Jeans were what I could find this morning.

Carer: You should wear Jeans more often.

Zama: But if I am working with gogos I feel more comfortable in my pinafore (a gift from my Ndebele family).

Carer: Haibo Zama if you wear you pinafore you will look like a Gogo!

Zama: My mother has called me a Gogo since I was 15! (truth)

Everyone laughs

Carer: Zama you only wear the pinafore if you are married.

Zama: Well good! If people think I am married then they will not bother me! Laughter ensues

Carer: I still want you to wear jeans.

Zama: Sure but where are your Jeans! Why are you not wearing them?

Carer: No response

That concludes this round of “Katey Could Dress Better in the Eyes of AmaZulu.” I am sure there will be other options to tune in!

We want you, We want you, for the Ward 9 War Room

Where can you find AmaZulu, in every field, to discuss problems
Discussing how maintain children’s safety and well being?
In the War Room! Where Operation Sukuma Sakhe makes a Stand
In the War Room!
In the War Room! Can’t you see Ward 9 needs a Hand!
We want you, We want you, for the Ward 9 War Room

Please excuse my awful attempt at the Village people, but I kept hearing in the Navy during the meeting!

IMG_1294The political boundaries of South Africa are a befuddled source of amusement. KZN is one of South Africa’s 9 provinces, which is divided into one metropolitan municipality (eThekwini aka Durban) and 10 districts. Within districts we have municipalities. My district is composed of 5 municipalities, but soon to be 4 after the 2016 general elections as my municipality is set to merge with another. If that is not enough imaginary linear detail to make you dizzy, each municipality is divided into wards. My valley is composed of 4 wards, but physically I work in Ward 9.

Some South African wards, have regular meetings called War Rooms. Contrary to the name, there is not a massive map of the area to plot attacks (but my ward has a snazzy polka dot table cloth) nor are people belligerent in discussion. It is a place for people to gather and discuss problems in the area. Our area participates in a provincial program called Operation Sukuma Sakhe. The name Masisukume Sakhe is derived from a biblical quote where someone yearns to build a city that has been destroyed and is on the KZN provincial coat of arms. The program is intended to be all for communities to overcome health and social obstacles specifically related to HIV and TB (Tuberculosis). Since my org has funding for a child care forum, they are very active in the meetings and try to push conversations about the well-being of children. We had two of our carers present, my supervisor (who is the dynamic auxiliary social worker and manager who keeps the org running) and myself.

I was not lying about the polka dots!

I was not lying about the polka dots!

Granted I was the palest and only person in the room who was not fluent in isiZulu but I understood a bit of the discussion, like there was a 20 minute debate about gogos! My job was to maintain the register and I had a chance to see what organizations were represented. I am still amazed how people from the local clinic, school nurses, Department of Agriculture, Department Social Services, municipality administrators, the community at learn and one of the other non-profits took time away from their busy work days to discuss the concerns in Ward 9.

IMG_1289After 2 hours of debates it was time for lunch. Lunch was not the American platter of deli sandwiches but three trays of an eclectic mix of appetizers fitting for the Rainbow Nation: a array of samosas, tiny meatballs, spring rolls, and cheese onion turnovers with sweet chili sauce for dipping. Since it was my supervisor’s birthday I also made a beetroot red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. In American leadership activities, I have noticed that once there is free food people dive in and the pizza or catering is scarfed down in minutes. Anyone who obtains a morsel is lucky (and most of the time I have been unlucky)! However at the Ward 9 War Room, people were daintily eating their lunch. Our supplies were limited but participants shared plates, cups, and adapted to my poor planning with the cake (I brought a knife but no serviettes/napkins, utensils, or plates…oops). Everyone had their fill of food (I ate more of the cheese and onion turnovers than I care to admit…when cheese is around I tend to go crazy these days) and there was still at least half a tray left over for the primary school children (the cake and drinks were dutifully consumed). Yet another example of South Africans unconsciously thinking about others.
It was a great outing and heartening to see people from different fields care about the children in the valley. I also was inspired by the school nurses who were never afraid to speak their mind, in an area where gender based violence continues to resurface in the needs assessment. I told my supervisor that would attend every War Room possible during my service and am excited to see what the Ward 9 representatives accomplish in the next meetings.

Siyaphila!

isiZulu word of the post: Siyaphila
isiNgisi: part of the traditional Zulu greeting: I am alive

As in:

A:Sanibonani: I see you all
B:Yebo: Yes
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.
Exhibit A: Thankfully South Africa's natural beauty trumps my hair issues! Taken at the base of the Royal Gorge!

Exhibit A:
Thankfully South Africa’s natural beauty trumps my hair issues! Taken at the base of the Royal Gorge!

  • 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!
    If you can see a white trickle, that is Tugela Falls, the world's 2nd highest waterfall, during dry season!

    If you can see a white trickle that is Tugela Falls, the world’s 2nd highest waterfall, during dry season!

    IMG_1159b

  • 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.

    One crabby goat...I think he was aware that that day was his last.

    One crabby goat…I think he was aware that that day was his last.

  • 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.
    Man: Why?
    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!

Rooibos Milkshake...yes they exist and I may be getting slightly addicted to them...every trip to the shopping town I try to budget!

Rooibos Milkshake…yes they exist and I may be getting slightly addicted to them…every trip to the shopping town I try to budget!

All the best,
Katey-Red

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).