September 13, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Now an official Peace Corps Vol. I begin my 2 year post in the Republic of South Africa, Mpumalanga Province

Peace Corps Online: Directory: South Africa: Peace Corps South Africa : The Peace Corps in South Africa: September 13, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Now an official Peace Corps Vol. I begin my 2 year post in the Republic of South Africa, Mpumalanga Province

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, September 13, 2003 - 2:11 pm: Edit Post

Now an official Peace Corps Vol. I begin my 2 year post in the Republic of South Africa, Mpumalanga Province

Now an official Peace Corps Vol. I begin my 2 year post in the Republic of South Africa, Mpumalanga Province

We were sworn in by the US Ambassador to South Africa on Thursday, Sept. 12 2002 in the rural community in which we have been living since July 9th. Out of 32 trainees, we've retained 29. One of the NGO trainees left and two of the education trainees left - or ET'd as the Peace Corps calls it, i.e., early terminated.

I was fetched by my counterpart at GRIP, a great young man named Francis Cele. (the c is a click sound) My click ability is variable depending on how tired I am. I left my host family amid cheers and tears. I'll visit them again in mid-December for a weekend.

GRIP has found me a room in a woman's house in the township of Kabokweni outside of Nelspruit. I don't have a bed in there yet so I've been spending the weekend with a lovely couple in Nelspruit (friends of friends). I'll be setting up things and settling in over the next couple of days. Most of my time these next couple of months will be working with the GRIP volunteers in Kabokweni, Temba Hospital. I'll also accompany the field workers as they do followups to the rape survivors' homes. HIV testing is done when the rest of the post rape evidence is collected, etc. The anti-retrovirals are dispensed for them to take immediately following the incident. The field workers do home followups at 1 month, 3 month and 6 month to retest and check on person and family. They also do the required pre and post test counseling to try to put the HIV+ person on a road to self care and not dispair.

I will have more consistent internet access now that I'm near an urban area - it may be only weekly, but better than before. The internet cafe at "the mall" will do.

My best to all of you in the US and Italy !!! I'm well, happy and learning every day.

For those who were sending letters - thanks. when I was in the rural village there was added time delay due to we waited for whenever someone came from Pretoria. Here the lag should be a bit shorter since I'll go to the post office weekly at least. my new mailing address is: P.O. Box 4445 Nelspruit 1200, RSA.

I'm having a bit of a difficult transition now that I have my assignment. I guess it is typical, according to other PCV's.

I'm homesick, depressed, doubting myself. the director of this organization is a very complex, manic, conflicted woman - as is most descriptive of South Africa. when I'm with her I can't remember why I came, but thankfully when I'm with the others - I remember.

I hate being poor. It hurts my ego a lot to have to accept transport money from the org. which is 6rand per trip - .60 US. the staff is poorly paid (as with most nonprofits) and the unemployment rate is so high that any income is better than none.

that's my lament right now. keep the news of home coming. this will pass and I'll settle in. I came to listen and learn - I'm getting an earful, believe me.

Has Cheney convinced Bush to bomb? We are hopeful the US will not start another conflict as there is much resentment in this part of the world. take care all - Cynthia

What a difference a week makes .... Not to worry, I"m not suicidal. Thanks to those who offered money or for me to come home!! Living poor is part of the experience and just part of the adjustment - not easy for a middle class American - not easy for anyone, anywhere. Treasure what you have and share what you can. It helps not to be attending a funeral this weekend.

I'll be straightening out some things in the next week or so - coming to serve does not mean coming to be subservient. I'm my old self again but from what I've been told by others I should expect some "peaks and valleys" over the next few months, especially (Willy knows what I mean).

In the rural village it was common to see emaciated cows roaming the neighborhood looking for grub; and the dogs were quite emaciated too - only the chickens were properous looking. Those roosters and hens were fat, their feathers gleamed and they pranced and strutted about at will - until someone decided they were ready to be cooked.

In the township the housing lots (called stands in SA) are smaller and the houses are closer together - very suburban. No cows are roaming and the dogs are better fed, but meaner. The chickens are holding their own but there is one breed that is incredibly ugly. They are dirty white and look like a cross between a bird and a yorkshire terrier of some kind - pathetic looking.

Anyway, this is a tropical area so the folliage is amazing and the birds call and sing everywhere - I'm going to get a birds of SA book so I can discover more of them.

My best to you all and send me "golden light" as I send it back to you.

P.S. i'm having email problems - hotmail is truncating messages that I send - must be the heat! I may be trying another freebie email account.

Alright, Here's the latest Scoop. Remember I've mentioned the director of GRIP as being somewhat indecisive and volatile? Well after an average of 1 temper tantrum per week (on her part, not mine), last week (with the Peace Corps rep in attendance) it came to a head and I was released from that post. She finally admitted she had said yes when she should have said NO. She was not ready for a PCV. After the first contact in Aug. my instincts had told me this was a bad match, but it's like being in the Army - you go where sent. Anyway, the PC supervisor who put me there has since moved on to Botswana, so ... I think she was trying to make sure she left no loose ends.

Monday next the Peace Corps Vehicle will come to pick up me and my 'stuff' and move me to the southern end of the province to a location called Siyabuswa where I will be welcomed by another AIDS NGO (non govern. org.) who does want a PCV. He's already had one for a year helping now with Home Based Care, and I'm assured he does desperately want another to help with business planning, fund raising and so on.

That is all I've asked of the Peace Corps - just to be placed where a vol is wanted!

The sad part is I've made so many friends and the volunteers and staff at GRIP took to me and now I must leave. At least I've got people to come and visit.

People here, for the most part, are anxious to talk to Americans so I've made friends even on the Koombie transport (that's a van that pulls into a taxi rank, packs full of 14-18 people and delivers us where to the next destination). It's the transportation of the people - which means cheap. Runs from 6-6 because driving at night in SA is even more dangerous than driving during the day. If you come to visit, I can't recommend you rent a car unless you are prepared to be very agressive and never drive after dark - that's when the bad guys come out - and I don't just mean the drunks.

Just a few terms: a stoplight is called a robot, as in turn left at the second robot.

Oh by the way, I'll have to learn a new dialect where I'm going. I've been practicing Siswati and now I'll have to learn N'debele. But actually they are all variations on Zulu and I've been assured I'll make the transition, hah!! I was just starting the "hear" Siswati vs Zulu - Oh Well.

I'm going to an art show tonight here at the mall. A young Nigerian soccer player, artist named Tony has adopted me and it's his first show and He asked me to be there - he's far from Family and lonely for a "mom/friend-figure". His oil paintings are awesome. He's promised to get me a ride home since I'll be here after dark.

I don't know how accessible email will be in Siyabuswa, but I'll be in touch ...

One week later and I'm in the town of Groblersdahl abut 40K from Siyabuswa. I caught the "taxi" early this morning to come here and use the internet. I'll probably only get here every couple of weeks. Siyabuswa is again a more rural area than Kabokweni Township. For those of you who have gone to the dessert it looks kind of like Mojave with more shrubs - believe me the weather is the same. Now this town is more farming country. The landscape changes rapidly throughout the province. I've gone from tropical to plains country. You must see the difference in the areas named in Afrikaans and the traditional dialects. Because I'm white, people will often start speaking Afrikaans to me and are suprised with my blank look. There are 11 languages in SA. Since the Democratic elections, even the Afrikaaners have to learn English. Public education is taught in combination of dialect for some classes and English - the language of business.

My new organization is called "AIDS Sexuality Health Youth Organization" or ASHYO. It's headed by a young man named David Mashiane, who does see the value of PCV's. He's former ANC (African National Party)and has good relations with the government entities and cares a great deal about his community. He and the other young men with whom I'll be working are heavily into Prevention (behavioral changs among youth) and work closely with other young men in the community. It is recognized that women have been frontrunners in working with the results of the epidemic - they are infected and caregivers and lose babies to the disease. Men like David are urging a paradigm shift among men (especially the teens) to basically change the way men and women interact in SA.

I call upon my friends in corporate entities to give me ideas of where I can seek funding!!! and or gifts in kind - we'll do the proposals just give us some leads if you can. LOVELIFE a major campaign aimed at teens and young adults in Africa is partially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Not being a great admirer of Bill in the past, I am greatly impressed with where they are putting their money to work here!! If I'm repeating myself please forgive.

Love and good health to all.

Greetings my friends!! I am in Pretoria for a couple of days in order to use the computer at the Library in the US Embassy here. We are granted access to internet and I need to do both some research and some word processing. Using the internet cafes is so expensive (R20 /hour + plus printing and so on). The NGO I'm trying to work with now has never been funded in 2002 by the Dept. of Health (SA) and still we must try to get the funding requests in for 2003. I have about 10 hours worth of WP to do but thought I'd do my personal stuff first.

Two weeks ago, I spent over R300.00 doing work for them in a place called Groblersdahl, which of course, because they have no money, I can't be reimbursed anyway. When we have our PC inservice after the first of the year, we are going to have to raise these issues loud and clear - the stipend is too small for all we need to do.

They are placing us in orgs. that have no money, no computer, no typewriter - and yet the work still needs to get done. Despite our tiny stipend we are still thought of as the rich Americans, so the orgs. expect more than we can offer. It doesn't set good precedent to spend our own rands, but being Americans we find a way to get the work done in order to try to help.

Anyway, more about precendent setting at a later date. Siyabuswa, where I now live is an interesting place but not particularly attractive to look at. I'll be taking a trip during the week of T'giving up to Barbeton to visit 2 PCV's and the HIV/AIDS orphanages in which they work. I'm going to have a beer with the PCV and gossip and console each other and I'll hold infants and play with children for a couple of days. That will help me remember why I came.

During the weekend of Dec. 15th, I'm going back to my training village (the Mndebele family) to visit and collect a teenage girl named Ntombi, and take her on an outing to Nelspruit. We will stay in a hostel, go to a movie and I'll probably buy her an outfit. I'm not bringing her to Siyabuswa, because it is too much like where she lives. My visits are all about encouraging my youth to reach beyond the obvious boundaries within which they live. Next April. I'll visit the Mndebele family again and Take the 18 year old boy Abram to Witbank for a similar trip. He wants to be an engineer and that is the place he is most likely to end up getting scholarships and financial aid to go to engineering school.. These dates are in place because SA has year-round school and the breaks are Dec., April, and July. I've promised these kids I'll return and I will keep my promise to each of them.

Later in Dec., I'll be going up to Nelspruit again to visit some of the people I've met up there including some more young women and a young man from Nigeria for the holidays, and then I"m taking the BAZ Bus tour and seeing Durban (Indian Ocean) and Drakesburg mountains and then back to my home site.

I've moved into a small house with another woman. She is a teacher(employed), and I think I can be comfortable there. It's about a mile from the office, but I average walking a minimum of 5 miles/day. Didn't bother getting the bike - terrain is too rough on the dirt roads and drives are too dangerous on the tar roads.

It is certainly more safe than where I was living. Too close to the taxi rank (where colleagues had been robbed at gunpoint) ... at that house, sometimes when the front door was open (most of the day light hours it's sooo hot); drunks would come in off the street and want to talk to the white woman - not my cup of tea, that stuff!

Let me see what misc. info shall I share this time!?! - bathrooms are called simply toilets; everyone is amazed at how Americans walk around with bottles of water; most SAfricans have one or two glasses of water per day downed after a big meal; Coca Cola owns SA and maybe Africa for all I know - they are everywhere. A can of soda (Coke products) is simply called a 'cold drink', as in "do you want a cold drink?" A can of soda appears. The workmanship on construction, plumbing, wiring, etc. is horrendous - at least what is being done out in the villages - I don't have similar exposure in the more affluent areas.

I won't even mention how big the roaches and spiders are for fear no one will come to see me. I promise if you visit, I'll have a big can of Doom!!! (bug spray) Love and Peace to all - Cynthia

Just a short entry to test out adding a picture. My friend Sydney and I came to Groblersdal so I could celebrate my B'day with a night in a guest house (we got KFC! for dinner) sat by a pool, had drinks - it was awesome.

Attended Aids day events last Sunday 12/1 in Middleburg put on by the provincial Dept. of Health. It was planned and executed in "africa time" meaning at the last minute and helter skelter - not especially good example for the rest of the population hoping to one day be employed!

Anyway, events can be very long due to this phenomenon - we caught a bus at 7:00am and returned fully to our village at 9:30pm - much sitting and waiting - that's the patience I'm learning. However, it's more anxiety making because I had to spend the night at Sydney's because her host family was closer to the bus exit and we had someone to walk with us to her house. Next morning I walked to my house to bathe and change and then back to the office - pretty tired by that afternoon.

I'm becoming known in my village and adjacent because I've spoken at a few of the youth focused events - so the teens are getting to know me. The children call out as I pass, either "cynthia" if they know my name or "kua" (white person) if they don't know my name. That's the "up side" of being a minority - they treat us like rock stars!! We come out of town so we can be more invisible and not be "on stage" all the time. The picture shows some of us doing what PCV's do best when getting together - eating and drinking!!! Love to all - pray for peace

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