PCVs always have the best travel stories, and they usually revolve around something as mundane as grocery shopping. So you can imagine how much fun I can have on a trip to the capital for medical.
At MST, the dentist and I decided I needed to have my last wisdom tooth removed, based on the fact that it had been causing me a lot of pain for the last 10 months. Peace Corps agreed, after a discussion with the regional medevac doctor and a disgruntled PCMO (pretty much all PCVs have to have theirs removed, and my PCMO was not happy that I had one left). Because of scheduling with the surgeon, I couldn’t have it done at MST and had to return to PTA later in the month.
I was not happy about having to travel to Pretoria twice in a month, especially because crime against PCVs in Pretoria has become noticeably worse. But I decided to make the best of it. I worked with medical to have the surgery scheduled the week after a wedding I had been invited to, and thus began my epic everyday travel.
I left my village and managed to meet two PCVs in Vryburg, one who was sick and going to a local doctor, and one who just wanted to be our bodyguard (it’s sadly necessary). So Tumi, Tsiamo, and I had an early lunch together and had fun sharing our crazy village experiences of the past few weeks. We got Tumi to the doctor, and Tsiamo walked me to the rank where I found my taxi to Rustenburg. Sound familiar? Rustenburg’s the heart of the current mining unrest that has swept the nation. But luckily I wasn’t headed to Rustenburg, yet. After waiting hours for the taxi to fill, more hours traveling, and an hour or more stopped at construction, I managed to arrive at the farm of my friends Sue and cajun, who were getting married the following day. I spent the next two days celebrating their beautiful marriage, chatting with white, coloured (not an offensive term here), and black South Africans…and even 4 other Americans!! It was an incredible weekend, and I found my real South African family. I was invited to spend time with 3 or 4 families that live in Johannesburg and had some very interesting discussions about village life versus urban life. One guy laughed and pointed out that he was asking a foreigner (me) about the culture in his own country….nobody visits rural village here unless they have to.
On Sunday, after a beautiful rainstorm, I was given a ride to Phokeng, the township of Rustenburg and about as close to the mining unrest as I could be (don’t kill me Mom, I swear I was safe). I visited a PCRV, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, who was spending about 10 months in country assisting with the Special Olympics African Unity Cup. She lived (LIVED!) in a B&B, one where the police who came to assist with the mining unrest were staying. I spent on night with her, and we talked long into the night. The next morning, after gifting me with a few things she wouldn’t need once she COS’d, she pointed me to the taxi that would take me to Rustenburg. I hailed the taxi like a pro and quickly found the taxi to Pretoria once I arrived in Rustenburg.
After a quick stop at the office, I got to the backpackers and spent the evening getting to know some new PCVs. The next day I had a quick tooth extraction-it was seriously like 5 minutes. The next few days I spent eating soft foods and in a codeine-induced haze. About 48 hours after the surgery, I was on a taxi to my friend Tumi’s site. I was doing a permaculture workshop with her school, which deserves its own post.
A bakke, 6 kombies, 4 taxis, and a fair amount of walked led me to a wedding, 2 PCV sites, and Pretoria. Oh how epic a simple doctor visit can be!