Monday, November 30, 2009

who has been eating my pear?

So, apparently, my feeding the bulbuls from my window sill isn't good enough... I suspected someome was coming inside to help themself, or themselves, as you can see from my Goldilocks-like fruit bowl: who has been eating from my fruit bowl?

Sure enough, yesterday while I was reading, I heard a great ruckus outside my window and the next thing I knew, papa bulbul had flown right in. He perched himself on top of my fridge, as big as he pleased, and seemed quite irritated that I was there to bother him.

I fussed at him harshly in hopes of scaring him away and discouraging him from future visits: I had a hot pot going at the time and he could have easily perched on top of it and hurt himself. I also worry that he may become stranded inside.

I guess it's pretty African then, to be having a bird flying about in my room. Because there is no air conditioning (or not much), most structures here (classrooms, dining halls, etc.) always have their windows open. Most are not screened. In fact, I've only seen screens once, in the hostel I stayed in in Kimberley. So, it is not uncommon to have birds "in the house" and flying about. I've known people back home that believe a bird in the house is bad luck. I guess I've somewhat absorbed this superstition, because my heart somewhat falls when I see one flying about. But I'm getting over it. It is great fun to watch them, especially if you're in a 6-hour long graduation ceremony for preschoolers! It's fun to watch the kids watching the birds too!

So, last week I wasn't at the computer much because I was attending many "end of school year" celebrations." There are more of those this week.

One thing that I've noticed, and that I'm struggling with, is there is no counterpart of "southern hospitality" here in South Africa. (Or not any that I have encountered.) In my home state, if someone comes to a party, an event, or for a stay from out of town, a host usually attaches his or herself to the guest in a way that the guest is literally shown all around and attended to and is never left on his or her own. A host is careful to introduce the guest to everyone, etc.

Here in my stay in SA, quite the opposite happens. The guest here is left to fend for herself. What is expected, and what I am terrible at, is that I should go about the room, interrupting small groups of people chatting to introduce myself and make small chatter. I am loathe to do this. In my culture, one never interrupts a group of people talking but waits to be invited in.

Because I haven't mastered this interrupting technique, I tend to miss out. So I've been practicing "butting in."

It is the end of the school year here, and there are lots of parties and what not. I waited and waited for an invitation to those parties and celebratory functions at one of my schools. An invitation did not come. Finally, the day before one of the events, I asked directly if I might come. I was granted permission.

So the next day, as I'm in the audience of this event I had't expected to be invited to, I was asked to be a guest presenter. So, unprepared as I was, I bumbled through being a guest presenter when asked on the spot, in an event that I hadn't really been invited to. This happened again a few days later, when a similar party happened, that I wasn't sure I was invited to, and again was asked to speak, on the spot. I will also attend one tomorrow, and will, perhaps, be better prepared. Maybe I won't be put on the spot and asked to speak/present, etc., but I'm not taking any chances and am hoping to be somewhat prepared.

I'm not sure I've spoken of this yet, so excuse me if this is a repeat. With individual letters, emails, phone calls, etc., I can never remember what I've said what to whom.

I finally received my mail back-log packet from Pretoria. The packet from Pretoria held all of those letters and cards sent to me in my early months in training. I had fourteen in all, dated from August 15. So yes, Grandma and Aunt Bea, I've finally gotten those letters and cards: thank you! Aunt Bea, you alluded to a Sunday School luncheon that I never heard the results of... How was it?

Deanna, I love the pictures. What a great editing job! (Did you edit those, or did I?) I am now surrounded by current (somewhat) photos of friends and family. I even have them on my fridge, which is the way I had it back home. By the way Deanna, you owe me a picture of Sparky. ;-)

Photos of my family are not complete without a photo of Sparky.

I finally received the bit of black thread and a needle for some small sewing repairs I needed months ago. Curiously, the only thing missing from my luggage when I arrived in Africa was a small sewing kit that was a going away gift from my friend Mark. My luggage had been opened for screening, and I am not sure if the kit was "allowed." (But a very sharp pair of scissors was not confiscated. ??)

I tend to have "crushes" on musical artists and have had a "crush" on Gillian Welch for a couple of years now. I particularly like her when she's performing with David Rawlings. Deanna and I had even planned vacations around travel to a show of theirs we might see. Our vacation never happened and I hadn't seen the two perform live. In August of this year, a month after I had left for Africa, the duo came to Louisville for a riverfront performance. I was very upset that I couldn't go. Deanna said she would go to the concert and then and tell me every detail. She did go and did write every detail. This letter was in the backlog, so in receiving it last week, I was able to finally "attend the concert." It was wonderful. Thank you Deanna.

I received 5 letters from the Bonnie W's, who is actually just Bonnie but always giving me news of her family and their adventures. I'm always delighted with Bonnie's letters because she is very witty and has me laughing with tears whenever I read her accounts. She also does this lovely thing of composing letters on the back of star maps or maps of Kimberley. In this way, I get two prizes for the price of one. Bonnie has bought a very nice travel guide for South Africa as a gift for me, but I may never receive it, because Deanna has some type of large book donation project going on for me. I've tried to tell her that I do not want a large book donation, but don't think I've convinced her. (Peace Corps actually discourages large book donations from the US because they tend to cause problems with transportation of delivery, costs, etc. There are other venues available to us here for book donations.)

But Bonnie had written one of her letters on a map of Kimberley because at the time of writing, I was planning a trip to Kimberley. Maybe I'll get Bonnie's travel guide eventually. (Hint, hint.)

Bonnie also sent along some newspaper clippings of my friend Corrine doing work with butterflies out at Bernheim, and an article on forecasting the severity of winter with persimmon seeds. I actually conducted the persimmon seed experiment with Deanna, mom, and Joe last fall when we were at their house for a visit... Thanksgiving before last, probably.

Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving? It is getting unbearably hot here, and very un-Christmas like.

Speaking of Christmas. We have four weeks off from "work" with our schools to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Many of us are taking trips to Capetown, the Wild Coast, Durban, etc. Where am I going, many of you ask?

Well, I'm not sure yet. I'm inclined not to go anywhere. The thought that I will be "alone" for Christmas tends to upset many: friends, family, and fellow Peace Corps volunteers.

In my defence, I don't mind being alone. In fact, all of the college kids have gone home for the holidays and the campus is very quiet, and I very much like the quiet. (Although the dorm mother is currently setting all of the dorm rooms for SIX when they are normally set for TWO: it seems that a large church group is coming in to use the facilities. Yikes!)

I also feel most comfortable in my teaching when I've had plenty of time to plan. This 4-week break would give me time to plan for my upcoming school year.

Also, many of the educators of the college and the primary school have threatened to entertain me over the course of the holiday/break with swimming trips, etc. I know that I have many friends here who would make me feel very welcome and happy.

And lastly, I'm thinking of returning to my initial village of my pre-service training. I would like to see my host family again, of course. But I also have work-related motives: there is a nationally recognized gardener there and I would love to see her garden and "pick her brain." Similarly, there is a PC volunteer there on an agricultural project and I would love to see how he's convinced his community to compost, mulch, etc.

So, I'm not sure yet what I'll be doing. Whatever it is, it will be fine, so no worries!!

Are you guys getting sick of photos of African sunsets? Each one is so magnificent I can't help myself. Every night, there is a show of colors for hours and hours. It is so beautiful.

I've also attempted a shot at an African full moon, although it is not a good one.

I'd better set off to prepare for tomorrow's party, as I am likely to be asked to "speak."

Soon, Karen/Molebogeng

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