The Saga of the Leaky Roof

So, it seems that the “Saga of the Leaky Roof” is nearly at an end. Praise the Lord!

Yesterday my APCD was up to visit from Pretoria, which ended up being perfect for two reasons: one being a grant I’m writing that she needs to look over, and the other being my leaky roof that I need fixed. You might remember a post or two on this whole leaking roof thing (actually, I thought I had written two posts about it already, only to go back and find none), and it has caused me a considerable amount of stress over the last few weeks. Last night I was up until 2am dealing with an internal deluge of rain.

So my roof leaks. Not a drip-drip trickle. A constant downpour of water from a wooden beam, numerous drip-drip-DRIP-PLUNK leaks, and crying walls. It takes 2 containers and three basins to manage this, one being my huge laundry/bath basin. It means disrupted nights and preoccupied days. And a constant worry about when the next rain is coming. Even now, the sky is filling with clouds. Sigh.

We had a guy over last week to fix the holes. He got up on the roof and laughed. It seems that my roof dips in the middle, causing water to collect there and eventually pour into my room. Sometimes over my bed. Without taking off and essentially replacing the whole room, it’s unfixable.

However, yesterday I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. My APCD came and checked it out, and we decided I would move. A whole 10 meters to the rondeval next to my room!

A rondeval is a circular thatched roof house that is what most people envision houses in Africa to be. I’m actually kind of excited to move into it. Because the roof is high up and thatched, it’s quiet, doesn’t leak, and is COOL in the summer (praise the Lord again). It’s huge, and just a cool place to live. Some small repairs have to be done before I move in, and burglar bars have to be installed. But hopefully over the weekend a good portion of that can be done.

No more leaky roof. It’s somewhat of a trade-off because I might get more critters in the rondeval (spiders, mosquitos, lizards, and bats), but I can handle those. If anything, they make for very interesting (blog) stories!


Gratitude: Day 11 and 12

Day 11: I am very thankful for people who send me mail, especially care packages. Getting mail reminds me that people back home are thinking about me and want to support me. I love getting letters, though I don’t get them often enough. And a package is like Christmas, no matter what time of year it is. On rough days or weeks, mail is a bright spot and I always looking forward to checking for mail. I also love to send mail, so whenever I receive mail from someone, I breakout my postcards or letter writing supplies and get to work. If you’ve mailed me something and not received mail back, I was once operating under the assumption that you could put mail in the postboxes outside a post office, and it would be mailed. That’s not true, I found out too late. So a box in Vryburg certainly has a small depository of mail intended for my friends and family back home-sorry. Want to send me something? My mailing address and wishlist is right here, on my “Mailing Info” page. Just a hint, my birthday is in December and I LOVE cards! But don’t mail packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because nobody will be around to pick them up and they might disappear…

Day 12: I am thankful for rain. Yesterday it rained for hours on end and puddles even formed. It was glorious and cool, and it’s even still wet and humid today! Remember, I live on the edge of the Kalahari, so rain is a rare commodity. Often a rainstorm will come of fiercely and blow itself out in minutes, leaving a wet, sandy mess behind. So a nice day of rainfall was a true blessing, especially after the heat of last week. I adore the sweet smell of rain and throw my windows open to let the cool air in when it rains, and I’m sure my family thinks I’m nuts. That’s ok. Under a metal roof, the rain can be deafening at times, and it can knock the electricity out for seconds or hours. But still, I am always grateful for rain, even when I must walk through it to school.

But seriously, I love mail, so send me some. Ok, shameless begging over!

Water Worries

In America, we don’t worry much about water.  We can turn on the faucet in various places in our house and have unlimited clean water flowing out.  Heck, the water we poop in is clean enough to drink.  Some people go crazy and buy bottled water or a purifier, because they think the tap water is harmful or tastes funny.  But we really don’t worry much about water.  It’ always there.


In Africa, it’s a whole different story.  Water consumes a lot of my brain power, because it’s not easy to find clean water.  I don’t have running water in my home, but there is a tap in the yard.  This is great, but I can’t drink the water.  First of all, it’s borehole water, which is NOT clean and requires and lengthy process of boiling, cooling, and filtering.  And even if I do that, the water in the yard has a high salt/calcium/lime content, so it tastes horrible.  I use the yard tap for washing, cleaning, and when I make coffee/tea etc, but not much for drinking.


For drinking water, my family brings me a 25L “scoop” of water (really big, heavy jug) once a week or so.  I tried in earnest to find where they collect the water from and do it myself at the beginning of service, but my family sends the kids out to do it a few times a week, and eventually I just accepted that they wanted to do this for me.   This water is from municipality taps around the village, and my family takes a few scoops and the wheel barrow and collect water.  I should boil and filter this water too, but I usually just filter it.


Sometimes, the family’s yard tap doesn’t work.  This happens on a fairly regular basis.  It usually is only out for a few hours, or maybe a day or two.  But it can be bad for me if I haven’t stored enough water in my room, and therefore can’t wash, bathe, or do anything else.  Sometimes, the municipality taps don’t work, which worries me even more because I HAVE to drink water, even if I can’t bathe or wash dishes.  So I always keep a bucket full of this water in my room, for emergencies.  I also stockpile filtered water in bottles at the beginning of the week, and try to always have a few liters, again, in case of emergencies.


I always carry a bottle of water with me to school, as the school only has borehole water, and I have no way of purifying it there.  Sometimes I am extra thirsty, or it is extra hot, and I drink all my water.  Then I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.  I can either risk dehydration, which can come on very quickly and be dangerous in this climate, or I can risk a parasite by drinking the borehole water.  I always choose to drink the borehole water, and sometimes I pay later.  That’s Peace Corps.


The rains are coming, which means soon our water barrels will be full of rain water which drains from the roof.  This water will definitely need to be boiled, filtered, and possibly chlorinated because there are all sorts of critters that scurry around on the roof.


Water is one of my biggest sources of stress.  The worst feeling in the world is walking up to the tap, turning it on, and having nothing come out when you have unwisely not stockpiled any water.  It’s happened a few times, and I think I’ve learned my lesson and have been keeping water stored up in my room.


Next time you turn on that tap, be grateful that’s all you have to do.  All things considered, I have it easy compared to most of the developing world, even though it probably seems complicated to you.


Summer’s Arrival and the Rains

Here is a conversation I had this week with my principal:

Me: I think summer is coming.

Principal: Summer has come itself.  It did not send its cousin or uncle or brother, it came personally.

So, even though we just passed the Spring Equinox, summer has arrived for all intents and purposes.  The sun is already scorching hot during the days, flies have swarmed into my room, and the garden is growing happily.  There is no real spring on the edge of the Kalahari.

The rains are just starting too, which is really exciting.  This past week, we’ve had 2 real rainstorms, complete with thunder, lightening, gale force winds, and lasting rainfall.  I am beyond excited!  It’s been months since any real rain has fallen on my village, and water has been scarce, according to many people in the village.  I’ll write a post about water really soon, because it’s a huge preoccupation of mine, and consumes a lot of my energy and worry-time.  But if the rains really have begun, my village shall be flush in water soon, and the watering holes might actually fill up this year-last year they didn’t.

Rains bring spongy, sticky sand that clings to and stains everything, so I shall be spending more time sweeping and cleaning my shoes from here on out.  I also make sure to keep my candle and matches close by, as rain often knocks the electricity out.  Sadly, I must now wage war on the ants, who come out in force after the rain.  Have you heard stories about people who fall asleep under a tree, and then the ants swarm them and kill them?  I think those guys live in my village.  I call them warrior ants.  They are BIG and can cling to shoes (or skin) better than I could.  And their bites HURT!!  If you get enough bites, your feet start to swell.  It’s great fun.  Luckily they don’t come in my room, because my house is pretty well-built.  But sometimes I have to run and stomp through the village to get the darn things off!

Even with the ants, I am excited for the rainy season.  It’ supposed to go from September to April, but last year the rains didn’t really start until December, and petered out around the end of February.  Thus I’m hoping we have a real rainy season this year.  Our garden would like that!


Meetings, Workshops, Gardening and Whatnot

This week has been a crazy week. It started out on Monday with a meeting in Vryburg with the District Manager what what (meaning I do not know his real title, besides department bigwigs). When we were told about this at the workshop on Friday, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But when we got there, I realized it was. They had lots of department people there, our principals, and 5 of the Vryburg 7. They even catered a meal for us, which is how I knew it was important. 🙂 Seriously.

Of course, a trip to Vryburg is not complete without a stop a Shoprite, banks, and various other shops. Lorato and I set off apart from our principals. We stopped at the bank for Lorato’s school, ran to Clicks, and did some grocery shopping, which was nice. Then we tracked down our principals and set off towards home. The problem was that it was raining. Dirt roads+rains=Lorato, Mma Makobo, and I pushing the car out of a mini-river that had formed in the road. I almost had to spend the night at Lorato’s, but we managed to find a way home and I arrived right at dark, exhausted from bump bump bumping through the dirt river-roads.

Tuesday found me bump bump bumping on mostly dry roads back to Lorato’s village to catch a kombi to Ganyesa. I was attending a Permaculture workshop with Mma Ntwayabokone, my counterpart for the garden work I am doing. I’ll expand more on the gardening workshop in another post, as it was awesome and I have lots to say. Anyways, after a great day, I managed to catch the BUS back directly to my village. A first! It was exciting.

Wednesday was an unsettling day for me. I had to tell my principal at KPS that I was only coming to his school once a week until July. This is partly because I have some big projects I need to focus on at MPS (girls club, gardening, and other such things) and partly because of the corporal punishment issues at KPS. He was not thrilled I was cutting back my time there, but the meeting went far better than I expected.

Thursday was unexciting, but today (Friday) I made an herb garden at MPS! It was a lot of hard work, and I doubt I will be able to move tomorrow, but it is beautiful. Mr. Komape told me that I was making history today, because it was the first time the learners had seen a white person working. Oh boy….glad to make my mark! I was quite the spectacle though. 😉


The road on the way home from Monday's meeting.

The road on the way home from Monday’s meeting.

The river-road we had to push the car out of!

The river-road we had to push the car out of!


Having grown up in precipitation-rich Iowa, I am still intrigued when it rains here in the Kalahari Basin. Rain here behaves quite different than rain in Iowa. Yes, it still falls from the sky and lands on the earth, but rain here is a strange phenomenon regardless.

First of all, being the Kalahari Basin, my first 4 months at site meant I barely saw any rain at all. I was told the rains were supposed to start in September, but they did not come until December. However, they waited until January to come in earnest. Now I am thoroughly enjoying the desert rains and my home in full bloom. This means there are bigger and bushier thorn bushes. And grass, which hides snakes. Exciting, nee?

Rain nearly always comes in the late afternoon or early evening, and occasionally continues through the night. It rarely ever rains during the morning or during the school day, which is awesome considering my hour long walk to KPS.

Usually, any amount of rain means my electricity goes out, often for the rest of the night. So if it starts thundering or gets excessively cloudy around dinner time, I hustle to prepare dinner before the motlakase goes out. PB and J gets boring after awhile!

Rain in a metal roof house is quite fun. A tiny bit of sprinkling which doesn’t quite warrant an umbrella sounds like a steady rain, and anything heavier than that gets maddening quickly. There were a few nights when I’ve been laying in bed, attempting to cover both ears with my pillow in order to sleep. When I tell this to teachers at school, the usually did not know it had rained during the night. My ears are too sensitive for Africa!

Last week, it started raining on Wednesday and didn’t really stop until Friday, which is unusually. Most of the time it rains for 10 minutes crazy hard, or a few hours in a steady sprinkle. So a few days of hard rain was a nice surprise, until I had to walk to school. Low and behold, some of the roads turned into rivers. Fun to cross, nee? I arrived a school wet, slightly muddy, and a bit late. Squishy squish squish. I did NOT fall in the mud though!

The kids had a BLAST playing in the massive puddle in the school yard!

Phefo Le Pula

Janoong, pula e a na, fela phefo ya foka THATA!

The rains are starting….but the wind is also blowing like crazy. So it’s time for a word on weather, nee?

The weather here on the edge of the Kalahari is a LOT different than the weather in Iowa. I thought it was windy on Central’s campus, but the winds of Iowa don’t even compare to the winds down in Africa. The winds almost never stop blowing, and for the past few weeks the winds have been exceedingly strong. 75kmp gusts? No big deal. Thus, the phrase phefo ya foka thata (the wind is blowing hard) is an important part of my vocabulary janoong. The winds have a benefit-a breeze (or mini-tornado) keeps it cooler and makes the heat bearable. However, the amount of dust that has been in my eyeballs in the past few weeks is insane…and I’ve never walked through a dust devil in my life prior to coming to SA, but now it happens way too often.

The rain is a whole other deal. Imagine-water falling from the sky onto a metal roof…yeah, it’s loud. I took a video of it and hope to post it sometime, but it wasn’t loading today. Even a light sprinkle sounds like downpour, and if it is a true downpour, hope you have earplugs or your eats may begin bleeding from the noise!

The seasonal rains were supposed to start in September, but they haven’t yet started officially. Although I think they are beginning. It’s been sprinkling and even raining a bit the past week, which is nice. Though the rains bring stronger winds, which like to blow the rocks around on my roof (rocks which I assume are there to hold my roof down). I’ve been told that when the rains start, it will rain for weeks at a time. And that it will make quicksand, which I will know well by January. Oh boy!!! But I still want the rains to come. Cue Toto’s “Rains Down in Africa” song….which is the status, tweet, and mumbled song of every PCV when it starts to rain. 🙂