Finetastic Adventures

Thursday, October 18, 2007

At Last – Pula e ana

At Last – Pula e ana

Yes, at long last the rain has finally fallen. As far as we can ascertain, by reading our journal plus talking to locals, we have basically had no rain since 2006. So you know how desperately it was needed. Though of course it's not enough; it needs to rain all summer. But I must say we were spoiled by having our clothes dry on the line in a couple of hours, even if they were hung dripping wet. (I gave up squeezing all the water out when I realized how fast the dry wind and sun would do the job.) And for the first time we had to dress appropriately when riding our bikes; plus we have to now learn where the muddiest spots are and which roads to avoid. What the rains also brought are the beautiful purple blossoms of the jacaranda trees; maybe this year our driveway will be lined as it should be.

Work has stayed basically the same since the last blog. The drop-in center for OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) is running fairly smoothly, two days a week after school. We currently have about 12 children who attend regularly. Though it was very upsetting a couple of weeks ago when I had to call the school principal to tell him we didn't have transport to fetch the kids that day. That was only half the truth; we also had no cash on hand to buy food for them that day. I think they enjoy coming here; we do feed them a good meal, talk to them about school, play soccer or dance. I do wish there was schoolwork to help them with, but most of the schools here give little to no homework. I have spent some time with the older girls on English conversation; that's something I can easily continue. And soon I hope to be able to get some games and toys for them.

At the same time Dave is busy with other projects, some of them secondary to our NGO. He is training several co-workers on the computer, primarily teaching them Excel. He has designed a brochure for the NGO and is working on the job-placement program for our clients. Secondary projects include reaching out to the community in order to improve bicycling and another is supporting startup businesses. These are both still in the development phase as he waits to hear from his sponsors; right now things look positive.

The newest group of Peace Corps volunteers has sworn in and is at site. We had been expecting to have someone located just outside Polokwane, but that didn't happen. So now that the SA 14s have left, we are the only ones here. Our closest new PCV is about 20 Km away, and another couple our age is about 35 Km away. So we will definitely get to see them. Since they are on travel restriction for their first 3 months Polokwane is as far as they are allowed to travel. We have met them in town to show them around and helped them to buy cell phones. This weekend 3 of them will be visiting; Saturday is the final game of the Rugby World Cup with South Africa against UK, so we'll be watching that (and hoping that our TV reception will be decent enough to distinguish the two teams).

School was on break the last week of September, so our NGO was also closed. We took advantage of the time off to travel a bit. First we attended the swearing-in ceremony and tenth anniversary celebration of PC in South Africa. This was a terrific gathering of many of the PCVs and staff held in Pretoria on the grounds of the home of the US ambassador. We left from there with Sbu and Sarah, two young PCVs in the education sector. For the next 9 days we drove over 4000 Km down through the Northern Cape province. Our destination was Springbok in Namaqualand. In springtime this desert is filled with a spectacular flower display. We arrived at the tail end of the season, but we were able to find many stretches of desert in bloom, filled with many different colors and types of flowers. It really was beautiful. We all wondered how it must look in its prime since we were awed by this meager display. The one advantage of missing the peak was that we also missed the crowds. We came home via Augrabies National Park/Waterfall and Kimberley, home to DeBeers the Big Hole (diamond mine, the largest hand-dug hole in the world), and also home to a new and interesting museum. In the area are a few sites/caves with San rock art paintings and engravings, which we really enjoyed.

The Saturday we got home we found out that our supervisor's husband had bought a new car. In the African tradition, we were told, it's important that the family share its fortune by inviting members of the extended family and close friends to join in a meal. So we were invited to come that night for a braai (bbq). Even if there is not much food, it's imperative that everyone gets a small piece, thereby sharing in this good fortune. Of course, as with every other event we have ever attended, the event cannot start without a prayer session. And the prayer session of 90 minutes ended up being almost the entire evening; sharing in dinner only took the final few minutes. But it was the anointing of the car with the symbolic blood of Jesus that was a first for us. The depth of religion here is incredible; the missionaries have definitely done a good job.

Last week we attended our MST (mid service training); it's hard to believe we are on the home stretch. This time we didn't have to travel; the training was held in the township just outside Polokwane. So 30 of us NGO PCVs from four provinces gathered there for the week. Both of our APCD's (immediate supervisors) were recovering from surgery, so the Country Director facilitated it alone. It was fun to see other PCVs that we hadn't seen for a while, and we did have some good sessions. In particular we had a speaker who updated us on the national policies and practices concerning HIV/AIDS. Dave was excited that our lodge was close to the basketball courts; he and several of the guys were able to get into some good games with the locals almost every afternoon. We also hosted several PCVs at our little house, both on the weekend before and after the training. I never thought we could squeeze 6 extra people into this space! (And thank goodness for the terrific selection of DVDs we have been sent; there was something for everyone.)

Months ago Dave and I had approached Peace Corps about helping staff with site selection and development for incoming volunteers. From our own experience and that of fellow PCVs, it is clear that not enough time is spent on selection and preparation of sites. Even if the South Africa PC office is fully staffed (and it hasn't been for most of our service) there just isn't enough time for them to travel to every prospective site and spend adequate time evaluating it. Our proposal was to allow us veteran PCVs to assist in this process. Who better than a volunteer to help assess a site. As part of the pilot program after presenting our plan to the staff in Pretoria, Dave and I were asked to visit a local prospective NGO. We met with the supervisor twice and ultimately recommended that PC go forward with placement at her NGO; we were impressed with her objectives and plan. Plus, if she gets a PCV from the next group it would mean another neighboring volunteer for our last several months of service. But what is very exciting is that PC has agreed to move forward with this idea, taking our plan and enhancing it. It was presented at our MST so that others of our group can undertake the evaluation. The fact that it has been whole-heartedly accepted by the staff here makes us very proud. No matter what happens with our NGO, we know that at least we have accomplished this sustainable plan for Peace Corps. Our hope is that future volunteers may find their supervisor and co-workers ready for their arrival, thereby providing a more satisfying experience for both the volunteer and the NGO.


  • Sounds like you are both doing some great work in SA. You sound comfortable with your life there. I am wondering how life back in the USA will be for you when you return in a year. Or maybe you won't?? Take care, Rea

    By Blogger Rea, at 8:54 PM  

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