Archive for May, 2010

Another Potpourri Post

May 27th, 2010 Kevin No comments


Originally uploaded by kevinandcasandra

Kevin is sick again… Boo! This time he has some sort of chest cold that involves lots of coughing and mucus. We looked up some homemade expectorants and we decided on one that involves, garlic, onions, and sugar… we’ll keep you posted. Let’s hope it works, because if not he will just have one awful taste left in his mouth!

We had yet another bout of child abuse at school. This is the third time we have seen this specific educator hitting kids. The principal has not been taking it seriously, but we are forcing him to this time. All I have to say is watch out. (I say that, but in reality I am thinking it is going to be a long time before anything actually changes.)

We have been slowly gathering some pictures over the last month or so. There are some of the only crop the garden produced… tomatillos, a beautiful butterfly that was relaxing on the outside wall in the moonlight one night, Kevin and one of his favorite cold drinks- ginger beer, a freak hailstorm, facemask fun with another volunteer, a fun bug, a program we did at the library, a fun evening at home, and World Cup excitement that is filling every available inch of everywhere.


Oh, a couple more things… we miss everyone like crazy (as usual). Those beautiful tomatillos made us really miss green chilies and chipotle chilies. If you are by chance sending a package, you could toss in a can or two of these .

Confessions of a Workaholic

May 18th, 2010 Casandra No comments

Ha. Maybe I used to be a workaholic. Now it seems as though I can’t work for more than four or five hours without being totally wiped out for days.  I figured this out over the last two weeks of ultra business. (Ultra for PC South Africa anyway…)

Two weeks ago another PC volunteer came over to visit Kevin and me for a couple of days. We enjoyed cooking, watching movies, playing cards and most importantly planning a classroom management workshop.  After the workshop was planned, we held it here in our village. The response was better than I expected. Some of the educators actually participated. When the session was over, one of the educators told me that she was going to be the first to use some of the techniques at our school. When I came back after my almost two week hiatus, I saw the management tools up in her classroom. It didn’t appear that they were being used, but, at least that is a step in the right direction. Also, I saw that some of the other teachers took action on one of our suggestions. J

After the session at our school the other volunteer and I traveled to the Northern Cape to give the session in two other villages.  The sessions went really well and the educators participated and seemed responsive to what we had to say.  These sessions are really just a sly way of dealing with corporal punishment; we don’t mention it at all, instead we just show some practical classroom management techniques. One school surprised us. At the end of the session, we asked if there were any questions, or other things the educators wanted to talk about. One educator actually brought up the fact that she does hit the learners and wanted some suggestions about how to deal with it.  YES!!!!!

It was really cool to see some of the other villages that volunteers live in. It is really neat to compare them. It is so interesting to me that although we are only about 150kilometers away, the terrain can be so different. The first village had no sand. It was all hard packed gravel type stuff. The second village was more sand-like, but still not the red sand oasis that we live in.

We had quite an adventure getting to the first village. We took a taxi and got dropped off on the side of a fairly busy highway. Eventually we got to where we needed to go; the trip did include my first ride on a donkey cart. It was a tad bit scary, but mostly fun.

Our journey to the second village was much less adventurous. We got a ride into town and then had a bumpy bus ride.  The second village provided us with some deluxe digs. We stayed with another couple who live in a three room, free-standing house. They have a super cute puppy and lots of privacy. Yes, I am a tad jealous on all accounts. Again, good times were had.

After the workshop whirlwind, I met Kevin in Kuruman for the weekend and we got together with some other volunteers and celebrated Cinco de Mayo. It was a lot of fun. Kevin and I parted ways on Sunday when I made my way to Pretoria for a week of General Training of Trainers (GTOT).

GTOT was a lot of work, and fun too. We got to the PC office at 8:00 each morning and didn’t leave until 5:00 or so each evening.  During the week we planned the Pre-Service Training for the next education group, SA22, who is coming in July. In the evenings we enjoyed restaurants, each other’s company and some tasty drinks and in general a good time. I am pretty sure we were all in bed before 9:30 or 10:00 on all but one night. The eight hour work days took a toll on us all!

Saturday was a long journey home. Another volunteer and I waited for at least two hours for the taxi to fill and then spent another five or so traveling to Vryburg. Eventually the taxi left for my village and I arrived to a super smiley Kevin at about 7:30 pm. It was a long day.

Sunday was spent catching up with Kevin and with two weeks of not checking email. I have been in bed by 8:00 for the last two nights and have been sleeping for at least ten hours at a time. Whew, that is very unlike me. This adventure made me wonder what it will be like to integrate back in the US and if I will pick up my old bad habit of working for 10 to 12 hours a day. I guess I am confessing that I am now an anti-workaholic. Thanks Peace Corps!

May 18th, 2010 Kevin 1 comment

I have another food-related blog post. I know I write about food a lot, but I’m totally fascinated by food here – what’s different, what’s missing. It’s one of the first things I ask when friends come back from foreign lands; “But what’d you eat?”

I heard that PCV’s like these posts, so this one goes out to them. Today, let’s start with breakfast.

There is a conspicuous lack of breakfast cereals here. You can get Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Bran Flakes, Rice, Coco and Strawberry Krispies at most grocery stores. There is a flake cereal (not sure if it’s bran or corn) called MILO, which is named after/flavored with a chocolate malt-flavored drink mix called MILO (which appears to be the South African version of Ovaltine.) I haven’t tried it yet. It seems to me like sugary breakfast cereals (corn pops, CORN POPS) would probably do really well here; people don’t really try to avoid sugar. The only reasons I suspect they don’t is because no one here manufactures them (more on this later) and that for impoverished families they don’t go very far in terms of value for money. But if those were the only reasons, then why would Coco Krispies be in most Shoprites? It’s a mystery that I must investigate further.

Breakfast in restaurants and hotels is quite different than in the states. Every breakfast I’ve ever eaten out has included a fried slice of tomato. Beans are frequently on the breakfast menu, and a sausage is included; all together it would appear to be a variation on the ‘traditional English breakfast’. In my experience the sausage has been either some sort of squishy, finely-ground white pork/poultry sausage (weisswurst? gross) or a mini-cheesy bratwurst (delicious.) I have not encountered ‘American’ breakfast sausage (characterized by maple, sage, fennel, pepper) anywhere. Pancakes you see on menus are actually crepes. Another frequent component of the breakfast plate is a fried fish cake; essentially a poor man’s crab cake. The ingredients are a mystery. In my opinion, they are excellent, if a little too smooth textured for my comfort. It all goes down with ketchup (tamatie sous.)

Eating out in general is a different experience. For one thing, it is (usually) comparatively cheaper. For example, at a nicer restaurant you can get an excellent, excellent 16oz t-bone and fries for R90, which is about $12. At Roman’s (the only decent pizza chain in SA, IMHO) you can get two medium sized ‘Fetaroni’ pizzas for R66, which is about $9. Furthermore, drinks are sometimes mind-bogglingly cheap. Again, at Roman’s during happy hour, you can get 2 for 1 cocktails for R25, which ends up being about $1.50 for a drink. And they don’t skimp on the booze either (at Roman’s anyway.) At bars they charge seperately for mixers and liquor, and I’ve had several occasions where the mixer cost more than the alcohol. It seems like when they measure liquor, they use the smaller end of the jigger, and every drink has a measured, controlled pour due to devices attached to the bottles.

A quick side note about pepperoni: as far as I can tell, it simply doesn’t exist here. The occasional ‘pepperoni’ we see on pizza menus in actuality seems to be a bland variety of sliced sausage. The most prevalent pizza chain, Debonair’s, doesn’t even have it on the menu and their pizza sauce tastes like barbecue sauce. We don’t eat there much.

Other eating out differences: you have to ask for water (specify tapwater or you may get bottled or sparkling), you have to ask for the check, standard tip is 10%, a surprising amount of restaurants have snails as an appetizer (calamari also shows up in dubious places,) and everything we order seems to come with a greek salad.

Every sandwich I’ve ordered here has alarming quantities of mayonaise on it. South African mayo is wierd: sugar is usually the fourth of fifth ingredient, and as far as I know, Best Foods mayo doesn’t have sugar at all. As a result, a normally acceptable savory sandwich ends up being nearly unpalatable. Salads (chicken, egg, tater,noodle etc) end up smelling and tasting sweet as well. We found Hellman’s at Spar, but it’s R30 for a pretty small jar. We buy it anyway.

We want to clarify that many volunteers eat for much cheaper than we do, and in fact there’s two or three I have in mind that probably choked on their bogobe when they read we’ve paid R30 for a jar of mayonaise but food is something we love. It recharges us – not just eating, but also the process of preparing, of seeking good ingredients and familiar foods. It is one of the things we splurge on here and like to share with other volunteers. It’s the same way at home in the states.

Diddle Daddles

May 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to our blog and I thought it was a good time to give you an update on some of the things we’ve been doing and experiencing. You can rest assured that Casandra does an excellent job of keeping you up-to-date with our comings and goings, and my voice is present in those posts as well, grunting my assent from the other side of the table. This is part of the reason I post so rarely – Casandra is just so thorough.

Be that as it may, she neglects discussion of certain gustatory aspects of our lives. Vital facts; for example I have a new favorite cookie. They are called Jambos. They are shortbread cookies, perhaps two inches across that contain a generous gummi center in one of three flavors (raspberry, apricot, or blackcurrant.) As I’m sure many of you know, jambo is also a greeting in Swahili, so it’s cleverly named as well, and fun to say.

A new candy we’ve discovered, called ‘Nut Puffs’ (also referred to as ‘Nut Flake’), texturally is halfway between the interior of a Butterfinger and a butterscotch disk. They’re pretty tasty although I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my favorite ZA candy – that honor goes to the TEX bar (man-size, of course.) TEX is similar to a Kit-Kat except every ingredient is scaled ‘up’ in size – wafers and chocolate layers are perhaps thrice as thick, and it has a .5cm layer of ganache running through the entire bar. They’re exquisite.

I’ve also recently developed a love for sausage rolls. They’re a sausage of salisbury steak-like flavor and consistency, wrapped in puff pastry and oven baked. As good as that sounds, it gets better: you can buy a box of thirty for about R30 ($4.25). They, like fat cakes (which I’m wary of due to addiction fears) could perhaps be considered a national comfort food. I’ve seen shirts (awesome shirts) that say “Sex, Drugs, and Sausage Rolls.” I will miss them when we return to the states. Casandra has mixed feelings with regards to sausage (all kinds.)

Other things that have been happening: World Cup fever is gripping the country, and we’ve finally begun shopping for garb that will indicate that we too are filled with football spirit. Weirdly, even the cheap knockoff jerseys are R250+ so it looks like we’ll have to drop some buffaloes (R100′s)
to get the ones we want. UPDATE: Since writing this I have purchased a yellow and green PUMA warm-up jacket that says SOUTH AFRICA, which I am happy with. However, I will probably not be able to wear it when I go back to the states as these colors also represent the ducks.

I haven’t been teaching this term – my attempts last term were not as successful as I would like and so I’m dropping back into a support role for educators rather than be an educator m’self. For example, the other science teacher was teaching a unit about circuits/electricity and asked for ways to expand the lesson, so I gave her some information about insulators and conductors, and instructions for how to draw circuit diagrams. I would like to engage the math educators more – an offer of help has been extended – but it’s a difficult position to be in. I don’t want to pry, or force my help where it isn’t wanted (as much as it may be needed,) nor do I want to be drafted into teaching a class full time, so it’s a bit of a waiting game where I try to make myself available to assist without appearing as though I’m not doing anything. In the meantime, I’m waiting for an allocation from the provincial government to renovate an old classroom so that we can set-up and install computers (that we already have.)

I wrote a grant last term to an organization called PLIP to make a ‘digital bookmobile’ for our village library, which was supposed to be awarded April 1. The website is still silent on the subject, and so I think they’re having some… internal problems. The library is still doing well, although I haven’t spent as much time there as I used to as they were on strike for a couple of weeks, and last week I couldn’t attend because of a holiday and we had a memorial service for a deceased educator, but I’ll be attending more regularly over the next month or so. The time I spend at the library is probably the most ‘productive’ time I have as I get a lot of one-on-one or small group time with learners and I feel like I’m doing good stuff there.

I am tossing around an idea to write a VAST grant for a biology science camp to teach kids about AIDS/TB and maybe get some microscopes for my school but that’s got to percolate for a while. I also have plans for an after school club but I’ve yet to find the proper grant to fund it, nor will I have a good space for it until that computer classroom gets renovated, nor will I have time after school to facilitate until we figure out when most educators are going to want to attend computer classes.

Overall, things are going well – cooling down – and we’re very comfortable. We hope everyone else can say the same. If we haven’t heard from you in a while, write us an email!