Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tid Bits

I have compiled a list of experiences, observations, fact, and differences to share with you all in order to give you a better understanding of my life here in rural South Africa. This list could go on much longer but I don’t want to bore you to death, so for now I limited the list to fifteen.

*The longer I am here, the worse my English gets (and it was bad to begin with), therefore, please ignore all punctuation, grammatical, and spelling errors.

  1. Transportation: Road rule #1 - Cars have the right away, especially taxis. Time is money in the taxi business, therefore, taxis do not slow down when people are in the road; instead, they hit the gas thus insuring that people move out of their way quicker.
  2. Cultural Difference: Traditionally, a Zulu speaker will pass something to you using the right hand only, with the palm of the left hand supporting the right forearm. This is done to show you have nothing to fear and that nothing is being hidden away. (Personal Note: I am left handed and frequently forget to use my right hand, opps, hope I have not offended anyone.).
  3. Personal Note: The Peace Corps experience is the most emotionally challenging experience I have ever had.
  4. Country Fact: The president of South Africa is Jacob Zuma, also referred to as JZ. Zuma has been married 5 times (polygamist) and has 20 children.
  5. Food Fact: The staple food in the Zulu diet is maize meal (similar to cornmeal). Maize meal is eaten with nearly every meal. In the morning it is made into porridge (my favorite way to eat maize meal). It is also used to make pap (stiff pap) or phuthu. These are used as the base to a meal (similar to how we would use rice) with meat and gravy on top. In the summer, they enjoy eating phuthu mixed with sour milk.
  6. Cultural Difference: Gratitude is often expressed by gestures rather than words. Instead of saying “Siyabonga” (thank you) when receiving an item, one will clap their hands, curtsy, accept the offering with both hands, or place the right hand on the forearm (same as when passing an object, see # 2). It can be considered rude to accept something using only one hand.
  7. Food Fact: They love their meat and they do not waste any of it! In the frozen food section of the grocery store you can buy “Walky talky,” chicken heads and feet. They also enjoy tripe (animal intestines). And their idea of a good dessert is to chew on the bones and suck out all the marrow.
  8. Personal Note: Thus, I have become a vegetarian while living in South Africa. There are too many mystery meats and they handle the meat much differently (i.e. it sits out for long periods of time while flies enjoy a meal).
  9. Transportation: When getting on a taxi at a taxi rink, the taxi must be full (normally 15 passengers) before the taxi will leave. This can take anywhere from five minutes to hours. The longest I have had to wait so far has been four hours. What would normally be a quick errand turns into an all day event when using public transportation.
  10. Cultural Differences: The African handshake is a variation of the conventional handshake. Shake hands and without letting go, slip your hand around the other person’s thumb. You then go back to the traditional handshake.
  11. Country Fact: South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
  12. Personal Note: I have adopted many South African words into my vocabulary including, saying in exclamation: eish, hhybo, how (said really fast), and shame. As well as other common words like braai (a bbq), bhaki (truck), and quantum (taxi).
  13. Transportation: Even on the HOTTEST days, no one opens the windows in a taxi. This makes for a great environment for TB to be spread.
  14. Cultural Difference: A child is taught to look down when addressing his elders, to speak quietly and to speak only when spoken to. They are also taught not to stand taller than the elders (i.e. elder sitting and child standing). When a child enters a room with elders (any adults) they will get on their knees and speak softly while avoiding all eye contact. This is a sign of respect.
  15. Observations: Everything runs on “African time.” Nothing starts or ends on time and it can take hours, days, weeks, months, and even years to get anything accomplished.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coffee Bay

I must first apologize to my loyal fans as I have negated to write in quite a while. The truth is, not much is happening on this end. Life is the same, day in and day out. One of the reasons for this has been because of a big strike that has been taking place. I won’t get into specifics but pretty much the teachers were striking for about a month. When there are no teachers, there are no students, and when there are no students, there is no work. The issue has still not been resolved; however, the strike has been suspended for 21 days. We are still waiting to see if the government will meet their demands.

In August I took my first South African vacation! Two friends (fellow PCVs) and I headed to a rural village in the Eastern Cape called Coffee Bay. What a truly beautiful place! We went on a couple hikes, sat on the beach, and just relaxed. I even jumped off a few cliffs! Here are some pictures from my trip.

Jill Kim and me on a hike

Watching the sunset

Kim and Jill

My host family's store.
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