Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keep Calm, And Carry On.

It has been an unforgivably long time since my last blog update, and for that I must apologize.  I have reached the point, in fact I fear it was reached weeks ago, in which so much time has passed that the amount of material left to be covered is overwhelming to the extent that I no longer know where to start.  But as this sentiment of dread is only guaranteed to get worse, allow me to sit here and try to ameliorate the situation.

Let me begin in the present:  Today is Sunday, October 28, 2012, or the end of Halloween weekend I am told, and I am allowing myself a lounge-around-the-hut kind of day to read and take catnaps with my kitten.  All in all, I’m excited about it.  I’m drinking a hot cup of Frisco instant coffee (sorry, no Stumptown here) and attempting to wake up at least a little bit so I can be a slug all day without actually being one.  We’ll see how my efforts pan out!

Yesterday I took a taxi into Groblersdal to print, sign, scan, and finally email my ballot to the Multnomah County elections office with just over one week until the deadline.  While I could rant about the perception of the circus that is American political dialogue from afar, this blog is NOT my soapbox, nor will I ever allow it to be. I am simply excited to have given the electoral system my two Rand cents yesterday, and can only hope that you all have done or will be doing the same.  For the main event a few of us PCVs stationed here in Limpopo will hopefully congregate in the province’s capital of Polokwane to stream the election live or find access to a TV that is safe and available to watch in the middle of the night.  Either way, cookies will be baked, beers will inevitably be had, and tensions will run high. 

Life in the village is flowing along just fine.  The past month has been rather tumultuous with extreme highs and even more terrific lows that we know are all just part of the package that results in a complete Peace Corps experience. Needless to say life goes on, and I’ve been attempting to busy myself with beginning and sustaining various projects in my community.  Two weeks ago I began my first Grassroots Soccer intervention with a group of older OVC from one of my organization’s drop-in centers and it is going as well as I think can be expected given my still minimal language ability and slow pace of village action.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar, Grassroots Soccer is this wonderful outreach program that uses soccer as a means of teaching HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention to youth.)  Since the counterpart that volunteered to accompany me to the September GRS training in Polokwane has now decided she has no time to help implement the program, I have been lucky enough to have identified a care giver at this particular drop-in center who has proven herself a godsend to my efforts here.  Her name is Betty and she has been beyond enthusiastic and capable as a GRS counterpart.  “I am learning about HIV too Pebetse!” she often exclaims as we review each module before practice.  As of now we have completed three out of eleven practices, and I can only hope that we are able to finish before the learners go on holiday break here in the coming months.

As some of you may or may not know (and now you WILL know!), World AIDS Day is fast approaching on 1 December.  I am working with my organization to try and rally community support for an outreach event that will take place on the day before, but progress is, as usual, abysmally slow.  You think you’re patient before you join PC, but the extent to which that assumption is tested is extraordinary!  “Slow and steady wins the race” I keep telling myself. “Slow and steady Alyssa”.  We’ll see at the end of next month if my mantra has been effective.  If not, hey, there’s always next year!

Another project I have recently begun to work tentatively on is a community library.  Unemployment is a huge problem here, and consequently perpetuates high levels of alcohol/drug abuse, unintended (teen) pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS prevalence.  I have become friends with a member of my host family who runs the shop located just across a clearing from the main house, and I will occasionally stop bye on my way home to say hi and catch up on village happenings (of which, admittedly, he lets on to very few).  Mostly, he moans about how boring life is.  “There is nothing to do here Pebetse! You must bring me a book next time you come okay? I am so bored I could die”.  As I began bringing him books from town on my occasional visits (Sizwe’s Test by Jonny Steinberg and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, to name a couple) I developed an idea that maybe if there was a library within walking distance, people would not only be less agonized by boredom but more importantly, less prone to engage in risky, destructive behavior.  Besides, with three schools in my village and a large adult population studying to get their Senior Secondary Certificate (the South African equivalent to a GED), a library could be just what doctor ordered. No pun intended.

That is my life wrapped up as concisely as I can manage at the moment, but never fear, this next month is full of birthdays, christenings, and Thanksgiving celebrations.  I will make sure to stay in touch and keep things up to date!


PS. I forgot to mention, at the beginning of the month a few other PCVs and myself were given the amazing opportunity to volunteer in Rustenberg at the Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup.  Since I am out of data, I’ve attached a link to the report on the event that was posted on the Peace Corps website.  Needless to say, the event was spectacular and moving, and I feel beyond privileged to have been able to take part!

At our Permagarden Workshop in September in Polokwane. Go double digging!

A member of Special Olympics Team Coite D'Ivoire.  New Nike/Puma ad? I think so.

The victorious Special Olympics Team South Africa!