New site & Drakensbergs

New site & Drakensbergs
These are the mts from our village

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More from rural South Africa

Hello, everyone,
The soil here is really rocky!  No wonder the whites designated this village as a “black” area during apartheid.  We spent much of our week away from school for Easter recess in the garden.  Our host family has a large garden area but when we got here it looked as if it hadn’t been worked in at least one growing season.  I don’t think I’ve said much about our host family so I’ll divert from my garden story for a bit to tell you about them…

Our host family is a widowed mother and three children.  Sophie (the mom) actually has four children, but the two older children no longer live at home – the first born, Catherine, is living in Pretoria and studying to be a police woman and the next oldest, Mathupe is living with relatives and attending 12th grade in Johannesburg (because it is a better school than the one in our little backwater village).  The three children living here are a 10th grade girl, Winnie, a 3rd grade boy, Terrance, and Catherine’s daughter, Promise, who is in 1st grade.  Sophie’s husband died about three months before we got here although he had been ill in Johannesburg for a while before he died. 

Richard and I worked really hard in the garden the day after my last blog entry to get a bed ready for planting.  The bed was toward the top of the garden and had lots of rocks to pry out and move since we were trying to follow the permagarden suggestion of digging double deep to loosen the soil and make it better at holding water and softer for the roots to grow deeper.  We got a nice bed about a meter wide and 4 or 5 meters long.  The next day we lounged around most of the morning.  When we finally got out of the house and looked at the garden we were amazed.  Sophie and two of her friends had double dug an area about 20 times as big as the one we had done the day before.  We later learned that the part of the garden we had chosen hadn’t been cultivated as much and where she dug had far fewer rocks; still they did a very impressive job in just a few hours putting our meager effort to shame!  She told us ½ of what she dug was for her to plant “moroho”(like Swiss chard) and the other half was for the tomatoes and kale we had started in seed beds.  Later that week we also planted beans, beets, Swiss chard and started seed flats for broccoli basil & dill.  When I got home from school yesterday a few of the beans had popped out of the ground! J

I have mentioned that our village is very rural but I haven’t said much about our “living conditions”.  It’s funny, when we learned we were going to Africa for the Peace Corps and I thought about myself in the Peace Corps in sub-Saharan Africa, I imagined the Africa of the 1960’s National Geographic of my childhood.  I knew that much had changed in 45years but I couldn’t picture it.  Yes, our village is VERY rural but it looks nothing like the 1960’s National Geographic.  The houses are brick covered with cement with corrugated iron or tile roofs (no grass huts) .  The village is on a dirt road 5K from pavement that dead ends in the Lepelle River (on most maps the river has its Africaans name “Olifant”).  The village has several wells that provide people with water.  Most people get water from taps that can be as much as a kilometer or more from their house.  We are lucky we have a tap in our yard but in our part of town the water is only turned on about once a week.  This means we store our water in large plastic barrels.  I don’t think anyone in this village has indoor plumbing.  One of the “lessons” we had in PreService Training was how to take a bucket bath.  We actually use a large plastic tub – not a bucket!  Everyone in the village has access to electricity.  We filter and boil our drinking water.  We heat water to take baths.  We have an outdoor toilet.  What has surprised me about all this is that it has been very easy to accommodate myself to these “rural” conditions.  The most difficult part of being so rural is that we don’t have reliable cell phone or internet access.  We did buy a short wave radio last weekend so now we can at least check in on what’s happening in the rest of the world but I have gotten so used to being able to call or email any one at a moment’s notice.  There is some talk of a new tower going in that would upgrade service in this area but I’m not holding my breath!  Also I've realized that the largest adjustments are cultural not physical.  Attitudes about education is very different! - more about that some other day.

I'm puting up a picture of the school where I am