Sunday, May 30, 2010

So I'm extremely excited to report that I continue to move forward with the AIDS hospice idea presented to me by my community. I now have a South African counterpart for this endeavor who's very motivated and has worked in home based care for a decade. After much debate, it was decided that the hospice needed to be in my market town rather than my actual village because of the necessity of the close proximity to the hospital. It has also been decided that though it will continue to be called a hospice it will serve as a 'step down clinic.' This idea was presented to me by a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who's currently serving in one. This place serves as a half way house for people who are too strong to stay in the hospital (or more likely they need the bed) but too weak to go home. These patients are most likely ones whose CD4 counts just became low enough for ARVs so they are very sick but with proper adherence to medication should bounce right back. Tomorrow I plan on talking to the chief to ask permission to build a hospice and also the municipality to do the same. I also will make the rounds to three step down clinics/hospices in my province next week to get an idea of where to go from here. I'm so fortunate because the Peace Corps Volunteer who I mentioned earlier works at a hospice that was established by Americans so she's been extremely helpful in pointing me in the right direction. Futhi, (also) another PCV's organization is in the planning phase of a step down clinic as well so I just have good luck all around.

5/23: So I went to the funeral of my supervisor's brother's girlfriend. My supervisor, Tshengie, said that her brother's girlfriend was pregnant and always complaining that she was in pain. All the women in her family reassured her that pain is part of pregnancy but her pain increased once she gave birth and she died when her baby was a month old. Her brother lives in Johannesburg and of course was devastated but as is South Africa's culture he didn't go to the funeral because Zulus believe if the loved one of the deceased goes to the funeral the ancestors will want him/her to be with his loved one so he will die as well.

So I was exhausted after a long, emotional day when two teenage girls arrived on my front stoop. One of them was inquiring about help with an essay in her English class. I asked her friend if she had the same homework and she said she dropped out last year in ninth grade because she had a child. The girl that was asking for help was clearly behind and looked several years older than 10th grade. It's common practice in South Africa to hold kids back year after year so there are seniors who are maybe 23 or 24. Anyway, this lesson turned into several hours of a discussion concerning basic sentence structure and the past sentence and the best part is that I think the light bulb turned on which made my day.

5/24: I was able to keep Zindle occupied all afternoon while my go go was sick with a really bad case of the flu. Of course cooking over an open fire in an enclosed space didn't help matters but she gave me a quarter of a loaf of bread in gratitude. She even promised the bugs hadn't gotten to that part yet.

5/25: Today we had a staff meeting where it was discussed that the woman whose job it is to clean was not in fact cleaning the supervisor's office. It turned ugly and everybody sort of ended up ganging up on her. Naturally she started crying and I spent several hours just sitting there with her in silence. When I came back my supervisor asked me if I was ready to work and I told her what she told me on Sunday to thank me for my presence at the funeral, "Here in South Africa you're a friend first." After an emotional start to the day, I left early to teach my first English Reading class at the local middle school. I absolutely loved it. The kids were so excited to learn and despite the fact that there were four children to a textbook I felt like they truly learned something and I can't wait to go back next week.

5/26: Today I slept over at a co worker's house. Because her husband's a teacher she definitely has one of the nicest houses in the township. Unfortunately even her relative affluence didn't prevent her oldest child from dying after an especially muddy storm caused her to slip and fall into the pit toilet where she subsequently drowned. Which might be part of the reason why, after teaching every day, her husband goes to our market town to sell bananas till dark which she calls their 'income generating project' (which is a term I've been using for a project I want to start at my organzation) to give his family a better life. All of this income generating has enabled them to purchase a TV of which I hadn't seen in months and I proceeded to watch several hours of music videos which made me lust after speed boats and mixed drinks...I am ashamed to admit the lack of sarcasm noted here.

5/27: Today I was unfortunately voted as Secretary for the Child Protection Forum in my village. The sole requirement for this position is to take detailed notes (in Zulu of course) of the multiple hour long meetings. Naturally I thought they were kidding but soon realized I was the only one laughing. Needless to say I whipped out the flashcards today in an effort to be able to convey even the most rudimentary of minutes.

5/28: Today I went to a planning meeting for a series of child trafficking events during World Cup and also went to another planning meeting for Fun Friday English classes, okay the title is a work in progress but the classes range from an English discussion class where we'll talk about the hot topics in the news, a job related class my counterpart likes to call the 'how to talk to white people class' where they'll learn how to write a CV and have interview practice. There will also be a class for kids where we'll have board games and activities where I'll hopefully trick them into thinking they're not actually learning at all but just playing. Finally, I'll have a Reading Circle where the youngest kids will get read to in English. I've been so wrapped up in HIV work and child trafficking I'm excited to do something lighter.

So I've been so busy lately I didn't realize I double booked myself for next Saturday. I planned to meet up with three other Peace Corps Volunteers to plan a girls empowerment sleep away camp and also to go to my supervisor's dad's birthday party. After coordinating with the other PCVs' schedules weeks ago I knew I couldn't change our rendez vous now. So with my head hung in shame I mumbled something resembling an apology to my supervisor. She proceeded to say, "I hate you because of what you've done." She was laughing...I think. She went on to say, "I'm borrowing a camera with a movie and you won't be in my movie?! No, Tshengie (she frequently talks about herself in the third person) is sad." I told her that I was going to cry if she really hated me (we have this system where I usually talk to her in Zulu and she talks to me in English) and even though she was laughing she went ahead and said, "Yeah okay Lindelwa but Lindelwa, I hate you because you're not in my movie, why?" I then told her again that I made a mistake. I then started groveling for forgiveness and rambling on about going to every other family member's birthday, wedding or funeral until April 2012. I went on, claiming I would accept previously declined lobola (bride price) offers proposed by her family members or friends and promised endless amounts of chocolate cake as reparation for my broken promise but I then realized I broke the pact during my monologue and was blubbering on and on in English. She stood patiently and said, "Lindelwa, I love you but did you forget I hate you?" "No, I didn't forget Tshengie." "Okay because I have pains when you aren't with Tshengie." "I have pains too Tshengie." I love that woman.

5/29: So in an effort to create the American-ized delicasy of pizza I spent the better part of today waiting for the pizza dough to rise, chopping tomatoes, nursing the high maintenance sauce and finally attempting to melt the cheese while praying the crust doesn't burn in my toaster oven. The hours upon hours of toil was more than worth my slice of home. I even played an NPR podcast while I ate to give myself the impression I was surrounded by Americans.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

5/16: Okay so today brought all sorts of fun little activities for me. So en route back from the water spout with a bucket on my head I was stopped by a group of kids playing soccer and was begged to join. I was one of about four(my three sisters being the other three) kids in my area growing up who were not on a soccer team. Though the fact that I was playing with a bunch of first graders meant I was almost at their level. I then went to church which had an All African theme and everyone was in their traditional garb. There was so much energy and singing and dancing and I wish I had enough Internet juice to show you, oh well. I then asked a 12 year old girl to be my Zulu tutor. She wakes up at 4:00am to go to school an hour and a half away so she's motivated to learn English and she's young enough to be patient with my embarrassingly small Zulu vocabulary.

5/17: I went to the primary school with the local volunteer security. I assumed I was there as the silent supporter of something or other but was told maybe two minutes before we walked into the all school assembly that I was going to give a talk on child sex trafficking and oh yeah, "could you do it in Zulu?" "How long?" I ask, "Oh, only an hour." Needless to say I begged for a translator. I later had several women praise the growth of my rear which spurred a discussion on my other body parts that have recently become more fleshy. I'm of course in complete denial of this and one of the women tells me flatly, "well it's because you eat too much." I do feel as though I'm in a perpetual state of carb coma. Luckily, my go go just got a spicket installed in our yard and I was able to do about five minutes of physical labor covering up the underground pipe before I retired to complete my transformation into 'a real South African woman' which is a nice way of saying they're going to have to roll me out of here in two years.

5/18: I was able to catch up on a huge back log of emails but I still haven't managed to do the IRC (library) committee application...

5/19: I filled my hut with the smells of rural central Illinois where my dad's family is from while I baked dozens and dozens of Snickerdoodles. This was in fact one of the best decisions I've made in a long time which is why I ate about half in one sitting and had an embarrassingly long conversation with myself, out loud mind you, about the necessity of bringing the remainder to my organization the next day. I grudgingly decided to bring most...okay about half where they were grossly underappreciated for being too sweet. I'm sorry but you are literally shoveling four heaping spoonfuls of sugar into your rather small cup of tea while you're saying that, so much in fact that there is now debatably more sugar in your tea than anything else. So please save your judgment for your fellow health nuts.

5/20: Today was a completely unproductive day where I maintained a state of low level confusion, complete with furrowed brow and feigned interest, the entire day. But I was greeted with an over enthusiastic Zindle and a go go whose every appliance has now conspired against her. We mourned this tragedy with tea of course and had wonderful conversation in my wonderful hut where luckily all of my appliances seem to like me.

5/21: So today was our school uniform distribution event. Despite the fact that we didn't actually distribute any uniforms and neither the children nor any of their family members were present it was a total blast and I would consider the event a huge success. The children who were receiving the uniforms were at school because we had it in the middle of the day on a school day and somehow the families were assumed to be invited (I know, I know why I continue to make blanket assumptions is beyond me) but never were. Instead, we had plently of local officials and members of the community unrelated to the event come and show their support. There was singing and dancing and lots of speeches and a whole lot of attention drawn to the fact that I wore a headscarf (in respect to the formality of the event). There are a few things I would improve for next time haha but it was a great day regardless. As an aside, the home based carers will give out the uniforms during their regularly scheduled home visits so it's not like the whole idea of the donation was scrapped just the physical exchange during the event was deemed unnecessary.

5/22: I attempted to make traditional Zulu steamed water bread by sort of winging it. Well needless to say an hour after it was suppose to rise it was still hard as a hockey puck. So I showed my go go and begged for some guidance. She burst out laughing, I'm talking she busted a gut, literally doubled over she was laughing so hard. She then proceeded to show passersby my sorry attempt at Zulu domesticity. I'm pretty sure making jeqe can be done by young girls in their sleep, standing on their heads, using only their left hand, before they know their right from left. It was just one of the now too numerable to count humbling moments for me here. But I did get a wonderful jeqe lesson after the parade of my failure was all said and done and if the lesson wasn't worth my embarrassment seeing my go go that happy definitely was.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

5/9:So I was a little frustrated today because as soon as I finished washing every piece of clothing I owned (and ready to vegetate) my go go locks her house and drops Zindle off at mine. She has her Zion church outfit on so I know she's going to be awhile. I think she saw the panic on my face so she said Zindle could go to the neighbor's if I need to leave. Well...Zindle didn't want to go to the neighbor's and go go was gone ALL day. I'm talking 10-6. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't doing anything noteworthy but I also wasn't interested in feeding and entertaining a four year old's every whim. Well, just as I was starting to care less about whether or not Zindle wanted to go to the neighbor's and more about my sanity my go go came back to grab some things. This was about mid-afternoon and both Zindle and I had already eaten lunch but she gave me this heaping plate of food in gratitude for the day's work. Knowing that they eat potatoes and phutu (a crumbly corn meal) every day of the week I was taken aback by the grandeur of her offering. This gesture snapped me back to reality and it made me remember that Zulus truly do believe that it takes a village to raise a child and that my go go would do the same for me any day of the week.

5/10: I let a new person at my organization's belittling and condescending behavior affect my mood all last week. My revelation that the cause of this behavior could be traced back to him feeling threatened by me didn't make the idea of him being a permanent fixture at my organization any easier. It was only when I realized that I too felt that he was stealing my thunder and therefore threatened by him that I was able to swallow my pride and talk to him about it. In an interesting twist of events we now seem to have bonded quite well.

5/11: So my positive moment would be seeing Matseke my Assistant Peace Corps Director (boss) today. He's really charasmatic so it's always fun to be around him but more than that I was able to reflect back on my Peace Corps experience up to this point and realized how content I am here. As an aside, a woman in my organization today seemed unimpressed with the braid in my hair. So during a meeting she proceeded to take the aforementioned braid out and soon realized she needed something to tame the situation back there. She hurries back with a brush used to polish shoes. My hesitation soon wanes when I realize the harm that could have been done to the straw like knot in the back of my head was done a long time ago.

5/12: So I realize my positive moments have been cheesy and lame lately. Will try to work on that. So today I was once again grounded back to reality by home visits. I've created this exhaustive list of possible projects for my organization and community, most if not all of which were mentioned by someone here, and I can't find a legitimate explanation to cross anything off. The problem is exascerbated by the fact that I can't seem to even focus on the prevention or the effects of HIV. And because I'm an American and a very orgranized one at that, one who appreciates, delights really, in the idea of planning out her next two years to the t, is really finding this whole personal indecision quite frustrating. Will keep you posted on my progress.

5/13: Since an AIDS hospice seems to be a reoccuring request by the members of my community and something that I would love to help with, I've decided to move forward into exploring this possibility further. Ironically, the person who gave me so much trouble last week I asked to be my counterpart in this project today. After we both realized that we were stepping on each other's toes because we were stepping on each other's egos we both backed off and actually make a great team. The very early pieces of this puzzle are starting to come together. I also talked to Matseke about this idea and his encouragement gave me more confidence in its plausibility.

5/14: Easy. Lady Ga Ga. Coca Cola. Lots of inappropriate dance moves in my hut in celebration of the acquisition of said sugar water and sugary pop music.

5/15: A girl came over today looking for help with her homework. As mentioned earlier, I have a loyal posse of 7-9 year olds but it was nice to talk with someone a little older (I'm talking maybe 13 or 14) and I would love the opportunity to tutor so she's coming by tomorrow for some more help, yay!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

So one of my beloved friends has brought to my attention the fact that my daily positive moments don't seem too positive. After I personally did a quick re-read to assess the situation I would have to agree. Frankly, some of them are down right depressing. But I feel like I need to do some serious damage control because this couldn't be farther from the truth. In an attempt to be clever, I ended up concerning those who care about me, no need to worry, these futile efforts at sarcasm and wit will come to an end this instant.

In all honesty I've never been happier. I wake up every day knowing this is exactly where I should be. Knowing that my supervisor named me Lindelwa translated as 'the one we've been waiting for' is ironic because this is what I've been waiting for as well. I feel like happiness is seeping out of my bones but I think that doesn't always show in my positive moments because 1: somebody who's constantly in a state of pure joy can get a little annoying and the posts would get redundant 2: as stated earlier, my painfully weak attempt at humor would sometimes force me to choose an anecdote that maybe was a little less than sunshine and rainbows.

Also, because of my unreliable Internet I will most likely have to post at least a few days at a time. Consider yourselves warned.

5/2: I had a wonderful conversation with my mom today. I felt like she was in the room with me and it just filled my cup up to hear her voice.

5/3: I popped popcorn and threw some Crystal Light packets together for a fun snack for my go go and Zindle and they absolutely adored it. We talked all afternoon then my go go fed me their dinner of potatoes and bread. Meaning of course that both of them ate less so I could have some. I respect and am humbled by the Zulu's culture of 'if you have enough food for one you have enough for two' but I couldn't help but feel a little guilty.

5/4: I didn't have a journal entry for today and nothing sticks out to me, sorry.

5/5: So I had a long night last night with my fever waxing and waning and me never quite being able to get warm or cold enough, always in this temperature pergatory of misery. I literally had dreams of water I was so dehydrated. I had none so I grudgingly carried a bucket of water on my already pounding head at dawn after I shamelessly asked my go go if I could borrow some (she didn't have any either). My positive moment is the joy of ibprofen and how much better I feel now, not 100% but a million times better than before.

5/6: I was walking out of my gate and I see Zindle, the four year old I live with, running towards me. I asked her if she wanted to get water with me and she was jumping up and down. We laughed the whole way there. She then proceeded to read the same Economist as she does every other day with the aid of a flashlight of course.

5/7: Today I went on home visits with one of our home based carers. Even though I am surrounded by poverty and I see orphans in tattered clothes come to the organization every day for food, I feel like today is the first day I've seen true suffering. We went to house after house caring for people whose bodies are wasted from AIDS or coughing up blood with TB. People whose kids are watching them die and who have no food to eat. Every day I wake up motivated for change but today I realize the weight of their expectations. My positive moment is that I'm more than up for the challenge.

5/8: I feel fortunate enough to say I have several circles of friends here and the most loyal group be far would be about half a dozen 7-9 year olds who I could very easily call my shadows. Well I just might, so me and my six shadows played cards and looked at Elle magazine for several hours this afternoon and it was incredibly relaxing.