10 Ways to Use Heaven (Beyond Radio Codes)



Another entry of the Blogging Abroad Blog Boot Camp and it is hard to believe we are halfway through! This entry’s theme: I never knew (aka what cultural aspects we were unaware before arriving in country…so for me almost everything).  I am a guilty of over researching in all aspects of life but especially countries I visit. Yet a menagerie of historical facts and a previous 4 day stint in the country does not provide an adequate view of how a PCV experience shapes perspectives of the Rainbow Nation. This prompt also coincides with my (and SA 31’s) one year in country mark on the 22nd   and tomorrow the next CHOP cohort (SA 33) will arrive! There are so many unique aspects about South Africa that I have gained from living here. For the sake of brevity, here is an example of how my host culture (amaZulu) impresses me with their linguistic creativity

As the most spoken indigenous language in South Africa, isiZulu has a strong presence throughout out the Southern African Continent. Beyond the lexical dominance isiZulu is a really neat language to learn, with its unique palatal click, fame as the language sung at the beginning of The Lion King, and base of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s melodies.Yet the heart of isiZulu is it’s creativity to reuse words and construct new phases.

When most Americans think of “Zulu” they probably contemplate the radio alphabet or an African culture that starts with the letter “Z”. English does not fully embrace the letter “Z” and I can picture the military official on a role from “A as in Alpha” reaching the 26th letter in a panic until they remembered the amaZulu. Shaka’s people saved the day and “Z as in Zulu” continues keeps telecommunications afloat.

isiZulu like most languages in Southern Africa is noun-based and sentence structure is dependent on the noun class it falls under. Since all nouns belong to one of 15 noun classes, a word like “Zulu” has multiple meanings. In other words, simply saying “Zulu” does not make grammatical sense.

“Zulu” in isiZulu means heaven. With additional noun classes, prefixes for locatives, and phrases, heaven takes on at least 10 other meanings like an etymological chameleon.

10 Ways to Use Heaven (Beyond Radio Codes)

With “zulu” you can…

  1. Discuss heaven or the weather: izulu (noun class 5 for miscellaneous)


    Clouds over Cathkin Peak= High probability the weather is about to change at Site 1.0

  2. Express that there is a thunderstorm in the area: izulu liyaduma


    Side of Amajuba’s family rondavel soaked during a severe thunderstorm (and my 7 year old host nice being daring while getting soaked).

  3. Describe rainy weather: izulu liyana


    When it is misty in the Drakensburg (pictured here) or Amajuba, there is almost always rain. Even the heron on top of the telephone wire is hunkering down for the droplets.

  4. Refer to the culture or people: amaZulu (Abantu in noun class 2 is people, and thus the Zulu people are amaZulu)


    Families washing their clothes at the river in an amaZulu tribal authority (site 1.0)

  5. Identify where many amaZulu originated: KwaZulu-Natal aka KZN, my province and place of the amaZulu (this is a locative that does not belong to a specific noun class)IMG_0149
  6. Show a homestead where a family with the surname of Zulu stays (also KwaZulu but this works for any isiZulu surname. I currently stay at KwaMazibuko or place of the Mazibuko family)


    I have no idea if any of these homes are KwaZulu specifically(the surname as this was an amaZulu tribal authority), but here at Site 1.0 in the Central Drakensburg (that sliver of snow on the left is Lesotho) you can see the cluster of buildings that form homesteads

  7. Respect the many Christians in KZN by articulating their beliefs and depicting heaven as a destination: ezuluwini, another locative also the name of a valley in Swaziland (sitSwati is a similar language and ezuluwini has the same meaning and another locative).


    My Amajuba Family is part of an apostolic church, and they wear white clothes to their services. I always am in awe of how stunning they look and they keep the clothes clean!

  8. Give directions involving an upward motion : phezulu, which comes in handy when children are operating fireworks (directions do not belong to a noun class)


    Phezulu: the only way fireworks should go

  9. Request for someone to speak louder: kulumele phezulu/You speak up.


    A taste of the many meetings I attend for the local government. This is my municipal chamber and at this Local AIDS Council Meeting, microphone use was expected!


  1. Be able to explain that you are learning the language: Ngiyafunda isiZulu/I am learning isiZulu. (isiZulu, noun class 7 for inanimate objects and language )


    The Peace  Corps isiZulu labeled language aids, and the book on the right is actually a primary school textbook from  host family 1.0 that accidently got packed during the site change…whoops. Since it was published during the early 90’s it has witnessed a lot of history, and I am working on getting the book back to them.

The next time someone is communicating on the radio and the need arises to clarify “Z,” they probably will remain unaware of their mistake.

Because it really is “Z as in Heaven.”


The Northern Drakensburg’s Amphitheater, somewhere in this formation, there is an unseen (in this photo anyways) trickle of water from the top called the top called Tugela Falls: the world’s 2nd highest waterfall







A Field Guide to Amajuba Minibus Taxis


The Blogging Abroad Boot Camp Challenge 2016 Continues! This week’s topic: on the road (aka the aspects of our communities that keep us entertained while moving through our communities). My source of constant amusement are the minibus taxis (I live 500 meters from the local taxi rank) and I could probably write an anthropological case study on minibus culture. For the sake of brevity and in the spirit of South Africa’s safari-dependent tourism industry, here is my take on a field guide for the vehicles that keep me mobile. My page code names for South African places are found here.

Side note: “Minibus” and “taxi” are interchangeable. However American-like taxi services are available in the big cities like Pietermartizburg and Pretoria. Keeping my audience in mind, I tried to refer to the animals…er vehicles as minibuses except the traditional model which is only called taxi.

A Field Guide to Amajuba Minibus Taxis

While they have numerous names across Southern Africa from “combi” in Botswana to “dala dala” in Tanzania, minibuses or taxis in Northern KZN are the lifeline between rural communities. For men who do not get to leave their communities after metric /high school graduation, minibus driving is a sustainable job, especially in rural areas with high unemployment rates. The country of South Africa is connected through local taxi associations and their dedicated drivers. The people of Amajuba are  dependent on minibuses to maneuver groceries, luggage, and of course relatives.


A minibus is capable of being any car color such as blue, red, orange, turquoise, or lime green. The majority of minibuses are white. Décor is minimal but a predominate design is the South African flag emulating a comet on the passenger doors with the five colors (red, blue, yellow, green, and black)  appearing as intertwining flames throughout the bus’ exterior perimeter. Occasionally minibuses serve as an advert for a variety of products like groceries and in some cases soapies/televised soap operas. These minibuses are a rolling billboard with the entire décor theme based on the product.

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A typical minibus, bringing people home in the Drakensburg Dusk


A minibus sporting Huletts (one of the main sugar brands in SA) adverts in Duke City



A minibus (or driver) makes their presence known by incessant honking of the car horn and boisterous music. This music ranges from the latest KZN sensations like Dbn Nights to flute covers of Celine Dion’s greatest hits (I kid you not, yesterday most of my 5 hour drive from Gauteng was spent trying to identify the songs). If loud music is a problem, it is imperative to bring earplugs for the minibus encounter as it could be one decked out with large speakers next to your ear.

Species of Minibuses in Amajuba District

There are currently 5 types of minibuses that serve the rural areas of Amajuba. At minimum taxis are capable of transporting 15 people (and they will not leave until they are close to 15 passengers. Fares are determined by distance and are same regardless of the minibus model.


Traditional and Quantum in Research Town’s taxi rank. Quantum are the taller cars

Traditional (15 Passengers):

The oldest model, traditional taxis have the defining feature of folding seats as seen in the cross section below. The only seatbelt available for passengers tends to be the front seat. Traditional models are the least expensive option on the market and drivers in the rural areas can easily obtain this form of minibus. By far traditional models are the most available species of minibus in all of South Africa.

South  African minibus

Interior layout of a traditional South African Taxi that seats 15 passengers

Quantum (16 Passengers):

 As the traditional minibus is cramped in space, more drivers are starting to opt for Toyota Quantum. The additional space supports passengers with physical disabilities, provides and additional passenger seat and more space for groceries. Quantum also tend to have seatbelts available in all of the seats.

South  African quantum minibus

Interior layout for a Quantum, that seats 16 passengers


Shoprite (SA’s discount grocery chain) Soup Kitchen service at my org, with a Quantum adapted for their needs

Sprinter (21 Passengers):

Located near larger cities, advantages of the Sprinter include space, a comfortable height, bag storage above the seats, and storage in the trunk for luggage. These models also have seatbelts accessible for all the seats and are by far are the safest transport option in rural Amajuba. Sprinters are the most expensive model to obtain and only drivers serving urban destinations are capable of obtaining them.

South  African sprinter minibus

Interior layout of a Sprinter for 21 passengers


Sprinter in Duke City’s local destinations taxi rank

Nyathi (13 Passengers):

 The Nyathi is used for celebrations as opposed to practical purposes. Nyathis are rented out for parties, weddings, and metric formals. Passengers are treated to loud music and dancing on the way to their destination.


Nyathi (with a blue stripe), right of my local taxi rank (500 meters from my compound)

School Buses (~40 Passengers):

For frequent destinations like local cities, some rural areas use school buses to transport large groups of people.


Example of the school buses in rural Amajuba


Beyond their usual rounds on country roads and urban streets, minibuses typically reside at a taxi rank. Minibuses retire under tin awnings for shade when available, and nicer ranks have signs indicating the destination names.  In ranks, you can spot minibus by watching the local vendors. Vendors will congregate around taxis selling a myriad of goods from airtime, towels, and of course food. For passengers waiting for taxis to fill, vendors sell cold treats directly through the windows.

In rural areas without rank facilities, drivers create their own ranks by clustering minibuses on the side of the road. Ask the community members where the rank and minibuses stop (different destinations tend to have different watering holes…or parking spots where the minibus waits to fill).


Scotland’s taxi rank, with vendors in position at the windows


How to Approach a Minibus

Unlike most South Africa wildlife, minibuses will not automatically stop at the presence of humans. Especially if all seats are full Approaching minibuses involves an acquired technique, the below tips are only meant to serve as a guide.  

Before approaching a minibus, research where you want to go and the fare. Unless you are going a significant distance, most drivers cannot break large bills like 100 or 200 ZAR. Do your best to break the fare at local tuck shops or in town; exact change is always the best option. Also, learn the local language enough so you can maneuver the minibuses because chances are high that the driver will struggle to understand English.

Once the fare and language skills are covered, you are prepared to take the minibus. Using the local knowledge walk towards the side of the road. If a minibus approached, point your index finger up for the nearest city or down the nearest hub. If the bus is full, the driver will turn his palms up and go past you. If there is space and you are visible, the driver will pull over! If your community has a taxi rank that services the desired destination, simply walk to the rank and locate the minibus.  

When on the minibus, wait for the locals to start paying before offering the fee. Often minibuses serving rural areas need to transfer passengers to another driver for specific destinations and the fee will not be paid until everyone boards the new bus.

One last tip:. Building rapport through acknowledging a driver’s presence as you wander around the community may help when you actually need a ride. They make respond to a friendly wave with a lively honk for “hello” in return!  If the ride was particularly safety oriented and smooth, a local “thank you” and “go well” to the driver when you disembark never hurts.

South Africa: It is Never Boring


One of the questions I receive often as a PCV is “What do you do in an average day?” I am still not sure how the respond to this question. Most people are looking for a 9-5 schedule which is why this week’s prompt (sharing an typical day) for Blogging Abroad’s blog boot camp challenge made me nervous. 

Here is the thing: one year in the country and I do not have a typical day or routine. Yes there are certain tasks I complete everyday (I maintain my hygiene and go to work) but South Africa loves to keep me on my toes and  challenge my perceptions of “schedule” and “efficiency.” My average days are composed of several atypical events. When in rural KwaZulu-Natal, you relinquish control to South Africa’s will. My type A personality is one of my agitation prevention strategies back in the states, and it is accurate to call South Africa great exposure therapy on my end.

Since sharing a 9-5 working day is not accurate, I decided to share a common theme on Eish: outside forces hilariously skewing my attempts to create routine in South Africa.. There has been a dominant theme in my service of animals altering the course of my day from depriving me of sleep, invading my house, and nearly infiltrating the workplace. My first day at the office in Amajuba a goat actually came into the office and chickens strut into my host family’s kitchen once a day. The other category is transport.

I have been asked to participate in a PCSA training this week, and last Monday I made the trip to the Gauteng Province. Getting up to Gauteng is fairly straight forward from my area. There is an expensive Greyhound bus that can take your from Pretoria. Duke City is a transportation hub and has buses that take you directly to Johannesburg. The PCSA office is in Pretoria which is accessible through the Gautrain (the neat pun of a train system for the Gauteng province) which stops in Hatfield (the area with PCSA approved backpackers).

Sunday evening created an unusual start to Monday. I was trying to pack when the local electrician unexpectedly showed up and did not want to wait another week for much needed repairs. Honestly I agreed this was urgent as another bird flew in Friday night and caused a few wires to spark. Still it was two hours of packing time that I could not use, and by the time he finished an Amajuba thunderstorm commenced. I woke up at 3:30 AM to finish packing and cleaning the house (which now had puddles from roof leaks). I left the house at 6:05 AM, running on less than 6 hours of sleep.


Ready to take on the transport, with enough luggage to help me navigate whatever adventure SA wants to pitch.

The taxi ride to Duke City that morning was uneventful and stopped conveniently in front of the Joberg bound bus. We waited 30 minutes for the bus to fill and after 4 ambiguous stops we made it out of Duke City. I was sitting in the front row with a 3 person seat, with the other 2 seats occupied by 3 children. A woman gently plopped the children down in Duke City, pushed a Tupperware container in the eldest boy’s hands and left. The 2 boys and 1 girl shared my pastime of landscape watching. After eating the entire chicken enclosed in Tupperware, they started to peer over the seats to see the view. The little girl was short and could not see above the seat. I put down my book and offered to have her sit on my lap. She obliged, watched the scenery for 15 minutes and then fell asleep for an hour. I will never get tired of having kids using me as a cot for long bus rides.


My seat neighbors

Around 8, we stop in a town called Vrede in the middle of the Free State. Vrede was surrounded by aesthetically pleasing green foliage that was overshadowed by the harsh divide between the township and the residential houses with electric fences separated by a mere street.  I was grateful that this stop was only 10 minutes…so I thought. The little girl woke up once we reached Vrede and slid back into the seat.

We pull out of Vrede and chug over the cumbersome hills that define the Free State’s stereotypical geography. 10 minutes after we left Vrede, the bus slows to a crawling pace. For two minutes I watch the attendant sift through an empty cooler and wonder why the bus is going slow. Then I received a hint when liquid suddenly spurts in a mini-geyser with a brown tint and splashes the children in my seat and 2 seated right next to the driver in the face. It takes a second to remember that there is no toilet on the bus so my initial guess of sewage is incorrect. Once the bus gently rolls to a stop, steam started to pour through the geyser, indicating that the engine overheated.

While the drivers tended to the engine, I surveyed my surroundings. I managed to dodge the spray but the children next to me were hit and the girl sitting in front of the engine was covered in water droplets. Thankfully the petrol did not mix with the liquid projectiles and everyone’s eyes were okay. The children are responding to my inquiries saying they are okay even though their skin is embossed with the engine’s wrath. To address their discomfort, I gave Kleenex to my neighbors me and the young girl in front of the engine that was drenched. I moved the little girl back on my lap who wiped a dirt spot off of my leg

Sure enough another bus heading in the opposite direction arrived after 5 minutes and passed a cool drink/soda bottle filled with water, which they poured directly down the engine. We start to move and the attendant calls the bus company. 5 minutes after we started to move the attendant makes an announcement starting with Siyaxolisa/we are sorry. The passengers are up in arms and I cannot hear his one minute so I ask for clarification in isiZulu that we are still going to Jo-berg but we need to go back to Vrede to get another bus. The man confirms, I say Ngiyabonga/thank you calmly and he responds to the bus “See, the mulungu/white person understands what is going on.”

And before anyone applauds my isiZulu skills, on the ride back to Vrede, one of the boys seated next to me is still peering over the seat in the line of fire. I say in English, “I would put your head down if I were you, I am smelling gas.” He complied. The one isiZulu words I know in that sentence are “head” and “down.” Clearly I need to work on my isiZulu vocabulary for potentially dangerous situations and resist my temptation to squawk in English when the situation is urgent.


Waiting in Vrede for the new bus


In the end we waited for 30 minutes back in Vrede and the got us a new bus. The two men who facilitated Vrede’s bus stop saw me (the palest person on the bus) found out I was a foreigner, and thanked me for my patience. They also explained that the engine was leaking and they could not let us head all the way to Joberg. Sometimes safety is not prioritized in South African transport and it is nice to have companies look after their passenger’s well-being. Especially because this was the discount/140 ZAR ride to Joberg.

Morals of the Story: It pays to remain calm and not to panic, I still got to Gauteng in plenty of time, and most importantly….

South Africa is never boring.

Katey’s Traditional Holiday Letter: 2016 Edition

Every year, I compile an update for former employers, supervisors, educators, family, and friends providing a “Reader’s Digest” version of my life in that past year. Usually holiday letters go out before Christmas, but I do not get my act together until the after New Year. This year was no exception and besides I like wishing people well for 365 days beyond the 3 week holiday season! This year I decided to place the letter on the blog . Cheers to 2016 and please enjoy!

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Yes, America you can see cactus in South Africa or ihlohlo as they are known in KZN. This one is about 1000 meters from my Amajuba home.



I hope this finds you and your loved ones well. With the exception of the first 22 days, I spent all of 2015 in the beautiful Republic of South Africa as a health extension volunteer with Peace Corps. A year ago, I was hoping that 2015 would be less eventful then 2014 when I lived in 3 different states. Now I have to laugh because in 2015 I lived in 3 different provinces!

On January 22nd, I left for South Africa and started training with the Peace Corps. Training took place in the Mpumalunga province where I stayed with a wonderful Ndebele Host Family. The first three months were crammed with isiZulu language, cultural classes, and technical sessions on HIV/AIDS related topics. On March 30th I earned the title of Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Right after swearing in, I was whisked away in a 9 hour car ride to our Supervisor’s Workshop outside of Durban where I experienced the warm Indian Ocean for the first time.

 Once the workshop was completed I moved to my first site in the Central Drakensburg Range of the KwaZulu-Natal Province (KZN). I spent the next 5 months supporting a Faith Based Organization that facilitated 3 Drop-In-Centres for orphans and vulnerable children and a Home Based Care accredited under the Palliative Care and Hospice Association of South Africa. Most of my time was spent on a community needs assessment for the entire valley and data entry for monitoring and evaluation tasks. In June, I represented the organization at a new database training in Pietermaritzburg while networking with other HIV focused NGOs. I also visited other PCVs in my cohort that lived in the surrounding area, and gained an appreciation for the diversity of our experiences.

In August a sudden escalation of violent crime shocked my valley. I was not directly targeted by any of the incidents but after a 2 week investigation by PSCA, the decision was to remove me from site. After 48 hours’ notice to pack and say good bye, I went to Pretoria and lived at a backpackers 8 weeks as I waited for a new site. During this extended stay, I built relationships with the incredible PCSA staff who took care of me during my extended stay and learned from PCVs serving other countries in Pretoria for medical treatment. PCSA encouraged me to visit other volunteers to remain “out in the field” during the wait and graciously granted me 3 trips to support other volunteers. I crossed the East Side of the country from Northern Limpopo’s vibrant Venda Region, the rural areas near Pretoria, the landlocked deserts of KwaZulu-Natal, and near the Indian Ocean at Richards Bay.

I arrived at my current site in KZN’s Amajuba District on October 26thright when South Africa  starts to slow down for the holidays, making integration challenging. With that said, this community has been so welcoming and kind. The organization is managed by an altruistic Swazi man, who has worked all over Amajuba. My new role is more of a capacity builder as the first PCV for the organization (and currently the only one in the entire district), and I work closely with district and local government branches. Currently my main task has been conducting yet another community needs assessment, as South Africa’s HIV program funding is dramatically changing. There are still a few focus groups to conduct, but hopefully the final report will be complete by the end of January 2016. Due to the timing of the site change, traveling was not in the cards for the holiday break and I closed the year at site supporting the receptionist at the local clinic. The 3 weeks at the clinic provided me with an appreciation for the challenges of health care access in rural South Africa as well as invaluable isiZulu practice!

Despite the challenges, 2015 was not completely immersed in emotional intensity. There were many fun aspects of this South African adventure from participating in my cohort’s flash mobs, seeing Trevor Noah live, having South Africa’s current boy band craze give an impromptu performance  at my municipality’s world AIDS Day event, and celebrating Thanksgiving with the education volunteers. A professional highlight was co-facilitating a workshop in June on health prejudice within the PCV community and how we inadvertently may spread those misperceptions in our communities for PCSA’s All Volunteer Conference. During my site change I also had the chance to brainstorm with PCSA staff on how to better support site-less PCVs during their wait and I look forward to continuing those conversations. Finally, sharing the athletically pleasing aspects and challenges of service here on Eish has been a rewarding form of writing practice. I did not anticipate people outside of my family and friends to read the blog but in 2015 PCVs serving in other countries started to read my thoughts. The cultural insight exchange has been fascinating and I am excited to continue these interactions in 2016.

Hopefully 2016 will not be as eventful in terms of Peace Corps Logistics and most of my time will be spent in Amajuba learning from my community, possibly implementing projects. 2016 is also my window for international travel and hosting potential visitors. Regardless of what the year has in store, I know there will be invaluable field experience to gain in global health. South Africa is frustrating at times, but I feel fulfilled collaborating with the community to address health concerns now.

My current plan is to finish service and embrace South Africa until I leave (life willing) in March 2017. In the meantime feel free to contact me via e-mail, always welcomed blog comments, or through LinkedIn.

Wishing everyone loved ones a happy and healthy 2016 from South Africa,


I Can Have my Mail (Back)and Read it Too!

Sanibonani loved ones,

After 1 month of waiting for an opening, and 1 month after purchasing access, I finally have the all clear to share the new mailing address! I updated the contact page to reflect my triumphant return to snail mail capabilities!

This development is brought to you by Peace Corps South Africa and Mr. Swazi.

PCSA: We give you supervisors who will go up to bat for you.

Mr. Swazi:  I make 2 month bureaucratic gridlock vanish in 30 seconds thanks to cultural knowledge.

Casa de Izilokazane



Ngiyabonga khakulu/Thanks a lot for the kind feedback on my last post! I hope y’all enjoy my future contributions for the Blogging Abroad Boot Camp  Challenge for early 2016. This entry’s prompt: home (aka where I reside and type most of my observations on South African Life). Special thanks to Blogging Abroad for the task and a much needed excuse for me to clean the house!

Round up link will be posted here when received.

Side note: Here is the page of my place code words with an explanation why I use them.

Casa de Izilokazane

“Our Slice of Heaven in Rural Amajuba”


Located in beautiful Schnizeland Municipality, Casa de Izilokazane provides an authentic amaZulu cultural experience. The building is part of a traditional amaZulu compound, directly across from a rondavel where the ancestors protect the property.

Under Schintzeland’s spacious skies that provide views of infamous Majuba Hill on clear days and equally stunning night time displays of the Southern Hemisphere constellations, we guarantee your stay at Casa de Izilokazane will provide you with an appreciation of why “Zulu” translates to heavens.


This two room residence consists of a bedroom and living space with bathroom and kitchen amenities. The Bedroom has a double sized bed and a wardrobe. Wide windows in both rooms provide plenty of natural light. Casa de Izilokazane is lucky to have an effective security system through the neighborhood watch and a gracious host family in an altruistic community. We also have aesthetically pleasing burglar bars that maintain peace of mind.



Front door with a peek of the rondavel. These adorable spirals were worth the extra 2 week wait in Pretoria to ensure they would be installed properly!


Our state of the art kitchen consists of a borrowed refrigerator, pantry, and minimal kitchen utensils. At the moment Casa de Izilokazane is receiving a much needed electrical system update and the hot plate stove and hot water kettle are currently out of commission. The kitchen equipped with an oven on the main compound is accessible upon request. Guests have unfettered access to the accumulated library of South African Cooking Magazines, which fuel the host’s Rainbow Nation cooking adventures.


An eclectic kitchen: dishes, refrigerator, water buckets and the sink with the PC water filter



The pantry next to the bedroom door

Running water is available through a tap, 10 meters from the doorstep. In the event the water supply is interrupted during your stay, the host stores extra water. Even though hot water is not available at the moment, frigid baths are quite reinvigorating in the Amajuba Summer. All water consumed at Casa de Izilokazane, goes through the Peace Corps initiated gravity fed water filter which also doubles as the faucet for the sink.


Latrine at the edge of the compound (left to the to the family garden) and tap in the foreground.

The facility provides complimentary access to a large bathing tub, buckets, and toiletries. Toilet facilities are a comfortable western toilet on a pour flush system located at the edge of a property (all guests will receive an orientation on how to operate the toilet at registration).There is also a nocturnal bucket provided for your safety and convenience.


Buckets upon buckets: 1/3 of Casa de Izilokazane’s simple plumbing system

Nature provides our heating and cooling systems. It also serves as our reliable alarm clock with our on-site, reluctant, bird sanctuary and resident chickens. On warm nights, guests may be lulled to sleep by melodic frogs croaking at their habitat (a nearby dam).


Internet: Minimal internet access is available upon request (depending on the signal’s level of corporation at the time of your need.)

Grocery Stores and Petrol Station: There is a China shop and Shell Petrol staons about 3000 meters away from the house that address basic needs. For special food requests, Duke City contains several branches of South Africa’s upscale grocery stores less than an hour away.

Transport: Casa de Izilokazane is a convenient 2000 meters from minibus ranks to Schnizteland, Duke City, and Scotland.

Conference Facilities: A community HIV-focused organization located 500 meters from the premises provides a professional meeting space. Brief volunteer shadowing opportunities at the organization and local clinic may be feasible depending on the time of year. Ask your host (the full time volunteer) for more information.

Potential Cultural Excursions:


The Unsupervised Livestock of Amajuba as seen from the solar powered laundry facility

  • Wildlife Viewing of the Unsupervised Livestock of Amajuba
  • Minibus Taxi Rides
  • KZN Battlefield Tours
  • Hikes in the Central and Northern Drakensburg

2016 rate includes: opportunities to witness a brand new Peace Corps Site, be immersed in amaZulu Culture, and see a part of South Africa many tourists will not experience.

In other words: Priceless.

Casa de Izilokazane is a certified safe place for site-less PCVs to have a work experience and nighttime stop for PCVs traveling through the Battlefields region of KZN.*

*No certification exists in PCSA but I make myself a contact so the staff can offer another resource for site-less PCV stuck in Pretoria.

Behind the name: “Casa de ” is a nod to my New Mexican background but izilokazane translates to “small creatures”. It is the most appropriate isiZulu word to encompass my stubborn roommates: ants, spiders, mosquitos, centipedes,and the ever resilient iziyoni/birds. The current methods I have used have not encouraged a migration. Anyone who visits my place may possibly have an intimate bug or bird encounter.


Flashback to the time two birds got stuck in the bedroom. Yebo/Yes, this is the window right above my bed


Dear 10 Year Old Katey,

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015


This year I am trying something new for my writing practice…a blog challenge! This post is part of BloggingAbroad’s Blog Boot Camp challenge that commenced in January 2016.

This week’s prompt: My why (aka how we reached this 2.25 year South African extravaganza) . Final round up for prompt #1 is here!



It is me, in your early 20’s. I can quell at least a few of the anxieties in your head and say that you at least make it to 2016.

In 5th grade,  America is still reeling from the terrorist attacks that occurred a year ago.  In the aftermath of what happened, all Muslims became subject to America’s anxiety attack following 9/11. You started to become less naïve when you realized that your parents’ dear friends from the engineering circles practice Islam, but are not the terrorists you read about in the newspaper. In this spirit of this cultural exchange you learned from, you picked Egypt (where one of the family friends is from) for the 5th grade country report and tried to provide a picture of the Middle East beyond pyramids and terrorism.

It was a great learning experience talking to Mrs H. about her culture. For the final presentation, every child had to make a dish representing their profiled nation and create an international potluck. Since most of the 5th grade picked European countries, the table was piled with sugary carbohydrates like Swedish saffron buns and Russian Blitzes. Mrs. H. recommended a delicious dessert dish called Umm Ali, and it sat isolated with no 5th grader opting to try the unfamiliar dish. Ms. H. actually came for the final presentation, and you felt mortified when she saw the one non-European dish untouched. Your mom and Mrs. H. are adults with thick skin and took it well, while sharing motherly words of comfort as we dug into the Umm Ali. Their words kept you from having a yet another meltdown in front of Dennis Chavez Elementary over the Umm Ali incident, but even today as you still struggle to understand why people are afraid of what is different.

I am also writing to you at this age because it is one of the hardest periods into your life as bullying is intensified and you feel overwhelmed by your senses 24/7. In a couple of months you will become aware of a complex word called autism and that it defines your behavior. All you need to know now is autism describes how your brain works and helps explains why you act differently than all the other kids. Your classmates do not delight over your enthusiasm for maps, history, and geography. This and being extremely sensitive (emotionally and physically) makes being autistic hard sometimes but there are great parts of being on the spectrum. Like how you volunteer for others in Albuquerque, and gain social cues from interacting with adults who are patient enough to communicate with you. The same passion for learning about other cultures that propelled you through geography bees, provides great opportunities in the future.

All the countries you will experience, were feasible options not from a “places to see before you die list” that provided authentic cultural experiences. At the age of 14, you receive the opportunity to travel abroad and see how books are limited in their ability to make cultures come alive. The trip to Australia and New Zealand leaves you with a permanent love for travel, pull towards the Southern Hemisphere, and willingness to take any international opportunity. The next chances come in college, where you joined a group that teamed up with communities in Ecuador and Nicaragua for 3 summers building toilets and water systems. The communities you worked with gave you a more authentic cultural experience and sustainable global health became your career focus. In order to make sure that this career is what you want, you venture off the beaten path for study abroad and choose Botswana for its global health perspective. The semester experience also provided you your first public blogging experience, to introduce Americans to Africa via a country where people thrive beyond Safari stereotypes.  Even though the 5th grade despised your country commentary, you learn that people actually appreciate what an autistic, New Mexican, woman with an interest in global health perceives in adventures abroad.

That brings me to now, you actually become a PCV in the arguably easiest country for Americans to identify on the African continent because of the English Name. However South Africa is the target of many damaging misperceptions from abroad. Just as your 5th grade class refused to try the Umm Ali, some people refuse to look past South Africa’s health problems, and history of ethnic conflict. As the amaZulu people who host you prove, South Africa is a beautifully complex nation that has persevered beyond the crippling effects of Apartheid rule and the HIV Epidemic. It is impossible to be bored here as the diverse cultural landscape forces you to reevaluate your perspectives and there is always something new to learn from Rainbow Nation cuisine to how the amaZulu protect their homesteads from violent storms. In Peace Corps, sharing your experiences abroad is part of the job criteria. Through Eish, you simultaneously attempt to share a more balanced view of South Africa and break stereotypes as a PCV with permanent mental health needs. It is far from easy but the challenge makes you feel so alive.

Right now, you are simply trying to survive and cannot picture leaving Albuquerque. The thought of Peace Corps feels so overwhelming and when you learned that you were autistic, international experiences seemed unlikely. Even in college after serving on several rural international development projects, an older couple who served in Mongolia will graciously complement you with those words, “You should consider the Peace Corps,” and you will still table the thought. An autistic woman would not be an easy applicant for the Peace Corps, and it takes a site visit in South Africa during your semester abroad to realize that this is an experience you really want. The journey to get an invitation and maintain a fulfilling Peace Corps service is emotionally intense, but absolutely worth the tears. The chance to participate in a community and collaborate on ways to address their problems for 2 years, is a rare and humbling learning experience. I ask you not to rule Peace Corps as impossible because as your younger brother will say “…it suits you” because of your lifelong zest for service and international experiences. This zest also fuels your daring career focus in global health.

In the meantime, believe in your potential. There will always be doubt over people with mental health challenges’ ability to hold international jobs, but self-confidence speaks volumes. Also do not be intimidated by your diverse interests and desire to ask hard questions like, “why are people intimidated by other cultures and thus do not eat a delicious Egyptian take on dessert?” Your college, graduate school, future friends, and the Peace Corps recruiters appreciate your quirkiness, and it takes you places.


Hang in there, it gets much better.

All the best,

Katey-Red, PCV edition