Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday in the Village

It was midday and I was preparing for my afternoon computer class. As I was working on one of the computers, it just switched off. No power. I figured it was the same problem I had last week when the school was out of electricity so I hopped over the to principals office to check on the electrical box. Unfortunately I found it to be off as well, which means that the power was out for our entire area of the village. As I was discussing the power outage with fellow teachers, Jessica sent a message letting me know that the power was out at home as well, where she had been busy on the sewing machine with a Palala Clubs Apron Project order. Losing power is a regular occurrence here, though usually it comes with a storm or high winds. To the contrary, this day was a moderate, cloudless, beautiful winter day; a day you would choose if you could wake up in the morning and select the weather. As I went around to the teachers who are in the afternoon computer class to discuss rescheduling for a later day when electricity is available, it filtered in through a few students that there had been an accident. A baakie (pickup truck) had hit an electrical pole and knocked out power to our section of the village. Questions answered. Yet as I made my way home I saw ahead of me on the dirt road a large gathering of school children and adults from the neighborhood surrounding what I could only imagine was the fated baakie. I could see the power lines swaying low in the soft afternoon breeze and knew this was the site of the accident. Detouring through the crowd I asked a few students about the what transpired and this is where it gets interesting. Turns out the baakie belongs to the principal at the secondary school. Following the norms and standards of accepted practices at school, he had sent two boys on an errand (personal, not school related of course). This errand involved tossing them the keys to his baakie and directing them across the village to a local person who was going to repair his spare tire. Unfortunately, after the boys, giddy with the freedom of having the Principal's keys in their hands, careened down the first half kilometer of road they apparently lost control on the gravel and grated the passenger side of the baakie across the electrical pole. The boys were taken to the local hospital for treatment, but were found to have no injuries and are back in school today. The baakie, with half of the bed torn away and a punctured rear tire, looked like a casualty of urban warfare that you see in the news. After snapping a few photos and hanging out with the school kids to watch as they towed the baakie away, and Eskom (the electrical company) showed up to start repairs, I made my way home.

The remainder of our Tuesday night was taken up with a cheese and cracker dinner and strawberries for dessert by candlelight, all because a couple of high school boys went joy riding in the Principal's baakie and knocked out power to half the village.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time Goes By

For those of you who continue to check up on this page regularly, it may seem as if we have fallen off the face of the earth! It has been quite a while since our last post and since then much has happened. The pace of life at school and work has picked up, we have had a few visitors, and now we are looking ahead to the end of our service; a time that is quickly approaching. In the last five months we have had two fantastic holidays with members of our family, PNGC 2009 has been meeting weekly with a wonderful new group of girls and a few new leaders, computer training has taken off at the schools, we have been involved in a number of Peace Corps related trainings and we have really been enjoying the transition into South Africa winter. We have posted a number of pictures from our holidays to our web albums, which illustrate our travels more than we can in words, but here is a short list of highlights:

Megan and Kevin flew in for the Christmas holiday in December. We took a gruelling, harrowing, long, yet rather amusing overland trip via public transportation to make our way to Vilanculos, Mozambique for a week on the beach. Despite a few days of rain we were still able to enjoy time in and on the ocean. We spent a day snorkeling a reef out near one of the islands that makes up the Bazaruto Archipelago and topped the afternoon off with a lunch of fresh crab, mango, and assorted island treats. That pretty much sums up our daily agenda for our time on the beach. Relaxing, enjoying the water, and eating great food. After realizing we would get rained out if we stayed longer, we hopped our way back (this time by air) to South Africa where we spent time with friends, explored a few more areas of the country, Megan and Kevin jumped off a cliff (literally), we spent a few warm summer days in Seleka, and had one of the best safari adventures you could imagine when Megan spotted a leopard in a tree that proceeded to come down from his perch to see what we were doing in his park.

In mid-January Megan and Kevin departed and that ushered in the 2009 school year. PNGC started up and work at the schools took over our lives. Between weekly club meetings, running workshops, attending other workshops, and assisting individual teachers with different aspects of their days, our time clipped along. Throughout February and March we were also planning two big events. Firstly, our next holiday was approaching and that meant Dad and Mom (Barry and Pam) were on their way over for another three week family adventure! The other big event was the annual Longtom half marathon that Peace Corps participates in and that we were helping to organize. Days and weeks flew by and before we knew it we had collected Dad and Mom from the airport and made our way to the starting line of the race on the last Saturday morning in March. When the gun went off to signal the beginning of the run, we felt as though we had been already been running for much too long! Race day was a hit and we really enjoyed it, though the few weeks directly following it were a much needed holiday.

After Dad and Mom met us at the finish line with some homemade chocolate chip cookies and spent a couple days meeting our fellow PCVs we were on the road and ready to relax. We enjoyed a beautiful few days in the Graskop area eating wonderful food and resting (us from our hectic schedule, Dad and Mom from their long flight over). From there we took a leisurely safari through Kruger National Park, had some great sightings, including a pride of seven lioness out hunting, and finished each night in the park with a sundowner overlooking the Olifants river. Next it was on to Seleka. Introducing our parents to our friends and neighbors was a wonderful treat and we were thrilled to have them see where we live and work. However, that was just the first week of holiday! Following the village we headed for Cape Town. It was a beautiful week of exploring that brought us to vineyards, gardens, Table Mountain, Cape Point, and more. We awoke each morning in our flat to a view of the ocean and ended each night with a lovely meal at one the cities many excellent and varied restaurants. The final leg of our trip was a short jaunt up to Livingstone, Zambia to see Victoria Falls. With the water levels at their highest in over 40 years, we got few pictures of the falls, but we enjoyed a thorough soaking as we hiked the trails and bridges around the area. Mom leaped off the bridge that spans the Zambezi river, Dad took a flight over the falls in a microlight, and we enjoyed an exquisite sunset river cruise. Just as with the all the holidays we have taken, the time went much too quickly, though we enjoyed each and every minute of it.

Upon our return to the village mid-April we were now in the midst of PNGC, computer classes had started and we suddenly looked to the calendar and saw that our COS (Close of Service) conference was at hand in a matter of weeks! By the time the conference arrived, South Africa had elected, on April 22nd, Jacob Zuma as its new president with relative smoothness and predictability. As the conference came and went in the matter of a few days. We had the pleasure of reconnecting with other PCVs that we had not seen in almost a year, discussing the implications of the new government that the country now had and wondering what it would be like to watch things unfold from abroad instead from within. Our COS sessions revolved around the technical side of returning home (i.e. paperwork), reflecting on our service thus far and also thinking about how to transition back to life in the States.

This brings us back to present day life in Seleka. We now have a few short months left in South Africa with much work to do and many people to see. The coming weeks will be extraordinarily busy as we continue to work in the present, but start to plan further into the future for life beyond Peace Corps. Looking back on the past five months to write this is a great reminder of all the wonderful things that we have been able to do here and how much we have come to enjoy our life in Seleka. It is difficult to think about leaving, yet exciting to look ahead to a new chapter in life, despite at this point not know what that chapter holds! It is alarming, the speed with which almost two years has past. We know now how quickly our remaining time will go by and we hope to make the most out of each day.


The opinions expressed are our own and do not reflect those of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, the Republic of South Africa, or and other person, party, or organization mentioned on this website.