June 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - South Africa: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Personal Web Site: PCV Gerrit in South Africa writes: The saddest part about the whole episode is that I知 following the advice of my black friends and giving up on village life.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: South Africa: Peace Corps South Africa : The Peace Corps in South Africa: June 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - South Africa: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Personal Web Site: PCV Gerrit in South Africa writes: The saddest part about the whole episode is that I知 following the advice of my black friends and giving up on village life.

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-245-37.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.245.37) on Saturday, July 02, 2005 - 2:16 pm: Edit Post

PCV Gerrit in South Africa writes: The saddest part about the whole episode is that I知 following the advice of my black friends and giving up on village life.

PCV Gerrit in South Africa writes:  The saddest part about the whole episode is that I知 following the advice of my black friends and giving up on village life.

"As it worked out, I知 the only volunteer of the 15 in our program to opt out of the amenities of the first world and live this village life. Village life is labor intensive and time consuming, mainly due to the meticulous cleanliness that is standard in Afrikan village homes. Maintaining pristine neatness is an arduous challenge when one痴 neighborhood consists primarily of dust, sand, and clay. "

PCV Gerrit in South Africa writes: The saddest part about the whole episode is that I知 following the advice of my black friends and giving up on village life.

Email from Gerrit from South Africa this is just a good read and a little more insight on my life from a different perspective!

Village Life, With Perks

Seven weeks ago I moved to my new place. It痴 awesome, my personal village paradise. The pad is a small, fully furnished two-room house, with a one-car garage converted into a second bedroom/kitchen, which also serves the location for my daily bucket bath. The 鮮GO Capacity Builder program is unique to South Africa, and comes with the bizarre Peace Corps opportunity of living in an apartment in town, hot showers and all.

As it worked out, I知 the only volunteer of the 15 in our program to opt out of the amenities of the first world and live this village life. Village life is labor intensive and time consuming, mainly due to the meticulous cleanliness that is standard in Afrikan village homes. Maintaining pristine neatness is an arduous challenge when one痴 neighborhood consists primarily of dust, sand, and clay. The residue seeps into your house through every crevice and is facilitated even more by 4 x 6 inch vents in every room in the house, incorporated for means of aeration during the 100 plus degrees summers. The response to the intruding mess is an almost daily sweeping of the home, coupled with dusting and mopping more than once a week.

A final, and in my opinion ludicrous task in the tour de clean, is hand polishing the concrete floors, again on at least a weekly basis. This last job I refuse to do. Although I致e partaken in village life for almost 9 months (7 months of work if you can believe it), the cleaning is new to me. December痴 younger brother lived with us rent free, and in return did all of the cleaning at the old place. He even washed my clothes about half the time for a nominal fee, and was responsible for fetching most of the water. A second, even more grueling responsibility is maintenance of the 惣ard. Weeds and patchy spots of grass poke through the beautiful red clay of the Kalahari.

That just won稚 do. Since one can稚 reasonably pick out weeds in an area an eight of an acre in size, a flat shovel is used to scrape the top layer of soil, wherever the intruders reap their green and brown spores. It痴 a cosmetic approach that seldom removes the roots of the weeds, but what can one do? The key is to attack the yard work regularly so that it never becomes too overwhelming a task. I suppose it follows the old boxing maxim that 訴t痴 better to stay in shape than to get in shape. This wasn稚 a possibility when I first moved in because the house had been vacant for over a year. My yard, and home for that matter, was a frightening mess. To bring the yard up to pace has required scraping digs over almost every square inch, as well as exhausting efforts with pitch and pick. It痴 been insane amounts of work. Overall, the cleanup has required about 15 hours a week of labor when the couple hours of laundry in included. Also, the clothes, per Afrikan standards, must be perfectly pressed.

But at last I致e found a positive aspect to the 35% unemployment in SA, time for overwhelming housework. Of course, I work more or less a 40 hour week, but this passage is not about complaint. Despite the horrendous time spent cleaning, I truly love village life. The quiet simplicity suites me beautifully, the occasional donkey or goat meandering through my yard cracks me up, and the kids, of which there are multitudes around my new place, shower me with love and laughter in immeasurable quantities.

The other NGO volunteers, despite the ease of their lifestyles, are missing out on the experience of a lifetime. You may wonder why I bother with all the work. I mean, just because my neighbors invest almost irrational levels of effort in their homes, doesn稚 mean I have to keep pace, right? But the name of the game is assimilation. Before I can talk HIV or any other serious conversation with my neighbors to any degree of success, they have to see me as an equal of sorts.

As a white, this is challenging anywhere in Afrika, but particularly in SA. South Africa was colonized far earlier than most of the continent, 1652, and blacks received the right to vote far later, in 1994. In between, and particularly during the final 50 years preceding democracy, the brutality used to maintain the system, Apartheid, was gross almost beyond compare. Also, the country is still over 15% white, another anomaly on the continent, with huge swaths of the minority maintaining the overt racism from the old days. These and other complexities unique to the country influence the dynamics between blacks and whites.

Most black South Africans, I have to say, have a capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation that I don稚 know I壇 be capable of. Nonetheless, to become an insider is acceptance on a whole different level, and the ridiculous amounts of cleaning, especially the very public yard work and laundry has proven a useful, if exhausting, tool. The new place does provide some plush with the pain. I致e got a TV, incredibly common in SA village homes, but equally uncommon for PCV痴. Although there are only four channels,

I am spoiled with favorite shows from the States. Local contracts with HBO give me many of my most liked (全opranos, 全ix Feet Under, 全ex and the City, and more), plus 詮riends and 糎ill & Grace, UEFA Football (soccer), and every PCV痴 favorite 全urvivor. TV programming from the States is a great escape. It痴 been particularly valuable since the death of my I Pod two months back. The I Pod, my best friend, girlfriend, and overall sanity machine, was just replaced, lovingly, by my sisters and brother in law (Thank You!)

Another great perk is a punching bag I picked up second hand. It hangs in my living room, with help from a supporting beam to avoid, hopefully, bringing down the roof. Although I致e worked out at a couple of semi-renowned boxing gyms in South Florida, to have a heavy bag in the home is a top notch luxury I致e never had before. Much like the TV, it痴 a wonderful amenity, and perhaps an even more useful escape.

The most precious perk of all is a standpipe (faucet) sticking out of my front yard. It sits just a few feet from the vegetable garden I planted, a new hobby I could carry through a lifetime, and less than 15 feet from my front door. I don稚 think it痴 possible to explain the convenience of the standpipe to those of you who致e never experienced life without running water. Fortunately, circumstance saved me the need to try. The damn thing broke one day after moving in. Ahhh, Afrika As friends and colleagues will confirm, my new home really is like paradise to me. With the constant struggles at work, we値l save that for another time, it helps to keep me contented.

Unfortunately, like so many stories here, this one has a sad ending. I left for Johannesburg the weekend before last to pick up my folks and enjoy a vacation. My place was promptly robbed. Stolen items include 2 pairs of glasses, sunglasses, a guitar, and camera case with all connections and lenses. Thankfully, I had my camera with me. Adding fury to frustration, I知 certain the thief was my %$&#@ landlord, a volunteer at my NGO. I lack the prosecutable evidence but the facts are pretty clear. To avoid embarking on a path of vigilante justice will require restraint I may or may not possess. I return to Mafikeng tomorrow, and will let you know how things go.

The saddest part about the whole episode is that I知 following the advice of my black friends and giving up on village life. As a white American (read 喪ich person), I知 too much of a target in crime ridden South Africa. The petty and violent crime in SA, another topic for a later date, occurs at levels far outpacing the rest of the continent. It痴 heartbreaking, but I値l be heading to the relative safety of an apartment in town. I hate to leave you all on a sour note after not writing in some time, but this is clearly the news of the day. Sit tight and I値l catch you soon with stories of a lighter fare. Promise.

Ithlokomele (Take care), Gerrit

P.S. I壇 send pictures along with the entry, but I知 forced to wait until a new battery charger arrives. Until then




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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - South Africa; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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