Thursday, April 26, 2012
3 Months in Mzansi
26 April 2012,
Today marks 3 months since we arrived, jetlagged yet eager for work in Johannesburg, South Africa! People will say that time has flown by and although I agree, it still somehow feels like I’ve been here forever. Life at site is still trucking along and I’ve identified quite a few potential projects to work on over the next two years I’m living here, which is good.
Overall, the CNA (Community Needs Assessment) is going well so far. I’ve been conducting various interviews and gathering information from various stakeholders in my community such as school principles, NGO directors, clinics, etc which has given me a good launch pad off of which I might be able to start a couple trial project ideas. My org is still wonderful, although the work pace/pace of life in general here takes a bit of getting used to! For those of you who know me well, you know I’ve always had trouble sitting in one place for extended periods of time. To my parents: thank you for soccer camp, and to my teachers: my utmost apologies! In any case, an average workday involves much of this “idling” behaviour that I’ve so adamantly avoided and thus makes frustration on my part very difficult to avoid. I’m trying to remind myself of culture differences though. The last thing I want to do is to offend anyone with my antsyness, so I just sit tight and wait. However, one speck of silver lining should be mentioned: In recent days my apparently incomprehensible supply of energy has begun to illicit not the usual laughter and teasing from my colleagues, but requests for me to help them get in shape! “Pebetse, I eat too much pap! Let us exercise first!” We’ve begun doing some simple stretches and calisthenics in the mornings sometimes, and they just love it! Perhaps this marks the beginning of a discovery on my part. Maybe here in Africa, what at first glance appears as a dark mud of frustration is, in fact, the richest soil of opportunity.
Language is not coming along as quickly as I would desire ideally because English is very prominent in my community. Not to say that people speak English to each other or in business settings, but they know it well enough to speak it to me out of courtesy. It’s lovely that they’re making the effort to communicate and it really is helpful while I’m attempting to garner information on various community functions and establishments, but it really handicaps me and cuts me off severely from the social aspects of life here in Mohlarekoma. I bug people to speak to me in Sotho so that I can learn, but it is hard when they know that things will just be easier and less patience will be required on both our parts if English is spoken. Such a catch-22!
In other news, as many of you will have seen or heard, I’ve adopted a kitten! His name is Maka, which means “Lion” in Sotho and I found him abandoned by his mother in a bush in the front drive of my family’s compound. He was just a tiny nugget (about 4 weeks we think) when I found him, but is now going on around 7 weeks and has successfully made the transition from warm milk to solid food, which he loves a little too much I think. This kitten will break the bank for me I swear! If only he weren’t so cute :) He has been nice company though these past couple weeks though. Life here can get a little down at times, and it’s nice to have a little fuzzball to come home to every once in a while.
(Explicit content to follow for those of you with vivid imaginations and weak stomachs!)
This weekend is a five-day holiday to honor, well, I’m not sure anyone knows..Freedom Day I’m told? In any case, it means that people get 5 days off of work and school so needless to say they are excited and ready to party as only South Africans know how! Yesterday, I found myself helping to boil, de-feather, and butcher about six whole chickens in preparation for such festivities. It was crazy! I learned that before you cook a chicken head, but after it’s been decapitated and de-plumed the tongue must be cut out, and when you slice a female bird’s belly open from neck to stubby tail, you’ll more often than not find a bunch of (guess it..) EGGS waiting for you inside! It’s like a morbid little Easter basket! It was a great experience to have, both culturally and biologically although my jeans and hoodie sweatshirt experienced some major casualties during the process. Needless to say I’ll be doing an extravagant load of laundry today!
That’s about it for now, I’m heading up to Polokwane (the Capital of Limpopo) next weekend for a Peace Corps Limpopo conference where I’ll meet up with other PCVs from around the province to share skills, ideas, and experiences. Should be a fun time and a very welcome “break” from village life!
P.S. Just to clear up my two facebook “identities”: People from my village have been asking to be my friend on facebook and so I decided that with respect for “professionalism” here at site, I would create a new page that excludes me doing anything that might be interpreted as, well,“less than savory” :) . This new page (Alyssa Pebetse Bonini) is where I plan to be uploading pictures taken on my phone, status updates, more albums, etc!