Saturday, January 29, 2011


The sun rises over Pudimoe.

I feel spoiled with the beautiful South African sky. It is gorgeous most of the time but I live for the sunrises and sunsets. This was a sunrise this week: it was well worth getting up at 5:00 am for! (South Africa does not acknowledge Daylight Savings Time.) This sunrise was so pretty I feel inspired to rise each of my remaining days in South Africa just to see the loveliness of each new day. I visited Key West, Florida, once, and was told that Key West is home of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. I think South Africa may be a very strong rival for this distinction. But I feel spoiled living in such decadent beauty of the South African sky, and will miss it when I return home.

I feel spoiled with the recent rainfall in my area. With rain coming down steadily for four days straight, my little patch of Kalahari thornveld has transformed into a wetland. The earth smells rich and wet, like a forest floor; dragonflies buzz by my windows like they wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else; flocks of butterflies have come alive and are feasting in the newly opened blooms of my campus’s lush new growth. For once, the rich wetness of my surroundings feels like home—my Kentucky home! I feel spoiled by the vibrant aliveness and the thick, humid air and am resenting the return of the blistering hot African sun which is drying everything out.

Ounaai is spoiled with her post-op pampering. She’s grown fat and happy and I swear this dog smiles. Currently, she’s thin and small enough to squeeze through the openings in my “burglar bars” (South Africa’s name for security doors), but not for much longer!! She’s making herself more and more comfortable in my trailer, and is becoming more of an inside dog than out. So Ounaai is being spoiled by my American dog-care tendencies.

Growing up, as an adolescent, I was terribly cruel to a neighborhood boy. He was a sweet kid, my age, but he had a speech impediment and was from an obviously poor family. He was often disheveled and didn’t wear the current fashions. He was just a kid, trying to fit in with “our gang” and I remember our group taunting him mercilessly and excluding him at every opportunity. But he continued to hang around, hoping for a way into our exclusive club.

One day he invited us to his house after school and, as we were so snotty, I can’t imagine why we accepted the offer, but we did. He offered us a snack of jelly sandwiches and I remember being absolutely horrified by the fact that he scraped the mold off of the top of the jelly and proceeded to feed us from the spoiled jar.

I was highly offended, in my snotty little self, that this neighborhood boy would offer me spoiled food.

In the South African summer months, food obviously tends to spoil much more quickly. I find myself cutting mold off of bread, or cutting away the rotten places off my cabbage, and throwing out rotting cheese Even though I place my groceries on the window sill to cool in the evening temperatures, it’s only a race with time, trying to outrun the bacteria that spoils my food. In the heat of the summer temperatures, the bacteria win more battles and are consuming more of my food.

Each day, as I scrape the rot off of my food, I remember that neighborhood boy and how cruel I was to him. I wonder if he’d find any consolation in the fact that thirty years later, this spoiled USAmerican is finally learning her lessons with spoiled food.



Ounaai growing fatter by the minute.


  1. Hi Karen
    I am a South African, living in India (Delhi). Thank you so much for your blog. I enjoy it, and will check it on a regular basis. (I must confess, I have to go to the older posts to see where you are based). Enjoy our beautiful country, and if you ever go into the direction of Port Elizabeth, my children live there (next to the sea) - pop in.

  2. Hi Gerda,

    What a treat! A South African reader living in India! What fun! Because of security, we (as Peace Corps Volunteers) are not supposed to mention exactly where we are in South Africa, but if you read old postings, you can probably figure out where I am. I live south of Vryburg in the North West Province—very far away from PE! (And if you send me a private email:, I can tell you exactly where I am.)

    Interestingly, one of my colleagues is Indian and he and some of our educators traveled to India for his wedding over the December holidays. It’s a small world…

    I was actually in your lovely Table Mountain National Park, and my roommate there did a short trip to PE and was very excited about it. So yes, I would love to see your lovely Port Elizabeth and when and if I do, will look forward to meeting your children. And if I’m really lucky, perhaps I’ll meet you too! Thanks for reading!