7/2: So after several weeks of English Club behind me, I've finally decided to embrace African Time and arrive a bit late. To my dismay, the librarian calls me wondering where I am and I have kids literally lining all four walls of the room as I walk in...and I was only 20 minutes late which is borderline early here. Well with the initial trauma of my tardiness aside I decided to completely forego my lesson plan. The kids were entirely too young, aged 4-8, and I knew they just wanted to play. So play we did. The outdoor games were received with varying levels of success depending on how complex the Zulu needed to be in the explanation. For example, in explaining melting butter, where when you get tagged you 'melt' down for ten seconds but someone on your team can tag you before you reach the ground to save you or you're out, the tagged kids squatted like they were on the pit toilet then after some indiscriminate amount of time stood up again and kept playing. Red Rover was enjoyed by all though duck duck goose got the most cheers. Even though no English was learned, I considered it a huge success and an absolute blast.
7/3: Apparently Zindle's fifth birthday was two weeks ago but seeing as though I was not informed and she didn't have a party I designated today as the day we would celebrate. So I felt like I needed to do the significance of her passing year justice especially since she has been my shadow for quite some time now. (I literally step on her feet regularly she's always that close to me). So I baked a cake and brainstormed for quite some time on potential gifts. Seeing as though there is very little in the realm of industry here my options were quite limited. Think Halls cough drops advertised as candy. But luckily I made it to the post office the other day to find quite a stack of mail waiting for me. I was able to use the 'happy birthday' banner my mom sent for my birthday for Zindle and a coloring book, crayons and tons of stickers as gifts which were given to me by a friend for the kids in the village. My go go got out the special glasses and the nice (white) sugar for tea as they rolled the chocolate cake in balls with their hands. Of course this is how they eat everything so I don't know why this surprised me. Zindle was elated at her new toys. A few weeks ago I gave her a sheet of paper and a pen to occupy her during an especially riveting episode of the BBC World Service and she covered every millimeter of both sides of that paper, not knowing that I had a whole spiral full of paper just like that. We had a day long dance party, thankfully pre-cake. Unfortunately, my go go came running out saying, "Stop, stop running, you'll make her hungry." Anyway, I'm marking down Zindle's 5th birthday in the history books as a great way to celebrate turning 'one whole hand.'
7/4: So I was a little worker bee today, I washed every article of clothing I brought to this country...and my body...and my hair...and my dishes and floor. Needless to say I went a little crazy with the scrub brush today. And I found a top 40 radio station so I was able to shake my groove thang while doing it. I have to give credit to Zindle who was a great helper bee.
7/5: I cannot in good conscience say that I did anything productive today. I knew my plan to cure AIDS would be tabled for another day when 1. I realized how cold it was outside (no one could be expected to work with a chill) 2. my supervisor had a bit of a headache... or a stomachache...or some sort of phatom pain somewhere. So I grabbed my tea like a good Zulu and got to gabbing. Here's a sample of a few of my conversations: Tshengie: "You look pretty today, why?" Me: "Don't I look pretty every day haha?" Tshengie: "No." Me: "Oh." A completely unrelated conversation: Me: "So do you think anything has changed between (blacks) and Afrikaaners since 1994 (when the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was installed)?" Siyabonga (age: 24): "They broke our fathers spirits; they broke their hearts and for that I hate them. I. hate. them." And yet another: Sindi: "Why are you smiling today?" Me: "I don't know, I'm just happy." Sindi: "Ohhhhh ok you finally got a boyfriend, good." Me: "Oh, no, I didn't." Sindi: "Yes you did." Me: "Did I?" Sindi: "YES and I'm SO happy for you!"
7/6: So I noticed today that both pairs of my leggings, which I wear everyday in the Arctic Circle, have multiple holes at the seams. Also of note, the lovely ladies at my org today were discussing the brevity of my rear, with four sets of hands copping a feel in a debate like that akin to the analysis of an ancient aritifact. I feel like it is no longer possible for me to remain in denial about what effects daily carb loading can have on a body. Please do not let this message deter you from sending me peanut m&ms.
7/7: So as I was crammed in a closet sized office with ten morbidly obese women for yet another marathon meeting, two of which were sleeping, another two having separate conversations on their respective cell phones, I stand up, three hours into the meeting, flailing my arms with the agenda I so efficiently prepared in my hands, begging for some focus. I got laughter and head shakes. Crazy American.
7/8: I trekked through prairie grass and rolling hills to go on home visits all day today. My day started when the Home Based Carer I was working with made me tea and breakfast. I already ate breakfast but I think hell would freeze over if I would refuse food in this country (hence seams being popped right and left). My two breakfasts did not sit well as we went to a record breaking number of home visits to talk to people who have no source of income in a village with a 90% unemployment rate with no hope of industry. This coupled with a diagnosis of either TB or HIV has many of them choosing to default on their medication knowing full well that they can't survive without it. The extent of their suffering is no less than that of my own home stay family or neighbors but when it's seen with fresh eyes there becomes a renewed sense of urgency. The deplorable poverty surrounding me has become like wallpaper. Something that you know is there but you never really see. And it has to be this way. It's some sort of survival mechanism my mind has concocted to not be in constant pain. But invariably the curtain has to be lifted and what is seen is a cycle so impossible to escape that it renders the most optimistic hopeless. But lucky for them they have someone that is the most idealistic of optimists. This character trait of mine can also be described as delusional or crazy. Regardless of the adjective, I now believe more than ever, that income generating projects need to be my focus here. So stay tuned for what that will look like.
7/9: Today was the last day of my English Club as the kids go back to school on Monday. Even though my attempt at teaching them red light, green light was a total bust we had a ton of fun playing this game they made up called cats and dogs. Basically, you meow or bark as you try to catch the opposite animal. This game should definitely be brought state side. After that, I tried to help a young girl apply to university, with only minimal success. We resorted to printing out paper applications and hoping for the best. I have my fingers crossed.
7/10: So I'm somewhat concerned that two waterbottles in a row had a few unwelcome bugs in them. This is disconcerting because of the Peace Corps issued water filter that the water (and bugs) went through to get to my water bottle. Now if a water filter can't filter out something as large as a bug...how well is it really doing its job? Sigh. Well, I got a call this morning from my co worker saying they were playing with some orphans and vulnerable children in a clearing and having a brie (barbecue) to celebrate the end of the World Cup and that I needed to come, yep needed. This all sounded wonderful but I was still in my pajamas (and planning on staying that way all day) just baked some fresh bread and had a pot of hot tea waiting for me and amazingly the BBC World Service was crystal clear over my short wave radio, which was basically how I planned my whole Saturday on going in a nutshell. But I went and of course it was a lot of fun. I even attempted net ball which is yet another thing that everyone on the planet seems to know about except Americans. Well, for all you Americans out there it's a lot like basketball.
7/11: So I moved my day of relaxation to today, no harm done, and I can never get over how decadent it feels to do absolutely nothing. Though my go go tried to drop zindle off for another all day stint and bolt I tracked her down and pushed my guilt aside when I explained my need for some personal time. She then pretended she didn't understand me and plopped Zindle down. I repeated myself, "Ngicela ukuphumula oyedwa namhlanje, go go." She didn't talk to me the rest of the day. Other than the iron curtain, it was an absolutely wonderful day of nothingness.
7/12: I spent all day doing my quarterly report for Peace Corps, they don't call the American government the biggest bureaucracy in the world for nothing.
7/13: Today I visited a Dutch youth group who's building a church down the path from my organization. It's interesting because they're cycling groups in to build it but Nondweni has a 90% unemployment rate and a huge pool of competent unemployed construction workers. I, of course, have taken jobs out of an un/underemployed workforce to do the very same thing several times over so I am in no place to judge. I guess it just looks different when you're (almost) on the other side. After three days of my go go giving me the cold shoulder I asked her what was wrong. She was pretty short with me so when she went to my organization for the weekly go go summit I asked my supervisor to talk to her. I thought for sure I was doing something that was offending her and with a culture that couldn't get more indirect, she would never tell me. Well I found out that she was upset that she didn't have the money to perform a ceremony for her son that passed away, which is done a year after the death. This involves several sacrifices to the ancestors, lots of food and relatives and a sangoma (witch doctor). She was heart sick for her dead son and was reminded of her loss on the one year anniversary of his death. So she doesn't hate me, she just misses her babies (another one of her sons passed away a few years ago).