Thursday, 21 February 2008

Community One-Apel

hello all- my post ive been keeping it on my laptop so this covers the last two weeks.. next installment coming. miss everyone. i have a 4 day break in joburg in 2 will most def involve steak and red! big love x

Community One- Apel

Those corporates amongst you; ARE YOU BORED OF MEETINGS? FANCY A CHANGE? Then I have the answer... and it came to me in one of those epiphanic moments where clarity hits you in the face, and actually it stings a little. We arrived in Apel our first village to be greeted by a welcome party of Local Sports Council (LSC) members and many others whose names and roles elude me as much now (2 weeks on) as they did then... but I digress. We were treated to prayers, singing and introductions and a typed agenda. The Mark Thompson's of the world would probably struggle with the divergence from agenda, and perhaps the blatent disregard for a swift and efficient meeting (miss you Thompy) (along with direction) but actually I enjoyed it. After the meeting we were invited to enjoy coke, sprite and plates of biscuits and bright orange crisps layed neatly on the pristine white table cloth, adorned with plastic flowers. I will say that my enthusiasm for such meetings waned after the fifth introduction but in all I enjoyed the sense of ceremony. The importance of these meetings cannot be overlooked as they are organised by community members and stakeholders; slowly I am trying to go with the flow. So please when you go to work tomorrow think about a prayer, a dance or perhaps a continuous rub of your stomach while only answering to 'Mr Programme Director,' let me guarantee an assertive audience!

My parents have long felt the delight/burden of my many friends from home and abroad who have come to stay and enjoy what can only be described as exemplary Barrell hospitality. I occasionally have felt the poke of bad karma but in this instance I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to my parents and assure them this kindness has been returned to their daughter. I am staying with a fantastic family. The mother is a strong, intelligent, elegant woman who reminds me of my Nan and Pinda combined... she is the Principal of a local primary school as well as looking after her 5 year old grandchild and 2 other girls. My new playmate sister is a character; today she covered herself in white talc to be a 'lehora' - a whitey like Sasay (sister) B. I have made it clear idolising me will only end in disapointment and she should look elsewhere; but the language barrier between myself and the 5 year is old is a little iffy. Instead we reverted to our favourite game of 'tickles,' a much easier form of communication! The food is so good- we have variety and a lot of fruit and veg. Females do not drink so I am having an enforced detox; unfortunately I am simultaneously detoxing of: all alcohol, decent coffee, any sweet thing/bread/pastry (except my stash of energy bars) ; so basically all the things I used to 'reward' myself with! It's hard enough giving up one..let alone all! I did some hand washing and came home to find my mum, her sister and the aunty standing looking at the line laughing... "you tried" they sang in chorous. They actually nearly cried with laughter during inspection of my 'white color'... well i've never claimed to be a domestic Godness, Nigella has that crown. Anyway, my washing was done for me and the whites were dazzling.. then I came out of my room to find my mum ironing (take note Pinda) my clothes. I said "please don't iron it;s only sport kit" she said "in Africa we always iron our clothes we like to be smart"

So this explains why for the first time in my life I put on an ironed pair of socks and knickers! Then she said "tell me, why are your clothes so cheap?!"

So here I am in the middle of rural Africa being questioned on the cheapness of my clothes (Evans you would stand no chance!).. how could you not love a place like this?! I scanned my admittedly Primark/uni stash (supre for the aussies reading) pile of clothes and saw her point. My counter was that I preferred to travel, she enjoyed this philosophy but has insisted on ironing everyuthing from now on. Please, honestly, trust me, I tried to resist... I resisted.. but she gave me a knowing look - a look that would turn every man who tells me he loves me ( 3 per day) to stone. I have since practiced the look and believe me it works. As one of my Norweign colleagues said
" you have such an assertive air about you, a 'don't even think about it' air that with you the men are too scared to come up to you, they just shout across a road. I'm pretty sure a beggar would not dare ask you for money."
I think I will live off this compliment for a long time. Chat.

here's one for the ladies.. " In South Africa a man is beautiful if he has a job, not because of what he looks like."
So once again, stripped bare; the shallow undetone of a society I know and love was quashed in one unassuming statement. You only have to be here to see the want and need for jobs for so many. Initially i thought it annoying men coming up to windows and selling you things but now I realise at least they are trying to earn money. These men and women go to work everyday not knowing if they will sell one thing... it is this sort of unsustainability that characterises so much of the rural and city life for South Africa's poor. These unstainable livelihoods are all many have to survive on. Life really is hard. Hard work. My mum gets up at 3am everyday; washes; learns and leaves for school at 7.30. She returns at 3pm, she cleans, she cooks, she looks after 3 girls. She smiles though. A lot of people smile and the smiles are addictive and heartfelt. In my 30 minute walk to school I say the same thing, and I exagerate not, 50 times. They shout 'hello B' from every side of the street and they wave. The community care, they look out for me. I took a local mini taxi (not safe in city but safe here) the man wouldn't accept payment. I took another one; I spoke in Sotho to the congregation; when I got out; young and old clapped me, you have to let this place take you. You have to go with the flow (particularly hard for me) but slowly (very slowly) I am giving myself up to the way of life.. it's survival. Although I still power walk along even in 30 plus degree heat, wherever I am in the world I have no time for dawdling.. ! Please don't worry for my health; sometimes I treat myself to two blood pressure tablets just to be sure !

The program you ask>? How is Score on the Move? Well it's moving... The volunteers have busy mornings in the 5 local primary schools. The SA Government has abolished specific PE lessons. There is a session called Life Orientation which can be used for PE. As such the onus is on the volunteers to work with the local community volunteers and establish programs and work plans long after we have left. We should revive and motivate the schools for PE and then the local volunteers should provide the sustainability. Too early to say whether it will continue to work, but there are a lot of good signs. Development is not about pushing or coercing people to do things (although trust me, it is tempting sometimes- particularly during 3 hour meetinsg discussing one agenda item!) it has to happen from within, and it is. We are so used to meetings to establishing a quick answer and moving on it is actually quite refreshing to see the community working towards there own agenda and time.

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