Monday, November 19, 2012

Ersatz Thanksgiving

Yesterday, Njabulo and I gave our unconventional thanks – on Sunday instead of Thursday, without turkey, and minus the cranberry sauce shaped like the can and green bean casserole. Instead, we feasted on slow roasted chicken legs with gravy, apple-herb dressing, and steamed green beans. Traditional? Kind of. Delicious? Absolutely! We didn't have dessert, because I forgot to buy a pie tin while we were in our shopping town, but next weekend we'll enjoy a butternut squash pie. Gotta have something to look forward to, right?

On Turkey Day proper, we're meeting fellow volunteers for Ethiopian food in Naas. Perhaps it'll become the new tradition here in Peace Corps SA! We'll definitely be thinking of everyone back home (Maple Leafers, enjoy the interdenominational service for me, it's one of my favorites!) and giving thanks for what we have, which is scads more than what the folks around us here have.

For your viewing pleasure, I present a photo of our pre-roasted legs, liberally rubbed under the skin with sage and thyme butter and nestled on a bed of aromatics, which flavored the gravy. The following photo shows our delicious apple herb bread dressing, made with leftover homemade French bread, onions, celery, apples, thyme, and sage, and the glorious roasted legs after a high heat blast to crisp the skin. Lastly, there's Njabulo ready to dig in, and my plate of food after being drenched with velvety gravy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

When I took the dinner photos off the camera, there were some miscellaneous photos I'll add to this post. The first two are of a lovely little mosque we ran across in our shopping town. There are a lot of Pakistanis and Indians in South Africa, and even out in the very rural areas you'll find mosques in the villages. 

Next is a photo of our school. I hope to do a post about our school soon, but that might not happen until we start teaching in January. Right now, for us at least, nothing much is going on (hence my regular Facebook presence ;)). The learners (we call them students) that are writing (we call it taking) tests come to school, write their test(s), and leave. The grade 12s, who have been living at the school for weeks, study and take their matric exams (needed to graduate, or here, matriculate) and the teachers all focus their efforts on invigilating (we call it proctoring), moderating, and grading tests. No teaching – even though I wrote lessons and attempted to deliver them. I have graded plenty of exams, however, which has been eye opening – we're going to be spending a lot of time remediating English!

Finally, we have the rest of the game drive photos, thanks to our fantastic game drive guide, Elsa! She put them all on a CD for us, we just need to edit them and, since there are many, wait until we have free wifi at in-service training (IST) to upload them. Speaking of IST, we're headed to Nelspruit then Pietermaritzburg in two weeks for thirteen days of training, which means thirteen consecutive days of hot showers, flushing toilets....and a pool!! Then, two days after returning from IST, we're off to Cape Town. We're staying at a guest house run by an Italian monastic order, the Scalabrini Brothers. All profits go to their various social programs. Check them out, super rates and a great cause. Woot! We're excited! 

- Elizabeth 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kruger National Park

Nomsa naNjabulo savakashela eKruger National Park futsi sabona tilwane kakhulu!!

KNP - Malelane Gate 
Two weekends ago Njabulo and I went on a a day-long game drive in Kruger National Park. We used Echo Africa and our driver was Elsa, who was an excellent guide. What an awesome day! It was raining at 5:15AM when we were picked up from the backpacker's (in fact, we'd had a truly spectacular thunderstorm the night before, storms are awe-inspiring here!), but by the time we were in the park it was just misting and the rain eventually stopped. Drives are taken in nine passenger open-sided safari vehicles, but we only picked up one other passenger, a nice gentleman from Portugal, so we basically had an almost private tour. At first, we didn't see many animals, but later in the morning, we saw a wide variety of animals all over the park, and very close-up, too! I think the only animals we missed seeing were the leopard and the wild dogs – must save something for next time, though!

Lichen covered "balancing" rock. Amazing geology here!
Njabulo took a lot of good photos – but we only have about half of them on our computer right now, because our camera battery died around lunchtime and we used the guide's camera for the rest of the day. She's promised to leave a CD of the photos at the backpacker's we stay at, so hopefully we'll have them next weekend. Njabulo also has some video he's promised to edit – we can upload that when we're at the backpacker's, too. For now, these photos speak for themselves. 

I've posted my favorites, I'll upload the rest to Picasa next weekend!

- Elizabeth

For me the most amazing part of the trip was being 15 meters away from a pair of white rhinos munching contentedly on the grass. Rhinos have a reputation for being belligerent, but these two were quite mellow. Which is good, because rhinos are huge, muscular, and run very fast!
- Perry
White rhino. We have video, too, stay tuned! 
Baboon troop. Saw many baboons.
Gnu and impala. Impala are ubiquitous.
"Zebra" millipede crossing the road. Usually all black - guide stated "zebras" are one in a thousand.
Dozing lion. Could literally have reached out and touched him.
Vervet monkeys and baby. A-dor-able!
Tawny eagle.
Adult and baby warthog. Babies have wide whiskers that emulate tusks.
Southern giraffe. We saw quite a few of them!
Elephant and baby. We should be getting a lot more elephant photos on the CD!
Lunch stop, last photo with our camera!
That's all for now, more soon! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Water (Emanti) and Bathing (Kugeza)

As part of our three month observation and integration phase, we are asked to complete a task each week –- such as observing classes, learning about the South African education system and curriculum, and interviewing teachers -- and write a portfolio entry for each. Last week, over the Spring school break, our task was to observe and reflect on the society we are now living in. Perry and I spent the weekend before the break at a bed & breakfast in Malelane (to celebrate his birthday), and I found myself focusing on water in my portfolio entry. Here is what I wrote:
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to comment on the society we're now living in is to contrast it with the society we've come from. One marked contrast is the availability of water. I come from a place where water is always on, generally safe, and completely taken for granted as a basic or essential commodity. As we drained the last dregs of the water from our JoJo last week, I couldn't help but worry about what we'd do if the induna* didn't turn on the taps soon. Thank goodness, the very next day the taps began flowing, but what if they hadn't? 
Last week, it also became clear that there is a marked dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots with regard to access to water. My husband and I spent his birthday weekend in Malelane at a small B&B located in a leafy residential neighborhood near the Crocodile River. As we walked there, sprinklers watered emerald green lawns (and wastefully, the roads, too), ignorant of the nearly empty storage tank at our host family's home not 40 kilometers away. Taps flowed freely, toilets flushed, and pools were sparkling and clear. No water shortage here! 
Since I've spent some time thinking about water justice issues recently, I thought I'd cap this post with a description of how we bathe at our site. I know that before we arrived in South Africa, I had trouble visualizing what it meant to take a “bucket bath,” so perhaps this post will satisfy some of our readers' curiosity about how it's done. :) 

1) Fill up your bathroom water storage bucket. 

2) Fill up your 10 liter kettle (ligedlela in siSwati).

3) Put the 10 liter kettle on to boil (kubilisa).

3) Set up your bathing area.

4) Pour boiling water into the tub.

5) Add cold water from your storage bucket to desired temperature.

6) Reserve a small tub of clear hot water.

Next – and I don't have a photo of this, so you'll have to just imagine -- kneel on a fluffy towel or a blanket in front of the tub. Lean in and wet and shampoo your hair. Before rinsing your hair, wash your face and splash water over it until the soap is rinsed off. Then grab the reserved tub of hot water and pour it over your hair, taking care to rinse out all the shampoo. Dry your face and hair a bit with your bath towel and get into the tub. Scrub up, rinse off, dry yourself and you're done!

If you want to bathe in a smaller bucket (say, to use less water when it's scarce), after you've washed your face and hair, remain kneeling on your towel and lather up a wash cloth. Scrub your torso with the cloth, rinse it out, and use it to wipe the soap off your body. Then step into and stand or squat in the bucket. Lather up the cloth again and wash and rinse your lower half. Dry yourself off. Hang your kneeling towel or blanket out to dry. That's it!

If you're wondering why we don't use the giant bathtub seen in the picture to take a bath, it's because it takes about 20 liters of boiling water to produce a hot bath a couple of inches deep. The  tap rarely flows, so you also need schlep large quantities of cold water from the JoJo to make your bath. It wastes water and is a LOT of extra work.

“And now,” as Paul Harvey would say, “you know... the rest of the story.”


- Elizabeth

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Heritage Day

Traditional Hut

Thatching a Roof with Grass
On Monday, we attended a large Heritage Day celebration event at the Mgobodi Tribal Center in Mgobodi. We caught a taxi to the event with a group of students from Madadene who were performing at the festival. We arrived very early (about 9AM) at the tribal center and weren't exactly clear about what was happening or going to happen, so we wandered around and stopped to watch a group of married women practicing a dance (I'll post a movie this weekend when we have free wifi at the Bed and Breakfast).

I (Elizabeth) admired the attire of the women and said so to a woman passing by. Next thing I knew, I was being driven to someone's house where the chief's wife and another woman dressed me in the same clothing they were wearing. They tried to dress Perry up in the men's attire, but it required him to go shirtless -- not a good idea with his pale skin and the African sun. So they draped a traditional cloth over the top of his shirt instead.

With the Chief's Wife (right) and Another Kind Woman

Afterwards, they fed us some delicious food (including a new dish for us made with peanuts and soy -- yummy) and drove us to the event venue (we both thought we were already at the venue). We paraded in with our group, singing and dancing (Well, everyone else was dancing, I was kind of shuffling and attempting to remain inconspicuous -- kind of hard because they stuck me in the front row!). We were given good seats under the tent and we were introduced to everyone by the MC, who asked us to stand up and wave. Then, representatives of different cultures were asked to stand up -- Shangaan, Zulu, Swati, and Sepedi were present, but the overwhelming majority of attendees were Swati. 

Gogo Gets Down!
At regular intervals, snacks were brought out: We were given apples, some traditional corn bread, homemade peanut butter and a traditional fermented drink made from maize meal. There were many, many groups performing. Married women's groups, groups of virgins, mixed men's and women's groups who danced to drums (and a cool drum-like instrument that was made to reverberate by pulling a cord across holes in it), men's groups, and "modern" groups who did hip-hop! We watched until almost 6PM, when our hosts saw that we were flagging and took us back to the tribal center. There, they fed us again, and after a short while, the taxi driver took us and the students back home.

Married Woman's Group

Virgin Groups
It was an incredible experience and I want to learn the married woman's dance so I can participate next year! Everyone was so impressed with our halting siSwati, too. It's encouraging and reminds me that I need to practice more!

High Kick!
Mixed Group
Adorable Small "Man" in Men's Group
Amazing Hand Carved Staffs

- Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Few Site Images…

Greetings readers, 

Here are some photos we've taken around site. When we arrived, we experienced about a week of rain (of biblical proportions). The rains swelled the stream down the street from us…now the water's gone and we've been hiking down and exploring the dry stream bed.

One of our neighbors has a large bougainvillea that was in full bloom when we arrived….

One morning I found this lizard in one of our bathing buckets. I love lizards, and they are frequently spotted here!

One of the family's chickens hatched chicks last week. We were able to pick them up -- baby chicks are so soft and fluffy! Njabulo took lots of photos, here's a good one:

Lastly, here's a teaser photo to introduce an upcoming blog post. Last Monday we attended the Heritage Day Celebrations at the Mgobodi Tribal Center. We were treated like royalty and we had a blast! The chief's wife decked me out in traditional married woman's attire. Njabulo donned a traditional top -- next year he'll hopefully get the full treatment with all the accoutrement.

- Elizabeth