Sunday, May 23, 2010

Grandpa is Dancing Again

Firstly, I must apologize for the delay in posting, it is partly due to extenuating circumstances and partly due to my lack of words. I am finding it difficult to put my thoughts and experiences into words. Some of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers have started using their blogs as more of a journal, they write about the positive aspects of everyday. Life is not easy here; poverty, crime, illness, death, and racism are just a few of the battles that these people face on a daily basis. As a PCV, I witness this daily, it can quickly wear a person down. In every social work class I had, they emphasized the point that you must first help yourself before you can help others. There are little things that I do on a daily basis to keep a positive mind. Every morning, I wake up with the sun, I take a minute to enjoy the beauty of this world that I am living. As the sun begins to shine in my hut, I bask in the warmth of the light as I drink tea. This sets a positive mind set for the day. At the end of the day, once the sun has disappeared and I have said my good nights, I take a moment to remember all the positive aspects of the day. Here are just a few of the positive moments:

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Today was a great day, Lindsay, my nearest PC friend invited me to go to a cultural dance competition. The setting: the beach! I woke up this morning to find it overcast, cold, and rainy. I thought there was no way I was going to go. I would have to stand out in the rain for an hour or more to try and catch a taxi into town. But to my surprise, they (Lindsay and her coworker)offered to come pick me up! As we pulled up to the event there were groups of excited kids all around dressed in their school uniforms. We were told the competition was to start at 9am...(I frequently forget that everything runs on African time here) two hours later the students are all dressed in their traditional attire anxiously awaiting their time to shine. It was truly an incredible experience to watch these kids, dressed in tradition attire, perform these dances that have been passed down through the generations.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The grade R learners (students) have taking a liking to me. Grade R (R stands for readiness) is equivalent to kindergarten. After a couple cups of tea this morning my bladder was about to burst. As I rushed out of the office and down the stairs I was swarmed by the grade R learners. They all wanted to hug their new friend Nokuthula. They yell in the only English they know, "Hi Nokuthula, how are you?" By this point I can't move, I am five kids deep on every side. The teacher stands back and laughs as I struggle to free myself. I finally break free and run off with kids trailing behind, I yell back "Ngiyabuya, Ngiyabuya! (I am coming back!)" in a failed attempt to not have the entire class follow me to the pit toilet.

Saturday, May 22, 2010
Today I went to a graduation party with my host mom. I had never actually met the graduate before the party but she was the former manager of Noah, she quit shortly before I arrived to go back to school to get a teaching degree. As with most things, when my mom and I arrived at the party, everyone was surprised to see a white person in their midst. After many hugs from excited Gogos (grandmas/old women) I was offered a seat. One thing I have learned here is that it's not a celebration without song and dance, but not the song and dance you would see in the US. To try and paint a picture in your mind: at functions the men and women typically sit separately. The old men sit on stumps under trees drinking traditional beer while the women sit else where. They all have this withered look about them from years of hardship. The old men all have their walking stick and the gogos walk with great care. The ceremony was set to start at 2pm, so at half past four the graduate made her appearance dressed in her cap and gown. The music began, the Gogos and Grandpas jumped to their feet and began to dance around, yelling and rejoicing. It is truly a site to see.

This weeks pictures: the first two pictures are from the dance competition. The third picture is of a group of the learners at the school. And this last picture is of a zebra that I saw just hanging out in my shopping town.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I am called by many names here in my rural South African village. The first of which and the most common is Nokuthula. The first night I moved in with my host family in Mpumalanga they gave me the African name, Nokuthula, meaning “quiet and peaceful one” (I would say it’s a fitting name for me). Now that I have moved into my new village I now have a second name. That name is Umlungu, meaning “white person.” For anyone that does not know me by Nokuthula they just simply call me Umlungu. When riding in the local taxis I often here people whispering to each other “who is this umlungu (in Zulu of course)?” thinking that I don’t understand. The best part is when I turn around and greet them in isiZulu. All the looks of skepticism and judgment melt away as they realize that I can speak their language. I then explain in my broken isiZulu that I am from the US and that I volunteer and live in the village. They then greet me with open arms.

I guess I have never really experience truly being a minority before. It is not easy being the odd one out. I often feel part of a game, “Spot the Umlungu.” No matter where I go people point and yell “Umlungu” as though they have just won the prize for finding the umlungu. I also explain it as walking around with a spot light over me. I am always drawing attention and stares. Sometimes I think that if I am far enough away or if it is dark enough people won’t be able to tell that I am an umlungu, unfortunately it does not work that way. I am sure as time goes on I will just be yesterday news, but for right now I am the talk of the town. In fact, if my village had their version of the Enquirer I would make the front page.
The headlines for this week’s Enquirer: “Umlungu deathly ill after walking for hours,”
“Rich American Saves African Family from Bankruptcy,” and “Umlungu Kicks Families out
of Houses.”

Random Thoughts:
I recently learned that I share a birthday with South Africa’s greatest leader, Nelson Mandela. I am very excited about this recent discovery. A few months back during training we took a fieldtrip to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Johannesburg. Here are some quotes from Mandela:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man
is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
“There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

My host father acquired a puppy! It was given to him by a friend. They (my host family) were talking about getting a puppy since Tsotsi is an older dog. The bad part is that the puppy, which I am here by naming Spot, is a very sick little guy. But my host father being the animal lover he is, is nursing Spot back to health.

This weeks pictures: The first picture is of Wandile and me, she is my little two year old niece. The second picture is some of the children at work standing in front of the NOAH sigh. And then there is the picture of Spot.
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