Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Gift of Time and Giving Good Reads

Will it Be Done 'Now' or 'Now, Now'? (Article by Robin)

There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

When Americans want things done we want them done right now and we don't waste a lot of time doing it. Some might even say that we Americans can be industrious and alacritous. But that's not how most things are done in Africa. Things move at their own pace here. Most things just get done whenever they get done. There are many examples of African time management all over the continent including everything from the way that houses are built to the responsiveness of customer service. In Africa, time is not seen as linear like the way it is in the Western world. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, it's just different.

Houses in the process of being built are often built piecemeal and then left to sit for years unfinished. In America, fast-food restaurants are just that – 'fast food' but in Africa, that's not always the case. Also, just because you are told that something will be done by a certain date or certain time, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will be done by then. You would think that things might be different in the bigger cities, but in general they are not. It's so ingrained in the culture that people often have to differentiate between doing something 'now' meaning I'll do it in the next day or two and 'now, now' meaning I'll do it immediately.

Americans are also workaholics. We are used to working all the time. In my previous job working in the US at a non-profit organization, I worked typically around 60 hours per week, some weeks working 6 days a week, and received only about 2 weeks of paid annual holiday time off. Yeah, we also get some national holidays off too. But not necessarily. I once worked for an employer who never gave us New Years day off. Here in South Africa, some people can have up to 12 weeks of vacation per year, which is great for the employee morale but can often impact productivity taking two or three times longer to get things accomplished. We have often started a project only to find out that there is an industry strike, or an office will be closed, or an important component will be out of commission for two weeks – necessitating the rescheduling of the project. While this may drive us Americans crazy, most people don't seem to mind here. In some senses, African time is a good thing – people are more laid back and less stressed out or worried about when things will get done than most Americans are. For Woody and I, it just means that we have to learn to adjust our concept of time. We have to get ourselves out of our Western concept of time and learn to realize that although things won't get done as quickly as we hoped, they will get done eventually.

Here is a quote from Mother Teresa about time:

In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East – especially in India – I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving – it is not in the result of loving. ” ~Mother Teresa, A Simple Path

The Tooth-Fairy is at it Again... (Article by Robin)

Distributing about 60 toothbrushes to Grade R
Once again we received about 70 new children's toothbrushes from guests of Ulusaba. So, this time I decided to do the same dental hygiene demonstration that I did last November for the Grade R (kindergarten) kids at our second primary school. The two Grade R teachers helped me explain the need to brush twice a day and the techniques of how to brush top and bottom teeth and inside and outside. After giving a verbal demonstration of brushing, we distributed about 60 toothbrushes after labeling them with each child's name. Then with our toothbrushes in tow, we headed outside to the water tap where we had a chance to brush our teeth and sing 'Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth' to the tune of 'Row, Row, Row your Boat.'

Learner applying her back-handed excessive force technique
While observing the kids, I noticed that they all had several different types of toothbrushing techniques including the “back-handed holding technique,” the “applying excessive force technique,” the “grin and bare your teeth technique,” the “messy toothpaste everywhere technique,” and the “holding the toothbrush upside down technique,” and more! One girl was mimicking me while I was demonstrating how to brush only she didn't put the toothbrush inside her mouth. Others were eating the toothpaste and then coming back for more...

Getting ready to brush...
After the demonstration, one of teachers told me that she was happy that we did this lesson because she had recently told her students the week before that they needed to brush their teeth daily even if they didn't have a toothbrush – instead they should use the 'traditional brush.' Generally if people here don't have a toothbrush, they will use a branch from the guarri tree to brush their teeth. So, now that we have equipped all the Grade R kids with their very own toothbrushes, no more guarri branches are needed!  

Colouring a giant tooth

Demonstrating the
"messy toothpaste everywhere technique"

Last Call: Books for Africa Project

Outside the new library - just needs a roof!
The progress on our new library at the high school is going well. The building is almost complete! Just need a roof, lighting and fans, electrical work, and a few coats of paint. Therefore, we wanted to take a few minutes to send you a friendly reminder about the Books for Africa Project we are working on. We are trying to finish fundraising by the end of March — less than a couple of weeks away.

View from inside the library -
just needs electrical work and a coat of paint!

The response we have received so far has been hugely positive, but a large gap remains between the money we have raised and our funding target. So far, our group of 10 PCVs have received donations totaling $5,195, about 32% of our total goal of USD $16,000. We're not even close to 50% of the way to hitting our goal. Clearly, we still have a lot of ground to cover and we won’t be able to do it without your support.

If you have already sent in your contribution, then please accept our sincere thank you! To you we would like to say 'ha khensa' meaning “we thank you.” If, however, you’ve been meaning to send in your donation and got sidetracked along the way, now is the time to do it.

By developing a love of reading our kids will be taking the first steps towards radically altering their life prospects. And these books won’t just help the children here and now — they will be used for years to come. It takes a village to raise donations for a library! So, be rest assured that any amount you send will be making a huge difference in the lives of our high school kids.
Yay!... We're getting a new library!

Please help us and take five minutes to follow the link to our project titled “We Succeed – Siphumelela”:

1. Scroll down to the green “Donate Now” icon above the project description.
2. Fill out all the necessary information.
3. Under the “Additional Information” field on the donation form, please be sure to write the name of the US Peace Corps volunteer who you are sponsoring.  For example please indicate:  “Peace Corps Volunteer, Robin Alhaddad” as the name of the person who told you about Books for Africa.
4. Click “Next” and you’re done!

Method 2: Check
To pay by check:

1. Make out a check payable to:  Books for Africa
2. Either add a post-it note or indicate on the memo section of the check that you are sponsoring “South Africa – We Succeed-SIPHUMELELA, volunteer Robin Alhaddad
3. Mail the check to:

Books for Africa
253 East 4th St., Ste. 200
St. Paul, MN 55101 USA

Thank you so much for your contribution!