Blog Entry April 23, 2011
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 4 weeks since I last posted a blog entry. I thought I’d have more time to write when we got to our permanent site, but there always seems to be something I need/want to do. There is no internet at our site and I just don’t get on the computer as much. We’ve been to Hoedspruit every weekend but the time there is limited and I have to plan ahead and write what I want to send out the night before (like I’m doing now). Tonight it feels like I have a little more space because we are at the beginning of a week and a half Easter break. That has good & not so good aspects to it. It’s great to have some free time, but even though we’ve been in our village for a month, we’ve only had 10 days of school. We got here in time to go to the last day of first term. Then there was a two week break between terms. This year Easter comes very late, so after nine days of 2nd term it is Good Friday, which is a school holiday in SA and then a week for Easter. Easter is the big family holiday here when everyone gathers at the “homestead” – more like what our families do for Christmas or Thanksgiving. The following Sunday is May 1st “Workers Day” (sort of like our Labor Day) and, as we do in the States, when a legal holiday falls on a weekend, it is celebrated on the Monday. This on again-off again school schedule has made it hard to get a sense of what a regular stretch of school is like. I have had a chance to read to some Kindergarteners & 2nd graders and teach them a song in English. I’ve worked with a 3rd grade class twice. I am getting a better sense of what is in the library the previous PCV set up and how it was used by the children. When we get back I hope to spend a day with each class to see what a day is like for the students (called “learners” here) and their teachers.
During the two weeks between terms, I had a chance to spend some time with the two local NGOs I mentioned in a previous blog entry. They both asked for some help with clarifying policy documents. Almost any “official” business here is done in English. There are 11 – yes eleven! – official languages in SA: English, Africaans and nine different tribal languages (one of which is Sepedi, which I am still trying to learn – we’re looking or a local tutor to help us). All the policy documents have to be approved by the government so they have to be in English. Even though the leadership in the NGOs speak English pretty well, it is their second language and policy stuff is hard enough to write clearly in a native language. Working with them on those documents gave me a chance to get to know them and the organizations better. It was good to feel that I was able to help them accomplish something concrete.
Since so many people speak English (especially in the schools), there isn’t an absolute necessity to learn Sepedi but I know I am missing a lot of opportunities to connect with people, especially the children, since I can’t understand much of what they are saying. I am continuing to work on vocabulary but I need help with anything more than very basic sentence structure, I was excited yesterday because I realized I knew how to say, “I’d like to borrow a shovel.”
One good aspect of the timing of this break is that we have time to put in a garden. We’ve been reading up on “permaculture” gardening and trying to understand how to work with the sandy (rocky) soil and the limited water supply. Today we planted seed trays of kale and tomatoes. Richard dug a trench to hold the water when it rains and help prevent soil erosion. I started collecting material for a compost pile and clearing a spot for it. Then I realized I should have sited it closer to where we can get water on it to keep it moist. If we put it nearer the house, we can put our bath and dish water on it.
I’ve enjoyed the responses from you who have written or emailed me after reading the blog. It’s nice to know there is still a connection to friends back home.
I hope you are all enjoying spring as we enjoy the cooler weather here in the southern hemisphere.