Saturday, December 16, 2006

South Africa

Blogger has merged with and due to some technical difficulties I haven’t been able to post, so when I do there will be an onslaught of blogs… I apologize for the inconsistency of posting this has caused.

I returned from South Africa yesterday after a 1 week hiatus from site for medical reasons. A 3.5 hour flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi then a 1 hr flight to Entebbe. Again, it was mostly a preventive surgery to prevent further complications.

I could easily write pages (that is if the web had ‘pages’) about my experiences there but I’ll try to touch on the highlights.

South Africa, at least the city I was in, Pretoria, looks just like the US: great hospitals, nice roads, very beautifully landscaped houses, malls, movie theaters, swimming pools, live music and theater, fantastic food and a bunch of white people everywhere. The weather there was awesome! I sat outside several evenings by the pool reading and writing, just enjoying the pleasantness of peace and quiet.

The driver who picked me up at the airport was a character. He was a bald, middle aged white man with a thick brown goatee. At first I couldn’t understand a word he was saying and was even doubting that he was speaking English at all. He sounded something like Brad Pitt’s character in Snatch where subtitles are needed just to get what he’s saying. He began telling me stories of the racism and hate in and around Johannesburg. He told me about an African man who insulted his wife, she in turn insulted him and his mother and then broke the man’s arm using karate (girl power!). The man, after being released from jail, then sat outside their house for several days until my driver unloaded his .38 caliber handgun into the back of his car “just a few days ago”!! The woman who picked me up (who might have been his wife) told how their house had been burglarized 3 times and how they had increased the size of the wall (not fence, but wall) around their house and added razor wire and an electric fence to the top…

Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted into Johannesburg without written permission from the Peace Corps, it’s that unsafe.

Most people’s homes in the “rich and nice” place I stayed, The Rose Guesthouse, had huge walls with razor wire or electric fences on top, massive German Shepherd dogs and ADT security systems. One person commented that in the USA we build prisons to keep the criminals inside but in South Africa they build prisons around the homes to keep the criminals out…

I was glad the procedure was done in S. Africa. The hospital was fantastic, the food was great, and the procedure was significantly more painful and uncomfortable than I thought it was going to be.

I met 2 other PCVs who were in S. Africa for surgeries. A girl from Ohio who’s serving in Malawi and the other from Buffalo, NY who is serving in Ghana where my cousin is also serving as a PCV! James, from Ghana is working in his village and the surrounding communities to help them build concrete, ventilated pit latrines, which he said the country is lacking. He went on to explain that in Ghana the villagers have been told NOT to build the latrines from local materials (logs, sticks, mud and banana leaves) and that they must be built of concrete. Here in Uganda, most (95%) have latrines and most of them are of the local kind. In Ghana, apparently, they just go in the bush which contributes greatly to the spread of several diseases!

The 3 of us had a great time doing everything together from watching several movies (Casino Royale, Borat! and The Holliday) , eating at nice Italian restaurants and listening to live jazz, attending the ambassador’s Christmas party (which felt like Christmas in July!!), swimming in the guesthouse pool and going to, what felt like a very normal, Methodist church together.

Being Med-Evaked (the PC term for Medically Evacuated from site) was pretty cool, I have to admit. It was like a mini vacation paid for entirely by the Peace Corps (ps, thanks for paying your taxes this year!), a week away and a chance to be an ‘American’ again, however there’s a constant feeling that you have to be watching your back in fear of what could be lurking behind you. I live in a village full of black African people who stare at me, call me names, laugh at me and think that I am loaded with money, but they don’t hate, they’re just curious mostly. I feel incredibly safe here. I’ve concluded that I would much rather live in a 3rd world country in peace than live in the midst of that hate and fear, which they claim, “you get used to it after a while…”.

Random Factoid

Eating while you are waling is considered bad manners here. The premise is that you should take the time to sit and eat, after all, the one thing they do have here is time (as opposed to money).


At 19 December, 2006, Anonymous Jennifer Noble said...

I definitely want an invitation. Thanks!


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