Tuesday, May 15, 2012

OVC Garden Project

Day 0
After a long Friday in Ghanzi, I managed to submit a letter allowing our driver, Pax, and lorry attendant, Isaiah to get overtime on Sunday to help me transport items for our OVC garden at the school. On Sunday, Day 0, I went to Pax at 7:30 to leave. But he wasn't ready. So I went home and played with his kids, drawing, until 9. At 9:30 I tore the kids away from my house, went to Pax's and waited there for him to arrive. We left New Xade around 10 and arrived in Ghanzi around 11:30, ran some errands and then off to D'kar to meet my friend Dieter and pick up the supplies.

Pax's Kids drawing on my front porch

At Dieter's we were met by his huge dog, Kwena, an Anatolian Shepard. Kwena, meaning Crocodile, is a huge bear-like dog with a gentle personality. He met me with a big hug and kiss and growled at poor Pax and Isaiah, strangers, as we loaded the truck.

At 2PM, Isaiah, Pax, and I lounged in the cabin of our giant truck and ate beef with our fingers and watched the people scurrying by. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Day 1
Dieter arrived the night before, and early in the morning he and I went to the school and started the garden set up. PVC piping, glue, connectors, lots of dirt and digging. The frame went up, despite 1 or 2 hiccups (missing or misused items) and connected the shade netting-- me on the top of a hand made ladder being supported by a team of teenagers. The rungs of the ladder were tied on by old rags and I was terrified.

PVC piping for the 2nd house gets laid down
Me pretending to be a super hero. Hoisted up to attach shade netting to the frame

Halfway through the morning, a loud noise could be heard from the kgotla. I dropped what I was doing and stared off, wondering what was happening. I finally decided to text my friend, "what's going on at the kgotla?" I asked. "Kgotla meeting" he said. "Why is it so loud?" I returned. "Food" he said (in quotes) "you know what it does to our people..."

Moments later, our facilitator called and said he would be arriving late. Too late. I told him to forget about it and come tomorrow and plan to stay an extra day. That decided, the teachers also chose to bail on today's activities and attend a workshop in another classroom. Luckily, my friend Mhaka, the agricultural demonstrator, came, so I wasn't left with the kids all by myself.

Day 2 Lectures

At 2pm, the children arrived. 30 or so kids in their uniforms. A list had been posted the day before with the names of the children selected for our OVC garden program. They had not been told what the activity was, however, so they dressed for the best. The teacher told me that they dress in their uniforms in order to hide how poor their regular clothes are. As the afternoon continued, our numbers grew until I decided to talk to the teacher and figure out exactly how many students we were supposed to have and what their names were. She gave me a list and I returned to kick people out. Later that afternoon, as we were having refreshments after a long hot session of stitching together shade nets (Thanks so much to Mhaka!), my teacher, Mma Wabobi arrived with an exclaimed look on her face. "Ao!" she said in setswana, "You are not supposed to be here! or you! or you! or you!" She said with her characteristic big smile on her face, chasing around the kids. The kids giggled and ran off.

Kids stitch together the shade nets

Wabobi joins us

Mma Wabobi stayed to help us finish up and take pictures. Then she sent some kids to bring us fresh boiled Meade (or Mealie in Afrikaans, or Maize in English). It was delicious.

Fresh Mealie!

Day 2
The morning began the same, a short work out, and then Dieter and I ran off to the school to complete the garden structures. First the standpipe was modified with an extra output for the irrigation system. This involved calling my friend Thato and initiating a 2-wrench, 3-person system of pushing, pulling, and twisting, until the tap came out with a gush of water. Then a quick wrap with plumbing tape and the renovated tap was screwed on.

Thato helps us with the tap

Then we realized that we couldn't complete the project because a whole bag of our materials was stolen. With this news fresh in my heart, the facilitators from Ghanzi arrived (late) and I crankily argued with them the topics of the day and schedule. I got scolded for not following proper protocol, inviting the kgosi, VDC, PTA, etc. And we threw together a last minute "Ceremony" for the opening of the project over lunch. I cooked lunch by the way, setswana style, lots of starch and a meat stew (that was slightly undercooked). I cooked for 7 people. I'm quite proud of myself...

Despite the bumpy start to the morning, we managed to finish what we could, install a kick ass irrigation system, and train the students on the basics of theoretical gardening. We took the students out in the late afternoon to talk about shade nets and irrigation and to encourage them to police the garden for robbers, animals, and pests. Dieter scared away a child who had wandered into the garden and was digging at the shade netting, and Mma Wabobi and I discussed security issues. Tomorrow, the fence is coming down and going back up, properly. Hopefully the kids won't also steal garden supplies out of the actual garden. Though... we had to chase one kid out already...

Freaky ass half squished Corn Cricket


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