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.


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.

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