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."

Monday, February 3, 2014


Apologies for the radio silence these past few days! On Friday I traveled down to Machipe to spend one final visit with my host family from PST.  It was glorious.  Everyone is doing well, and I’m amazed every time at how fast the kids are growing up! I’ve decided it is not allowed, but alas, my divine powers are not yet honed enough to keep them small forever. 

 Sello assisted me in killing my first chicken, and giggled along with my squeals as I timidly slashed the poor bird’s head off.  I’d have made a horrid executioner.
Monday morning rolled around and I was forced to leave the humid heat of my favorite village (sorry Mohlarekoma!) and come home where, thankfully, it was cool and breezy, which was a welcome relief. 

I’d talk about the goodbyes, but I’m not sure I can handle thinking about it yet. Not about the fact that I hope that everyone stays well, or about the fact that I’ll never see Gogo again. Nor about how much I hope that all of my little loves grow up big and strong and grounded enough to realize what’s important and make it out of the village and into adult lives that truly make them happy.  Nor about the fact that our communication will inevitably slow to a trickle as our worlds separate and the memories of the time we spent together become more and more distant.  I do hope I see them again: Ashma, Sello, Tebogo, Nthathile, Angie, and Jami, but I know it won’t be for a long, long time.

     And so the world spins on...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


  On my walk to work today, I got caught in a sudden downpour and was forced to sprint down the road to a vacant tin shack to take refuge until the storm subsided. This shack in particular is where one of my favorite vendors does business, and is almost a daily pit stop for me to pick up a banana and baggie of roasted peanuts that is my usual breakfast.  


After the rain stopped, I spent a soggy afternoon at the office and then walked back to Mohlarekoma (abt 4k) where I was met by the usual gaggle of kids waiting to draw. All in all, a pretty great day!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Some of you are privy to the fact that today began for me at roughly 02h45 this morning when I woke up for no particular reason and found myself unable to go back to sleep. Again. Given that the Land of Nod was nowhere on the horizon, I used the early morning hours to catch up on some emails and have a very exclusive dance party in my hut. So exclusive, in fact, that even writing about said dance party is a severe breach of my self-implemented confidentiality policy here in the village. Although I could probably walk around in a neon green spandex unitard here and nobody would think me any more out of the ordinary than usual.

Given my 4hrs of sleep between 2 days, I drifted through my day in a bit of a daze, which is a shame seeing as my days are numbered.  I’m feeling a little frantic and split these days. Like a dog who is having a hundred tennis balls chucked in every direction and is so excited by this rarity that he doesn’t know which one to go after.  With the end drawing near, I don’t want to waste one moment. I want to be everywhere at once and spend each second soaking up every aspect of life here, from the people, to the places, to the heat, to the stray dogs, and yes, even to the chickens I’ve been cursing for their cock-fighting antics since day one.  Needless to say I’m finding sleep difficult these days.  Sleep depravity is a currency I’m willing to deal in though, if it buys me more time to be conscious of where I am, and where I will be leaving indefinitely in the coming days.

Speaking of payoff, or something of the sort, I drifted home from the office today and found that a certain someone has recently revealed that he knows my name!  As I was in my room preparing drawing material for the kids who come by after school, I hear his usual rapping on the door, this time accompanied by something new: “Pebeh!” he calls. “Pebeh!”. Oh my god, I almost died. Little nugget is adorable, and far too smart for his own good. Look out world, boy genius is on his way!

Monday, January 27, 2014


So it turns out I've been a little overconfident in my steady counting abilities. BUT, problem rectified and today is truly day number 19 until I leave the village. It's official: the teens have begun! Hopefully I'll be able to handle the stress better than teen king Justin Bieber, who, I've been told, has recently taken a nosedive into the choppy waters of mug-shots, drugs, and DUIs. Because we're shocked every time this happens to a prodigal child who grows up being told they can wipe their ass with blank checks. Thankfully I've left my Lamborghini in Portland, but who knows! Perhaps I'll have one too many cups of sorghum beer at my farewell braai and drag-race a donkey cart down the road.

                                             (Miami vs. Mohlarekoma: Start your engines!)

In other news...

This weekend was hot and sunny, and I took advantage of the break in what has otherwise been a rainy few days to do my laundry.  On Saturday I went into town to meet up with a friend for coffee and girl time in the comfort of her lavishly air conditioned flat.  Even two years later and first world comforts are just as sweet every time. Ahhhh. All of the kids were back in the village as well for some family time (namely Ali, Tshitsadi, and Pebetse).  It was great as always to see them and we were able to touch base a little bit about my farewell shindig coming up next weekend. 

Lesego was having NONE of Ali's tomfoolery that day.

That's all for now, I'm off to the main house for Generations and tea!

Friday, January 24, 2014


Today I caught a lift to Phokwane with my host Uncle, Kwapeng and, after finishing up reporting the M&E data from our Retreat, went and bought a big bin for the children’s books I will be leaving with Mmeshi Primary School so that they can continue the ‘BIGs and littles’ Peer Mentorship Program in my absence. Either that or use them as the teachers see fit. Which, preferably will include them being read by learners. Here’s to hoping!

Good news as well: It’s looking like Mohlarekoma Home Based Care will be getting another PCV in March! This is very exciting, and I hope that whichever lucky SA29 who is placed here will do the best they can to help make the organization stronger, and will love and cherish their site as much as I’ve grown to.  Though I have no idea who this replacement will be, I hope to get in touch with them when I am smartphone-enabled back in the States so that I can help them out however I can and keep up with happenings in my host family. I also hope that they enjoy the copious glow in the dark stars that adorn the walls of their new home :)

Life keeps on moving forward!


Another boiling day on the ranch! I went out for a jog this morning, and was pleasantly surprised to see groups of small kids from Mmeshi Primary out there running my loop before school as well.  I think the principal is trying again to implement a phys ed. program this school year, and I hope that the kids keep it up as there was just an article published recently on how South African teens are becoming more and more sedentary.  

 One of the many things this experience has allowed me to think on and realize, is how grateful I am for the adults in my life who taught me how to take care of myself through physical activity. From my parents who supported me, signed me up for sports, paid for equipment, drove me to practices, tournaments, and games, and tolerated the sweaty, usually mud-covered, creature that would fling itself into the vehicles that they tried to keep clean.  Also for my teachers and coaches, who tolerated too much of my energy and taught me to direct it with a regimented skill set of drills and stretches that have aided me every day since.  Having always been active, I’ve taken my knowledge of physical health for granted, I am so happy to have been able to impart some of what was taught to me on to members of my community so that they can at least continue to keep themselves healthy, if they so choose.


Lesego started school this week! He looks so smart in his backpack, and has already gotten into the habit of putting it on and heading for the door as soon as he wakes up.  Let’s slow down, take a bath, and eat breakfast first little buddy.  It’s been so much fun watching him grow into a little person these past two years, when I look at pictures of him now he looks more and more like a boy and less like the baby I’m sure I’ll always see him as.  Leaving him is going to be terrible.

In other news, I stopped by the Garden Project on Wednesday, and harvesting is in full swing. There were bags of tomatoes, kale, and swiss chard for sale, and for the first time ever, I saw that there was uneaten beetroot, cabbage, butternut, rice, and soup leftover from our OVC. Not only are we able to adhere to our feeding scheme, but there actually appears to be too much! We’ll have to figure out how to deal with waste management, but it made me so happy to see that our IGP is paying off.


Sunday, January 19, 2014


Happy MLK Day everyone! As the Peace Corps office is closed in observation of this American Holiday, I am going to keep plugging away on finalizing my VAST grant, work on my Description Of Service, and get some things printed out in town.  The sun is back out and shining away today, and a morning jog has helped kick things off to a good start. I must remember to keep doing this!

Sifting through items on my laptop yesterday, I came upon this jewel that was snapped in Machipe last March when Mom and Gil came to visit:
I am grateful everyday for the love and endless support of these two, and how without them I would surely not be where I am today.  My host families (in Mohlarekoma and Machipe) still ask about them and wonder when they are coming back to visit and will they be bringing sweets/Pendleton Whiskey with them? Shame. So precious!


Day 25 was a lovely, rainy relief from the hellish heat that has been baking us mercilessly for the past week or so.  After a refreshingly soggy run, I did some shopping for clothes to replace those that have recently expired when I boiled them to rid myself and my hut of a mysterious biting thing that traveled back with me from our Retreat. Limited water and capacity to boil it resulted in most of everything I own turning all sorts of strange colors as items of clothing I've had here for years now jumped at the opportunity to bleed all over the place. Thank you bugs!  Other than that development, life is going on as usual, the days are passing by, and I'm doing better at taking things slowly.  Ommmmmm...

Saturday, January 18, 2014


26 days left and I've decided to take the weekend and get things done online like closing out my VAST grant, writing some very late emails, and catching up on YouTube videos and movie trailers in anticipation of my impending reintegration into American pop culture.  Yeehaw! We're in the midst of a heat wave here at the moment, which to be honest, isn't too incredibly bad, if only there was some air conditioning sanctuary to escape to! #firstworldproblems much? I think so. 
He has taken to emptying out his toy basket and using it as a fort. We may be more related than I'd thought.

Baby Lesego begins pre-school on Monday and has been parading around the house strapped securely into his new backpack. What he thinks he will be putting in there is beyond me, perhaps a pack of his new "big kid" pull-up nappies? A teddy bear? Someone's cell phone?  My money is on the latter as he has become recently aware that chucking the most valuable object across the room is apparently the most fun.  And so begin the Terrible Two's!


My 27th day left of life in Mohlarekoma began with a sleepless night. Again.  Trying hard to take things one day at a time, but those who know me well have seen how excited I get for the days and weeks and months, hell, the future to come, so this is proving rather difficult. But try, try I must!

Seeing as sleep and I aren't getting along well, I trekked to the office particularly early and worked with our Social Media/OVC Coordinator on building a website for MHBC that she will be able to update and manage upon my departure. Or at least that's the idea.  There was also the last monthly staff meeting that I will be around for, and I took the opportunity to bid farewell to all of our caregivers who I do not see very often. 

Debrah and I doing our Female Condom Demo
I walked home that afternoon in the beating sun with Debrah, the woman who has been my counterpart and right-hand lady for the past two years on a multitude of projects.  She saved the day at our Retreat last week by helping to translate my atrocious Sepedi into something that was actually comprehensible, and has done a phenomenal job of taking over our Community Garden Project.  On our walk home, she told me that a couple of the women who attended the retreat have started their own exercise club that meets daily at 5am to work out.  She said that they are all feeling so good now, and that they are going to remember to take care of themselves now, in addition to every other responsibility they have as heads of households and caregivers to at least 2 generations of children and family members.  The news made me so happy, I could hardly contain myself!  When you do outreach work in a community for two years, ANY kind of confirmation that your work means something to somebody else is a blessing that will make your day for weeks and weeks afterward.  Knowing that at least for now, women who attended our retreat enjoyed themselves and have since brought healthy life skills back to the village, was a HUGE validation for us that all of the hard work we put in to coordinating and facilitating those four days was worthwhile.  Huzzah!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Well, I officially have 28 days left in Mohlarekoma.  I topped up my internet data today and will do my best to make a short post every day until I leave the village on 14 Feb to supplement my dropping of the proverbial ball on the blog front these past two years. At least, that is my hope!

I returned home from the Limpopo Women’s Health Retreat that I co-ran with my friend and fellow PCV Doreh, and can say that the endeavor was a complete success.  Thank you once again to all of you who took the time to inquire and for the donations that made everything possible for the women who attended.  They were blown away by their accommodation, complete with a swimming pool and trampoline (!!!) and after the four days had passed, were begging us to extend the retreat.

Some of our lovely ladies from Sekhukhune and Venda, with myself, Doreh, and Sheila from CANSA
The next couple of weeks will undoubtedly fly by, and in anticipation of this phenomenon I am all but literally attached to the crisp, new, 2014 pocket agenda that Mom sent to me in what I can only assume was the last parcel I’ll be receiving here at the trusty Nebo Post Office.  My current goals include working with our new Social Media/Online Manager to build a simple website for Mohlarekoma Home-Based Care, and closing up projects like the “BIG’s & little’s” Peer Mentorship Program at Mmeshi Primary (Thank you to Grandma and Lisa Ellenberg once again for your generous shipments of books!) and teaching the grade 6-7 Social Sciences teacher, Mr. Mahlanya how to incorporate Mmeshi’s new World Map into his curriculum.

Until tomorrow,