Boot slappin’ good times!

Boot slappin’ good times!

Another two weeks have come and gone.

At times, one is made aware of the fact that the passing of time itself is much a matter of perspective. It feels as though we just arrived in our nearly-quaint South African village, while at the same moment that we have been here for many, many moons.

This evening as I walked out of our entirely too warm two room house, I looked up into the sky to see beautiful clouds drifting lazily by suspended in the deepening blue sky of dusk. In the opposite direction the reddish orange globe sank quickly toward the horizon calling an end to another “Sun”day.

Yesterday the air was cool, almost cold as a storm passed in the distance. Yet today the heat was back. One knows that it is truly moving towards summer when the locals greet you by saying, “today is too hot.” Of course this warming of the land is more conducive to cold bucket baths. There are times when it is nice to not have to boil water before putting it to good use.

When in doubt… make certificates.

Three weeks ago my principle mentioned that the school would like to have an awards days where learners receive certificates for sports, attendance, and academic accolades. At their staff meeting a committee was formed (of which I was one of 3 members) to work on the planning for the big day. I was not sure of my purpose other than I was to head up the designing and creation of the certificates. (Ah yes, I do love graphic design work.)

Here’s the final product on one of the certificates, lamination, school crest, digital signature and all.

Mr. Moruane (principal) brought me into his office and brought forth a laminator (one sheet at a time.) This machine apparently had never been used. It was purchased by the former principal and then upon its arrival he promptly resigned. (I don’t think it was because of the machine, but one can never tell with such things.) Anyway, so the laminator sat on a shelf unused for who knows how long, but now the time had come to bring it into action. Only one problem, no plastic. Apparently one may be able to purchase such things in Town, but not just anywhere in town, in Onverwacht. (I still can’t pronounce the darn name even though I took German in high school. It’s Afrikaans you see.) Onverwacht is a section of town that one must take a second takisi (Taxi) to. As to where to catch that taxi and in what direction to go was still a mystery, but we are up for an adventure.

I had been also been asked by my other supervisor if I could get a price quote for power cables from the one computer store in the area (also in Onverwacht) so we were set. Now I just had to find out where one could acquire laminator supplies. Luckily I have an internet connection and was able to find the phone number for the computer store and from there they pointed me in the direction of the business supply store. (and yes, they had laminator supplies a plenty.) So we were set, now we just had to find the place.

The great taxi adventure.

Onverwacht…

It has been consistently talking one and a half hours to make the trip into Lepalale from Abbot’s Poort. By private car this trip takes only 45 minutes.

You see, once you finally flag down a taxi along the tar road the driver will then ramble around the village (usually heading first in the opposite direction from town) until his rig is filled to capacity (15 or more passengers). At this point we head out for the taxi rank in Shongone 1. (There are three Shongoanes.) Now when I mentioned taxi rank to my father he said, “like a transportation station?” My response was, “no, more like a big tree.” At the rank you may or may not switch taxis. (I’m not quite sure what mechanism triggers the switch, but this is just one more little mystery to unravel.) So off we go after fueling up at the petrol station across the way.

We have been attempting to get up early on days that we head into town but sometimes this is more difficult than others.

One morning it was pouring down rain (well more like it was blowing in sideways) as we waited on the side of the tar road. Moricho, our host brother came jogging out to the road holding two umbrellas, one for him and one for us. We held them horizontally to block the torrential rains but we were fully soaked before the taxi ever came.

On the morning of the Onverwacht adventure we knew that we needed to get into town as early as possible in order to find the “hidden taxi rank” on the far side of town. This at least is what our PCV friends up north had said. Upon arriving at the main rank in town, (a much bigger and livelier spot than our tree in Shongoane 1) we hoofed it over to Pick N Pay, a nice little 15 minute walk across town. We knew that we were close to the “hidden rank” but, were at a loss for which direction to proceed.

We stopped a young man to ask for help. He not only pointed out the rank but he walked us straight there (this was down a few blocks from where we were originally looking.) As we walked we thanked him for his kindness. His response was that it was nice that a pair of white people were even talking to a black South African in a situation like this. He said that most of the time they just try to figure it out for themselves before asking a black man.

These are the times that the presence of racism stands up and glares directly at you refusing to be ignored. Morgan, the nice young man, even talked to the driver to help us get to where we wanted to go (or at least we thought he had.) We traded phone numbers and he said that he may call us sometime to check in to make sure we are doing ok. This sort of thing just doesn’t seem to happen very often in the states. Thinking about myself, I probably would have just pointed out where to go. There is something to be said for going the extra mile.

After we introduced ourselves to the members of the Taxi who were already onboard (in our best Sepedi of course) the taxi quickly filled and off we went. Now our only problem was that we didn’t know where we were off to. We believed that Morgan had told the driver where we were headed and so trusted that when the time was right we would be pointed in the right direction, or that we would recognize the name of the shopping center and be able to call for a drop-off. Neither of these things came to pass, however. Slowly but surely the taxi became less and less crowded as passenger after passenger exited from the sliding door. The taxi now had 3 passengers plus Susie and myself. The driver pulled off to the side of the road and turned around. His question was simple. “Where are you going, ” he said. We attempted to explain that we were looking for a place with shops, a computer store named Elcom and a grocery store complex. As realization dawned on his face and the others who were present he quickly picked up his cell phone. As the driver was talking we chatted with those who were left on board. It turns out that we should have gotten off a few miles back and that we were now on our way to Moropong, the next town over. The funny part was that after we told the group who we were all was well. They were more interested in our lives than getting where they needed to go. It turns out that the woman sitting in front of us was actually our host mother’s sister. What a small world.

So here we were sitting and chatting with a fairly jovial crew when all of a sudden another taxi pulls up. The driver had called another taxi. The crew from our taxi exited and got into the new vehicle. We shook our heads as our mistake had caused 3 people to switch taxis and for an entirely new taxi to be called for the occasion. The crazy part to me was that everybody seemed OK with the situation. Thank goodness for being crazy Americans who are still finding our way around. I’m not sure how long we are should use this excuse, but for now it’s sure coming in handy.

By the way we did make it back to town ok. We were actually picked up by the only two people we really know in Lepalale. They are an awesome couple who befriended Brandon and Rachel, the two other PCVs who have been living here for a year now. These places don’t seem that small but when events like this take place it makes one wonder.

Chicken worms, gumboots and super proud moms.

Laminator supplies in hand I set forth to craft the over 200 certificates. This only took the better part of two days. They were printed on beautiful paper in a range of colors and then were laminated as a finishing touch. Suz helped me assemble them one of the two days and the help was much appreciated.

But on Friday, the 26th of October, was when the action really took place. The learners had been practicing all week long after school for some special presentations to be made on the day of celebration. These ranged from choirs to traditional dance to poetry. I also saw a number of boys walking around in some old rubber boots. Well most of them only had one boot. I had heard rumor of the gumboot dance and had nearly seen one at the road show (Suz will elaborate soon) but I was excited to see it first hand.

The cooking preparations began the day before and may have lasted throughout the night. (This was not my job so I’m not sure.) I however, was asked the day before the awards ceremony to join the staff for some pap and chicken worms. This meal actually consisted of chicken feet, chicken liver, chicken intestines, pap and cabbage, mmm lovely. But when in Rome… so, I went for it all.

We arrived early on the day of the event, which was supposed to begin at 9am but since none of the community arrived until 10 we started at 10. Suz and I had been given seats at the VIP table and received a very special introduction by Mr. Moruane to all the parents and community members who were present. We were truly honored. The celebration quickly turned to the learners who exhibited their talent between every speech and were by far the most fun and exciting part of the show, well almost…

Gumboots in action. It really is like South Africa’s version of stomp. Learners share boots so that everyone has at least one.

More gumboots. Note the learners peeking in the windows to watch.

The ladies had their say with amazing traditional dances. There was also an amazing school choir (my favorite) and poetry resuscitation.

Later in the program Suz and I, as well as three educators, went to the front to hand out the coveted certificates. (We were told during training that South Africans really, really enjoy receiving certificates.) As each learner’s name was called that name was relayed to the outside of the “hall”, the size of two classrooms combined. Here you could find all of the learners crowded around peeking through the windows. These learners then came inside and shook hands with the presenters, turned and grinned at the assembly. It was what happened next that was totally unexpected.

Now I know that parents are proud of their children when they do well, but I was reminded me of scene from the musical the Music Man where Harold Hill directed his boys band before a group of parents and community members. As the band began to play one by one each parent stood up and praised their child. “That’s my Barney!” In our case the parents weren’t so subdued. When a learner was called an overjoyed mother, grandmother, or community member would hustle to the front of the room and begin to dance by bending their knees and leaning over at the waist (kind of like one might do if they were imitating a bull in a bull fight, but without using their fingers for horns) and swaying back and forth all the while calling out in much the same voice one might hear in energetic Mexican music. The mother, grandmother, or community member danced all the way up to their children, picked them up, and spun them around in pure elation. It was brilliant! The kids were truly mortified, but I believe this should be counted as a job well done for the parents. All children need a little humiliation here an their and I haven’t seen nearly enough argyle sox and high-water pants around here.

Ups and Downs

Ups and Downs

Hey, everybody! (Susie, here). Since we’re over two weeks late on our blog update, Ben and I decided to tag-team this one. And…hand-off!

Life at Abbotspoort Home Based Care, these past two weeks, has been a real mix of highs and lows (which, any Peace Corps Volunteer will tell you, is just par for the course; part of the “toughest job you’ll ever love” byline). Let’s start with the lows, just to get them out of the way…Several of my weekdays have been spent in the office, lately, assisting the management team with formatting, typing, and composing their “Financial Plan,” a comprehensive budget prescribed by the European Union. (Not sure if I already mentioned this, but the NGO receives funding from three different sources: Department of Health, Department of Social Development, and the European Union. They are still lacking in funds for their actual program development & implementation, but these three sources at least provide their stipends, office supplies, and part of their transport costs). I do want to help wherever I am needed, but I am also naturally more passionate about some areas of service than others, and budgeting/office work is not exactly among my favorites or what I envisioned myself doing when I first dreamed of volunteering in Africa. This being said, I am happy to report that after nearly a week and a half, the Financial Plan is finally done. The big next office-related task will be developing administrative policies. (I know, I know, try to contain your excitement, please!) Oh, well; I figure if we can get most of these technical office projects done during my first few months, here, the next two years will be a breeze!

Although it may feel like it, occasionally, it really isn’t office work, all day, everyday; a few times, now, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the more physical work of helping the drop-in center cooks serve food to the orphans, wash dishes, stack chairs, and sweep the floor. (Who knew these jobs could be so much fun? I guess when you’re learning new Sepede words, laughing about your horrible mispronunciations, and hanging out with fascinating African women, it isn’t all that unbelievable, after all).

Exactly a week after getting to visit the homes of the orphans, I had the opportunity to shadow a carer (Helen) in her daily routine of visiting terminally-ill adults. Once again, it was humbling and eye-opening to see some of the poorest of the poor in this area. It also provided a nice insight into what the actual home-based carers do. At the first house, Helen bathed an elderly woman who was partially paralyzed from the waste down–cause unknown. I assumed hospice care was difficult work, but I was still surprised at how strenuous and time-consuming bathing another person could be. (Abiding by Peace Corps protocols, I couldn’t assist with the actual washing, but I did help moisturize the patient’s legs and feet, afterwards). The care provided to the other four households we visited was not nearly has tactile; Helen verbally checked-in with the patients to see how their “treatment” (medication) was going, asked if they had any new health problems or concerns, and completed her report forms.

Recreation Dreamin’

Recreation Dreamin’

My most exciting news, by far, is that the Project Manager for the OVC (Orphans & Vulnerable Children) drop-in center recently asked for my assistance in developing their activity programs! I was ecstatic. Currently, the drop-in center feeds the children three meals a day and they (the children) usually facilitate their own games and singing. Maria, the (new) Project Manager, would like to provide more substantial activities for the kids in the afternoons, so last Thursday, we sat down together to begin brainstorming a weekly schedule, including crafts, drama, health promotion (primarily HIV/AIDS Education), life-skills, and homework assistance, plus expanded games and music . Maria would like help in the planning of these activities, as well as in their actual execution–which means I’ll get to put my recreation program provider hat on and play more with kids–yippee! I’ve told the rest of the management team that the drop-in center seems to be the major area of their organization I feel I can best assist with, and although communication is still rather tricky, I think they’re generally supportive of this idea. Things take a while to get off the ground in these parts, but at least Maria and I have developed an initial plan to start from. We’ll see where things go from here! Hopefully, we can begin some of the activities, fairly soon, but many of the crafts, life-skills, and sports/games require funding to purchase supplies…All in good time, I trust; for now, I am simply grateful for the dream that has been set in motion.

Another fun picture from the drop-in center. (Maria is in the back on the left, light blue zip-up sweater). If only they weren’t so camera-shy.

Joining the “Road Show!”

Joining the “Road Show!”

Onto another exciting update: About two weeks ago, the NGO received a letter from the Office of the Premier in Pretoria, inviting them to participate in a “Community Development Road Show” on October 23rd in the Nicara ground (playing field), right next to our house. All non-governmental and/or non-profit organizations in the Lephalale area were encouraged to provide an exhibition and presentation of their services. Motivated to break away from the office hum-drum and allow my creativity to flow, I jumped at the chance to help prepare for this event. My immediate western-mindset interpretation of providing an “exhibition” was to set up a display table with handouts and pictures. Wanting to verify this interpretation, I called the Office of the Premier for clarification, and they encouraged us to go ahead with the idea. Still slightly unsure of the context for the event, but eager to take on the project, I plunged ahead. I first worked with Tseneke, the Home Based Care Project Manager, to make a sign to hang from the table. Then I helped Raisebe, the Administrator, put together a small photo album of staff, carers, and orphans, with captions and background information about the NGO. Finally, I made a nice tri-fold brochure (with Tiro’s help on graphics) for the display table that describes the NGO’s history, mission/vision, and services offered. Feeling good about what we had accomplished, but still slightly concerned that I had “westernized” our preparations too much, we set out for the ground on the morning of the 23rd…

The Road Show was scheduled to begin at 10am, but knowing how time runs differently around here, I was not at all surprised to see that preparations were still well-underway when we arrived at 10:15 to set-up our display table.

Two large white tents were being put up in the far right corner of the dirt field, and a truck with port-o-potties was parked behind them.

In the far left corner of the ground, this intriguing brick wall was being built. Upon asking about its purpose, I learned that it was a temporary visual representation,designed specifically for the Road Show, to demonstrate that successful outcomes result from communities working together. (Very impressive!)

No other groups seemed to have set up display tables, yet, but the event photographer directed us to a tree near the tents–the one partially shaded area on the ground. Without any hesitation, we situated ourselves near the tree, arranging our table, sign, brochures, and photo album as professionally as possible. 10:30 rolled around and still no other groups had set up tables…11:00 came and more people were arriving, but the program had not officially began…11:30 (still no other tables)…Finally, at 11:40, the Road Show coordinators from Pretoria kicked things off. By this time, about 300 people were seated under and around the white tents.

As you and can see, most of the people outside the tents were holding umbrellas to help shield the blazing sun.

A row of tables were placed in the front stage area for the designated speakers from different organizations. Large entities from the Waterberg District were represented, such as the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development, as well as human services organizations from the larger town of Lephalale and the even larger city of Pretoria. Locally-speaking, social workers from the Abbotspoort Clinic were present, Abbotspoort Home Based Care was obviously represented, and one other non-profit organization participated. It was like pulling teeth to get someone from our NGO to speak about their services (stage fright, I guess), but one of the carers came through and I joined Joanna in sitting at the “VIP Tables” up front. After several motivational speeches (mostly in Sepede), the different organizations began their presentations. I had agreed to walk up with Joanna and introduce myself after her speech, so I amped-up my standard Sepede introduction to include a few new sentences. It wasn’t anything too elaborate, but I was decently pleased with how it came out. I’ll give the English translation, for your convenience:

  • Hello! (instant cheers from the crowd; I don’t think they had any idea I was going to speak their native language) How are you? (crowd responds, “fine”) My name is Mokgadi Majadibodu (more cheers). I am from America. I came with my husband, Tiro (wave to Ben in the back, followed by more cheers). We are going to live in Abbotspoort for two years. We are going to help Abbotspoort Home Based Care, Jacob Langa Primary and Abbotspoort Primary schools, and the whole Abbotspoort community. We are happy to be here and to work with you. Thank you! (roar of applause and more cheers–a very kind audience)

A few more speeches were given, followed by an extensive time of questions and answers. By about 2:30, the event had wrapped-up, and Tiro and I were greeted by a number of new, friendly faces. They were ecstatic that I had spoken in Sepede, but there was just one problem: I failed to mention in my speech that Ben and I were trying to learn to speak Sepede and that we really only knew a little, as yet, so we received numerous questions and comments in the local language that we had absolutely no hope of responding to! Oh, well; it didn’t take long to explain this to those who approached us, and some of them quickly changed to English for our benefit. It was actually fine, in the end, because even the people who could not speak English, just smiled, excitedly, and said, “Yes! You must learn to speak Sepede!” It turned out to be a great way for us to introduce ourselves to the larger community of Abbotspoort and its surrounding areas.

Anyone still wondering about our display table? Well, as you might have guessed, Abbotspoort Home Based Care ended up being the only organization to not only have brochures to hand out, pictures to share, and a sign, but we were also the only group that set up a table, at all! Ha! At least the 10+ staff members that dutifully sat at our table throughout the day (in uniforms) seemed to be pretty good sports about the whole thing. They didn’t quite get the idea that it would be good to invite people over to their table, but a few people came, none the less, and we were able to distribute about half (15) of the brochures–Tiro had the brilliant idea to give the other half to the Department of Social Development so they could hand them out from their office.

Ta-dah! Presenting the official Abbotspoort Home Based Care display table and staff, equipped with local rocks to hold down the brochures and photo album, due to the nice breeze, that day.

One last snippet about the Road Show, as Tiro referenced, earlier: As people started to leave the ground, many of the younger attendees (high school/college age) moved back underneath the tents for an impromptu dance party! The Office of the Premier had hired a DJ for the event who played music between the speeches, but was now playing the latest South African pop music for the crowd to enjoy; it was a riot. On the opposite side of the field, a different dance party was starting to take place, but this one simply involved clapping, stomping, and slapping rubber boots, a.k.a. the “Gumboot Dance!” As aforementioned, however, we did not get to see much of this dance, because we were called over to help an older boy who had apparently passed out from heat exhaustion and was just starting to come to. He was conscious, but extremely disoriented when I reached him and unable to respond to his name. I allowed one of the people who had found him, first, to use my phone to call for an ambulance, then proceeded to try to help him drink water and keep him comfortable. After a few more minutes, he became much more aware of the present situation, could hold eye-contact with people talking to him, and verbally respond to his name. I was relieved to see that his condition was quickly improving, and after Tiro and I had a chance to ask further questions, we learned that this apparently happens to this particular boy “when it’s really cold or really hot” and that he’ll “just wake up after a while.” (Hmm, sounds like something more than heat exhaustion; possibly a form of epilepsy?) Since he was coming around and two other boys offered to take him home to his parents, the ambulance was called off. Phew! A rather distressing end to the day, but, thankfully, he would be alright.Gotta’ love Geckos! This update has gone on long enough, so just for fun, here are a couple photos of some of our lizard friends, around here…Are they cute, or what?
This one’s my favorite…I think I’ll call him, “Thabo!” (It’s a popular name around here that means, “Happy”).
This little guy hung out on our kitchen/dining/washing room, one night. Nearly blended right in with our wall!

Re a go rata le re go gopotse kudu kudu! (We love and miss you, very much!

Lerato,

Mokgadi and Tiro Majadibodu

The BIG three-zero!

The BIG three-zero!

Our most exciting update for last week is that Tiro (Ben) entered a new decade! That’s right, on Tuesday he turned the big three-zero. (I think I was more shocked than he was!) We wanted to do something special to commemorate the occasion, but in an unfamiliar area where public transportation only runs at certain times (and we are on travel restriction until the end of December, anyway), our options were pretty limited. None the less, we did make the most of his special day with what was available: On Saturday we took a taxi (which is, remember, just a big van) into the closest town, Lephalale, and enjoyed a delicious lunch and ice cream sundaes at one of the little restaurants! Then on Tuesday evening, we made some tasty BBQ chicken pizza and chocolate muffins in our little oven. (Yum!)

Happy 30th Birthday, Tiro!

Finally, the grand finale…On Friday afternoon, I told Tiro to pack his bag for a night and that we’d be back the next day. We took a 45-minute taxi from Abbot’s Poort to Ga-Seleka, the home village of two of our fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, Paul & Jess (also a couple). Tiro quickly realized where we were going, but he did not know that two of our other Peace Corps friends, Rachel & Brandon (another couple who have already been here for a year), would also be in Ga-Seleka to surprise him! It was fabulous. I brought taco fixings, Jess made beans and rice, and Rachel made a delicious chocolate chip & sour cream pound cake. After dinner, we played a great card game, “What’s Wild?” (which I will humbly not mention who won) :-), and watched “The Butterfly Effect” on Brandon’s laptop–Ben had been saying, lately, how much he missed watching movies and having game nights, back home, so this was absolutely perfect. On Saturday, the six of us enjoyed a nice pancake breakfast (thanks, again, to Rachel for a fabulous recipe, and Paul’s handy work in grilling), then went on a delightful hike up a nearby “mountain” to see Seleka, below, its surrounding fields, and the hills of Botswana in the distance. It was beautiful! After returning to Paul & Jess’s and having round two of tacos, we took further advantage of Brandon’s laptop and watched “50 First Dates.” It was after dark by the time Tiro and I made it home, but it was so worth it be able to celebrate his big day with such fantabulous people. Paul and Ben were in the same language training group and Jess and I were in another, so we’ve been blessed with their friendships since we arrived in South Africa. We even shared a terrific little traveling adventure with them after our site visit, when we spent a night in the cute town of Thaba Zimbe (”Iron Mountain”)! We met Rachel & Brandon later on in training and connected with them right away–Brandon is a computer tech expert and Rachel’s passion for girls empowerment led them to develop a highly successful after-school girls club at their site! (Sound familiar?) It’s wonderful to be so close to such outstanding people and fun couples with so many similar interests!


Tiro’s surprise birthday party with Peace Corps friends, Brandon & Rachel (center) and Jess & Paul (right), at Jess & Paul’s house in Ga-Seleka.


A beautiful “mountain-top” view of Ga-Seleka with the Botswana hills in the distance. (Note the distinct border between the village and bushveld; this is true for most rural villages in our area and really gives us the feel of being “way out there!”)

Spanish Arm-Wrestling

Spanish Arm-Wrestling

If you would have asked, two weeks ago, what I might see myself doing at Abbot’s Poort Home-Based Care, two things I would not have mentioned are teaching Spanish and arm-wrestling. Well, it just goes to show that you really can’t have any expectations when it comes to Peace Corps! I haven’t made either oddity my primary project, or anything, but last week I did find myself teaching the NGO women a few Spanish words, since they were curious about other languages spoken in America, and on the same day I helped settle a light-hearted argument by teaching three of them how to arm-wrestle! It was a riot; we laughed hard together, giving each other high “5’s” after each match–truly a bonding experience.

In terms of actual work-related topics, I spent two days, last week, guiding the women in organizing their “files” (binders), filing “cabinets”(metal closets), and labeling shelves. I’ve also been teaching three of the four women how to type, using a free typing program Ben found online. They really seem to be enjoying it! Filing and typing might not be the most exciting areas to assist with, but they are needs of the organization and it is encouraging to know that their goals are being met.


Mokgadi with the women from Abbot’s Poort Home Based Care.

(Left to right: Tseneke, Matlodi, Sari, Tebello, and Reisebe)

Naturally, my most fulfilling part of working with the NGO is getting to interact with children. About 43 orphans, ages 5-20, stop by the drop-in center throughout the day for free meals, games, and songs. I love getting to talk with them in the afternoons, often times teaching them fun camp songs and learning their favorite songs, as well. I helped Maggie, one of the youngest girls who has a beautiful smile, re-lace and tie her shoes, one day, and although she hardly spoke any English, we had a wonderful time smiling and giggling, together, and counting in Sepedi; such a simple moment, but definitely one of my favorites, thus far.

Mokgadi, smothered in love, by the orphans at the drop-in center.

My most heart-wrenching experience, so far in South Africa, was getting to visit several of the orphans’ homes, last Tuesday, along with a couple crèches (nurseries) and schools. I saw some of the poorest of the poor: families stricken by disease and unemployment, wives deserted by their husbands, grandmothers raising the children of their own deceased children, and a 19 year-old girl caring for her own two children, plus her three younger brothers. I came close to tears, numerous times, but found myself simply trying to interpret the complexity of my own emotions. The love shared by these families was so beautiful and their devotion to one another in the midst of such strife was so powerful, I couldn’t help but stand in humble admiration, overwhelmed with the incongruity of my own immense sadness and the authentic joy these people had for simply being alive and having each other.



This picture was actually taken at a crèche in Gopane, during our training. I did not take photos of the orphans we visited, last Tuesday, but the crèches were very similar and the children just as precious.

This Week In Tech (TWIT)

This Week In Tech (TWIT)


I knew I called Tiro, “Tech Boy,” for a reason! Ben continued working on the computers at Jacob Langa Primary, last week, and on Wednesday, I joined him at school to help clean and reorganize the computer lab/staff lounge to make it more usable. After we had carefully rearranged all of the tables and chairs, alongside the windows, placing the computers neatly on top of the tables, the principle informed us that we would have to move everything to a different wall, because having the computers so close to the windows would “make people jealous.” Slightly disappointed, but recognizing the significance of his comment, we then proceeded to move everything to the back wall. First, however, we had to remove the 20 stacks of books that were already on the back wall, so the principle sent in “reinforcements” (students) to help with the task. While we were moving books, Tiro found a rather decrepit old box that, in his words, seemed, “more alive than dead.” No sooner had the Deputy (Vice) Principal warned us to watch out for black scorpions, than we saw the very critter she described scurry out from under the box, about 3 cm in length. Principal Mongwe calmly terminated its life and we continued moving the rest of the books, cleaned the floor (again, with the help of our reinforcements), and repositioned all of the tables/chairs and computers so that they were in the appropriate location. We were exhausted by the time we had finished, but the room looks 10 times better and two of the computers are now completely usable, plus a third Ben fixed up for the office! (Five more computers will be ready to go, as soon as the school purchases power cords, and possibly an additional two if the hardware can be repaired). Way to go, Tech Boy!




Tiro with the faculty and staff at Jacob Langa Lower Primary School.



At Abbot’s Poort Primary, Tiro was hoping to observe classes, last week, but neither of us expected the teachers to feel so caught off-guard by this request. Only one educator felt comfortable with him visiting her class and the rest said, “next week would be better.” So, Tiro continued taking photos of the teachers during breaks and designed a complete classroom observation schedule for next week, allowing him to visit every teacher and every class of students. After mastering the schedule puzzle, he was given the task of “fixing the TV.” We had plugged-in the TV, VCR, and satellite decoder, the week prior, but not all of the channels were working, so Tiro spent a fair bit of time studying the manual and calling the service provider to get things sorted out. End outcome? Abbot’s Poort Primary now has a fully-functional television; Tech Boy reigns, again!


One cute school-related story from our friend, Paul, in Ga-Seleka: Paul asked one of the teachers at his school if he could observe a Grade R (Kindergarten) class, next week, knowing that it might be a bit chaotic, since there is only one educator for over 100 learners. Only about 2/3 of the students seem to be in class at any given time; the other third can be found in the playing area, outside, or running around somewhere between the classroom and the playing area. To Paul’s request to visit the class, the teacher responded, “Yes, but one day, next week, I will be marking papers, and not teaching.” This raised the question of what the Grade R students would be doing on that day, and the teacher replied that it was their “reflection time.”