Yeah, I know it sounds bad.
Here are some general reactions to South Africa though. I don’t have enough time to describe and explain everything I’m doing, but I can try to give a daily life run-down and general reflections and reactions to the country.
I’ve been living with a couple my parents’ age, Joseph and Sizzi, and they have grown children of their own. We live in the town of Hluvukani, in the Bushbuckridge area of South Africa (semi-close to the Mozambican border). Joseph and Sizzi are both teachers at local elementary schools. Sizzi is funny and warm and always glad to see us when we come back from school (“Oh, my sisters are home!”), and Joseph is very religious (Christian Zionist) and a tad chauvanistic. He’s always spouting advice like “You can never climb the ladder of success wearing the suit of failure.”
It’s kind of a funny juxtaposition of resources here though. The family has a satellite TV and touch-screen cell phones, but no running water and an outhouse. I’m staying there with another girl on the trip, Alison, and we couldn’t agree more that we have the chillest homestay family. There are a few kids always around (many whom have lost one or both parents to unmentioned causes), but none live in the house. I don’t want to say I’ve picked favorites, but I have. Joseph’s neice, Shiluba is 8 and adorable and we’ve danced together on occasion.
On a normal day though, Alison and I wake up around 6:30 in order to leave for the Southern African Wildlife College at 7:45 (which is where we’ve been holding our classes). I bath (or sponge myself, to be more descriptive) from a medium-sized plactic tub that is large enough for my to stand in but not large enough for me to sit in. The tub is filled with about a quarter of an inch of water for us to bathe with, so needless to say, I’m getting pretty dirty.
The dirtier I feel, the more comfortable I’m getting.
People here in South Africa bathe twice a day though, which took me a little while to get used to. I’m a night-showerer, so I didn’t know what to do when they wanted me to shower night and morning. The first morning, I told them that it wasn’t necessary. As it turns out, all of our host parents have been thinking that we’re really dirty because we didn’t know that we were supposed to bathe twice a day.
I finally adapted to the multiple showering a day. It’s not that hard, when I’m crusted with sweat and dirt at bugspray at the end of every day (and oftentimes in the morning too).
So yeah, showering, and then breakfast, which generally consists of a tasteless hot porridge that I pour sugar and milk into and some hot tea. All of this, we take in the living room. There’s no real table and chairs, so all of my meals I eat in the living room or in the garage.
At 7:45, I head to our spot where a van picks us up and we head to the college. The van is generally anywhere from 5 minutes early to an hour and a half late. We spend our mornings in class, and on many of the afternoons, we have site visits to NGOs or we have lectures from local experts. Luckily, the college has a swimming pool, so I’ve been able to swim some during lunchtime. Now I just have a hard time telling what’s dirt and what’s tan.
We head back to our homestays around 5 or 6 and kind of just sit in the garage or lay in our beds for awhile, out of pure exhaustion. We are served a meal – usually pap, a corn-based mush that we eat with our fingers, and morogo, a leafy spinch-like vegetable that grows in the yard. More hanging out ensues. I’ve had an ill-fated attempt to milk goats (they were dry), and a visit to see the neighbor’s pigs (the pen craftily hidden in the corn). Many of my nights are filled with cards though.
I’ve taught Joseph and the neighborhood bros how to play a few card games and we hang out in the garage at night, playing them. My competitive nature comes out, probably offending the males. I’m not about to change that though. I think there’s enough of a male-dominated/submissive-female society here (especially in home life), that seeing a strong-willed American girl won’t do too much harm.
So after holding my own with the men of the town, I try and catch up on homework and readings, which is complicated always by our lack of computers. In this time, we are given Rooibos tea and a little snack, so it’s always a relaxing way to end out my day. I bathe, recoat myself in OFF to prevent malaria, and I usually call it a night by 10 or 11. I seriously haven’t gone to bed this early since about junior high. This is a very typical day though.
Other amusing situations I have found myself in: while making a visit to a wildlife rehabilitation center, I was given the chance to get into a vulture cage and feed hungry vultures a piece of raw beef.
Of course I took that chance.
But while one vulture went for the piece of meat in my hand (and I was wearing a giant leather glove), another one went for my toem which was considerably more exposed. He took a small chunk out of my nail bed, but luckily there are some EMTs in my group and I had the vulture wound cleaned and bandaged in no time. Now I just have to deal with people on the trip calling me Vulture Toe.
Yesterday, I went to a traditional dance celebration, which is popular among the people here. Tons of people come from all over to watch dancers, and more likely to get drunk. My friends and I spent a good part of the afternoon fending off beligerant men. One man, especially gone, blew his shofar and danced for me. I didn’t see that relationship going anywhere.
Unfortunately, my computer time is running low, but I wanted to at least talk about that. I’ll save my reactions to the country for a little later.
Much love from Africa!