Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ruminations from Africa: The year without a dishwasher. . .

End of Term Two (Article by Woody
High school students taking their end-of-term exams outside under a tree
June was a slow month leading up to the long mid-year break. At the schools June was mostly consumed by mid-year exams, leaving very little teaching. Some of our projects still progressed, getting a little further with the proposals for the Literacy Centre at the high school and coming near to completing set-up of the computer classrooms at the two primary schools before the term ends. With the libraries, we received a few more book donations to add, and at the newer library have made some headway on preparing literacy lessons for the coming months.

Reflections of the Past Year (Article by Woody and Robin)

We've now been living in a rural village so long that we had totally forgotten what a dishwasher was – literally. Even when it was right in front of us. Recently we stayed a few nights in a backpackers (hostel) – one of those places where everything is self-serve and you can use their kitchen to cook. After eating our meal, we asked the hostess where the sponge was so that we could wash our dishes. She said to us “you know, you don't have to wash the dishes, you can just rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher” as she pointed to it directly in front of us. We then looked at each other and were like “oh yeah, a dishwasher!” We had totally forgotten about those... Well, duh!!

Anyhow, since term 2 wrapped up at the schools around the end of June, we've had a few weeks break to relax and think about the year behind us. Yes, time does fly and, as of July 15th, we've officially been in South Africa for 12 months. One year ago, we walked off an airplane and walked into our new life here in South Africa.

Us a year ago with fellow PCVs flying out of JFK airport
Where were we this time 12 months ago? Well, we were just landing at O.R. Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. After a 1:00AM wakeup call to be on the bus to JFK at 5:00AM, then a 15 hour flight and with very little sleep the night before, then another 3 hour bus ride to our training center, we got to work immediately. There was no time for jet-lag as we got straight to work on our pre-service training. And it's been a whirlwind ever since. . .

We had no idea what was in store for us then and what lay ahead. We started our training at the Ndebele Teacher's College with 52 other trainees. As we got off the bus, we were greeted by a chorus of traditional South African songs sung by our Language and Cultural Facilitators (LCF) teachers. Then it started with a barrage of vaccinations, introductions to appropriate social behavior, introductions to 6 out of the 11 official languages of South Africa, as well as intros into rural life and living conditions. We would spend most of our days for the next 2 months learning as much language as possible as well as learning about cultural norms, about the South African school system and the problems and politics that go with it, about safety and security, medical considerations, and as much relevant South African history as we could reasonably retain. We even got to see a teacher's strike that lasted 3 weeks first hand. A week after our arrival we got to meet our temporary host families who we would be living with for the seven weeks of pre-service training. We soon learned how to wash clothes by hand, took our first bucket baths, took our first visits to South African schools, given our first African names, ate our first traditional meals of pap (corn meal porridge) and gravy, had our first glimpses into South African traditional culture, and so much more. 

About a week into our training and unsure of what to expect, I wrote in my diary that “I feel like we will have a lot of obstacles to overcome and many boundaries to break through. I just hope we can live up to making our community proud of us.” A year later, now that we have broken through a few of those boundaries, we've just barely begun to scratch the surface. We still have so much work we want to accomplish and so little time to do it in. Let's hope that at the end of the next 14 months, that we will be able to honestly say that we have made a dent here and have made our community proud of us.

Career Talks with High School Kids (Article by Robin)

Ulusaba staff give career talks to the kids
One activity that did happen in June was career guidance talks hosted by Ulusaba, Pride 'n Purpose. There were 20 grade 10 and 11 students, 5 educators, and ourselves that attended the talks. Ulusaba staff gave their personal points of view about their various positions within Ulusaba and the hospitality sector. The kids got insight into being a lodge manager, a community liaison, a general assistant, a park ranger, a chef, a stores manager and an administrative assistant. They were able to hear first-hand careers information and personal anecdotes from employees who work in the hospitality field. The speakers explained a little about the qualifications needed for applying, their job duties and responsibilities, personality traits required for the job, and their personal story/journey of how they came to do what they are doing now. We really enjoyed hearing everyone's stories and getting a chance to meet a few of the Ulusaba staff. It was our first time to visit Ulusaba grounds too.

Woody and I felt that the talk was also inspiring for the students. They really seemed to enjoy the presentations seeing that many of them were taking notes during the talks and several had questions at the end of each speakers' presentation. Additionally, we felt that the lecture was enlightening for the educators as well. Many of the educators that attended have to provide career guidance for the students as part of their teaching responsibilities but many are unsure what advice to give. During the apartheid era when many of these educators grew up with the Bantu Education Act, black South Africans had limited career choices and were restricted to primarily labor positions, teaching, working as domestic helpers, and other blue-color jobs. We hope that this career guidance program will be able to continue in the future. We think it is a great way for the students to hear first-hand about different career opportunities right here in their own backyard as well as giving Ulusaba staff a chance to interface with the local community. 


Books, Books, Books, We Need Books!!

Do you have books that you no longer want? Donate them to a great cause! In light of our upcoming Literacy Centre project, we would like to host a book donations drive. Please join us in raising needed book donations for our future library at the high school. You can donate individual books or organize with your school, church, scouts group, community group, or host a drive at your place of business. Ask your local library to adopt our library project. We'll be giving up-to-date info on the progress of the library build. Donated books can be either new or used. Our request for books will continue from now until the library is officially open, which will be several months from now. What better way to help this growing community than to support education and literacy? To see a list of book and get ideas of what we need for the high school, please review last month's (June 2011 post) or contact us directly via email. Thanks for your support!!

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