Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dinner, church, campus tour

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

I did. I had my best South African meal to date: a wonderful staff member invited me to her home on Friday night (which is conveniently located on campus!) and fed me beef that melted in my mouth, rice, chakalaka (a spicy vegetable medley), and a Ghanain gravy—a chili paste from Ghana that is out of this world!

It was so good! I was also treated to wonderful company, television, and a cold drink! When we were in training, most other volunteers stayed with a family that had television. (Mine, mercifully, did not.) There was quite the ruckus raised about a South African soapy (what SA calls a soap opera): Generations. What was delightful about Generations (other than it being very, very bad) is that the dialogue is a mix of languages: Setswana, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English. It is also subtitled so one can follow along.

I haven’t had a cold drink in quite some time. I buy one sometimes in my village’s “refrigerator” case, but it is an illusion, as the refrigeration does not work.

I had quite a nice time and the family is wonderful! (They’re not happy about my lack of refrigeration issue either, and are checking into having my fridge repaired.)

On Saturday, Halloween, I spent the day with another family of educators, who invited me to their church. I’m no longer naming churches but will describe my experience instead. (Lest I continue the risk of offence, which I’m likely to do anyway!!)

It was of a protestant denomination and we were in the service for SIX HOURS. Six hours! Eish! (The Setswana expression of “oh my!”)

The service was mostly conducted in Setswana but an English interpreter was provided (am unsure if for my benefit). Although the hymns were sung in Setswana, I recognized a few from my childhood: “Just as I Am,” “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

Unfortunately, the message was delivered in a style I’ve come to avoid: We’re all terrible people doing terrible things and only if the very angry god decides, we MIGHT be allowed into heaven. Eish!

The music, as always here in South Africa, was absolutely SUPERB! It was a wonderful service.

I rode in a car both to and from the service, as the service was in a church in Taung. I don’t think I’ll return, because I think it would be better for me to participate in churches in my community (rather than driving away from it). It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a car, too! But the radio was playing and I remember thinking, “Is that Elvis preaching?" It was Jimmy Swaggart.

Let me give a tour of my campus. I have a few shots of some of the remaining blooms of some of the lovely flowering shrubs/trees planted here.

We have two varieties of oleander: both with pink blossoms but one is shaped more like a carnation. Oleander is native to the Mediterranean and like most of the flora planted here, is brought into South Africa from somewhere else. These beautiful blossoms lasted for several days if I dropped them into a bowl of water.

The other brushy type of blossom, a darker red in color, is from South Australia: Callistemon macropunctatus, or bottle brush. The birds and bees love, love, love this tree and you can walk by it and hear the bees buzzing as they gorge themselves on the nectar of this lovely tree.

The next photos are a series of me hoping to catch a self-portrait to provide some type of perspective at how large the tree trunk is. Ultimately, I give up and show you the magnificence of the tree trunk in and of itself. Isn’t it magnificent? This is a pepper tree, or Schinus molle, and several are planted on campus. They do well in drought, the birds love it. In the distant shot is a favorite place to sit: I can stare up into the bottom of the tree and see at least TWENTY birds’ nests! I adore this tree, probably because it looks most like a tree I could find back home. The fruit of it is the little red berries that smell spicy, like pepper.
The shot of the four pine trees are of pine trees! I've mentioned before that pines were brought here as a source of fuel, furniture, etc. A campus worker was raking the needles the other day and I ran to him, "Excuse me sir? What do you DO with those pine needles? (I was paying $15 a bale to mulch with them back in the States.) He THROWS THEM AWAY. I've since been having a panic attack about it, because I want to work with the community garden and help them discover (or better said, rediscover) the joys of composting/mulching. It's heart-breaking to see those piles of pine needles burning on the back lot.
The shot of the aloe-like plant is of Agave Marginata. This is the plant that I wondered about earlier as I thought it was a six-foot tall aloe plant. This plant too, originated in the Americas but has come to naturalize here in South Africa. This plant takes many years to flower only once, and then dies (but leaves many, many babies in its wake, like aloes do).
And the last shots are of some I've taken in the dusk to show you the feel of the place in the evening. I often think, "It kind of makes me feel like I'm in an exotic place..." And then realize, "Oh wait. I AM in an exotic place: Africa!"
Soon, Karen

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