Hanging out with some flies, candles, and my new French press(!) this evening; thought I’d shout a holler to the Internet machine. Today’s post will be just a few observations and anecdotes; no real structure (imagine that)…
I am well! I now have more food and water so that’s, you know, clutch. Last week I traveled to the jarringly beautiful Drakensburg Mountains to help facilitate a GrassrootSoccer camp. These camps use soccer as a catalyst to teach students about HIV (facts, risks, preventative methods, etc.). It was a really nice experience and I’m excited to do the 11-week program at my school sometime in the next two years.
The area that I went to has more visual diversity by way of skin color and background and it was quite strange to me. I could not stop staring at the white people – it was actually great insight in understanding why people stare at me all the time! Certain sights and stories were quite fatiguing, though. Some new Peace Corps friends told us about a few times when they’ve seen a group of people, mixed races, trying to catch a ride and how sometimes a white driver will slow down and, before driving off, give a white ride-seeker a little shrug of apology. As in, “I would pick you up, but…” It’s sad. South Africa has beautiful diversity and that, plus a strong historical hangover, can sometimes support tendencies of racial profiling. Personally, I’ve felt the divide as well. As much as I’d like, I will never blend in to a crowd of locals in my area so this will, naturally, always fetch me special attention. Many times I’ve been in a cluster of people vying for a ride home and as the taxi pulls up, someone will grab me, shoo people away from the front, and plop me down. It’s bittersweet – I desperately want to go home (just like everyone else) but sometimes it’s difficult to fully accept gestures of protection and hospitality. It’s guilt coated in glitter.
In my village, something big and wonderful has emerged from one small conversation I had! It’s been really neat to watch. First off: whenever you ask someone how they are, the robotic reply is usually, “I am fine.” (Side note: even if I say “Good morning” or “Hello” to learners, that is generally still the response. For now.) During Training in August, I visited a current PCV’s site and saw how he had taught his learners to say, “I am excellent”, “I am wonderful”, “I am fabulous”, etc. A couple weeks ago, on a walk home from school, I taught a few learners-turned-hikers some new adjectives that they could use in response to the common question at hand and that’s all I said to anyone about it. Within the next few days, other educators began using new replies and even village members too! Now people tell me they are “marvelous” and “terrific” and “beautiful” (credit goes to them for that one). Every time I hear their new phrases I, in turn, feel fabulous and terrific. It’s been really affirming to watch one small conversation turn into something village-wide. A little life lesson morsel, eh?
For posting readability, from now on I’m going to try to have concise snapshots of things that have happened – things I see or hear or experience and, for future reference, whether they’re affirming or discouraging, they’re reality. Reality at its realest. Here we go…
- When I heard about a charity mountain bike race from my friend, I asked him if people had to sign waivers before riding. He replied, “I think you’re letting your American show a bit.” I had to hand it to him – perhaps we are a little overprotective and cautious sometimes. Cheers to not overanalyzing decisions!
- One day, I was walking home from school and actually got a little ways alone (it’s nice and rare to just walk solo and think and breathe) but then my principal sent six boys to accompany me on the path. It was a nice gesture and, although slightly frustrating, in the end I’m thankful for the protection and safety. I’ve had to abandon some of my American-grown prideful independence and just roll with (most of) the punches.
- This morning I found myself trying to flush the pit toilet. That hadn’t happened before over here; I don’t know what got into me (or out of me) today.
- Earlier this week my secondary water tap went dry so I had to twala water from my tertiary tap source over the next hill. For a day or two, priorities were a bit rough. I eventually had to bathe in my laundry rinse water and drink my urine (kidding!). Can’t quite tell if I’m cleaner or dirtier…
Getting Zulu-fied (the punctuation used is to better demonstrate how the sentences were spoken)
- My principal is adorably kooky. She always seems to be slightly off-balance and/or have an integral button undone. The two common phrases that she says to me are: “Feel free!” and, “You will see!” They are endearing quotes but sometimes leave me a bit bewildered; like when I asked her from what point in the village should I get the taxi, she said, “Ah, you will see!” and then sauntered off. Every day is an entertaining puzzle that leaves me with my head a little cocked.
- Shoes are a big deal here. Keeping ‘em stylish, shiny, and clean is very important – I don’t think they could’ve chosen a more difficult garment with which to do so, but hey, I’m learning. So if someone comes to take you somewhere and they say, “Do you need to change your shoes before we go or it’s right?”, you enthusiastically say, “Why, yes, yes I do! Thank you so much for reminding me!” before scurrying off and rummaging.
- One day Baba walked up to me and said, “Thandeka, tomorrow you will go that side and shoot the people. They are excited!” I was terrified – I don’t want to be sent home yet! The next day I learned that “shooting” actually means taking photos. It makes sense.
- When one of my fellow educators learned that, as an American, I do indeed cook for myself, eat fish, clean and told her a bit about my life back home, she eventually said, “I thought America was just gold – gold covering everything!” Some bittersweet humor there.
- When I told my principal about the traditional dance event I went to last Sunday, she said, “Ah, my Thandeka. I see that you are! Penetrating. The community.” And she is, in fact, 100% correct! But…you know.
- My brother Zweli very sweetly told me that the New Years present he’s going to get me is another year here. I was glowing!
Alright, my mostly western world peeps, I’m off to start The Hunger Games. Don’t fully know what it’s about but the title sounds slightly applicable to me. (I jest.) Have a wonderful, terrific, marvelous, fantastic, fabulous day – I love you all!