Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's amazing what kind of connections your mind makes out of bullshit when you're tired at night. Last night I had all sorts of interesting wonderful things floating in my head, at least I thought they were interesting and wonderful... This morning I woke up tired and lethargic and curious, what one earth was I so excited about last night?

Yesterday, I went to Ghanzi to meet with the Permaculture folks, an organization I am working with to help start a garden at the school. I woke up, went to the street outside my office at 7:30 am and waited there for a lift. 20 minutes later, I walked to the space in front of my office and waited there for a lift. 20 minutes later, I walked to yet another corner and waited there. 20 minutes later I moved even further away. The idea is, if you know someone from the government who is leaving, you can hang out near them (clinic, offices, kgotla, etc.) and see if they go. If they don't go, you can move further away towards the edge of town and try to catch private vehicles. But the catch is, if a government vehicle passes you and see you with a lot of people waiting for a private vehicle, even if they want to take you, they won't stop because there are too many people there. I couldn't decide what to do, so I basically paced the length of New Xade for 2 hours.

Finally at hour 2, I found Parks, our S&CD driver and all the students he's supposed to take back to Ghanzi today. I waited with them, and asked him for a lift. The truck was super crowded, but my counterpart gave his seat up for me. He would go to Ghanzi in the afternoon. Score!

At hour 3, we still hadn't left and I was starting to wonder if I should go at all. Finally, at 11AM, I watched as over 100 students piled into the back of this vehicle with Parks supervising the whole way. Parks was stressed. Too many students, not enough space. Ideally, he would take half and then drop the other half off, but he was also asked to go to another village that day, so he refused to split the trip in 2. In the kids crammed. First all of their stuff went on the floor of the truck. Then, methodically (thanks to Parks improvised tree-whip and the fact that he sat at the back of the truck and threw shit at the people who disobeyed him), the kids got in and sat in each other's laps in neat rows. The extra kids squeezed in on the sides and on top of the trucks and gas barrels. I was scared for them, especially since a couple of my friends were the ones who sat thus precariously perched. I looked at Isaiah, the lorry attendant and asked him if they'd be ok. "No," he answered. "If we tipped then these guys are gone." He pointed to the kids with their legs hanging out like breadsticks out of a bread basket. "How about them?" I pointed at my friends 30 feet above us rocking back and forth on top of the gas barrel. "They're fine."

We headed off, stopping every few minutes at first to let Parks grab his tree branch and whip the legs and feet hanging out the edge of the truck. Finally, we arrived in Ghanzi at 12:30PM. I called the woman I was going to meet but she was already in another meeting. I was starving, so, naturally, I went grocery shopping and bought way too much food, including a random find: lamb legs for P17, around 2 bucks. Then I grabbed a packed lunch from the grocery stores, a mix of bean and maize called "Dichobe," chicken grease called "Sauce," and coleslaw and beet root, called "Salade." I made my way to a friend's place, even though she was on vacation. Luckily she let me her key so I could use her house in her absence. I sat outside and ate lunch with her dog and fed her bits of beef gristle.

When I went inside, I was confronted with a nasty nasty smell and a puddle of blood under her fridge. I went back outside and chose to finish my lunch before figuring out what to do. In my head, I debated, clean this or leave clean this or leave. I couldn't just leave it. So I held my breath, and went in to investigate. The fridge was hot and everything inside felt like it had just been cooked. The meat in her freezer (including bits of a cow's udder) had melted and left the blood all over the floor. Flies buzzed. I grabbed a mop and went to work, then threw everything out, propped the fridge open, and got out of there. Before I left, I remember to grab 5 hula hoops that my friend, Chloe, made from PVC piping. I had asked her to make it so I could give it to the hostel kids for some after school recreation.

Thus leaden with bags of groceries and 5 hula hoops wrapped around my neck, I rushed to the Rural Administration Center with "my" dog in tow. The Dog followed me into the offices with the stares of people which I ignored. At the RAC, I was meeting my friend Tshepo, the youth officer for New Xade. She asked me to bring some of the officers some money and airtime. I, in turn, made photocopies and asked her to bring the hula hoops when she comes to New Xade. I unloaded and headed off to the post office where I was to pick up a package and meet Permaculture.

At the Post Office the line was long and I was high on adrenaline (and accompanied by a dog). So I stood in the back until I saw the Post Office attendant, who immediately waved and said "Yeah Wame!" and I yelled back quickly, "I'm here to pick up a package do I have to wait?" I suspected that the package was a box of toy donations from friends of my parents. I handed him the package slip and he disappeared for a while. I sat with my dog. Finally he returned, "You actually have 3 packages, and they're bigger than you!" he said. As he hoisted the first box on the counter he announced, "AND HEAVIER THAN YOU!!"

Luckily, Permaculture has a truck, and in the interest of time, I had asked them to meet me here. LUCKILY.

I signed for my 3 packages, paid my package handling fees, and met my friend Margret from Permaculture outside. We put my stuff in the back of her truck and headed to the hiking stop to unload. There we met my friend Itekeng who I asked to look after my boxes. I went back into the truck and Margret and I went to her offices. At the offices, Margret, Mr. Mokwati, the founder of Permaculture, and I discussed concerned they had for my garden project proposal. Then, as I was about to leave, my friend Dieter, who was also involved in the project, appeared. i sat back down, hands flirting with my phone to make sure I didn't miss a lift. Once the conversation dove into the technical aspects of the project, Mr Mokwati, sensing my panic, told Margret to send me back.

She drove me back to my stuff and there was the clinic ambulance waiting. I talked to the driver who said he'd give me a lift no problem, and left the larger than life package with Margret, since she'd be coming to New Xade tomorrow. Problem solved, so lucky.

I waited there with my peace corps friend Hannah who was also in from the settlements and swatted bees from my ginger beer (a soda made from ginger and sugar). After she left, I ventured off quickly in search for P20 airtime which my friend Mhaka had asked me to pick up for him. There was no airtime in New Xade, apparently. I found a teenage girl who ran a street shop. She had P20 airtime, but didn't have change for my P100 bill. So in an effort to live in the moment and save some time, I bought 3 P20 airtime cards and a bag of local spinach for P67 and took the rest of her change. She was so happy that I could speak setswana, she just smiled and smiled. When I got back to the hiking spot, my friend Serala arrived. Serala is an electricity worker for Ghanzi and uncle of one of the kids who frequents my house. We discussed matters from the school, to travel, to living in tents, to the kid's future schooling. He left, and soon after, we were on our way.

In the back of the ambulance, we were crammed like sardines, which was awesome when we stopped to pick up another person. The driver had to chase away other hikers, saying that Parks was coming, which indeed he was. He was right behind us. The ambulance was full of one person, a large lady whose boobs were so big they rested on her thighs when she lay down. She wasn't really sick though, or maybe she was but she had a good attitude. She was laughing and eating fried chicken. Then I found out why she was laughing, the whole back of the ambulance was sharing a six pack of beer. They told me not to tell the authorities and as they finished the bottles they threw the evidence out the window. Sitting across from me in the ambulance was a man who screamed at me to be heard. I still didn't hear him. I learned he was a cowboy from the other side of the country, he was a kalanga. He learned english from a Peace Corps volunteer in Dukwi when he was little. He talked and talked and talked between sips of beer and I nodded even though the rattle of the truck reverberated in my head louder than anything he was saying. Finally I pretended to fall asleep and rested my eyes and tried not to get car sick.

We arrived in Xade as the sun was setting and as usual, I got let off at my side gate which is usually locked. But today it wasnt. the Lock had broke and was sitting there looking pathetic.

At home, I unloaded my goodies in the fridge (YAY I have a fridge!) and went online in search of company. An hour later, my friend Kago arrived. Lately we've been working out together every night for about 30 minutes. Simple things, just to get him started on the road to being buff. He's been visiting the doctor pretty often for random pains in his chest and I had started to worry about him. We worked out. and it was short, and usually it's easy, but I was so tired I was surprised how difficult it was. Afterwards both he and I just lay there for a few minutes.

I'm going to write more about the packages I received later when I can give it due attention. But I want to say now that even with the excitement of yesterday, the highlight of my day was the generosity I experienced from the package senders. Boxes of toys and school supplies from people I've never met. Who have never been to New Xade, who just felt in their hearts it was good to give. Kites and Lego's and stuffed bears, things that the kids here have never ever seen before in their lives. My dad sent me an email later that night saying that, when he was a kid, missionaries had brought over small things like Christmas Cards that he remembered even now.

Before I left Ghanzi, I showed the kites and a make your own volcano kit to Ketelelo, the youth who works with the orphans in New Xade. He loves science and yet he's never seen anything like these items. His eyes grew wide. I wish he were in New Xade full time, so I could play with these things with him now, but he went back to school yesterday. I told him I'd leave them for him, in case I dont see him here before I leave. I wish I could be around when he gathers the little kids around him and explodes the volcano... or stands outside and lets the first kite go up in the air. The excitement on the kids faces... it would be like something out of a movie. That night, Kago looked at the kites too. He said that when he was a kid, they used to watch white kids flying kites from afar. They tried to copy the kites by making their own, but this was his first time actually touching one.

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