6/13: So tonight I was called into one of my host family’s huts. We all were wrapped in blankets, huddled around the fire in the center of the hut when my host mom walked in with a cake. It was my host brother, Mpho’s, seventh birthday and he was jumping all around with the biggest smile I had ever seen. She then cut a small piece for all ten members of the family with Mpho’s as the largest. We then each shared a liter of Fanta. It was so wonderful to see everyone so happy.
6/14: Today I saw my go go and Zindle at the post office in town. I was a bit weary to talk to her seeing as though she was so unpredictable in the months leading up to my host family switch but I had already stood in line for an hour and couldn’t, on principle, bring myself to leave. Luckily, she was in a good mood and I held Zindle in my arms for the next hour as I jockeyed for a position with the next available teller. I went to visit them the following week and she said that Zindle cried the whole taxi ride back to the village saying she missed her mom. That just broke my heart. Leaving Zindle six months ago in such a dire situation I know will pale in comparison to my feelings when I leave all the children I’ve grown to love here.
6/11, 6/18: So I recently had three failed projects in a week’s time which has led me to question my utility here and the community’s interest in my work. Are they just humoring me? Do they really care? But after some serious soul searching I can no longer consider these events fruitless.
The first was a Camp GLOW sharing and thank you event. Because I’m crafty and have quite a bit of time on my hands, I spent a lot of it making this event really special. All sorts of fun things were created out of construction paper to make the classroom we would use as nice as possible. The GLOW girls and I invited their families and the people in the community that helped make Camp GLOW possible. The goal was to share with the village what the girls learned and to thank everyone who helped us. Well three people showed up one of whom was Tshengie, my supervisor, who I invited as a friend and who we didn’t need to thank. But the girls were all there so I passed out the programs and we had the entire event like we weren’t sitting in a room full of empty seats.
Since poetry was such a hit at camp, I asked the girls to bring poems about camp or what they learned at camp to the event if they were interested. About a third of the girls came prepared with poetry. One girl wrote this poem about me and could barely get through it she was crying so hard:
When she sees me
Her cheeks visit her ears
She smiles and greets me
She is always smiling.
She’s not easily influenced.
She thinks and loves
That’s my friend.
I treasure your friendship in my heart.
My second event that can now be seen as a positive after my new found attitude adjustment is Zamimpilo’s first Board of Directors meeting.
Now Tshengie and I have been talking about acquiring a Board of Directors for almost nine months now but I had dropped the issue months before when interest had seriously waned. Well, after the Treasurer of our org went to a training she came back and announced the necessity of a Board so the idea was reignited (or frankly lit for the first time). So we had three Management Committee meetings where we discussed the roles and responsibilities of a Board. Fortunately for me I have some spotty Internet access and was able to Google the topic of this series of impromptu workshops which was invaluable so I could have some semblance of credibility.
The consensus was to provide a written application to people we thought would do well as Board members. Fast forward several months and we didn’t receive any applications. Back to the drawing board with another workshop on the purpose of a Board. (After inquiring about the lack of applications, I found people were still confused about why we would need two Management Committees). After another month or so went by I suggested changing tactics. I proposed we invite potential Board members to an informational meeting. Everyone was then assigned a person to go scourging through the hills to find and ask to come to Zamimpilo in two weeks time. Only half the people asked showed up (four elderly and illiterate women) and when Tshengie reached the item on the agenda of the Board’s role at Zamimpilo she didn’t know what to say. Nothing. Not one sentence. We had spent hours and hours talking about this. I have spent twice as much time with her on this topic than anyone else and still nothing? Luckily for me, I had a cheat sheet that I was able to pass her but was still incredibly discouraged. I’m happy that this project is off the ground and our next meeting date is set and I hope to bring in someone from an NGO in town that another PCV works at who could potentially explain this better. But hey, we’re better off now with a table full of go gos then we were before.
Lastly, though one of my girls clubs is thriving the other is well…not. After discussing a meeting time, day and place the girls all agreed on Saturdays. Well this past Saturday two girls came one of whom I know walked two hours to get there. The Saturday club has always struggled with attendance but each time there’s been enough to have a good discussion. The two girls, my counterpart Zanele and I decided to overrule the group (who didn’t show up) and moved the club to Tuesdays after school. I’ll keep you posted on how that decision fared.
6/30: So I swear whenever I’m having a down day the alarm bells must sound in all of Nondweni because it doesn’t take long before I’m reminded why I love it here. Today I was immersed in the last Salander book and wasn’t too thrilled when three of my host siblings barged in looking at me expectantly for entertainment. After much persistence, I agreed to give them a computer lesson. (And yes, they were begging for lessons). It started when my host sister Thobile (nicknamed Thobi, pronounced ‘Toby’) asked if I wrote letters to my sisters in America on my computer. I said, “As a matter of fact I do,” and she asked if she could write them one as well. She wanted it to be perfect and we both worked on it for over an hour. She typed it and everything (her first time ever using a computer) and of course I helped her with the spelling and grammar.
TO: Rachel Katherine Emily
From: Thobile Mtshali
I want to ask you some question
Do you sit well without your sister?
You eat well without your sister?
Do you sleep well without your sister?
You go well without your sister?
Do you sit in a table all of you without your sister? HOW
ABOUT LINDELWA MTSHALI
She is a nice girl
She is lovely person
It is so nice to play with her
WE love her all of us in SOUTH AFRICA
She is so kind
ABOUT THOBILE MTSHALI
I am doing grade 6
If I grow up I want to be a doctor at usa
I want to be famous like LINDELWA
One day I want to see at USA IF it nice
I want to be a government of SA
She planned it so well that (in case you didn't notice) she wrote five questions, then wrote five things about me (Lindelwa) then five things about herself. Isn't she just the cutest thing?! She's one of the smartest kids in her class, I'm so proud of her. As you can see, NOBODY here including Thobi can comprehend living away from your family haha. It broke my heart when she said 'if I grow up' such a testament to life's uncertainties here.