Monday, February 11, 2013

We're Famous

Sort of.  Okay, not really.  Let me explain.

Last weekend we went to the AFCON (African Cup of Nations) quarter-final game in Durban.  We purchased our tickets back in October.  We knew we’d have amazing seats by getting our tickets so early, but we had no idea who would be playing in the game.  Luckily, Bafana Bafana, the South African national team, ended up advancing to the very game we had tickets to!

Being in Durban for the Bafana Bafana game was so much fun.  You could feel the excitement throughout the city.  So many people were wearing Bafana Bafana clothing and carrying flags.  Remember vuvuzelas?  Those obnoxiously loud horns that everyone was blowing during the 2012 World Cup?  Well, let’s just say we’ve embraced the awesomeness that is the vuvuzelas.  They were being sold, along with all kinds of gear, on practically every street corner.  We knew we needed to look the part for the game, so we went to a market to buy knockoff jerseys.  Our friend, who is a great bargainer, negotiated the man down to R50 (about $6.50) per bright yellow jersey.  We knew that matching yellow jerseys were not going to be enough though.  We had a goal:  we wanted to be on tv!

We were on a mission.  We purchased large paper and numerous colored markers.  We knew the best way of ensuring fame was to have amazing posters.  After much discussion, we decided on “USA Loves [big red heart] Bafana Bafana” was the way to go.  Two hours later (I’m really not sure why it took us so long to make four signs) we were ready to go.

While walking to the stadium in our matching yellow shirts, we purchased a few South African flags and a couple of vuvuzelas.  We figured the more fan gear the better.  Needless to say, we started to attract a fair amount of attention.  Watching people take our photo and listening to drivers honk their horns, we just knew our plan was going to work.  When we stopped in front of the stadium to take our own group photo, a bunch of random fans jumped in.

We finally reached the stadium, but our work was just beginning.  We first had to identify the cameramen.  We then spent some time practicing our poses and smiles.  Throughout the entire game, we’d all stand up, hold our signs and smile whenever we saw a cameraman turn to take a crowd shot.  Finally, during the break before penalty shots, we saw one of the cameramen slowly turn his camera in our direction.  This was it.  It was our time to shine.  We stood up, held our signs high and cheered with all our might.  Sure enough, our cell phones soon started beeping.  People had just seen us on tv!  Fellow volunteers saw us, South African co-workers saw us, and even some of our learners (the few with televisions) saw us.  We were superstars!

P.S. The game itself was a lot of fun.  South Africa played Mali, and the score was 1-1 at the end of regulation.  Neither team scored in overtime, and South Africa unfortunately ended up losing during penalties.  Our 15 minutes (ok, seconds) of fame was more interesting than details about the game though, right? 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Birds Must Be Crazy

Our brief bird entry, notwithstanding, we haven’t really updated this blog in some time.  [Please consider all of our typical apologies/excuses inserted here.]

Speaking of the birds, the situation has worsened and morale has deteriorated.  Since we informed you guys, we’ve developed quite a bit of intel, but little in the way of a concerted counterattack.  We now realize that this bird was protecting a hidden nest above our front door in the space between our ceiling and tin roof.  We’ve come to this realization thanks to the cacophonous chirping that now awakens us daily and provides a constant irritant throughout the day.  Moreover, our surveillance of the area has shown not one, but two, offensive birds that patrol our front door area.  Since the hatching of the eggs, the violence has escalated.  On Friday alone, Matt was hit twice and Sara and Wandy were each hit one time.  When two of the ladies from the kitchen that we’re friends with came to inspect, they were also dive-bombed and narrowly escaped being hit.  They ran screaming inside our house to the amusement of Sara’s Grade 7 Girls’ Club.  So what do we do now?  We have started using our back door religiously, but the birds now know about this alternative access point as Matt was dive-bombed in the back of our home.  Yesterday, Wandy came to our house wearing a bucket as a helmet.  These bird episodes have begun feeling like we are living a Hitchcock nightmare.  The day that these young birds grow old enough to fend for themselves cannot come soon enough. 

What else is new?

Oh yeah!  Almost forgot.  We are staying until June.  We originally planned to leave in early April after the first school quarter, but we decided that by staying through the second quarter (and the end of the semester) we can make a bigger difference for some kids.  It was not an easy decision because we were looking forward to coming back, but we feel that the potential value of staying these extra months is worthwhile.  Plus, Matt has no interest in returning to a world where the Clippers are better than the Lakers.  So you guys need to postpone the welcome back parade, but at least the extra 3 months of planning should guarantee its success.  For those of you truly marking your calendars, the last day of the term is June 21.  We should come back to the States sometime in the two-week window between that date and the 4th of July. 

Tomorrow begins the third week of the school year here.  It feels good to be getting back into the swing of things.  Some day earlier this week marked our two year anniversary of being in South Africa – yay for us!  If the bird attacks continue tomorrow morning, we may actively recruit some slingshot-armed assassins at school tomorrow.  We’ll let you know.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bird From Hell

We are terrified of a bird.  Seriously.  We have a bird that is always outside our house.  It has been known to dive bomb at people, but it’s getting more aggressive.  Yesterday, it hit Sara in the back of the head as she walked out the front door.  This morning, it hit Matt in the head.  This afternoon, it hit Sara again in the head as she was unlocking the door.  Insane!  We’re currently recruiting boys who have slingshots to take care of it.  Don’t judge.

P.S. We promise to write a real blog post this weekend.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December Holidays

Well, COS (Close of Service) conference is over, and we’re back at site.  You could definitely say COS was bittersweet.  On the one hand, it’s amazing that we’ve all come this far.  Our group has been in South Africa for almost two years, and people have done wonderful work in their villages.  COS definitely brought forth feelings of accomplishment and, of course, people are starting to look forward to going back to America.  On the other hand, it’s always sad to say goodbye.  Some members of our cohort will be leaving in the next few weeks, and who knows when we’ll see each other again.  We’ve shared an experience that few people will ever understand, and it’s difficult knowing that this adventure is coming to an end.  Regardless of the mixed feelings, it was a great week including a trivia night and a TIA (this is Africa) party that featured some amazing costumes.

Now we’re back at site until December 28.  We’ll spend Christmas here and then travel to the Wild Coast (beach) for a few days before doing a six day hike with a couple of volunteer friends.  There is a small soccer tournament here this weekend, but it’s otherwise fairly quiet in the village now.  The boarding students are of course gone for the holidays, but a good number of other people are off visiting family as well.  I’m sure we’ll still get plenty of visitors next week though!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lady Gaga and Other Updates

Last Friday we went to see Lady Gaga in Johannesburg.  Not exactly a concert we would jump at back in the States, but big acts rarely make their way down here and when a group of our friends wanted to go, we were game.  Unfortunately, she was on the opposite side of the (huge) stadium.  But all in all, we had a lot of fun and it was a great experience just going to the stadium that hosted the final match of the World Cup. 

Now we are back at site and find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands.  School is not officially finished until the end of this week when report cards are handed out, but none of the students show up.  Actually, two students came today because they were so bored at home.  They ended up getting to watch Mamma Mia on our laptop, so not a terrible day for them. 

This Saturday we are leaving once again to make the long trip back to Pretoria.  (Pretoria is only about 30 miles away from Johannesburg and we stayed in Pretoria after the concert.)  This time we are going for a Peace Corps event – our final official conference.  It’s exciting and surreal that we’ve already made it this far.  When we first began, the idea of our Close of Service conference seemed too far in the future to even think about.  But here we are, about to come together with what remains of our training class (35 out of 46 still here) for the last time.  The reason the conference is now is because some people will begin leaving at the end of December.  We, however, will be sticking it out until the beginning of April for the full two years of service after swearing in as volunteers (plus a couple of weeks because we want to finish the school term).  For those marking their calendars at home, April 4th will be our last official day as Peace Corps volunteers, and April 5th we will join the distinguished ranks of the unemployed.  So we still have a good amount of time left, but considering how quickly our final conference snuck up on us, April will be here before we know it.  Yikes!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Girls Club

I (Sara) have had a number of girls clubs since the beginning of the year.  I do girls clubs with the high school boarding students, but my Grade 7 club is definitely my favourite.  The idea is to bring girls together in a safe, nonjudgmental environment to discuss life skills lessons.  For most of the year, I tried holding the club at school during a free period on Fridays.  Unfortunately, the learners often have to clean classrooms on Fridays, which interfered with my club.  A few months ago, I began holding the sessions at our house after school in Fridays.  The girls love the fact that they get to take over our house and evict Matt to the hospital office.

While we still do a short life skills lesson at the beginning of the session (e.g., friendship, goal setting, values), the main focus has shifted to baking.  Needless to say, the baking gets a bit crazy.  Imagine a group of 12-15 girls huddled around a small table, yelling at each other in Zulu, fighting over who gets to add the flour or beat the eggs.  “Too many cooks in the kitchen” does not come close to capturing the chaos.  I’ve had dough all over the floor and tortillas on the walls, but it’s been so much fun.  Luckily, the girls are really great about sweeping the floor and doing the dishes afterward.

School doesn’t officially end for a few more weeks, but we had Grade 7 graduation this week.  Most of the girls will be moving on to the high school to do Grade 8 next year (the boys are less studious, to put it mildly).  There have been many trying times in their classroom, but I’m really going to miss these girls.  While our first year in the Peace Corps dragged on and on and on, this year has gone by so quickly.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ngwelu Road Race

As we are apt to do, we have failed to update this blog in some time.  Oops.  Almost two weeks ago, we held a community 5K race with a kids’ fun run beforehand.  Although we didn’t get the enormous turnout we’d hoped for, it was still a success and a lot of fun.  Due to bad luck with the weather, we had to postpone the race twice.  And when we faced a conflict with the Grade 12 graduation, we were forced to run on a Wednesday.  Despite all the false starts, all the runners ended up having a great time, and we still ended up running in the rain and mud.

We managed to get a couple small donations from a friend in Pretoria and a local doctor.  This enabled us to charge very little money for the entrance fee and even give small cash prizes.  Whenever we wake up early enough to run in the morning we are joined by kids walking to school.  Two 6th grade girls, in particular, run with us whenever they see us.  We were really excited with them because the younger one finished in 2nd place in the kids’ fun run and the older one finished in 2nd in the 5K.  When the older girl opened up the envelope and saw cash her jaw dropped, and the next day at school she sought both of us out to tell us that her mother was proud of her.  In a rural area with little in the way of entertainment, we were more than pleased that we could provide kids with something to do . . . at least for one very muddy afternoon. 

It feels very strange to us that the election is tomorrow.  While it’s refreshing to avoid the constant media coverage, it is simultaneously frustrating to be so oblivious.  Someone recently sent us an email chain from 2008 when we made election night plans for people to come to our apartment and eat pizza as the polls closed.  Tomorrow night we will go to bed long before the result is known and await a test message from Matt’s sister Courtney to awaken us with the identity of our next president.  And then a few hours later we will go teach English to classrooms of Zulu students.  How times have changed!