…and we’re back! This blog is almost caught up, y’all. Usually I’m not one to journal once too much time passes between me and an event so I’m pretty pumped that I was able to get that (lengthy) post about the Draks out there. Thanks for reading. So, moving on! After the epic pre-holidays hike (where my camera ran out of battery and I realized that I left the charger at site), it became time to celebrate Christmas and the New Year…
At a charity bike ride back in September (on a game reserve with giraffes!), my good friend Katie and I met a lovely and selfless woman that we were able to see again in December. I knew that this woman, Sheila, would be my soul mate of sorts when I saw her on the side of the trail, foregoing cycling for gathering up abandoned and beautifully rusted, vintage cups to use as decor. (At this point in the race, I could be located in the sweeper truck because the bike I borrowed was too big for me to operate after a while…remember how my shopping town, if mispronounced, means “vagina”? Yes, indeed; the coupling of my vertically-challenged moment and our proximity to the town has become quite the running joke.) Anyway, since my anatomy had recovered by December, Katie and I took Sheila up on her
generous offer of spending Christmas with her family on their dairy cow and rose farm in central KZN. It was absolutely lovely…we saw gorgeous rolling farmland, met hilarious people, and enjoyed a low key 25th with a true family – that fact alone made Christmas easier abroad. The large, open farm houses made me think of historical Georgia – this brought on an unexpected jolt of homesickness but it was quickly abated as we were introduced to new foods (please look up Bovril), people, and activities (including a Dirty Santa gift exchange and gathering/relocating frogs on the property). And here’s the kicker: we were even allowed to do laundry. I wish I could adequately explain how monumental this was. It was the first time our clothes had seen a spin-cycle since July in America! Potentially the best Christmas present ever (despite the fact that our clothes were finally back to their original sizes but, thanks to the IST buffet, our bodies weren’t. Woops). Katie and I aren’t nappers, per say, but we konked out all over that farm. We tried to validate ourselves by chalking it up to recovering from a “hiking hangover”, if you will.
So, refreshed in body, mind, and spirit, it became time to leave the farm and head to Durban, Sheila’s home and a large city on the east coast, gearing up to ring in the New Year. Sheila, Katie, and I migrated to the city and stayed at her flat for a night before we two PCVs moved on to our backpackers for the week. After dropping our stuff, Sheila drove us around for a quickie tour of Durban and then we all hobbled our way through a walk/run, making a pact that we three would be ready to kick ass at the bike race in 2013. I have finally joined the #1 cliché resolution of eating healthier and exercising more. Time, weather, and the Peace Corps’ stipend will tell. We had so much fun at Sheila’s apartment! She has hundreds of interesting books just begging to be pored over, Katie and I made a pasta dish passable for edible, we very sophisticatedly tasted (guzzled) wines from Sheila’s business, and we all may or may not have annihilated a carton of ice cream (it was still December so the whole resolution thing was not yet in place). Both on the farm and in Durban, having access to a fridge and freezer was unfathomably amazing. I will never take ice cubes for granted again…they seriously are little crystal squares of magic. So, again, after mooching off our dear Sheila, we said goodbye the next day and went to our first of two backpackers to meet up with other PCVs who had been in Durban for Christmas.
It was great to be back with a small group of fellow Volunteers. The juxtaposition of having rural-serving people in a big, shiny city was quite humorous…we gorged ourselves on hot food, icy drinks, private taxis, and restaurants that actually deliver to your little grabby hands, a concept that had slowly gone from normal in America to inconceivable in the village. Durban is a gorgeous city – abundant on energy, shoreline, and advertisements peppered in at least three languages. The area is mostly populated with Zulus, Indians, and white South Africans (usually of English or Afrikaaner descent). It was rather fascinating to walk around a Zulu artisan market, consume an English-born Cadbury chocolate bar, and hear the Muslim salat (call to prayer) all in one moment. Wuddup, culture? We all got one or several souvenirs (I splurged on those baggy, colour-blasted hippie pants; I’m sure you’ll catch a glimpse at some point) and vowed again and again that we’d be back to Durban; you can’t see it all at once. After spending a couple relaxing days at our first backpackers, visiting markets, botanical gardens, and the beach, we moved to our second place, one known for its exceptional prowess in partying: Tekweni Backpackers.
Their theme for New Years was The Rocky Horror Picture Show (not quite sure how a 1970s cult classic got over here, but it most certainly did), so we knew we were in for a crazy time. After a couple days of getting our feet wet, exploiting restaurant delivery boys, and growing close with the staff, New Year’s Eve was upon us. The night was decked out with twinkly lights, banners, limbo, men in drag, games of pool (I played my first game over here and learned that I’m rather horrific), being thrown into the
pool, glittery costumes, throbbing music, and a rather extensive bar tab. In the blink of an eye, it was 2013 (the first year in the 21st century to have four different digits – crazy, right?). The amount of fun that we had at Tekweni was unrivaled; it was really quite amazing to be with friends and celebrate a holiday together. It’s funny, now in my life, how much planning and perfect execution needs to happen in order to do that – to meet up with people and spend a celebration together. Times like our Durban excursion don’t come around too often during Peace Corps so we certainly made the most of it. So, hiking checked off, farmland checked off, and ringing in the New Year in a big ol’ city checked off, it was time for us to go our separate ways and return back to site.
We each made it back home safe and sound. I’m sure the others would agree, but I know I was quite happy to have some time to re-acclimate back to village life before launching into the school year. I’d had a month away with friends and accessibility, so returning to my isolated aqua abode sans electricity brought on some conflicting emotions. But as Peace Corps, and life in general, goes, you adjust simply because you can’t afford not to. It was truly amazing to see my Ndlovu family again – their smiles and
hugs were some of the warmest I’ve ever received. I’m back to reading, crafting, lesson planning, and cooking for one, so, as much as December felt good and familiar (strongly resembling my previous life in America), I morphed back into my new-ish “norm.” School officially starts on Wednesday, as does my teaching career. I have some ideas that I’m really excited about and will update you soon. I sincerely hope all is well with everyone out there. Big African hugs!
Getting Zulu-fied (these quotes are completely random but have been integral for me in transitioning back to site. Enjoy!):
– “I want you teach me English. I want teach you isiZulu.” (Siqoniseko)
– “A farm is like the farmer.” / “When you grow up, you need not forget to use the soil that you have.” (Baba)
– “Oh, you eat the funky jungle food.” (A fellow teacher, upon seeing food I brought for a snack)
– “That bird has a long ‘when dog is happy’.” (Zweli, commenting on a bird’s tail)
– “Thandeka is so cheeky.” / “My Thandeka looks like one of the children going to school!” / “Tell your parents I love them! You know why? Because they born my daughter.” (Mama)
– “If I see you I want to smile because your face has ful happy.” (from Nokubongwa’s journal)
… and now …