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!

-Jen

Gratitude: Day 13 and 14

Day 13: As summer heats up here, I am thankful for my hammock more and more everyday. When I first came to SA, I pondered about whether I should bring my Mexican hammock or not. It’s heavy and somewhat big, and I didn’t know if I would have a place to hang it. So I reluctantly left it at home, and regretted it as soon as I saw my exposed beams at site and felt the heat of an African summer.Fast forward a year, to my visit home last June. One of the first things I did was to dig through packed up stuff until I found my hammock, and it was priority number one on my packing list. I quickly hung it up in my room upon returning to site, and have used it a lot since then. It’s sooooo cool and relaxing, and when I have visitors, I sleep in it and let them have my bed (unless they REALLY want to sleep in it). When Tumi visited, I don’t think she got out of it for hours on end! 😉 I’ve spent so much time in it in the past week, since it’s gotten hot, and it’s been amazing.

Day 14: Even though it’s something almost every PCV in SA has, I am grateful to be at a site with electricity. I know some people romanticize the PC image of a night spent reading by candlelight, but this is the 21st century, and electricity is pretty standard for PCVs worldwide. That being said, I have spent some nights reading by candlelight. My electricity is far from stable, and high winds, rain, or nothing at all can knock it out for an undetermined amount of time. Regardless, I am very grateful to have electricity. I am glad I don’t have to stoke a fire to warm up water in the morning, or rely on paraffin to cook food. I’m glad I can turn my light on to battle bugs and other such critters, rather than fear the unknown in the dim candlelight. And I’m glad I usually don’t have to worry about knocking over my candle and setting my room on fire.

But I really do get a kick out of having a Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-esque candleholder, one with a handle to carry around with me. Oh Peace Corps!
-Jen

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!
-Jen

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!

-Jen

Week in Photos (05/08-11/08)

It’s been windy. Can you tell by my photos?
-Jen

This is how I dress to keep warm...inside my house.

This is how I dress to keep warm…inside my house.

The sun through the “window” in my pit latrine.

Windy days means I get a lot of sand outside my door...or under my door and into my room.

Windy days means I get a lot of sand outside my door…or under my door and into my room.

A cold, windswept sunrise!

A cold, windswept sunrise!

Windswept sand outside my room.

Windswept sand outside my room.

3 ingredient peanut butter cookies-so yummy and so easy!

3 ingredient peanut butter cookies-so yummy and so easy!

Oh Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

I knew a cold front was coming. For once, the weather app on my phone was fairly accurate. A week and a half ago, I saw that the temperatures were going to plunge below zero (celsius) again this week. I was just hoping the forecast would change. The forecast is never right, so why would I count on it this time. Denial, I know.

However, during the day Monday, the winds picked up. Sand was flying and the bitter wind pierced through my Colombia fleece like it was a cotton tshirt. I saw on an SA news website that they were promising a country-wide, end-of-winter cold snap, with highs of 10C or lower. Most days in the winter, it would warm up to the mid-teens or twenties, so when I saw the 9C high predicted for Tuesday, I gulped and accepted that it would be a horrible day.

Monday night it started getting cold. I setup my heater on a chair, so that it would blow directly on me while in bed. I gulped tea and burrowed under the blankets, fearing the next day and wondering if I could call in sick. I slipped into a pair of long johns, snuggled down into my sleeping bag+liner combo that has been a lifesaver, and threw a comforter on top of that, knowing I would wake up cold if I didn’t.

Despite all that, I woke up several times, COLD, in the middle of the night. I had a thick blanket underneath me that I could have thrown over me, but I would have had to get out of the sleeping bag cocoon, which I did NOT want to do. So I kept burrowing deeper into my sleeping bag, and tried to sleep.

I woke up around 6am, and the air inside my room was frigid, colder than it had been for several weeks. It felt like the inside of a walk-in fridge. Heck, it was a walk-in fridge. I stuck my arm out of my sleeping bag, turned on the heater, and pointed it directly at my face, and laid there for about half an hour, wondering if coffee and breakfast were really necessary today.

At about half past, I bravely unzipped my bag and scurried across my room, doing my “cold dance” and grabbing a fleece blanket to tie around me, my hat, scarf, and coat before making coffee. I made my coffee and French toast (fancy for a school morning), then rushed back to perch in front of the heater while reading my Bible.

A little while later, I grabbed my nicest set of long johns, shirt, jeans, knee socks, hat, scarf, gloves, and 2 coats, thinking about the awful-cold walk to school. I kept noticing that I could see my breath-inside my room. That’s just awful. It would be like living in a garage in winter in America. Not quite, because the garage probably has better insulation.

Anyways, I took a deep breath and headed out the door for the half-mile walk to school. About a second later I realized that even with all the layers and two coats, I was already freezing. But I also realized there’s not a whole lot I could do about it. So I hurried off to school, keeping my head down to avoid getting a faceful of sand.

Winter is harsh here because there’s really no escape from the cold. Yeah, I can dress in many layers, and I’ve got a good blanket-heater-hot water bottle set up at home. But it’s a lot of work to keep warm, and one step outside or a gap in the blankets, and the cold rushes in. I’m well-off by village standards, because I have a study house, good clothes, a heater, and many blankets. Most people in my village don’t, and I can only imagine how cold they were this morning.
-Jen

Correction: Spring is NOT in the Air

Me before I left this morning.

Me before I left this morning.

Me after a horribly cold and windy walk home!

Me after a horribly cold and windy walk home!

I was apparently wrong when I posted yesterday about Spring being in the air. The weather’s turned and insane winds have come, which means it is unbearably cold again. Sigh…

But in good news-my hair is now long enough to pin back! An exciting change after months of the same hairstyle. Of course, the wind decided to wreak havoc on my hair!
-Jen

The sand outside my door...looks like water!

The sand outside my door…looks like water!