Tuesday, August 2, 2011

7/16-17: Today I noticed several old women I hadn’t seen before deep cleaning our compound. This could mean only one thing, we’re preparing for a ceremony. I was so excited. Though I’ve been to countless ceremonies this would be the first at my home. So I was shocked when I asked around and nobody could give me a straight answer as to why we’re having a ceremony. You’re spending thousands of rand and dozens of hours sweeping the dirt around our huts and dusting our glass dog collection and you don’t even know why?!

Well I finally discovered the reason for all the hub bub was my host mom and sister both dreamt that our family would come into money. Zulus believe that dreams are a way for their ancestors to communicate with them. To insure this would come true we performed a ceremony and sacrificed a goat. The goat’s blood, along with a ceramic vase filled with sorghum beer, a grass mat, a loaf of bread and some traditional medicine were left at what could be described as an alter.

Sunday is the day during a ceremony I call Slave Day. Since it was a small ceremony the only young women were my host sister GuGu, my host cousin Sindi and myself. We proceeded to be at the beck and call to everyone who entered our compound until well into the night. Fortunately for me, we ran out of goat meat and since the women eat last I was served only a small portion of goat intestines and was spared the far worse pancreas, bladder and boiled skin.

After we ate, my host siblings all showed me their izinpandlas which are bracelets of goat skin signifying your family has just performed a ceremony. I wanted one too and something changed when everyone in my family went together to cut a slice of skin from the goat to show we honored our ancestors. It was really special. We’re all connected now.

Well my luck ran out about mid-afternoon when both Sindi and GuGu left leaving me to tend to a few dozen drunken men and elderly women all by my lonesome. Just as I was falling asleep standing up they came sauntering back in wondering why I looked like death. They were unimpressed. “Oh you’re tired,” they scoffed. “Please, we do this every day.”

7/18: I had another great day when I finished the world map I’ve been working on with the middle school. We then had an assembly where I talked about being a global citizen and how a lot more unites us than divides us. They were really proud.

7/19: After asking Tshengie a month ago if she knew of anyone to teach my girls clubs beadwork she finally came up with someone. This woman had recently taught a group for free and when I asked if she would do the same for us she snickered. When I then asked how much it would cost she responded, “It depends if you’re asking or requesting.” I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed and was in no mood for games. “Whichever is cheaper,” I snapped. “Asking,” she said matter-of-factly. Instead of naming a price she fell into this sudden shyness and it took quite a while to agree to an absurd price.

Though I had a bad feeling about her I had some money allotted in my PEPFAR grant for girls clubs so I agreed. Well let’s just say nobody will be drawing comparisons between her and Mary Poppins anytime soon. It was quickly apparent that the beadwork was too difficult for the girls. Now would it have been possible if she was a bit more patient and whole lot less critical? Yes. But sadly she wasn’t. She was easily frustrated and when the girls would ask for help she would patronize them for wasting her time. I had music going and definitely made light of the situation but I really didn’t want this woman to drive these girls away. So I asked a few of them after club how they thought it went. They didn’t have anything negative to say. But I asked if they thought perhaps the teacher was a bit strict. They agreed but they said she’s just like all of their other teachers. Now it’s sad that none of their teachers can be bothered to help them, are highly critical of their work and treat them badly but at least I know their first beadwork experience wasn’t a total wash.

7/21: Learning from Tuesday’s mistake I politely declined beadwork lady’s second slated appearance with my other girls club and went into town to buy some yarn. Instead I taught them how to make friendship bracelets. It was a huge success. Great relaxed atmosphere, fun music and company. Two thumbs up.

7/23-24: This weekend I helped organize a 30th birthday extravaganza for my closest Peace Corps friend. Such fun.

7/25-29: This week I’ve been teaching a financial literacy course back to back first to the caregivers at my organization and then to grade 12 students at the local high school. The booklets were donated by Operation HOPE, an American NGO, and they supplied me with lesson plans so all I had to do was facilitate which is the fun part. It was such a success. We had great discussions on how easy it is for desperate people to turn to loan sharks and how impossible it seems to get out of debt. We talked about budgeting your money and starting your own small business. About checking accounts and savings accounts. About how if you have money you have options. It was very empowering.

7/29: Today I facilitated a training on permaculture gardening techniques. I went to a training last year to learn this method and I used the facilitator’s tagline: Feeding the world: one family a time; Saving the world: one garden at a time. The idea is to teach the importance of kitchen gardens to improve the nutrition of families and to increase yield by using practices similar to bio-intensive gardening. Demonstrating how to garden was my first time actually gardening. It wasn’t an exactly ideal situation but it somehow worked out pretty well.

8/1: The chickens ate every single one of our seedlings. Sigh.