Sunday, March 9, 2014

Farewell, Sweet Africa

Well, the time has finally come for me to leave this beautiful continent. This afternoon I fly with my Mom across The Strait of Gibralter from Morocco to Paris.

I'm nervous.
What will I do without the passion and vibrance cultured by an intensity only offered by the African sun?  This is the only place where I've seen that such passion can be a negative and turn people against each other with a conviction I'd never before experienced. But such a raw and eclectic existence is such a source of beauty as well, and allows me to appreciate the intoxicating radiance in imperfection and the ability it has to illuminate unseen beauty in darkness.
But the time has come to return home, and although I do not know if my feet will ever again touch the red soil of the land I've grown to love so well, Africa will remain a part of me as I leave an aged piece of my heart behind in the place that taught me more about humanity in two years than I'd learned in a lifetime.

Here is my completed list of Absolute Truths, though this may change once I arrive home and things I've been taking for granted are brought to light:
*Always carry a litter bag and tissue paper.
*Clothes and baby life forms are much stronger, and much more resilient than given credit for.
* Keep your word, always.
*Be on time, always.
*Your community is a living organism. Pay attention to it.
*No matter how much of something there is, it's always enough to share.
*My heart is also your heart.
*Life is finite. Be kind. Be patient.

As I end this blog and begin a new chapter of my journey, I'd like to thank all of the friends, family and neighbors who shaped and changed my life over the past two years. You taught me life, you taught me death, you taught me patience, kindness, forgiveness, and hope. The list is too long and my nerves too shattered to name everyone in one fell swoop.  I will be seeing some of you within the coming weeks, and have left too many of you for the foreseeable future, but know that I love and cherish you all more than I have the words to express.

Stay well until we meet again.
Love Always,


Monday, February 17, 2014

Out Of The Village

Farewell Cards From Learners At Mmeshi
Well, I've officially moved away from Mohlarekoma.  On Saturday I said my final goodbyes and took my last taxi ride to Groblersdal to meet up with my friend Pieter who was kind enough to offer me a ride down from site to Pretoria with all of my stuff.  We drove back up to the village, loaded up my two bags and bucket water filter, and said goodbye to the best host family a girl could ask for.

 This past week was full of goodbyes, all of which went really well. On Friday as I was coming home from town where I was saying goodbye to my friend Yolande, I encountered a group of ladies running up the road in Mohlarekoma, lead by none other than Debrah Makola, my counterpart from the Community Garden and the Women's Health Retreat.  It was AMAZING to see! Some were in "gymming" clothes, some were in their traditional village attire, but all were trotting along up this hill, carrying towels and water bottles.  If that's not a perfect note on which to end my service, then I don't know what is!
Mohlarekoma's New Jogging Group Lead By Debrah! Go Limpopo Women's Health Retreat!

RIP Mugabe
In sadder news, Mugabe, my family's rambunctious puppy dog unfortunately passed away during the first week of January.  However, my farewell was lined with silver once again thanks to Pieter, when he agreed to sell one of his Jack Russel puppies to my family.  It was the biggest dog of the litter, and I think that he'll make it well up there!

New Puppy
Goodbyes happened in a bit of a blur, but the hardest one was at the very end when we stopped by Mashuana pre-school one last time to say one final farewell to Lesego and all the tiny tots.

My Favorite Little Nugget
While Pieter waited in the car, I went in and picked up Lesego who had been sleeping before, and was now smiling groggily up at me with his arms outstretched.  He snuggled into my shoulder as I said a 'sharp!' goodbye to the rest of the kids who came running and shouting "PebetsePebetsePebetse!!!" from their play room.  After about five-minutes I kissed Lesego goodbye one final time and handed him back off to one of the women who was working there.  I said thank you and goodbye, got back into the car with Pieter, and off we drove.

Is this real life???
I've been in Pretoria ever since, and yesterday Doreh, Kristen and I kicked off the official COS process by going to FNB and closing out our bank accounts. It's real now! Today we go to the office to close out our respective VAST grants, and tomorrow the medical portion of this endeavor begins.  All will be finished by Friday morning.

The weather is beautiful here, if a little bit on the warm side. Needless to say I'd much rather the weather be warm and sunny than cloudy during this transition period.  I can't believe next week is Morocco with my Mama!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Today began with a trek to Mmeshi Primary to say goodbye to the kids at their early morning assembly.  They sang, danced, and said thank you when I told them that the time has come for me to go home and that I will never be coming back.  Naturally, I hope this is false as I would LOVE to come back some day, but it seems cruel to jump the gun on that announcement at this point.  I was grateful that I was presented with the opportunity to say goodbye to all of the learners at once instead of having to repeat it over and over again to each individual class room.. I don’t know if I’d have been able to hold it together.

After assembly I met with the principal and the teacher with whom I ran the BIGs and littles program.  I brought the bin of books over from my place, and we spoke about the continuation of the program as I gave them the certificate template and vision/mission statements with directions on the project implementation process, should things need a jumpstart. I anticipate this will be the case.  There is a new teacher, Mr. Tau, this year, and he seems wonderful. Very enthusiastic and driven to improve the state of things at Mmeshi, which both I and Principal Macaba are overjoyed to see.  I spoke with both of them about the possibility for Mmeshi to receive more books, and gave them a list of domestic and international donation resources.  I’m actually very optimistic that the resources will, in fact, get utilized.  Mr. Macaba is genuinely a great Principal who cares deeply for his student’s wellbeing and success and is immensely supportive of them.  I don’t assume to know everything about the education system in South Africa but to my experience, Principals like this are very few and far between. Mohlarekoma is lucky. 

After Mmeshi I walked to visit with another phenomenal Principal at Makwe Secondary where I taught Life Orientation and held my Girls Club last year, to schedule my farewell.  I’ll go back on Friday before I leave to talk to them at their morning assembly.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning my room, drawing/designing craft paper handbags with kids, and accepting a steady stream of learners coming from Mmeshi with farewell cards that they had made at school that day.  Jessica came to say goodbye too.  “You mean you’re never coming back?” she asked.  I told her no, that it is time for me to go home, and she nodded as tears flowed silently down her cheeks. I gave her a hug and wished I could take her with me. She has grown so much in the past two years I’ve known her, transforming at least superficially from that scared, abused child knocking on my door at 11pm, into this tall, confident, ever kind young lady.  Her written and spoken English has improved immensely, and I’m very hopeful for her future.  My hope is that her community gives her the support she’ll need as she leaves Primary School in the next couple of years and heads to the minefield that is Secondary.


On Friday, I got up, went for a jog, then trekked to the office around 9:30.  When I got there, we had tea, then I accompanied Fency down the road to the salon so that she could get her hair touched up.  While she was in the chair, I got speaking with Rachel, one of the Ghanean women who works there and we decided that, while waiting for Fency, I’d get a manicure.  Long story and R80 (abt $7.50) later, I had neon pink and purple, metallic talons extending a good centimeter and a half off of my fingertips.  It was fabulous, and Fency almost died laughing.   

We booked it back to the office, and I found that the whole trip to the salon had been a clever diversion to get me out so that Lucy and the Caregivers could prepare a little farewell ceremony for me! We entered into the office and were greeted with song and dance, and I was promptly shoved into a chair of honor next to the snack table.  There were crisps, Simba, marshmallows, cold drink, and a chocolate cake that was coated with chopped peanuts.  “We know you love peanuts TOO MUCH, Pebetse!”, they said laughing.  It seems after two-years here, they really do know me!  Delicious.  We sang and danced all afternoon, and they gave me a Mandela tuku, a plastic rosary, and traditional shoes made out of recycled plastic bags by a women’s co-op Mano a Basadi down the road.

On Saturday, I woke up early and went with Kwapeng to Jane Furse to buy meat for the farewell braai that we were having with the family that day.  Pebetse, Manku, and her mother Renet were driving up from Bronkhorstspruit, and I decided to make Bolognese sauce for everyone to go with the braai meat and pap.  Yummm.  The night was wonderful.  I’m going to miss everyo
ne more than I can express.


 I spent early Sunday morning with my family, then said goodbye and went to Jane Furse to meet up with Ariana for lunch at Galito’s.  After lunch we walked up to the new Crossing Complex and met Colin at Mr. Price, where he was buying the first non-color blocking item of clothing I think I’ve ever seen him with.  Kudos to you, Nare!  After that, he took us to see the Leap School where he is now working and then over to his new house, whose architecture is so 50’s angular it reminds me of something out of an M.C. Etcher painting.  Awesome.

Today is Monday, and marks Day 5 until I leave Mohlarekoma.  In a moment here, I’m going to assembly at Mmeshi to tell the kids in one fell swoop that I’m going to be leaving, and never coming back.  Then I’ll go to Makwe and do the same. 


Thursday, February 6, 2014


Today I stayed in Mohlarekoma to attend a meeting I had scheduled with Mmeshi Primary to hand over the books we've been using for our B&L Program. Upon arrival though, I found that there was only one teacher present in the entire school, and that everyone else had "emergency" situations that had arisen, were "not feeling well", or "attending a memorial service". Naturally. For those of you who do not live in SA, know that this is not an uncommon scenario.  Children are often left unattended in their classrooms when their teachers fail to show up for "very valid and excusable reasons". This happens often. In Machipe, my host brother has no Social Sciences teacher at his Primary School, so the children sit unsupervised in their classrooms and read their SS books. When they can find a copy. It's a damn shame.
Passing on some clothing to the family!

Needless to say, the meeting was postponed.

I spent my unanticipated day off doing laundry and purging my room, dislodging cockroaches and brown recluse spiders from the nooks and crannies so that they do not make a surprise appearance when I unpack my life back home.  Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Wrapped up a very rough website for MHBC today with Fency. It looks pretty good for all it’s simplicity, and will be easy enough to update on the virus-riddled laptops that occupy the office.  One more thing to check off the list!

Tastes like lawnmower. Looove these!
Walked into the kitchen and found a severed cow head in a bag laying in a bowl on the floor again.  Mopane worm snacks today.  I’m not being sarcastic in the least when I say that I will miss this A LOT.
Oh hey cow..

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Today, as I was preparing my phone to give to my supervisor next week, I stumbled across a little blurb that I was inspired to write as was on the bus from Mossel Bay to Cape Town at the end of December.  It's still a pretty accurate description of how I'm feeling these days, so I thought I'd share it to mark 11 days until departure:

"I'm riding a bus now across Western Cape from Mossel Bay to Cape Town. This truly is a beautiful country. Maybe I'm feeling sentimental as I listen to my iPod and look out the window at towering, ancient mountains and the rolling hills that surround them. Maybe the light is too perfect on this blue sky day. Maybe I'm beginning to realize that my time here is coming to an end. But I think that for all it's troubles, South Africa may be the most beautiful country I've ever seen.  I think I may, in fact, love it here, and I know that this 'goodbye for now' will be heart wrenching."