My Family at My Peace Corps South Africa Site

The last stop for me and my family was my home in South Africa.

Having a group of family to herd around at your Peace Corps site is very much a reminder of how it felt when you first arrived–everything is bonkers. A year into my service, life feels normal to me. But being forced to see things through new sets of eyes reminds me of how incredibly different my life here is from how I lived in the states.

Simple errands that were so difficult when I arrived, like shopping, have become easy. But with family in tow, suddenly you remember how very strange it is to just walk into a shopping center in a township:

To welcome them, my host mom cooked a wonderful African meal:

We spent a day at school. I gave my family a tour, and it was incredibly fascinating to see how they reacted. South African schools obviously face tremendous challenges. But having been here so long, I no longer see problems–I see works in progress, logical choices, and the effects of a lack of resources.

Take our storeroom for example:

It doesn’t look so great. When I first walked in here, I didn’t know what to think. Sort of like my Mom:

Then I learned most of the stuff in here is basically garbage, but government regulations prevent the school from throwing it out. Instead of just burning or junking Afrikaans language books from the 90s, the books have to be returned to the Department of Education. But there’s not much money to transport old materials from schools to Department of Education storage, and unless a school can raise the money for shipping they end up with a room like this. A room like this is found in almost every school I’ve visited in South Africa.

And since you can’t throw out broken computer parts, we have another room like this:

There is only so much money to go around. So you end up with classrooms in need of repair:

When I look at these pictures, I see money being spent well. Money that wasn’t spent on repairing the classrooms is spent on things like textbooks and chalk. And when you have to choose between having nice looking classrooms or having learning materials, you choose learning materials. I hear horror stories from other Peace Corps Volunteers of cash strapped schools spending money on things like fences and repainting and then not having money to buy teaching supplies. I’m glad things like that don’t happen here.

My family also snapped a few photos of things around my site:

When I look at this, I’m super pumped. People are using condoms! This pile is good news in the war against HIV/AIDS.

Nothing is broken in this next photo. This is how you provide electricity on a tight budget. It’s called resourcefulness:

I made sure my family experienced chicken dust. Despite the strange name, chicken dust is just grilled chicken with spices. But it’s amazingly tasty where I live. Shermans chowing down in the staff room:

We ate real African peri-peri chips (french fries with hot pepper sauce). Alex rocked them with white bread, just like a real African.

We also explored the science facilities at my Education Center site, where we acted like Shermans:

It was sad to see them go.

1 Comment

cara says:

love this post. good perspectives on how money is spent; i share your sentiments. our time in SA will overlap… not sure if we’ll meet but i at least wanted to wish you well on your projects!

18 Nov 11 @ 12am