Sunday, April 25, 2010

A day in my sandals

Before becoming a volunteer one of my biggest questions was what does a day in the life of a volunteer look like. Fortunately for you, I am going to give you an insider’s view into the not so glorious life of a volunteer.

12am – Wake up to raindrops on my head. My rondaval has 15+ leaks in the roof so when it rains outside it also rains inside. Get up, put a towel over me and go back to sleep.

2:30am – Tsotsi (my guard dog) has vocal lessons outside my window. I have decided that he enjoys just listening to himself bark.

4am – The roosters begin to crow

5:30am – The birds begin to gather on my roof

6am- My alarm goes off, hit snooze a couple times before I manage to roll out of bed

6:15-6:48am – Get dressed, eat breakfast, check my email and prepare my bag for the day.

6:48 am – Leave for work/school. Greet every single person I pass along the way.

6:56 am – Arrive at work/school. Greet all my co workers.

7:05am – Morning song and prayer. Every day begins and ends with a song and prayer. Meetings also begin and end with a prayer. This is customary even for nonreligious organizations.

7:15am – Begin cleaning up after our nightly visitors, the bats. They are very good about letting us know that they were there.

7:30am – Children begin to arrive to school. Greet and play with the children.

8am – School begins. I enter data into the computer or sit in the kitchen and watch the cooks prepare the days lunch.

10am – Tea Time!

10:30am – Join one of the Red Cross volunteers to teach a class on HIV, drugs, rape, etc.

12pm – The kindergarteners get out of school. Serve them lunch

12:30pm – Eat lunch (will post a menu later)

1pm – The 1st graders get out of school. Serve them lunch.

2pm – Serve all the learners (students) lunch

2:30pm – Study isiZulu, do computer work, play with kids, try to keep myself occupied, etc.

4pm – Closing song and prayer

4:05 – 4:20 – Walk home with co workers. Notice time difference in walking to work and walking home. I have not completely mastered the art of the slow walk but I am forced to learn as I meander home with my co workers.

4:20pm – Arrive home. Greeted by my nieces (ages 2 & 6) and Tsotsi

4:20 – 5:45pm – Bathe and play with nieces until the sun goes down.

6pm – Retire to my room for the night. Eat dinner, read, watch a movie, journal, and keep myself occupied

9pm- Lay in bed, count all the springs in my mattress. Eventually fall asleep.

As I have probably mentioned before, the first three months at site are the observation period. Thus, I don't do too much. I am sure this will change once I begin working on projects.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nurturing Orphans of AIDS for Humanity

I have neglected to tell you what my main job is here in South Africa. I am working for an organization called NOAH which stands for Nurturing Orphans of AIDS for Humanity. NOAH provides services to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). It was started in 2002 and there are now 101 NOAH (Arks) locations throughout KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces. Statistics say that an average of 1 in 3 people in South Africa has HIV/AIDS. There are approximately 2.5 million orphans and many more vulnerable children and about half of those orphans are due to the AIDS pandemic.
I am working with one of the Arks in a rural village in KwaZulu-Natal. We are based out of a local primary school. We are currently serving 276 OVCs in a school of about 500 students (grades K-7). And there are many more students who would greatly benefit from our services. The biggest service we provide is our meal program. We serve approximately 260 hot meals a day. For many of the children this is the only meal they will get the whole day. We also provide after school activities, bereavement counseling, daycare, HIV/AIDS education, and life skills classes.
So where do I fit into this? These first three months at site are called Community Integration (or as volunteers refer to it as "Lock Down"). I am learning about the organization and figuring out where I will fit in and what I can offer. I am also to use these first months to continue learning the language and to perform a Needs Assessment on the community. There are a lot of great opportunities here for me and I can't wait to begin!

I smell!!

So apparently, I have forgotten how to take a bucket bath. The first two months I was in South Africa I was living in a house that did not have running water. We fetched the water from a tap in the yard; however, the water to the community was shut off a good portion of the time. This required a lot of water conservation. When the community water supply was turned on, it was a mad dash to get all the buckets you owned filled with water because it was unknown how long the water was going to be on and how long it would be before it was turned back on. On average, the water was off for a couple days and came back on for only half a day. It got worse as time went on. At points, the water was off for a week at a time and it was turned on for a couple hours in the early morning around 3am. It got to the point of desperation for water sometimes that when the water came on in the early morning hours everyone was awake and scrambling to store as much water as possible. The moral to this story is that I learned very quickly how to survive on very little water. Here are a few water conservation tips:

  • Flush toilets use a great deal of water and are a luxury in most houses. Build yourself a pit latrine in the yard. No water required just a little bug spray to keep the insects at bay. Side note: The one down side to using a pit latrine is that once about 8pm hits the house is locked up and you are not allowed to leave until morning. Thus, you must have a pee bucket for use at night. Now, even though everyone uses a pee bucket, it is important that in the morning you empty it in secret. This is where the bucket bath comes in handy (see bullet point 4).
  • When doing dishes just use a single bucket. Fill the bucket with hot soapy water. No rinsing required, just dry the dishes and put them back. Side note: use the same dish water all day, no need to change the water even once it becomes brown and murky.
  • Do laundry by hand. Use two buckets, one with soapy water to wash and the other for rinsing. Important tip: always remember to start with your whites and lights and wash those first. The water turns brown pretty quickly, so to insure that your whites stay whitish always begin with those (lesson learned the hard way, I now have a selection of brown underwear). And just like with the dish water, no need to change the water once it becomes brown and murky, after all, it is just dirt.
  • And lastly, take a bucket bath. Who really needs a shower when you can take a bucket bath? All you need is a bucket (big enough to stand in), a cup for pouring, water and soup. With only two liters of water you can wash your entire body. Now, since bathrooms are a luxury, bathing is done in the bedroom, therefore it is important to keep the splashing under control. Always remember to start with your face and hair and then work down from there. A bucket bath spreads the dirt evenly throughout your body and leaves you smelling fresh and clean because you are unable to completely rinse all the soap from your body.
    • As I mentioned above, the dirty water after bathing can also be used to inconspicuously dispose of your pee bucket. Just keep the dirty bath water until morning and pour them out together, just make sure to rinse the bucket before using it again.

Now back to my main point. I have been at my permanent site now for a little under a month. I am spoiled here. Even though I do not have running water in my rondaval, the family’s house has all the western conveniences, a bathroom with a toilet AND shower along with a fully functioning kitchen sink. However, the problem lies within the last couple of days. I have been so spoiled with my daily showers that I have forgotten how to take a bucket bath. Just as I was beginning to take water for granted, the water to the community has been turned off. This means I have to resort back to the days of bucket baths. With this being said, water has become scarce and it’s back to the world of water conservation and I must resort back to the old way of life.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Africa in pictures, here's a small taste of my life

Me with Ruby (3 month old baby who belonged to host sister during training)
some of the kiddo's during my time in training
swearing in day
a view of the outside of my hut (at my permanent site where I now reside)
a view of the inside of my hut (my bed)
another view of the inside of my hut
the kitchen area in my hut

Tsotsi, my guard dog

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New life new beginnings

Hello all! It's been two months since I have last written. Let me just
give you a brief synopsis of these past two months.
We (40 volunteers) arrived in Jo'burg on the evening of january 29th
after 26 hours of traveling. When we arrived it was raining. We were
later told that rain on a wedding day symbolizes the washing away of
the brides footprint from her home to her new home. This is a sign of
faith and commitment to her new family and future. We decided that the
rain upon our arrival showed our commitment to our life and work here
in South Africa.

We had two months of training. The first week we spent at a college
and then we moved in with local families. We learned to live a South
African lifestyle. This meant washing cloths by hand, using a pit
latrin, and cooking and eating pap. We also learned how to survive
with very little water. The water to the village was off about 80
percent of the time.

On march 25th we officially swore in as Peace Corps volunteers with
our supervisors in attendance. Shortly after the swearing in ceremony,
we all piled into our respective vehicles with all our luggage and
headed off to our perminate sits. As with most things in Africa, it's
always an adventure. Fifteen people (volunteers & supervisors)
squeezed into a fourteen passenger cumby (taxi) with a eight hour
journey ahead of us. Just pictures this: 15 adults & 30 pieces of
large luggage in van that is a little bigger than a mini van. So with
luggage straped to the roof and in every inch of space available in
the van up to our necks, we pulled out of the hotel parking lot. Not
even five minutes down the road, we were pulled over... Gotta love
life in Africa!

Now here I sit in my spacious rondival (hut). I live and work in a
small village in the province of Kwazulu Natal. I am 12 km from the
Indian ocean. Life in Africa is not always easy, with each day comes
a new adventure and a new challenge but it is all worth it when the
kids run up to me with excitement yelling 'Nokuthula Nokuthula!'
Nokuthula (Nok-tula ) is my Zulu name meaning quiet and peace.

My new address is:
PO BOX 800
Mtunzini 3867
South Africa

Love & Peace, Nokuthula
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