Finetastic Adventures

Friday, October 20, 2006

Back to South Africa

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. Everything went very smoothly in Detroit. Many of Dave’s family came in for the funeral, several of them straight from DC where his uncle had died just the day before his dad. Though it was a sad occasion, it was nice to see relatives we hadn’t seen in so long. Larry flew in too, and it was great to spend a little quality time with him. Alyssa, of course, had just arrived in Mauritius so couldn’t be with us. Besides, she couldn’t have left the country anyway; she was illegal and without her passport was not allowed to leave. (She has since gotten it back and is once again legal, yeah! Check her blog for further details.) Our flights went smoothly and we were very happy to be ‘home’ once again in Polokwane.

When we arrived on Oct 14th, the streets were lined with the beautiful blooming jacarandas; they looked like a tunnel of purple. Our driveway into our plot in Polokwane is lined with these trees but they are behind in blooming due to the dry weather. Many of these in the city are watered, so we will just have to wait for our purple-lined driveway to welcome us home each day. It had not only been very dry while we were away for 2 weeks, but very windy. The combination of those conditions led to us finding our house piled with dust when we got home. We had left a couple of windows open just a crack, but I don’t think it would have mattered if we had sealed them shut. The dust gets everywhere. It’s impossible to keep up with it. And we have to keep our windows and door open when we are home so we can get some air. That vacuum cleaner stored in Milwaukee would sure come in handy over here! We also came home to not only several eggs on our porch, but to two chickens sitting on their eggs, and they’re still there, so I guess our family of poultry will be growing. Currently we have about a dozen chickens/roosters, two turkeys, five geese, and many goats that roam our compound. That’s not counting the animals in the main yard. Though the geese are loud we definitely like having them here; their job is to catch the snakes, and apparently they do a great job. I had forgotten how loud all the yard animals could get, especially at night. It didn’t take me long to grab my ear plugs; I haven’t slept one night in Africa without them! If it’s not the roosters crowing at all hours, it’s the dogs and the geese making music. At least the goats are comparatively quiet. Having the animals makes for easy garbage disposal; the geese even poke around in the trash fires while the flames are licking around them. Almost daily the trash is burned in a pile in the yard; that’s where we were told to take our trash when we moved in. So here is something else in common with living in the rural village, along with the animals roaming and making noise day and night. But here the prevailing wind blows the smoke and ash right to our house, where of course all the windows and door are open. Phew!

Our house, other than the dust, was just as we had left it at the end of September. We were so glad we had been able to get almost everything organized before we had to leave in a rush. It’s very comfortable now. We had bought a new refrigerator to replace the one left here that didn’t work. And we bought one of the very popular ovens with 2 burners on top. (We have since learned that we can’t bake and cook on the stovetop at the same time, and that it takes the burners a long time to heat, so even boiling water takes forever, which just means we have to plan much further ahead of time when we want to eat.) We had cleaned and rearranged the furniture, so that our kitchen is now in the front part of the lounge/kitchen. We have the TV that was left behind, and we get all three SABC channels, though one only in b&w. So we are just thrilled with our new abode, especially when we hear about some of our counterparts who are living with no conveniences, or limited ones. The other Milwaukeean in our group, Steph, has to walk ten minutes for water, according to her mother. And we know of others in similar circumstances; many have no indoor toilet or only cold water. We are so fortunate to have a flusher and hot water in our tub. One weird thing is the cold water tap in our kitchen/lounge. It just sticks out from the wall, with no sink. So we use it for filling the kettle and such. Since it’s above the TV, we have to be careful, though, not to let it drip! We have two very small sleeping rooms, which I have mentioned before. As Dave likes to describe the size of our house, it’s about the size of about 7 king size beds pushed together. We guess that because right now we have 2 single beds side by side in our sleeping room and they take up about 90% of the floor space. Getting around the bed/s is tricky; we are planning on getting a standard double bed soon, so we’ll have room for a small table and lamp with which to read at night.

Our first workday was Monday, the 16th. We were looking forward to going in, not only to get started on our projects, but to being in the township with the residents and volunteers at the adult center. Almost just as exciting was the thought of going to our mailbox. We had rented it on the first of September, and now, six weeks later, we were finally going to retrieve our pile of mail. We imagined it being so big that we couldn’t read it all in one sitting. OK, that’s probably a dream, but we had been so deprived of mail during training (thanks Alyssa for keeping us from being totally without) that we were ecstatic at the thought. Imagine our disappointment and anger too, when we were told that our box had never been opened. All the mail that came had been returned to sender. The postal clerk remembered seeing our mail, but apparently didn’t bother to check on the status of the box. Six weeks of mail, all gone!!! One lonely sympathy card had arrived yesterday and not yet been returned. We know there were others, and I know for sure my sister had written weeks ago. So, for those of you who had written us prior to about the 10th of October, we hope you’ll write again. And let us know that you did so we can at least imagine your letters. Argh, another South African lesson in patience and flexibility. The one positive way to look at this: we can still imagine that big pile of mail that was returned, even if in reality there were only a handful of letters.

It’s now very warm here, and it’s still not yet summer. The oscillating fan is definitely the next purchase. When cooking dinner on Tuesday night, using the oven and one burner, we had to sit outside until it was done; it was just too hot inside and the room isn’t big enough to escape the heat.

There’s still much to tell, but it’ll wait til the next blog. Til then, please write. We hope to have email access in the next week or so; we’ve made the first decision on our job and that’s which internet service to use (much more complicated than in the US). Until that’s contracted, we’ll still be using the internet café, with very limited time. But our PO box is now open, so you can snail mail us!! Happy writing!


  • Great to read your update - now I guess it's time to "settle in" to the routine of living rural SA life! I don't have your snail mail address - can you post it again??
    miss you! love, gigi

    By Anonymous gigi, at 3:51 PM  

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