Term 1 Has Disappeared

As we all expected, the second year Peace Corps is flying by. Term 1 exams have commenced, summer is petering out into fall, and SA24 is looking at one full term of teaching (or not teaching) before most of us head home. Where has the time gone? Lucky me, I have a whole third year left to serve, so I’m not panicking about starting my real life yet.

But I’ve been incredibly busy this term! With the full support of my APCD, I’ve spent a fair amount of time outside of my village, doing permaculture workshops. Often times PC will discourage PCVs form being away from site often because we aren’t as effective at site. However, because I’m not a full time teacher and because I’ll be doing this work for my third year (and the rest of my life), PC has been pretty great about allowing me ample work leave during the school term. Because of this, I’ve done 3 workshops in 3 different provinces and have another planned for this weekend! Remember that travel here isn’t like travel in the USA, and realize that I am pretty darn pooped after all this traveling the facilitating!

But man do I love it. I’ve have 2 workshops planned for early next term as well, one if Northern Cape and one with PCSA staff in KwaZulu Natal. Talk about polar opposites: the Kalahari Desert versus some of the lushest land in Africa. 🙂

I’ve also had the chance to visit a potential third year site and spent a few days with a PCV friend in Limpopo. It’s been a pretty good term because I’ve seen dozens of PCVs from SA23, SA24, SA25, and even SA26. This is not usual for us far NW-NorCapers during a school term, so I’ve enjoy it and the several showers I’ve been able to take. Enjoying the small blessings for sure! I also was able to see my friend Sue and cajun, who work for Food and Trees for Africa, at a workshop last weekend, and I’ll see them again this weekend. So even though I lost Lorato and Tsiamo, the nearest PCVs to me, I’ve been able to see some friendly face. And…AND my father comes IN ELEVEN DAYSSSSSSS!!!!! (excited dance)

On the extension front-there are 2 potential sites in Limpopo, both were new groups are going to be placed. I visited the one village in February, and quickly came to love the village and the area. There are a lot of work-related issues at this site, but there is certainly potential for good work. Last week I was asked to submit a resume for another potential site (thankfully I had a mostly updated one done) and they seemed REALLY dedicated and hardworking. From the work description, it seems almost perfect, and is apparently in one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa, near Tzaneen. As one PCV put it “Tzaneen is seriously my favorite town in South Africa.” Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s in Tsonga/Shangaan area, and I’ve wanted to learn Tsonga since my first day in South Africa!

In short, I’m really pumped to serve for my third year, and wish I could start NOW! But I’ve got several trainings I need to do first! 🙂
-Jen

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PermaGarden Workshop #4

Wormery demonstration.

Wormery demonstration.

After I visited Bonolo’s Village, I headed to Kuruman and stopped by The Eye of Kuruman. I’ll post photos of that in a separate post, but it was one of those nice surprises you stumble upon in your travels. The staff members were nice, the Eye was peaceful, and I enjoyed a picnic lunch and reading for a few hours at this little oasis in the desert. Around midafternoon, another PCV met me there, as I was headed to her site to do a training. I’ll call her Tshepo, and she lives in a village about half an hour from Kuruman. It is seriously tiny (think 500 people) but has regular buses to it, a pretty good multigraded school, and some awesome organizations.

I made them eat dirt. In my defense, it's a soil test and I did it too!

I made them eat dirt. In my defense, it’s a soil test and I did it too!

I spent three days in her village, hosting a training and enjoying her beautiful house (she is lucky and has a four room HOUSE to live in….as opposed to my room). She’s a really good cook, and has a lot of energy.

Doing the “ball” soil test. I’m focusing hard so I can catch it. Also, don’t I look so Peace Corps?

Barbed wire is everywhere!

Barbed wire is everywhere!

This training was my first training after my PDC, so I was super excited for it. It was also the longest one I’ve done. We met for three days and I was able to teach the basics of permaculture: principles, mulch, compost, wormeries, trench beds, companion planting, intercropping, natural pest control, and recycling. Language was an issue, as always, but I’m learning a lot of garden vocabulary in Setswana, and am pretty used to working with a translator (it’s not as simple as you might imagine). At the end, the learners and volunteers divided up into groups and sang songs about what we learned. One of them went something like this “The white lady has brought permaculture to our school!” and involved a dance and lots of thrilling-yells. It made me smile.

Tshepo working with some Grade R learners.

Tshepo working with some Grade R learners.

I also did evaluations for the first time, and though many of the learners struggled to write one, even in Setswana, I got some good responses. Some of them just made me smile!

Some fun garden words:
Dijalo-plants
Go jala-to plant
Dijo-food
Seboko/diboko-worm/worms
Tshaba-afraid

And one of my favourite sayings:
Ke diboko. Ga ke noga. Ga di lome. Ga go na meino. These are worms. They are not snakes. They do not bite. They do not have teeth.

Can you guess what most people were afraid of?
-Jen

A garden. In the Kalahari Desert. Is this heaven? No! It's the Valley of Hope!

A garden. In the Kalahari Desert. Is this heaven? No! It’s the Valley of Hope!

Gotta have those certificates!

Gotta have those certificates!

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International Permaculture Design Course

Session time! Outside under a tree!

Session time! Outside under a tree!

Back in October, I decided I wanted to enroll in an 11 day Permaculture Design Course (PDC) during the December holidays. Since I want to continue with permaculture as a career, the PDC gives me the certification I need to do so, and would make me a legitimate Permaculture Designer. Fun, right?

So right before the school term ended, I hopped on a bus to PTA (where I randomly met two other PCVs from my cohort), then on to Joburg. The course was held about an hour outside of Joburg, in a rural area. I chose to attend the International PDC through Food and Trees for Africa, which is the organization that also hosted the EduPlant school gardening competition. All the winning schools were able to send 1 educator to the course, so the PDC was geared towards using permaculture in education.

I was able to meet people from all over SA, and even 2 from Lesotho and one from Egypt. I learned a lot more greetings in SA languages, particularly the Nguni languages (Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa, Swati), and practiced some of the greetings I hadn’t used since PST (Venda, Tsonga, Afrikaans). It was pretty amazing to be exposed to some many different cultures, and to be able to communicate somewhat in their languages. One day I did part of a summary in Tswana, to gales of laughter and loud applause. Communicating to people in their mother tongue is a powerful thing.

I learned an incredible amount of information at the PDC. I went in thinking I knew a fair amount about permaculture-HA! Hahaha! Not even close! I learned so much that my brain almost turned to mush, but it was pretty awesome. The previous permaculture trainings I had attended really discussed permaculture only in relation to garden. But the PDC addressed the lifestyle of permaculture, from Earth building to permakitchens.

Workshops in SA are very different that workshops in the USA. I thought that since many different cultures were represented, it would run more like a workshop in the States. And in a few things, we did. We kept to a schedule fairly well, and cell phones ringing during the session was not acceptable. But the different cultures were truly embraced throughout the course, not removed from the equation. Singing, dancing, prayers, more singing and dancing, poetry, stories…..this is how we would begin after our breaks. We even sang “Away in a Manger” in some language. I spent breaks learning Xhosa tongue twisters, speaking Setswana, and seeing what the Rainbow Nation is truly like. I saw a future picture of South Africa-one which rarely exists now, but shows us the promise of what could be.

I was told before I went that attending a PDC would be life changing, and it’s true. I look at the world a little bit differently, and I’m more inspired to figure out how the Lord wants me to use my permaculture knowledge. And it made me a lot more excited about my options for a third year, and showed me the breadth of permaculture projects that exist around the nation.

For the “talent show” at the end of the course, I wanted to share what living in SA meant to me. So I chose to write a poem in Setswana, which I will post. It’s a little cheesy, but hey, my Setswana only goes so far. And it was appreciated by the other participants.

“Mo lefatshe la rona,
Go na le bothata.
Batho ba bua, fela
Ga ba reetsa.
Bath oba ituta, fela
Ga ba itse.
Batho ba bereka, fela
Ga ba tlhokomele.

Lefatshe la rona le a bobola,
Le kopa thuso.
Re tswanetse go reetsa.

Jaanon, re a change.
Re tswanetse go improva.
Le Permaculture, re kgona…
Re kgona go thusa,
Re kgona go reetsa,
Re kgona go tlhokomela.”

Translation:
“In our world,
There are problems.
People speak, but
They do not listen.
People learn, but
They do not know.
People work, but
They do not care.

Our world is sick,
It asks for help.
We must help.

Now, we are changing.
We must improve.
With Permaculture, we can…
We can help.
We can listen.
We can care.”

So if anyone wants a permaculture design for your yard, school, or place of work, you know who to contact! 😉
-Jen

Salads we made during the permakitchen session.

Salads we made during the permakitchen session.

Dance time!

Dance time!

Working on my design!

Working on my design!

Just Another Day in Africa

PC organized a workshop for our principals and us, and for the Vryburg 7, ours was held Thursday and Friday, Feb 23-24, in the Boereplass resort (for lack of better word….sketch resort?) near Vryburg. Now, being SA, details for this were finalized about 2 weeks in advance. But I told both of my principals, and they knew they had to organize transport for the 3 of us.

I knew on Wednesday that transport was posing a slight problem. You see, one principal owns a bakke, but it only has 2 seats. Shoving the three of us in it for the 1.5+hour ride to town was not really an option. We also couldn’t go with Lorato’s schools because their vehicles only held 5 people, and we would be 6. (Man, SA English is getting to me….”we would be 6”, not “there were 6 of us”) However, I went home to pack, trusting my principals and knowing I had no power to fix the problem anyways.
___
Instead of going to KPS (and walking 5km with my heavy bag), I head to MPS on Thursday as we were planning to leave around 10am and get a computer fixed at the district office in Vryburg. Win-win, nee? I get to school and Mma Makobo informs me that we still didn’t have transport. Sigh. Then Mr. Maretela (my other principal) drives over and informs us that he is not going, and he isn’t sending anyone in his place. Now, it was really REALLY important that both schools were respresented, so I sms my APCD Lydia to warn her. She was not happy.

So, I putter around the school all day in a state of uncertainty while Mma Makobo tries to find us a ride to Vryburg. I knew it was quite unlikely that the computer would be fixed, and I was just hoping to GET there at some point. Finally, at about 2pm, she pulls an educator over and (probably just) tells him he is taking us to Ganyesa, where we would meet up with our transport. Of course, we stop in Phaposane so Mma Makobo could change her shoes, which is not quite on the way to Ganyesa.

We bump down the terrible roads, all the way to Ganyesa and Mr. Kgoatla leaves us at the Ganyesa police station, where we would meet the transport. After TWO HOURS of sitting in the police station, we finally get the car and head towards Vryburg. It is 4:30pm, the workshop starts at 5pm, and we are 1.5 hours away. I sms Lydia, and she tells me not to worry or rush, and to grab tea and sammies (sandwiches) when we get here.

After stopping to pick up a hitchhiker in Ganyesa-seriously, do not worry, this is BEYOND normal in Africa-we speed out of Ganyesa, reaching a top speed of 145kmph. As we leave Ganyesa, I see a billboard that has pictures of wildlife and foliage and says “Just Another Day in Africa”. I laugh to myself, realizing that all the waiting, being stared at, frustration, sweating, bumping, and desires to bash my head against the wall are indeed “just another day in Africa”.

We reach Vryburg, drop the hitchhiker off at the hospital, then stop at the Pick N Pay complex so Mma Makobo can buy airtime. Even though we are about an hour late, I’m happy because I can get money from the ATM and mail a few letters (Vic, Meg, and Alicia B, you are the lucky ones this week!). Then we zoom off down the road to Boereplaas, getting lucky with a short wait at the construction. We pull up about 6pm, when the PCVs and principals are working separately, discussing frustrations and whatnot. I walk up and say “African Time” in a weary voice.

Just another day in Africa. But I love it.

-Jen