I compose this post with a casserole of emotions: pleasure in documenting the village and crèche development, satisfaction with my last couple weeks of school, and anticipation for my upcoming occupation change which includes the bittersweet necessity of moving away from my village and Zulu family. Yes, indeed, in 2012 I arrived to this quaint mountainside with a slew of conflicting emotions so it’s only appropriate that I depart from it in a similar fashion. I’ve heard that one should always leave a place before s/he is ready to (so that the resounding memories are positive ones). On 5 September I will do just that so we’ll see if the ol’ adage is true. But let’s not focus on my move quite yet; I think a couple of updates from my full throttle, adrenalin-seeking life are in order first…
The crèche development day occurred as expected on 9 August and it was quite a sight to behold. Taryn, the woman who’s been working with my Baba, pulled out all the stops and created a day that the locals will remember for quite awhile. I believe one long term goal of Peace Corps is to eventually not need a Peace Corps, so I enjoyed taking more or less of a backseat on this project and watching it grow due to the locals’ efforts, namely my Baba and the crèche mama Sizakele. To my surprise, the big day ended up including a combined 25 volunteers from health institutions in my area and the Boksburg Rotaract club from outside Johannesburg.
I was floored when I saw all of the donations they brought and I’m hopeful to see their longevity. The 32 children that attend the crèche daily now have a carpet to sit on, toys to play with, and hats to keep warm. The volunteer crew also brought posts, fencing, and seeds so that, once the rains come, a garden can be erected next to the crèche to provide better nutrition for the children’s meals. I was extremely pleased with the concise health lessons Taryn and her colleagues facilitated: how to detect early signs of disabilities in children, how to make a rehydration solution (the community members were gifted dual-ended spoons to easily measure the salt and sugar), and how to brush/floss teeth (accompanied by small toothpaste handouts). After lots of playing, the volunteers provided a generous lunch, which officially made it a true Zulu gathering. Before they left, I showed the donors my un-electrified home and whether their impression was amazement or disgust, they quietly hid it well. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the smiles on my community members’ faces, reuniting with Connie (another PCV that came to help), and the echoing feeling at the end of the day that, no matter how small or large, short term or sustainable, good had been done.
The execution of the development day meant that I only had four weeks remaining at school and in the community. During week two, I took a day off from school to shadow my Baba as he did his Community Caregiver responsibilities: we teamed up with his
employer (an AIDS clinic in our town) to do a couple home visits on the far side of my expansive village, about 15kms away. Last December, I commented on how stratified the term poverty can be, and those visits reaffirmed my thinking in an extreme way. We met a 14 year-old boy in grade 2 who wasn’t attending school due to a lack of trousers, many families whose closest water source is 3 kilometers away, and a disabled young lady in a wheelchair who had been raped and now has a child for whom she cannot provide adequate care. Witnessing all of that seriously revealed how varying the extremes of poverty can be, even just a few kilometers away. That evening, I saw the things in my family’s house and yard in a new light, and definitely did not curse the dryness of the yard tap or the sparseness of my food shelves. (Those people’s needs were documented and Baba’s clinic returned the following week to figure out a solid plan of action.)
School-wise, I’m writing this at the end of week three, so I can count the number of days I have left at my Peace Corps school on one hand (yikes – I’m glad you can’t hear me hyperventilating). During the portion of Term 3 that I’ve been here for, I’ve really loved how comfortable I am at school and how comfortable the school is with me. It’s not that
I’ve only now reached this point, but perhaps because my time here is drawing to a close, I’m more aware of the feeling. At school, I walk down the pathway with my coffee, learners joke with me (or we just giggle if English doesn’t work), they hand me their journals or homework, and everything is right – it’s a great feeling. I’m very content with how everything has come together towards the end…I’ve completed the World Map, the learners are single-handedly running the Library, I’m closing in on another GrassrootSoccer intervention, enjoying the daily banter with staff, and am removing my things from the school so that the next PCV comes into not my school, but her own school – yes, I found out it’s a woman! As all things must end, I’m coming to terms with leaving and my farewell function will be next week so that promises to not be dull or unemotional (especially since it’s the day before I move).
Where am I moving, you wonder? Why am I not coming home like I’m supposed to, you might ask? Well, I’m pleased to say that I have officially extended my Peace Corps service for another year, and I will be working for the David Rattray Foundation, the NGO that has made several appearances on this blog as well as on the support team for my school and myself the past two years. I’m moving to the DRF’s location a stone’s throw (or two or twelve hundred) from my village so, while I won’t be visiting my family as they bond with their new PCV daughter, I’ll still feel relatively close to them. For September and some of November, I’ll work alongside Jonelle, the PCV who’s currently serving there, before we officially handoff in late November. There seems to be a month missing in there…oh yes, October…I won’t be in South Africa then because I will be VISITING. THE. STATES. Get ready, southeastern USA!
I’m planning on sharing one more post next week before I move. Keep your eyes peeled for some “what I’ve learned from living in a village,” “what I’m happy to leave behind,” and “what I’m going to miss” types of things… Keep well, everyone, near and far.