Peace Corps Blog

This is a blog of my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, working in South Africa. My job title is a capacity builder, which means I help increase the effectiveness of a local NGO that does AIDS/HIV related work.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

My Weekend Adventures

My weekend, as so much of daily life here, was filled with adventures, many of which I am simply an unknowing participants brought along by others. I figure describing the fun will provide a little insight into life here.

Friday afternoon at work as mellow (most people leave around eleven in the morning), but I stayed until five. My time is spent in my supervisor's office, where so much of the organization's excitement takes place. His name is Knowledge (or at least that is what everyone calls him) and his technical title is the General Manager, but he is essentially second in command and spends his day overseeing the general operations of the organization. As a result, people are constantly coming and going from the office and his phone is constantly ringing. In addition, Jacob, a volunteer from Denmark, often works at the computer in the office (he is starting a newsletter to highlight the accomplishments of the organization). And this last week, we also had Peter, the accountant from Johannesburg, working in the office. He provides great company, as he is well traveled (all over Africa, lots of time in New York and recently the Dominican Republic), speaks perfect English and manages to tell entertaining stories, even well typing accounting reports. The office provides a packed little hub of nonstop entertainment.

Leaving at five (which is actually the earliest I left all week) allowed me to do some reading when I got home, before I cooked vegetable curry and rice. It sounds a lot more impressive then it really is (the vegetable curry comes in a can, but is surprisingly good, with lots of spice and potatoes, peas, beans, and peanuts).

Saturday morning, I awoke rather early to find water dripping into my room. It had been pouring rain all night and it had finally founds it way into my room, so I strategically placed some bowls around the room. As Knowledge had requested, I headed down to my organization at 8am. At some point, I will learn better, but the general rule is never to arrive on time. In the end, I waited until 9:40am before he showed up (to pass the time, I put together a Little Mermaid puzzle that the kids had left out). Even after departing, we ended up going through a number of stops, picking up some dry cleaning and other people, including another Peace Corps volunteer who lives nearby.

Then we drove for about two hours into a rural community on the other side of Polokwane to see how their municipal Love Life Games day was going. Love Life is a government-funded project seeking to promote behavior change to help prevent HIV/AIDS in younger demographics. So one of their activities involves creating game days, where kids come together to play soccer, ultimate frisbee, netball and other sports. As it was very gusty and rainy, we watched for less than hour, before my supervisor declared, "I'm bored. Let's go." So we headed back towards Polokwane, the provincial capital (and closest big city to where I live).

On the outskirts of town, we pulled up to a big warehouse, with a few tables setup outside with a makeshift kitchen. Knowledge headed over, talked for a few minutes, and returned with about five plates of food for everyone to share. It turned out to be some of the most amazing South African food that I have eaten yet. Lots of bogobe (or porridge, made from maize), with flavorful gravy, some spinach thing, some other vegetable thing and a number of tasty meats. We stood around the back of the truck and the eight of us ate (with are hands, using the bogobe to pick up other foods). As the food was being polished off, another seven or so plates showed up. We left stuffed with absolutely delicious food from some hidden little place.

Next, we went shopping at the Savannah Mall (as American as you can imagine). I managed to get an espresso (mmm...) and to finally buy the device I needed to get online.

From there, we got lost in the Savannah suburbs looking for a party, which Peter the accountant had invited us to attend (as it turns out, it was a party for one of our organization's funders, so it was good we went). The party was both a tombstone unveiling party (in the morning) and a fiftieth birthday party (in the afternoon), so it was quite the big deal. A rented tent, lots of tables and lots of people. Upon arriving, they tried to serve us both food and drink. The food was declined on account of being stuffed, while the drinks were declined on account of the fact that Knowledge does not drink (and in the interest of him respecting me, I won't drink around him). But we did accept dessert of cake and custard. But once the long-winded speeches started, Knowledge plotted a stealthy exit (he sent one or two people off at a time from our group in order to not draw too much attention).

Finally, we headed towards home, again making a number of stops to drop people off, buying juice, visit someone in the hospital and get gas. I arrived home at 8pm after twelve hours driving all over the Limpopo province (my host mom was very worried, she called to make sure I was alright). The day was a blast, because I got to hang out with Laurent (one of my closest fellow Peace Corps Volunteer), but also with Knowledge. With the exception of his lack of punctuality, I have so much respect and appreciation for him. He is generous, extremely bright and tuned into so much around him. It makes me happy that I will get to work with him over the coming two years.

As for today, I ended up going to my organization's soccer game. My organization recently organized a soccer team and so this was our sixth game so far. It ended up a draw (ruining our winning streak sadly). The game took place in a nearby town (still not sure what the place was called). Being in a new town is always an adventure, because they are not yet accustomed to having a white person around. So in the shop, I was ushered to the front of the line and addressed in Afrikaans a number of times. Best of all though are the varied reactions to me greeting using the local language (Sepedi, or Norther Sotho). Some people get very excited, others just seem too shocked to respond, while others use English for their response.

Surprisingly, this has been the eighth day in a row that I have gone into work. You would think that life here would be more relaxed, but it seems that at every moment, I am being invited to join in some new adventure. It keeps things very lively here.

I posted five more photos from my weekend of fun to the album I setup earlier this week. Click here to see the photo album.


At October 10, 2007 3:12 PM , Blogger susan said...

oh dearest nate....there is nothing i'd rather do than sit and read about your adventures. you made them so vivid and your pictures enhanced it all. it is just as i pictured rural africa to be. looking forward to the next entry. we miss you so and as claire would say..."keep on truckin" love sue

At October 13, 2007 2:33 AM , Anonymous Bill Perkins said...

I appreciated hearing that your host mom was concerned that everything was all right. I find myself worrying that everything is all right too. But it sounds like the adventures are happening fastly and furiously. Wonderful. We think of you all the time. Dad.


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