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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Photos of ga-Mathabatha

With the end of my service approaching, I have begun a new effort to capture photos of my community and some of the people within it. So today I uploaded 17 new photos, which show some of the destinations and people within ga-Mathabatha. The new photos appear at the beginning of my album called Peace Corps Site:

Peace Corps Site


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Holidays in Mozambique

This past holiday season, a number of my fellow volunteers and I made a trip to Mozambique. This was my first significant trip outside of South Africa. We traveled north to a village on the beach, which also is a common destination for tourists (ranging from the increasingly popular volunteer-tourists to the guests of luxurious island houses with a private airstrip). From our beach-front hostel, we looked out to a scattering of moored boats, which often made early morning fishing excursions or day long trips out to the archipelago of islands. One of our days was spent taking a dhow (a type of sailboat) out to one of the closer islands, where we went snorkeling and had a lunch of calamari stew, crab and lots of fresh fruit.

The trip provided a fascinating glimpse at how much South Africa’s history of colonialism and apartheid have shaped its culture, values and society today. Once outside of South Africa, one becomes keenly aware of the racial tension that exists in and weighs on much of the country. In South Africa, much emphasis and attention are placed on skin color and a racial or tribal identity group, but while in Mozambique, such divisions and groupings are less apparent and less important. Riding around in the “chapa” taxis (much like the South African version, although often with many more people squeezed in), I felt less people observing me and less people questioning my presence and role in the country and society.

In addition, people demonstrated a remarkable level of hospitality and generosity. One evening, I went walking to a corner “shabeen” (bar), where a number of young men were sitting outside eating, drinking and talking. I was immediately offered a chair, as well as the calamari the men were already eating. As we sat, they kept encouraging me to eat more and one man ended up buying me several sodas (he was disappointed that I turned down the offer of beer).

Other highlights of the trip included:

  • Going sailing with a group of local fishers, who took us up the coastline and even let me steer the boat for a while. It was fantastically beautiful and peaceful on the water.
  • Traveling in buses filled with everything from chickens to televisions across roads like Swiss cheese (so many potholes). At one point, the road was washed out because of heavy rain, so we all had to get out, ford the little river and find a new bus on the opposite side.
  • An amazing meal at a little café south of where we were staying, which included homemade butternut squash ravioli topped with a sun-dried tomato parmesan pesto. Delicious!

All in all, it was an enjoyable trip and a great opportunity to see a different side of Africa, where commercialism has a less established grasp on the society. I have posted a handful of photos from the trip in my gallery.

Happy new year and I look forward to seeing friends and family on my upcoming visit home!

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lots More Photos

It's long overdue, but I have finally posted lots more photos. The dearth of photos has been due to two things. One, forgetting my camera in Durban over Christmas vacation. And two, the slow upload speed over the cellphone connection. But both problems have been remedied at this point. Amazingly, I managed to recover my camera four months after I left it in a backpackers in Durban. As for the internet speed, I believe the local cellphone tower was upgraded, because now I get a 3G connection (which is amazing for a rural village anywhere in the world, much less Africa).

My parents came to visit in April, and we spent a little over two weeks traveling around the eastern part of South Africa. Just a brief overview of our trips:
  • One night in my village, ga-Mathabatha, staying with Agnes (the head of my organization)
  • Over to Graskop and Sabie
  • A four night backpacking trip from Sabie over to Graskop (not really backpacking, as we got to stay in outstanding little huts along the way)
  • Into Kruger, the amazing game park here
  • South, around Swaziland (staying at a guesthouse on a pig farm along the way)
  • Two nights in St. Lucia, an estuary game park along the coast
  • One night in Durban, with a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean from our room
  • Up to the Drakensberg mountain range, where we stayed in the Royal Natal park
  • And finally, returning to Pretoria before my parents headed off
My parents brought many books and other niceties for me to enjoy, but one of the best was my nicer camera, which I had originally decided to leave at home. So along the way, I was able to make up for the lack of photos and captured some of the beautiful places and things we saw. And I have selected a few the highlight places along our journey, and have posted 27 new photos! You can see them by going to:

Album: Traveling South Africa with my parents

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Six Months

Just this week I realized that I have now been living in Africa for six months. It is amazing how quickly the time is going by here. First off, I figured it is a good excuse to post some long overdue photos:

There are photos from when I walked to a hill that overlooks my village and a few showing my room, which I recently reorganized in an attempt to make it more personal and homey. That meant better organizing my stuff (so that everything wasn't sitting in piles on the floor) and getting a map and tablecloth.

The other day I was reminded of a fun story, which I had forgotten about. On the way to our first in-service training, back in December, I stopped by the site of another volunteer for a day. His site happens to be walking distance from a small-scale game reserve, so he and I headed over to the fence in hopes of seeing giraffes. Walking along the fence, we found a semblance of a gate (more like a place where you could crawl under the fence). My friend has been told by locals in the village that you could enter the game reserve there, so headed in. Maybe not the safest idea, in case there was some huge predators, but we walked along the dirt road and ended up seeing a huge family of ostriches (a male and a female, and about eight or nine little babies). So we sat a safe distance away and just watched as the meandered along, taking no notice of us, and picking through the grass for food. There was something very special about getting to sit and watch that.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Photos from Site

So I am well on my way to having my own internet access. I have at least gotten online at this point, and will eventually buy the little device I need so that I do not have to borrow one from my organization. But I did manage to post seven photos of my site.

This last weekend, I attended a ceremony celebrating the girls who completed initiation school. It was a week long program, where they camp out, sing songs and do other secret activities. Two of the photos are from that event, where there were about 450 girls wearing traditional outfits. Keep in mind that the event started at 7AM on a rainy Sunday, so a number of the girls were shivering. The poverty/wealth dichotomy was well represented, as some of the initiates were clearly underfed and otherwise unhealthy, while others were picked up in BMW SUVs.

Peace Corps Site