I interrupt your day of tweeting Tweets and taking selfies to share this breaking story: after months of deliberation, community meetings with traditional leaders, and a new power station that ended up like bread set to level 7 on the toaster, electricity has officially arrived in my village! DundunDUN. While the poles and wires began disrupting the panoramic view months ago (starting last August, I believe), they remained stolid, taunting statues until the first spark surged through on Valentine’s Day – how unromantic that was: the one day you want a candlelit bucket bath with your pookie!
I tell you, it was quite the day when we received connection here at the Ndlovu residence: Mama ululating nonstop, Baba quietly surveying the scene and grinning (that man has certainly seen some major changes during his 7+ decades in the village), and my brothers talking about all the soccer and action movies they were going to watch now. In my post last year about the potential of electricity, I outlined reasons of excitement and concern regarding its implementation in the rural areas. It’s only been a month since electricity arrived here but I can already see hints of the benefits and of the drawbacks that I assumed I would encounter, especially concerning television…
All of my brothers (there are now three living here) have improved in English. As an expectation I had, it’s one that I’m happy to see coming to fruition. Their frame of reference and context is expanding (think about your first time watching a weather report, a history show, your president speak) and their vocabulary is growing (Zweli now calls his lady interest his “sweetie pie” – he certainly didn’t get that idiom from my class last year!). Even Thabiso, in grade 1
and continuing to write his name backwards, repeats English that he hears on TV – now don’t think I make the mistake of calling this ‘learning,’ but as time goes on I’m sure he’ll use word to image association to, indeed, learn more English. It’s been really fun to stumble into teaching opportunities that begin with, “Thandeka, I see this on TV, and I remember it from class, but what does it mean…” and end with, “OH! I understand now!”
The drawbacks I’ve seen so far haven’t been as obvious as the benefits but, of course, the drawbacks I predicted will take a bit of time to take root and reveal themselves. The main thing I’ve noticed is what I refer to as the Zombie Toddlers club, which is exactly what it sounds like. When they can’t have her undivided attention, Mama tells the kids to
“Hamba hlala phansi nobuka iTV” (go sit down and watch TV). And, really, who can blame her? There’s washing, hanging, ironing, folding, sweeping, mopping, polishing, cooking, and cleaning to do…I sure as hell would use the TV as a babysitter too – wouldn’t you? Thus, pertaining to the younger children, I’ve noticed less playing outside in my yard (though I’m both surprised and pleased to say that adolescent Zweli and his friends really aren’t glued to the TV as much as I thought they’d be). Whenever Thabiso asks to play soccer, I’m always gung-ho for it, trying to keep his adoration for activity alive. Although it’s quieter around my house, allowing for more uninterrupted reading and such, I’d trade that in a heartbeat for kids laughing their heads off and acquiring dirty knees and scraped elbows. Electricity is so young here that it still has novelty, so these are only the initial hints of change that I’ve noticed; I’m sure much more is to come in the following months.
I doubt many of you know this, mainly because the actual number of people keeping tabs on me is probably less than I conjure up in my mind (wait, so there won’t be a red carpet as I descend from my re-entry airplane?), but I have recently simplified my life even more. A couple weeks ago I deactivated from Facebook and deleted all of my laptop’s movies and TV shows. I did it for a couple reasons: I only have about six months left in the village and, frankly, I was spending too much time staring at screens and not
enough time using my other four senses. I want to spend my last stint here a bit more basic, trying to emulate just a fraction of my neighbours’ lives (minus the fact that they now watch more TV than I do!). It’s revealing to have to make your own entertainment. It’s what’s meant to be – as far as I know, none of us were born with PlayStations in our hands. My nighttime activities include hanging out with my family, reading, doing hand stands, watching how candles create and change shadows, drawing, or meditating. It’s been really great and I’ve hardly missed my media connections at all. Looks like this PCV found a wormhole to the ‘80s!
It seems I’ve traded my connectivity with social media, pop culture, and the goings on of the electronic world with my host family, and I am perfectly alright with it. As an ode to me, to yourself, to a huge portion of humankind today, and even to the hominids we once were, try going one evening without any electricity. Just try it; it’s really quite amazing, not to mention humbling. There’s one week remaining in Term 1 before the holiday so, before I head off to do silly things like a colour festival, I’ll write one more post that will sum up the quarter and also feature my little brother, Thabiso. If that doesn’t encourage you to come back, I don’t know what will! As always, you can sign up to receive email notifications for new posts. Until next time, enjoy a candlelit evening with me 😉