Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Going to Town?

I (Elizabeth) signed up for a travel writing course through MatadorU. Here's my first assignment, let me know what you think! I hope to add a few photos soon -- maybe I can take some when we go to mid-service training (MST) in a couple of weeks -- mini-van taxi rides are crazy!

Njabulo climbs aboard the taxi.
Going to Town?

In our remote South African farming village, Sikhwahlane, amenities are few beyond the corner tuck shop stocked mainly with racks of fluffy white bread, neatly stacked cartons of UHT milk, and expired tins of corned beef. Sooner or later, you'll have to catch a taxi to town to replenish supplies. Your first mini-van taxi ride can be a daunting and emotional experience, so here's a handy survival guide.

1) Center yourself. Pause to admire the vista as you stroll down the dusty dirt road leading to the taxi stand. Let the emerald green fields of gently waving sugar cane soothe you, ground yourself as firmly as the quiet rolling mountains in the distance. Breathe deep.

2) Practice contemplation. Find a shady spot under the concrete taxi shelter. When you spy a vehicle in the distance, raise up your index finger (you want the distance taxi). The first taxi to happen by will flash his lights at you – he's full. The next driver will raise his hand and spin his down-turned index finger, he's local. Another will stop for you, but there won't be any empty seats. You really don't want to crouch in the taxi's doorway for an hour, so decline and wander back to the shelter. Sit in contemplative silence for another forty minutes, give or take. Your taxi will come.

3) Be neighborly. Shout out a hearty “Sanbonani!” when you climb aboard. After the initial shock wears off (look, the umlungu/white person/foreigner is greeting in siSwati), you'll be rewarded with a chorus of “Yebo!” and many happy smiles. You're friends now, so go ahead, squish yourself into that tiny seat next to the large, smiling gogo, or granny. Don't get too comfortable, though. Your taxi's about to stop for a woman with a baby swaddled on her back. She'll accept the tiny doorway space you rejected earlier. She won't be able hold her baby, though, so she'll un-swaddle him and thrust him in your lap. Your newest friend will stare up at you with wide-eyed wonder – and get progressively heavier – the whole trip.

4) Remain unfazed. Grab the seat in front of you with your free hand because, as if in apology for your wait, the driver is going to “make up time in the air” like your last airline pilot did. There'll be some mild turbulence, too. Whump! You take your first pothole at 130kph. Then another. Then countless more. The tar road is, in fact, just a few patches of pavement in a landscape of, potholes. You stop wondering why the taxi's transmission sounds like it's about to fall out. Herds of cows appear in the road. Your skilled driver will somehow avoid them without diminishing his exceptional speed. Getting around the cows proves a neat trick, but soon your driver will start collecting fares and making change while soon as he reaches that twisty mountain pass.

5) Embrace the bass. Your taxi will be outfitted with a state-of-the-art multi-speaker sound system. This system will stream hip-hop music at maximum volume and full bass to a speaker directly over your head. Embrace this distraction from your very real distress – after all, your driver is making change at 130kph! Yes, (boom) your ears hurt. The throbbing bass will relentlessly vibrate your insides (boomboomboom), too. Accept it. It's a small price to pay to avoid staring at grim death beckoning you through the windshield.

6) Show gratitude. When you arrive, roll open the door and breath a sigh of relief. Unclench your knuckles, still your quavering insides, and offer your driver a heartfelt “Ngiyabonga kakhulu” (thanks much)! After you run your errands, enjoy a frosty cold beer. Some liquid courage will steel you for the trip back.

- Elizabeth

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Team Tiger's Graduation!

On 30 May, my (Elizabeth's) team graduated from the Peace Corps Skillz program! Perry's group will graduate next week. :) Before their graduation, I asked some of my team members to write down a few of their favourite things about Grassroot Soccer...what I got back was wonderful; many of them even gave me short essays. 

Learner sharing his essay
One of the girls shares...
A third learner reads for us.
One learner's writing even brought tears to my eyes. Here are some excerpts (Reprinted with permission. Edited for clarity with bracketed additions, but I tried to keep the learner's writing intact, they are trying!):

Grassroot Soccer is important to me, because it help[s] [us learn] how to play with others. And usually [you] teach me about things that are good for me and things that are not good for me. And I like playing with other kids and it make[s] me feel important to play with them. I learn[ed] about HIV and AIDS. Now I know that HIV stand[s] for Human Immune Virus and I learn[ed] how to protect myself from HIV and AIDS. I learn[ed] how to take care of someone who has HIV. Other people don't like someone who has HIV and that is not right. You have to help someone who has this disease.

I also learn[ed] how to support your friend, especially in difficulties that he/she have. You don't have to turn [your] back. But you have to help him/her.” --N.N. (girl)

I like to learn about HIV/AIDS and other things. Now I have many information about [having] HIV/AIDS or being a child at home...

I like Grassroot Soccer so much because I learn[ed]...things I did not know. I thank Mr. Motha and you Ms. Nomsa to help us. Thanks for Grassroot Soccer. I'm happy about Grassroot Soccer.” N.M. (girl)

Things that I liked about Grassroot Soccer are: In Grassroot Soccer we have learned more information about many different things [and it] taught us about different ways of preventing HIV/AIDS. The best thing that I liked the most is when you [taught]us that to best prevent HIV you must abstain, use a condom, have one faithful partner, and if you are a man you have to do circumcising. I also liked the games we were playing, like take a stand, because some people were not closing their eyes properly when we close[d] our eyes.” X.B. (boy)

In Grassroot Soccer I like to play everything [and] I like to play kilos and I like to read about HIV....I like Grassroot Soccer very much.” N.M. (girl)

I would like to say thank you for doing...Grassroot Soccer. [T]oday I know everything about HIV/AIDS, it is all because of you and Mr. Motha. [I'd] like to say to you and Mr. Motha that you are my role model[s]. I wish when I grow up to be like you two guys. [W]hen I grow up I want to be a doctor. I will help those people who have HIV/AIDS. [T]he things that I like[d] in Grassroot Soccer is that we have talk[ed] about sex, now I know that sex [doesn't] mean sexual intercourse only, it [also] means gender. And now I know everything about my friend and we do the kilos. I wish you two guys a long life. Thank you!!!!!” P.M. (girl)

In the Grassroot Soccer I like the lessons you have taught us about the spreading of HIV/AIDS. [I]t is a good lesson for people because we [did not know] how to assist people who [have] HIV but now we know. Now I can live with a person with HIV because you have taught me how to live with such a person. [Y]ou have taught us to respect other people.

Learner leading us in a kilo.
I wish we [could] have another Grassroot Soccer because you taught us to be brave and you taught us kilos.” M.M. (boy)

The things that I like[d] in Grassroot Soccer. It play the game[s] and to learn about HIV, [do] the Micro Move[s] and do do the activity [and] kilos. [I] like to play soccer, [it's] my favourite game in Grassroot Soccer. [Grassroot Soccer] gave me information about HIV, I [now know about circumcision] and I like the activity that we call take a stand.” L.M. (boy)

Learners leading us in "Fact or Nonsense?"
For graduation, the learners led a “mini-practice,” for our attendees. First, volunteers led us in some kilos: NJ kilo, Thunder kilo, and Coca-Cola kilo. Then three learners led the team (and the audience) through an activity called “Fact or Nonsense?”. After the activity, volunteers stepped to the center and read their notes and essays about Grassroot Soccer. We concluded the mini-practice with a team cheer: “Be happy!”.

Then we had all the students line up for the graduation ceremony. Mr. Motha and I thanked all the attendees and presented their graduation certificates. We also congratulated those with perfect attendance. After we handed out all the learners' certificates, I surprised Bobet with his own certificate. I think he was caught off guard, because he's looking super serious in the photo!

Presenting Bobet with his certificate.
The final surprise we had for Team Tiger was....cake! Grassroot Soccer was fun and engaging, and I recommend it to all PCVs as a secondary project. We plan to do it again next year with the new crop of grade 8s!

Proud boys.
Best friends.
- Elizabeth

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Here is a poem by one of our bright young learners!

Alcohol Drug Abuse

I am Alcohol Drug abuse
I am a friend
A friend of everyone
If you want me you can find me everywhere

At the taverns, parties, weddings, weddings or bashes
But most people invite me
When they have stress
They always come
I welcome them 'coz we are friends

Hhe --- but be careful
I am the destroyer
I can destroy your youth your life every time
coz now you are strong or healthy and
I can take you to the groove

I don't mean that you have
to leave me alone
I am a friendly take care
of my friends
I don't have enemies in my life
you are always welcome if you want me

I am a remover of stress
I am the one who destroy's
the youth's future
I am the one who makes the you have fun
I will keep on doing it
But be aware
I can put you in prison

-Veronica Nkosi, Grade 8

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grassroot Soccer

My counterpart, the rockin' Bobet Motha, demonstrates the limbo!
Today I am going to try and make up for my failure to blog meaningfully about our experiences here  (a little bit, at least). One of the programs we're doing at our school is called Grassroot Soccer (or PC Skillz, but we never call it that). It's a 12 week soccer-themed program that teaches kids about HIV and AIDS. The lessons are engaging and fun and make talking about “vaginal and anal sex” easier. Well, a teensy bit easier. ;) The program focuses on things like abstinence, mutually faithful partners, having partners your own age, and using protection. I was told by a CHOP (health) volunteer that the HIV infection rate is 45% in our area, so this program is particularly valuable and appropriate for our learners.

In our circle
The program also incorporates fun activities called energizers and kilos which build enthusiasm and a sense of community among the participants. My personal favorites are “One coffee, two sugars,” and the “NJ Kilo.” I promise to try and upload some footage of the kids doing kilos. They love them. On the way home from school, we hear the kids doing kilos. They write about kilos in their English journals. And yes, they do retain a lot of the program's content, too!

Today, we did the limbo! Learners had to pass under the limbo bar (HIV) when it was held up high - when limbo-ers (limbobbers? limbologists?) were abstinent. Then the limbobbers (I like that!) had to try to get under the bar when it was held very low – or when they were in a relationship with someone 5-10 years older. We talked about who “got” HIV and why...being involved with an older partner was riskier. That person is much more likely to have had multiple partners and occasions to engage in unprotected sex.

So, while chanting “limbo, limbo, limbo" and clapping our hands, we learned about HIV and AIDS!

PS Where's the soccer theme, you ask? This week wasn't soccer themed, but most of them are!

Lined up and ready to limbo under the high bar!

Limbo, limbo, limbo!


We bad 
Lovely ladies!
Beautiful smiles 
- Elizabeth

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Address

To any and all who are thinking about mailing us, please stop using the Kwalugedlane address. We're having problems with it. Please mail to:

Perry and Elizabeth Atterberry
c/o Hhusha Hhusha
PO Box 44
South Africa

...and please tell us when you mail something so we can anticipate its potential arrival. As always, put a low value or "no value" on the customs form, please! Putting value on something only ensures we'll get socked with an exorbitant duty! There are no real protections for lost mail anyhow (in other words, we'd never recover the value of the package). Thanks!

- Elizabeth

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cape Town Vacation!

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain
We decided to treat ourselves to a vacation in Cape Town before we got down to the serious job of teaching. On December 18th, we flew from Kruger International Airport to Johannesburg, then on to Cape Town. We booked accommodations at the Scalabrini Guest House, which is run by an Italian monastic order - all profits fund their social programs. We were given a very nice en suite room.

Pipe Organ in Cape Town's Oldest Church
Our first outing was a walking tour of the immediate area. Downtown Cape Town has a thriving outdoor market, and we spent many hours browsing artisan stalls. Also, Elizabeth found many old churches nearby she wanted to visit. That night we discovered that our guest house was two blocks away from "The Third Oldest Pub in Cape Town." Needless to say, we made a beeline for it. It turned out to be a tiny place on the ground floor of an old hotel, it was full of atmosphere and colorful characters. Just our sort of place. I had a local beer called Jack Black and heartily recommend it. We also got directions to the oldest pub in Cape Town and added it to our list of "Important Cultural Heritage Sites to Visit."

My thoughts exactly!
The next day we walked down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for a day of seriously touristy endeavors. There is a large mall there and we saw our first movie since arriving in South Africa, The Hobbit. Very good movie, but we kept comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, which was much better. After the movie, we stopped at one of the many lovely restaurants at the waterfront and enjoyed some nice local beers.

Groot Constantia Winery: Manor House Museum
The next couple days were devoted to seeing the sights on the Red and Blue Buses. These are lovely open top double-decker buses that take you through Cape Town and the surrounding area, with an audio description of the sights as you pass by them (We visited District 6 on this tour. Sadly, no aliens to be seen). The blue bus took us outside Cape Town to the beaches and some of the surrounding communities. We connected with the wine tour bus which took us on a side tour of the Constantia Valley wine-producing area. We took a winery tour and sampled the wines (you knew that was coming, didn't you?). They were nice, but didn't measure up to some of the excellent wines we've had since we got here (Saxenburg Pinotage, I'm looking at you). The red bus took us up Table Mountain where there's a gondola to the very top. We were going to ride it, but someone (Libby) started hyperventilating on the bus ride up, so that plan was nixed. We finished the day by visiting the aforementioned "Oldest Pub in Cape Town." Something of a disappointment. Unlike the "Third Oldest Pub in Cape Town," the "Oldest Pub in Cape Town" had had a facelift somewhere along the line and lacked all the charm of its lesser sibling. My advice: Stick to the third oldest pub.

View from One of the Wineries
Our private tour (a group tour, but we were the only two people to sign up that day) of the Stellenbosch and Paarl area wineries started early the next day. And when I say early, I mean we began tasting wines at 9:30AM. Our guide was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic man who loved to talk about the wines and knew all the vintners personally. This meant they pulled out the good stuff just for us. When the people at the Backsberg Winery learned we were fans of the more full-bodied wines, they disappeared and returned with a limited-run red wine that was just incredible. We left with a bottle tucked under our arm. Things get rather hazy after that. We visited two or three more wineries before lunch, and by the time we sat down to eat, I was having trouble finding my face with my fork.

Canal Leading to the One and Only Hotel
For Christmas day dinner, we made reservations at one of the ritziest hotels in Cape Town, the One and Only. The hotel has a beautiful lobby, and when we arrived we were met by a waiter who presented us with complimentary champagne. The buffet itself was in Nobu restaurant, and offered traditional Christmas fare: Turkey with dressing and cranberry, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, roast pork...and all sorts of delicious appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. The food was fantastic and we had a lovely Christmas day. We even received gifts - African beaded keychains! One was a giraffe and the other a zebra.

Castle of Good Hope
Somewhere along the way, we also visited the Castle of Good Hope (a pretty cool place to visit, don't miss the Key Ceremony), the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial, and the Airsteam trailer accommodations on the roof of the Daddy Longlegs Hotel. We ate at many excellent restaurants, drank a lot of fantastic wine, rode the Wheel of Excellence (Thanks, Xanax! Love, Libby), and took a boat ride through the canals at the waterfront. It was a very fun trip!

On the Wheel of Excellence Ferris Wheel
Airsteam Trailer Accommodations. Maybe Someday!
- Perry

Thursday, January 17, 2013

School Kitchen

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am mostly going to let the following photos speak for themselves. A few facts:

  • This "kitchen" works rain or shine.
  • Most of the prep is done in the open air.
  • Hard-working lunch ladies serve over 325 students every day from this "kitchen."
  • The school faces a choice right now between hiring a teacher for a required course or building a new kitchen building, because there aren't funds for both. We suggested that the better choice right now is the teacher. We have offered to help the school write a grant to obtain funds for a new kitchen.

Lunch cooking
Lunch ladies
Prep area and wood gathered for cooking fire

So, how many of our blog readers would be willing to donate towards a new kitchen? Peace Corps allows us to solicit funds in a few different ways. One way is through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). A few facts about the PCPP:
  • Projects are put on the Peace Corps website for fundraising. You would donate online.
  • All donations are tax deductible.
I'm going to place a poll in the sidebar. Please help us out by taking it, or leave us a comment. Thanks!!

- Elizabeth