Re-Post: A Troupe For All Seasons
With the sun’s blazing arc into muddled darkness yesterday, South Africa closed out week four of the strike that has encapsulated public school teachers, ancillary unions, miscellaneous manufacturing bases and, of course, Peace Corps volunteers and soon-to-be volunteers. [Not to mention children. Why is it that, as with so many issues commanding the full attention of the adults in their lives, students and children are again the real victims here? Yeesh.]
Yes, that’s right, though: next week is our LPI (Language Proficiency something or other) in which PC puts our siSwati, IsiNdeble, IsiZulu, Sepedi, and Tsonga skills to the test. Week after next, if the schedule holds, you’re looking at the latest and greatest PC SA corps of volunteers: SA-22!
In the meantime, the strike goes on, as do the rumors that it might end soon. The gas station clerks have joined in an alleged sympathy strike but what really amounts to added pressure on the government to cave (especially as those workers are rep’d by a private union that has no official relationship with the public sector workers). Demonstrations in Mozambique broke out a few days back due to rising bread costs and apparently Swaziland is feeling the fracas fever, too. In all, this makes PC hesitant to commit to any one schedule, instead hedging their bets and preferring to adapt to the moment – which is fine; it just makes it a touch difficult to plan for what’s next.
What is next, for sure, is a wonderful little braai tomorrow, at the host family home of PCTs Stacey and Tony. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the only two rival epicureans amongst us, and I’m anticipating something viciously delicious tomorrow. I’m also meeting with my LCF Hlobisile tomorrow night to practice my siSwati for Tuesday. I scored Novice High on the midterm (one level below the minimum needed on the LPI: Intermediate Low) but extra practice can’t hurt. Sunday is laundry, errands, and more LPI studying. And Thursday we head into Pretoria for our final shopping day; I will be picking up a cell phone – so look for a number soon!
Speaking of the big city, last Saturday we left our villages at 6am to head into JoBurg and see the Apartheid Museum. Right from the start, your ticket classifies you as either White or Non-White and designates a separate entrance for each group. But the museum is much more than a gimmick; it traces how even the earliest settlers (San Bushman, Xhosa Herders, Zulu Farmers) battled over farming land and precious metals and how that competition set the stage for later economic disparity and (eventually) Apartheid. It also illustrates the transition from pre-colonial era to mid-20th century (right before Apartheid was officially instated post-World War II) with lots of fascinating archival photographs, newspaper clippings and remnants of miners, priests, laborers, shopkeepers, etc. who lived at the time. Finally, it goes into Apartheid, documenting at length the different acts of legislation that were enacted to disenfranchise non-whites (like the Lands Act and the Bantu Education Act), the economic and socio-political effects, and the various opposition groups that rose up to combat it. It’s an impressively complex and complete exhibit, full of hard stats and details, illustrations, and artifacts from the era.
There was also a special exhibit dedicated to the life of Mandela, tracing his entire story from young, rural student to activist leader to prisoner and finally politician and statesman. Really amazing stuff.
This Wednesday, Sepetember 1st, was the first day of Spring here and thus unofficial splash-water-on-everyone day. I managed to get to Ndebele College without so much as a drop tainting my freshly pressed oxford button-up. How could I have anticipated, though, the onslaught that awaited me? As my fellow Waterval B-ers stepped off the bus at the college, the other two villages sprang their trap and fell upon us violently, slinging bottles and buckets full of water wildly. We scattered like city pigeons, dumbly stumbling for doorways and the cover of car facades. A few of us, myself included, launched a reckless counter-attack; with uncapped Nalgenes we charged into battle, defending our honor and remaining dry patches of clothing. The battle pitched was long and hard and it isn’t clear exactly who emerged victorious, but – in all seriousness – it was a badly needed chance to blow off some steam. I’ll get some pics up soon.
Email and tell me what’s going on with you! I’m fiending for news from home, personal, political, and otherwise. Is it true Bristol Palin is on the new season of Dancing with the Stars??? And how are the BoSox doing? Better yet, I would be forever indebted if copies of newspaper articles, Harpers, Mother Jones, The New Republic or Esquire magazines showed up here. What about you?! Yes, you! How’s grad school, retirement, undergrad, or city life treating you? I want to know.
[As an indefinably important side note, I wish to point out that Orbitz gum is worth its weight in gold here. I’m giving away naming rights to my first-born for a box of Peppermint flavor…]
As always, thanks for your warm wishes and friendly notes – they truly brighten my day!