Peace Corps brought our cohort to a rolling boil with a trip to Pretoria for a guided tour of the Voortrekker Museum. Trainees later debated whether we should invest our resources in experiencing a symbol of apartheid history and Afrikaner nationalism firsthand. Although the controversies left us divided in opinion, at the time we could all agree to revel in the fresh air, striking architecture, and startling heights.
On my way home from Kwamhlanga, I pondered how to describe my weekend away. My host mother had invited me there for a sojourn to her mother’s house. The town wasn’t far, but we would be staying overnight.
What was the occasion, exactly? “Church.”
I suspected there was more involved, since she had broached the subject weeks in advance and invested the days preceding in amassing buckets of handmade amakheki (sweet biscuits or ‘fat cakes’).
“What will we be doing?” I ventured, in my elementary Zulu.
Despite the apparent logic of these replies, I couldn’t quell the sense that something more awaited me.
I confess to doubting what they meant. Should we be expecting more of the rugged, arid beauty we had witnessed so far since arriving in Johannesburg? If so, then why all the fuss?
We crawled onto the bus at 6:30am last Saturday and hunkered down for an all-day drive to South Africa’s northernmost province — just shy of the border with Zimbabwe. In exchange for seven hours of travel one way, the Peace Corps promised a taste of our future lives, courtesy of the much-anticipated “site shadowing” with a current Volunteer.
As these photos will attest, Venda made good on its reputation.
The final chapter of Proverbs graces us with a portrait of an excellent woman: “more precious than jewels,” “with willing hands,” rising “while it is yet night,” clothed in strength and dignity, teaching kindness.
My host mother gives life to these virtues. She welcomed me into her home as another daughter–a invitation as kind as it must be familiar for her. Eva cares for four children at once most days: a daughter, a granddaughter, and two twin boys.
Her daughter is six years old, and her granddaughter is seven. “SamKele was a surprise,” I remarked to her older brother, a twenty-five year old college student.
“I’d say that’s an understatement,” he chuckled.
Eva calls it a blessing. “More than twenty years–and God gave us a daughter!” The name “SamKele” means “We accept.”
Today marks the first day of my second week in Africa. Another fun statistic: I’ve now visited six continents! (When the Peace Corps invited me to serve here, I did check whether South Africa was close to the South Pole. It’s not.)
Ask any of my fellow trainees, and we will all tell you it seems impossible that only a week has gone by.
Less than twenty-four hours after our staging event (first day of training), and life as a Peace Corps trainee is already an adventure. We arose at o’dark thirty this morning for a bus departure time of 2:30am. Would you believe that it is more cost efficient to host us in Philadelphia and shuttle us to JFK than renting hotel and conference rooms in the Big Apple?
Some of us didn’t bother trying to sleep last night–and some of them shut their eyes for three hours the night before while flying to Philadelphia. The bus ride to New York City might have been killer, but I’m thankful that staging took place close enough for my family to drive me there.
In February when the Peace Corps accepted my application to teach English in South Africa, my brain started turning over the all-important question: What to pack?
“I’m hoping to go with just a backpack,” I told a friend.
She was aghast. “No!”
Maybe she has a point, I thought. It doesn’t seem like much for two years and eleven weeks of living abroad. What if I’m not ready?
Fresh squeezed fruit juice? $2.50 for a double-sized glass. Chicken avocado sandwich with coffee? Three dollars.
On top of that, the food here is all “organic”–without the label and without the markup. When you shop for fruit, you let the seller know if you’re planning to eat tomorrow instead of the same day. That way they can bring you produce a shade less ripe.
Seven days ago, I did not know I would be flying to Peru. By Monday the 14th, I had booked tickets for my departure on the 21st. Still more amazing? The lady leading the trip hadn’t known she was headed to Peru until the day before.
It all started with a bag of clothes. My family was cleaning house, emptying our basement of ten years’ accumulated detritus. The friend who came to help us dislodge the furniture offered to drop our clothes off with a friend of his from church. She was accepting accepting donations for her upcoming trip to an orphanage in Peru. Yes, he agreed upon further questioning, she was accepting travel companions, too. Read the rest of this entry
The trip to Ireland began last summer, as the germ of an idea inspired by my good friend, Sarah. When I heard of her plans to spend a year studying abroad in Northern Ireland, I decided, some how, some way, to visit her.
We met in Dublin, after the saintly Sarah suffered a 4am bus ride down from her home away from home in Londonderry. Read the rest of this entry
Dancing! Irish dancing! Irish music, too, as it turned out. My angelic father accompanied me to a local performance, “Celtic Steps,” starring five musicians and four dancers. Despite the relatively small size, the show impressed with its sheer talent and irrepressible charm. Read the rest of this entry
Thanks to Fernroyd‘s hosts in Cork, Avril and Tony, we abandoned our plan of traveling the length of Ireland to visit Derry and instead skipped off for a two-day detour to Killarney Read the rest of this entry
We were happy to visit before the flock had migrated there for the summer, however. On a gray, drizzly, nippy Saturday, we shared Blarney Castle with just half a dozen of our new best friends: the brave and the few. Read the rest of this entry