Finetastic Adventures

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our Second November in Peace Corps

Even though we missed celebrating Thanksgiving - again- with family and friends back in the U.S., there is much for us to be grateful for.  In the past month there have been close, scary calls on two separate occasions involving Peace Corps.  The first was a coombie (public taxi) accident involving two PCVs whom we see quite frequently.  Their  villages are not far from here.  There were fatalities in the other vehicle, but we are thankful that our two friends escaped with relatively minor injuries.  The emotional trauma is probably the most lasting effect; in fact, it prevented one of them from coming here for a Thanksgiving meal on the weekend following Thanksgiving.  Friday and Saturday were heavy rains and made the roads treacherous.  The other incident is very frightening; one of the PC drivers was carjacked at gunpoint(actually 6 guns).   He was extremely lucky to escape with his life, and we are just so thankful he did.

We were able to celebrate the actual holiday in Pretoria at the Ambassador's house.  All PCVs, along with some other Americans here (visiting friends and Marines) were invited for Thursday afternoon.  We were treated to a full-course, home-made dinner with all the trimmings, plus a fully stocked bar.  But the most surprising part was that the Ambassador and his wife waited on us; they were gracious hosts.  About 30 PCVs attended and we all stuffed ourselves til in pain; then we had to dance.  It was a great day.  We celebrated again here on Saturday with neighboring PCVs and other friends.  The rains forced us to change the venue from our house to a friend's, but it was another awesome meal and enjoyable evening.  (We needed to use our porch to have room for everyone here, but it was too wet.)

Speaking of rains, at times now I feel like we are living in a different country than last year at this time.  You'll probably remember how we waited many months for rain; well, now we are waiting for it to stop!  Apparently, neither is normal.  But we are looking forward to a day without rain, which I never thought would happen.  Though I must say the electrical storms have been amazing. And, we have grass that we didn't even know we had!

As for my projects, I am very excited about a new one that is just beginning.  Beth is a good friend of ours who is lecturing at the University of Limpopo nearby; she is here on a US State Dept grant and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Eastern Europe a few years ago.  She got a grant to start a reading room in an orphanage; she approached me about placing it in our children's shelter.  I was thrilled when our director agreed to accept.  In the last couple of weeks I sent in a proposal for free children's books in native South African languages, which was just approved!  And Beth and I are beginning to prepare the room that we chose for the library.  On Monday we bought the paint and supplies and plan to paint it one day this week, then our organization's woodwork instructor will install a ceiling.  Next will come lighting, rugs, bookshelves, bean bag chairs, and books.  When we met with the children they were very excited about having a quiet, comfortable space where they can study and read.  The older children will also help with the preparation of the room, thereby fostering ownership of it, which will hopefully help prevent their abusing the room and its books.  I am very excited about this project for several reasons.  First of all, the children have no books, other than their schoolbooks, and they are never read to or encouraged to read. Secondly, they have no nice, quiet space in which to retreat.  And lastly, giving to the organization in this way I am in control of where the money is going; just handing them a check, even if meant for a library, doesn't guarantee that it will happen.  We hope to have the room finished not long after the beginning of the school year in January.  But this being South Africa, I am prepared for it to be delayed.  But with Beth in control, it won't be by much.  She and I are planning to then spend time reading and studying with the kids in their new library.

I am also staying a bit busy as co-coordinator of the PC Longtom committee.  In late March the Longtom Marathon (though it's actually only an ultra and a half marathon) takes place over the Longtom Pass in Mpumalanga. I am sure I wrote about our participation in the half marathon in our blog this past March or April. In future blogs, I'll talk more about KLM Foundation and Longtom, but I am excited about helping to raise funds for KLM and organizing the weekend for about 50 PCVs.  I just submitted an article for the next PC monthly newsletter, and on Sunday I will attend the In-Service Training of the group who just arrived so I can talk up the event and register them.

But the most exciting thing right now is that Alyssa and her boyfriend will be arriving from Mauritius in a few days!  Friday, Nov 30 is the last day of our school year, which means our

clients go home until Jan 9.  So we have plans to go to Botswana and northern Limpopo with Alyssa and Laval.  Their last week here they'll do some day trips on their own while Dave and I work.  To have them with us for 3 weeks will be incredible.  I believe if we counted the weeks spent with Alyssa since we've been here, they would definitely add up to more than we've spent with her since she started college.  And what's great about these times together is that we truly are 'together', uninterrupted by her having to visit friends or studying.

We'll head out after they leave for a local trip with 3 other PCVs for the period of Xmas and New Year's, then return so we can help prepare for the return of our clients for the new school year. It's so hard to believe that 2008, our last year in Peace Corps and Africa, is right around the corner.  We'll be headed back to the U.S. before we know it.


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