1/19: So I spent the morning playing with Zihle, my favorite little girl on our meal program. I’m guessing she has mild Cerebral Palsy but a little drool doesn’t freak me out. Everyone has their cross to bear, hers is just a bit more visible. The Dutch church built us a brand-new playground a few weeks ago so we played on that for hours. She would even insist on pushing me on the swing when I was finished pushing her or to help me up the ladder if she got to the top first. I love that girl. Later, when she went back home I was working on my computer and didn’t realize that everyone was asleep at my org but me.
1/20: I went to Dundee which is four and a half hours away round trip to go to the doctor. This appointment, which was made by the Peace Corps doctor, was made for the doctor’s New Castle office. Seeing as though New Castle was another hour and a half away I wouldn’t be able to make my appointment. I turned around and went home.
1/21: Today Tshengie and I were little NGO rock stars. We made a business plan chart coordinating our objectives to our activities, output indicators, outcomes and outcome indicators. I was so proud of her for sticking with it for six hours straight when nobody else was doing any work. She didn’t even budge when a crowd circled around the TV for The Bold and the Beautiful and seemed convinced when I explained that underlining, italicizing and bolding everything doesn’t look ‘fancy’ it can actually be a bit hard to read.
1/22-3: I’m so glad I was talked into going to the Battle of Isandlwana re-enactment today. It was an event that commemorated the Zulu victory over the British and is why my area of the country is known as the Battlefields. Shockingly I couldn’t find anyone who had even a ball park estimate of the start time and I ended up missing the actual re-enactment. As a positive, I walked in just as President Zuma, the president of South Africa, was giving his speech…in English. His first language is Zulu so I found it strange that I was one of maybe three people in a crowd of thousands that could understand him. Next up on the docket was the President of Uganda who had a much clearer accent and seemed a bit happier to be there. Then came several famous musical acts that the crowd went crazy for. I didn’t even care that I missed the main event; I could have reached out and touched the President of South Africa, too bad he didn’t bring his harem of wives.
1/24: After taking several days to wallow about my Camp GLOW mistake I hit the pavement (dirt path) today to try to right my wrong. I walked for five hours to visit each of the schools to ask if it was possible for the kids to miss three days of school. (I moved the camp back a few days so that it would be over a weekend which would eliminate two potential school days). All of them said yes! I don’t know what I would have done if they said no, I came home to my most recent cake covered in ants, so I would have nothing to drown more sorrows in.
1/25: Today one of my co-workers sent his friend to fix my electricity that has caused me nothing but problems for a month now. Just this morning it shocked me so hard I could feel the electricity pulsing through my hand. It actually scared me more than it hurt and I asked myself maybe a dozen times, “Am I okay? Am I okay? Am I okay?” Once I realized I was I automatically switched to reassure myself, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.” Thankfully the expert was summoned and not a moment too soon. I have my fingers crossed that all is well in my electric world….well the fingers I have left anyway : )
2/3: Today I started a project to paint a world map mural on one of the outside walls of the school. I had several meetings with the principal ahead of time and this week has consisted of me acquiring all the necessary supplies (like ten hours round trip in a bush taxi to get a projector from another Volunteer). The teachers selected twenty students that have shown an interest in art to help me. I explained the project and that this mural has been painted at other Peace Corps sites around the world. I attempted to get them excited about the idea of creating a learning tool that could potentially be used for decades to come. We then gathered at the future site of our mural and just when I was ready to organize the troops to start measuring, one of the teachers just has at it. I try to politely explain that this is a fun activity for the kids, is there a way you can incorporate some children into your ad-hoc measuring technique, I plead. He then orders some boys to hold the broken desk he’s using as a step ladder. The twenty students and myself watch for the next hour while the teacher outlines the border to our mural. I’ve been so African-ized that this snag has only barely fazed me but while he’s doing this he gets several calls from home and leaves after he’s done tracing. When I recruit as many able-bodied art lovers as possible to check his guesstimates we realize it’s a bit slanted. There are boys stacked upon boys stacked upon one broken, wobbly desk to try to rectify the situation. It was made much, much worse. It’s now getting a bit late in the afternoon so I make the executive decision to just move on. We put duct tape, I knew there was a reason why I brought that stuff, over the chalk outline. Next we start washing the wall before we put on our primer. This was another mistake. The outside wall was covered in dust and as soon as we started washing a nice brown clay started caking the walls. Again, it looked much worse. Also of note, after all the buckets of water were splashed against the wall the bottom duct tape line fell off and we didn’t have any more duct tape. Another executive decision was made, let’s just keep moving forward. So I grossly underestimated what 2 m X 4 m looked like so I purchased a bazillion small brushes which made the primer coat look extra special particularly the jagged bottom line. Will keep you posted on this masterpiece in the making.
2/4: The white splattered mess of a primer attempt will have to stay up there until next week because today is sports day so the kids aren’t at school. So just myself and the security guy showed up to work today and it grew more awkward when more and more people kept piling in expecting a food parcel and no one from Isibindi was to be found. They finally came in halfway through the day, all demanding food. Since it was now four men and me at the organization they found it mildly annoying that I wasn’t already cooking for them as soon as they walked in the door, or better yet, before they arrived. When I tried to explain that I’m writing yet another lesson plan for a workshop they will benefit from they got even angrier. “We’re hungry, just starting cooking, okay?” (Translation: don’t talk back to me). They then sent the youngest man who’s around my age to try to reason with me. I walked into the kitchen to find that the women who usually cook the hot meal for the children must have risen before dawn to have it prepared early enough for them to then go get their monthly child support grants from the government. I said that the food is already prepared, so I don’t understand what all the whining is about. Apparently, the issue was twofold, 1. the meat did not look nice and 2. they needed the food to be served to them on trays like every other day. Trying to formulate a somewhat culturally appropriate response I told them that I appreciate them clarifying their needs but unfortunately I was very busy and pointed them in the direction of the serving utensils. They didn’t quite know what to make of this and did not, in fact, serve themselves. They waited almost an hour for a female staff member to come who immediately started serving them their lunch. I don’t know how long they would have waited or if they would have left hungry but they all seemed rather flustered. It was really quite comical.