January 19, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

By Carlie Post

Today was our first morning in Kgautswane, and we woke up at 7am on time for breakfast at what was set for 7:30am. We learned, however, that people in Kgautswane have two types of now: “now,” which means “somewhere in the fairly near future,” and “now now,” which means “right now.” We ate breakfast about 8:30am, but the guys played catch and the girls braided hair while we waited. Our meal included porridge, fat cakes (sort of like rolled up elephant ears), eggs, and tea. We have found a new passion for tea during our trip, and since it is a hot beverage, we know it is safe to drink.

After the meal, we traveled to two secondary schools. We did a little impromptu motivational “speechifying;” thanks to Jeremy and Stephanie, hundreds of high school kids in Mpumalanga will hopefully be extremely studious and successful! The interaction with the students at the second school was a little awkward and very overwhelming. All around us, kids shouted, “Shoot me! Shoot me!” They wanted their pictures taken. Some of the bolder guys hit on Calvin girls, which became slightly interesting.

Following the schools, we made a stop at the farm of local farmer Aubrey Johnson. He explained that he primarily farms maize and tomatoes, and that maize borers and red spiders are his most common pests. He also told us about how he is trying to grow his own feed. Other people don’t understand why he does this, but he explained that maize sells at about R1.20 per kilo right now, but beef sells for R28 or R30, so he hopes growing his own feed will be much more lucrative. Mr. Johnson and his son Owen looked like Barack Obama, and they were very gracious to us.

After the farm, we traveled to Mfarara Mfarara, a cultural village project of Kgautswane. Its goal is to recreate customs of the local Sotho people for the purpose of tourism. We were welcomed by a group of traditional dancers, young girls all dressed in matching pink outfits, led by older women playing instruments and dancing. Amanda and Emily danced a couple of songs with them. From there, we went on to eat a cultural meal, which consisted of fried chicken, rice, beans, fat cakes, pap, another African grain we were unsure of, a tomato-based sauce, a 1,000 Island-style sauce with beans, and some field corn on the cob, which Kate and a few others were brave enough to conquer.  Many of us were happy this meal was accompanied by ice-cold Coca Cola. Our hosts were very kind and hospitable. We are getting used to being offered a basin of water in which to wash our hands, and the towel that follows it.

We continued our tour of the cultural village, where we observed young men playing a traditional game, young boys repeating recitations, and high school-aged kids participating in initiation school, learning what will be expected of them in their adult life, according to gender. Then, we checked out the baobab tree, which is a gigantic tree that is native to South Africa. Ben, Britton, and Jeremy all climbed it, and the local people laughed because they just don’t climb trees. The dancers danced for us again, and then we sang our songs, and headed back to Kgautswane.

Before dinner, Mama Clara, the community leader led us around on a tour of the development centre’s facilities, which include a mail centre, a telecentre, Mama Clara’s office, and a community radio station. Kgautswane serves 550 orphans and 820 vulnerable children, in addition to the rest of the community.

For our last dinner there, we had fried chicken and similar accompanying side dishes. After dinner, the people roasted goat over the fire, so we had a village braai, which is like a barbecue. We all smelled like serious fire smoke after that, but getting to know the people of the community has been a great experience for us, and we will miss it.








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