New site & Drakensbergs

New site & Drakensbergs
These are the mts from our village

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Return from IST

When we got back from our week + of  IST workshops in Pretoria one of the first things I did was go check out my garden.  I was right to be concerned about the goats eating my veggies.  One or two did munch on some of the kale and broccoli but they were stopped before they devastated the plot.  I think all but one plant will recover.  Otherwise, the garden was a pleasant surprise- things were growing! - despite the less than exemplary soil.  I’m looking into getting it tested.  I found out today that there is a service through SA Dept. of Agric.  I tried calling the Municipal and Provincial departments but got passed around and finally gave up talking to people who sounded like they didn’t know what I was talking about.  I called the Peace Corps office and they gave me the number of the guy who talked to us at PST about permagardens.  He said he will text me the contact info for the person at the Dept. of Agric. who can tell me how to get a soil test here.  Since we got back we’ve had green beans several times and Richard has convinced me that Swill chard and kale can actually be good if cooked properly (with lots of onions and butter).  I planted carrots yesterday and Richard planted peas today.  Our house mother has also been planting up a storm.  She has a type of SA spinach they have had already and her tomato plants are doing better than mine – maybe tomatoes in 3-4 weeks?!
                We are almost at the end of the 3-week school break between Term 2 and Term 3.  The first 10 days were taken up with IST and getting back & forth to Pretoria.  On the way home we spent the night at a nice “backpakers” – like a youth hostel for all ages.  The owner was really nice.  He does tours through Kruger Park too.  One of the other PC volunteers says he took her and they saw a lot of animals.  If my son comes after Christmas maybe we’ll set up something with him.  Both Richard and I volunteered to help at the “vacation” school for 12 graders.  There were two 2-hour periods for subjects each morning.  The first week we were back we had quite a few students but by the middle of the last week of break we had none.  This was true not just for us but for all the classes.  It was a little frustrating to get to teach physics and help students for a few days and then have nobody show up for the last two classes but I did enjoy the days I did get to work with the high schoolers.
                We have also reached the coldest part of winter – which isn’t exactly cold.  The lowest it’s been is 6° C which translates to about 43° F.  The coldest it’s been inside is about 52° F.  We do have a little space heater but we’ve only used it twice in the evenings so far.  I think my garden is safe from frost.  I’m enjoying the days getting a little longer.  I just hope it doesn’t get too hot too fast.
                So…school starts again Monday and I have the hectic schedule I put in the last blog entry.  If you read it you may have wondered why it said, “Personal Schedule – Mokgadi” at the top when I’m Emily!?!  Well, I’m also “Mokgadi”.  There is a Peace Corps tradition (at least is SA) to give each volunteer an African name - it is easier for Africans to remember an African name than an American one.  My supervisor gave me this one.  It is his daughter’s name and means a special girl-child in a family.  Most of the people here call me by that name and I am beginning to respond to it as I do when someone says “Emily”.
                Richard is going into Hoedspruit tomorrow alone.  I’m staying home to have some last quiet time puttering at home and in my garden – maybe even start planning for Monday?! – It’s never too early? Right?  He’ll try to follow my directions to get this out on my blog.  He may include a video he took of some people on the road outside our house coming back from the river.  They had gone to the river for a traditional healing ceremony.

Till next time –

Sunday, July 3, 2011

3 months at site

              We have been in South Africa now for just over 6 months!  We have finished our first three months at our site.  This first three months (Phase 2 of PC training) is supposed to be an information gathering period where you get to know your community and organization.  The people working in NGOs did a needs assessment.  The education volunteers have “assignments” that become a report.  Then for Phase 3 our whole group gathers for IST (In Service Training) with our supervisors.  We learned all about project management and planned a project with our supervisors.  I chose a fairly small project because I thought I actually might get it done.  It doesn’t involve as many educators (teachers) as I’d like but it will be helpful.  Currently the text books, workbooks and materials are either in stacks on the floor in one of the staff rooms or in the small “offices” off the classrooms that each teacher has.  There is no inventory or list of what is available.  One educator is supposed to keep track of everything and sign materials in and out but I’m not sure how well that is being done.  My proposed project is to create, with that educator, a Resource Center where all the materials can be housed in an organized fashion.  We’ll make a list to hand out to all the educators of what materials and books are available. My supervisor, who is the school principal, assures me there is money in this year’s school budget to buy the bookcases and cabinet we might need.  He thinks it is a good idea and together we’ll present it to the staff at the first staff meeting after the break (mid July).  I hope to have the Center open by September.  Richard and his supervisor wrote a much more ambitious plan for a computer center at the high school.  They hope to have it open for the beginning of the next school year in January 2012.
          There were several great things about IST.  It was held outside of Pretoria in a conference center with heat, hot showers and wonderful food.  After a week + of this it will be hard to go back to baths in a plastic tub.  Also it was wonderful to see the other PCVs in our group, most of whom we hadn’t seen since PST, 3 months ago.  Of the 46 who started only one had “ET”ed. (Early Termination – i.e. quit and gone home early).  We got to tell our story of our site, host family and experiences at the schools and hear about everybody else’s. .  Most people have one or two things to grumble about but are still glad they are here and were glad of the opportunity to be with their supervisors for 5 days.  few are feeling that they are not beeing utilized and have too much time with nothing to do.  One of our group asked for photos we had taken and put together a fabulous slide show that made us realize how much we had all been through together. 
         On the way here (my supervisor gave us a ride) we stopped at a gas station and saw several monkeys just hanging around – not pets.  They lived in the woods behind the gas station.  Another reminder I’m not in Kansas anymore.  We got to see quite a bit of country on our 5 hour drive here.  Fewer mountains, lots of hills but also some flatter country.  Before we left our village Richard and I took a long walk up river from our house.  There were mountains on the other side of the river and we saw in the distance and heard baboons or monkeys.
          My garden is finally doing well (see pictures).  We even ate a few green beans right from the garden just before we left.  I can’t wait to see it when I get back on Tuesday.  My biggest fear is that the goats where we live will break out of their pen and eat everything up before I get a chance to. 
We leave IST tomorrow and are spending the night at a backpackers in Nelspruit and then back to our village the next morning.  Richard has volunteered to help some Grade 12 learners there.  They have a vacation school for the people who have to take the big exam, the Matric, in December.  The Matric is a week + of tests that determines whether they graduate from high school or not.
          We are still struggling with the local language but have found a tutor (PC will repay us a minimal amount for one – if we put ours together it comes out to a sort of reasonable amount).  We’ve met with him once a week for 1 ½ hrs five times.  He is a teacher at my school who lives in the village.  Some progress but learning a new language at this age is not easy.  Educators at school all have enough English to communicate but if I want to work with the younger children, it will help a lot if I can speak their language.
          Next term, which starts mid-July, I have a pretty full teaching schedule.  Not only will I continue working with the younger children but I’ll be spending an hour a week with each English class in Grades 4 – 7 and teaching a Grade 7 Natural Science class.  (See schedule below) The previous science teacher was elected as Ward Counselor (sort of on the level of our state representatives – not the ones to Washington but to the state capitol) and is resigning.  I’ve been told it can take up to 6 months to hire a replacement.  Meantime the learners have no teacher for that class!!!
TERM 3 - 2011
Personal Schedule - Mokgadi (my African name)

















    Gr 2
    Gr R

L  B





S  B




O  R
  Gr 1



H  R

N S   7B






N  E



Eng   4

O  E



Library Open until


  Gr  1

   Gr   R

G  A
N S   7B
N S   7A

 Gr   3

R  A

    Library  Open until  


  Gr   2


Eng   6

Eng 7B

T  K

Well, I’ll sign off for now and I’ll post this in the morning before we leave the hotel.  Got to go pack.