How Does a PCV Eat?

Believe it or not, I eat food here in SA, and I even cook my own food! However, considering the whole “living on the level of the locals” philosophy of the PCV living stipend, I eat fairly simply, though I will allow myself a few luxuries every now and then (mainly things like Coca Cola or chocolate).

Before I describe the things I tend to eat, I must first describe how I get food. Gone are the days of hopping in a car, driving to the store, and loading up a cart with weeks worth of food. Wow…that description just made me miss the ease of shopping in the US even more.

In my village, I can buy the bare basics: bread, beans, coffee, tea, etc. But not a whole lot more than that.

Remember-I live in a deep rural South Africa village. Anytime I need to buy food, and adventure begins.

Step 1: Get to the neighboring village where there are luxuries like transportation to other villages and larger shops that sell things like shoes and spices. This involves being really lucky to catch a ride to the town. Due to construction that is currently happening in between our villages, this pretty much doesn’t happen anymore. So instead I walk the 7km to the village, usually leaving before 7am to avoid the heat of the day.

Step 2: Once I get to the other village, I can buy a fair amount of food items (I just found this out last week). I can find milk, eggs, different soup packets, spices, baking supplies, etc. I still haven’t found a place to buy fruits and vegetables in my village or the next one, but I think there probably is a place somewhere.

Step 3: If I want to go whole hog and do some real shopping, I have two options: going to Ganyesa where there is a Shoprite grocery store that has just about everything I need. Or I can go to Vryburg, which has several stores, fast food places, clothing stores…well, all sorts of shops. No fancy things like malls or movie theatres, but I can buy almost anything I would need. The ride there nearly always involves waiting a while for the kombi to fill up, driving around the village looking for customers, returning to the taxi rank to pick more people up, slowly driving through the village looking for more people to shove in, and then blasting off to our destination.

Step 4: Go shopping and try not to buy too much.

Step 5: Find a taxi back to the nearest village. This is done in a kombi, or an 18 person van in varying states of disrepair. The music is nearly always blaring, the windows are not opened even if it’s crazy hot, and there are almost always more than 18 people in here. It can take 5 minutes or more than an hour to fill up, and you wait in the hot vehicle while vendors come to the windows and offer anything from ice cream (it was delicious) or bootleg CDs and software. You have to find a place to jam all your groceries, as does everyone else. By the time it fills up, there is normally a pile of groceries, bundles, buckets, etc piled precariously in front of the door. Then we bump and jiggle all the way to the nearest village.

Step 6: Try to convince the driver to take me clear to my village, which probably won’t happen. Otherwise get dumped out of the side of the road and catch a ride back home with the bakke taxis that infrequently go to my village. It could take awhile…So I sit on the side of the road next to other villagers and try not to look too out of place (yeah, right).

Step 7: Try to get the driver to take me directly home, which I either can’t communicate in Setswana or they won’t do. So I get dropped off at the entrance to my village and walk the kilometer or two home, with all my groceries.

Step 8: Stumble into my home, gulp down some cold water from my fridge, and collapse in exhaustion.

At some point I must carry all my groceries for some distance. I haven’t yet walked the 7km home with my groceries, but I probably will at some point. I take a backpack or drawstring bag and shove all the heavy stuff in there, so it works out fairly well. By the end of the journey, no matter where I go, how long it takes, or what I buy, I am almost always exhausted.
And I almost always fall asleep on the kombi, which is nothing short of a miracle!

Feeding myself is kind of a pain.
I’ll try to convince some pictures to post soon (I’ve tried, and my reception at site doesn’t agree with it).



About Jen Lamos

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Gardener. Keeper of Chickens. Daughter of God.

3 thoughts on “How Does a PCV Eat?

  1. Hello Jen,
    My name is Claire and I just received an invite to South Africa for January. Your blog was the first one that popped up on pcjournals and I was wondering if I could ask how things are going with you? Do you enjoy the country? Do you like what you are doing? Are you happy you were invited to South Africa and not some other country? I know its a bit random, I’m just trying to get in touch with as many SA volunteers as possible.

    My email is, thanks so much for your time and I hope grocery shopping is going smoothly 🙂


  2. Howdy Jen,

    I’m an Education PCV in Uganda. This coming December, some of my comrades and I are going to fly to Joburg and make our way by bus, taxi, motorbike, foot and other such means back to Uganda getting a full tour of the southern half of the continent. I was wondering if you or any of your fellow volunteers would be willing to meet up with us and possibly let us throw up a tent in your back yard. We are going to be in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Durban for sure but we are making up the order and the dates as we go. Also, any advice when it come to traveling in SA would be most appreciated.


  3. Hey Jen , I am a volunteer in rural Tanzania , I totally know what you’re saying about getting food being a pain…the simplest of things become pains..and how chocolate is now a luxury! Simple things you never thought of as Luxuries! Keep up the Good work!

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