Monday, June 6, 2011

My Parents Come to Africa

I had the great pleasure of hosting my parents on their first African adventure. Here are just a few of the photos from our trip.

This is the old lighthouse at Cape Point.

A view from Table Mountain showing the cable car to the top.

This was Nelson Mandela's prison cell. We were actually on Robben Island the same day as Desmond Tutu. We got to see him as his vehicle drove past but unfortunately no pictures to prove it.

A view of Table Mountain and Cape Town from Robben Island

V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

This is a township just outside of Cape Town

The lighthouse at La'Agulhas, the southern most tip of the African Continent

This photo was taken at a quaint roadside stop where we had Mother's Day brunch. This is me trying to befriend, Bacon, the pot belly pig.

A rhino coming out of his mud bath at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Our final stop was a quick visit to my site. Dad became an instant celebrate at school with his big camera.

My mom and host mom, Thokozani

Mom and me reading with the girls, Wandile and Akhona

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making Memories

To my surprise, March has started out being much hotter than February. The other day, I had to go into town for groceries and mail. After finishing all my errands I went and sat on the curb in the hot sun for an hour waiting for a taxi to come. I was not alone, there were approximately 75 other people also waiting for a taxi to take them home. Normally, in the afternoon there are 4 or 5 taxis lined up waiting to go, but that day was pension day, meaning the taxis were busy else where. As I sat and waited, I was plotting how I was going to get a seat on the taxi when it arrived. What you have to first understand is that, when there are more people than there are seats on taxi, courtesy falls by the wayside. It's every man for himself, as twenty people try to pile into the taxi before it has even come to a complete stop. It often becomes brutal as people push and shove, there's hair pulling and yelling as people fight for a seat. Another taxi pulls up as a throng of people attempt to get aboard. I was in no hurry to get home, so I sat and watched as the mayham went down. After several taxis had come and gone, someone walked up to me, grabs my second bag of groceries and says, 'Nokuthula, we are getting on that next taxi.' And like all the people had done before us, we had the door open and we were climbing into the taxi before it had come to a complete stop.

So there I am, stuck sitting in the worst seat, the back row, squished between two voluptuous African women with my two big bags of groceries on my lap. The taxi, aka 'the death trap,' is flying down the road. The door is about to fall off, there's dirt blowing in my face and I fear that the seat underneath me is about to collapse under the weight. Despite the wind blowing, the sun was shining right on me, I could feel the sweat rolling down my face and back as the sweat from my neighbors drips down my arms. The driver has the music up so loud you can't hardly hear yourself think. All I could think about was how miserable I was at that moment. But then I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture - 'I am in Africa!' A big smile came to my face as I thought about the fact that just over a year earlier this was exactly the kind of experience I had imagined. When else in my life am I going to get the opportunity to be completely immersed in another culture. I only have to do this for two years where as everyone else has to do this their entire life. What was a miserable experience a couple seconds earlier evolved into an experience that I will forever look back upon and smile, because twelve months from now this will all come
to an end and I will return home to a life of 'normalcy.' These will just be distant memories, stories from a different lifetime, a different world. As hard as it is at times, I am trying to make this a positive experience, an experience I can share with others years down the road.

(The picture to the right is of a women carrying firewood on her head. Electricity is available to most in the village, however, many people can't afford to pay for such a luxury. Thus, they must collect wood everyday for cooking.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Brother Comes To Visit

I had the great joy of hosting my first visitor here in South Africa. My brother and I spent about two weeks traveling around South Africa. We drove from Durban to Cape Town and then back to Durban via Lesotho. Here are pictures highlighting our journey.

Addo Elephant Park

We traveled through wine country. We drove past beautiful wineries, but not without stopping at a few for samples.

Shark diving off of Gaansbaai!!! The biggest Great White Shark we saw was 11 feet. They would swim within inches of us (we were in a cage). I thought I was going to freeze to death as I sat motionless in the 52 degree water for 20 minutes.

Cape Point -- The very south western point of the African continent


We spent New Year's Eve with my Peace Corps friend and partner in Cape Town

Middle of nowhere Africa

A famous hill in Lesotho
Lesotho is a tiny country within South Africa

This is what speed bumps are called in Lesotho

Our last stop was a visit to my village where Flint not only got the opportunity to meet my host family and village but he also experienced a bit of the Zulu culture and customs!
This is Flint sitting on a grass mat with some Gogos (grandmothers)

Part of my host family doing Flint's signature pose

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why am I still here?

As I am sitting here writing this, it is one in the morning, I am listening to the evening melody of the frogs and insects. An electrical storm has moved in, knocking out the power, leaving little hope of relief from this summer heat. My fan sits silently as the air in my room becomes stagnant and the mosquitoes swoop in from every direction in hopes of a meal. My sandals are wedged under the door to keep the frogs out, while the fattened lizards call my walls home. I have been living in Africa for a year now. I am torn between think that this past year has flown by while at the same time being the longest year of my life.

It was a year ago this week that I was anxiously packing my bags, soaking up the last conveniences that America has to offer and saying goodbye. As I reflect on my first weeks in South Africa, I can’t help but think of how naive I was at that time. I knew there would be the highs and the lows, the rough patches and some bumps along the way but had I known what I was in for I think I would had turned right around and bid Africa a farewell. But what an incredible journey this first year has been.

Someone recently asked me why I am still here, why haven’t I just thrown in the shovel and gone right home. After all, I have been sick more often than not, the work is less than ideal, and I have slept in a bed full of maggots. There have been times when I was about to pack my bags and go but there are many reasons why I am still here.

1. The first reason I am still here is because of all the support and encouragement from my family and friends back home, as well as, from people I don’t even know.

2. I also wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a few good Peace Corps friends. We may live hours apart and see each other only every couple of months but they are only a SMS away.

3. There is the typical answer that I am here to make an impact and do incredible work, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I feel that my life, knowledge, and understanding of the world has changed far more than I would ever be able to impact the lives of those around me.

4. My purely selfish reason is to prove to myself that if I can live in rural South Africa and all that that entails for two years, it will give me the confidence to know that I can handle whatever curve balls life throws my way.

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