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.