Week 7

On Wednesday, 21 August 2013, my language lesson included learning interrogatives such as why, which, and how. Last week the language groups switched LCFs (language teachers) and Kgaugelo taught our classes all week. After language, we had a lesson on writing and presenting then had time for lesson planning before I was the supporting teacher for Darren’s lesson on reading and viewing.

On Thursday, we studied a revision of expressing health status in language class before we had a session on speaking them time to lesson plan for the next day. I taught the lesson on writing and presenting, which didn’t go as well as my lesson on listening, but it went ok.

On Friday, we had mini LPIs in language class. LPI means language proficiency interview. I felt really good about how I did this time, which was a definite departure from our midterm. We then went to our village hub in Magongoa, where we met up with the PCTs who live in Mosesetjane to have a lesson on Multi-Grade teaching before our weekly village debrief. I got home and made delicious chocolate peanutbutter oatmeal no bake cookies then my language group came over to bake bread and cookies.

Saturday has it’s own post titled Jozi Fieldtrip.

On Sunday, I left my house at about 6:45AM to make my way to town. My dog friend, Tiger, walked me all the way from his home at the tuck shop to the taxi rank, which made me feel good. I got to town and got money at the atm, then sat and waited with a nice security guard named William while I waited for Melissa and Lizzy to arrive and for the cafe we like to go to, Maxi’s, to open. A good deal of our conversation was in Sepedi and several people stopped to listen and to talk with me. At Maxi’s, I got breakfast on toast, which was delicious. I also went to the book store to search for a copy of Long Walk to Freedom in Sepedi, but they didn’t have it. They did, however, have the Oxford Sepedi dictionary that I have been searching for for weeks. I also went to Game (owned by Walmart) and bought a kettle, utensils, and measuring cups for my upcoming move to permanent site. I bought four new tshirts at Jet because I have plenty of skirts, but not enough shirts to go more than six or so days without doing laundry. They were about R29 a piece, which means they were about $3 a piece. I went to the bookstore again with Lizzy and Melissa then went to checkers to get juice concentrate, chocolate, and brown sugar. We went to the Shoprite parking lot, where we caught a taxi to Mosesetjane for a party thrown by another PCT. PC transport took us home around 5 and I hung out, took a bath, and ate some dinner before talking to my brother and parents for a while then going to sleep.

Today, Monday, 26 August 2013, we didn’t start sessions until about 9:30, but I forgot that was happening so I got up at my usual time anyway. We had a debrief about our visit to the apartheid museum and several PC staff members shared very personal experiences. After the debrief, we had a session with Monica (a PCV) about language structures and conventions before having lunch, lesson planning for tomorrow, and walking over to the primary school for Darren to give his lesson on speaking. Afterwards, I went to the tuck shop and pet Tiger for a while before walking home. Once I got here, I started writing this blog post, which has taken a long time 🙂


Week 8

I can’t sleep, so I might as well blog.

On Monday, 26 August 2013, we didn’t start sessions until about 9:30, but I forgot that was happening so I got up at my usual time anyway. We had a debrief about our visit to the apartheid museum and several PC staff members shared very personal experiences. After the debrief, we had a session with Monica (a PCV) about language structures and conventions before having lunch, lesson planning for Tuesday, and walking over to the primary school for Darren to give his lesson on speaking. Afterwards, I went to the tuck shop and pet Tiger for a while before walking home.

On Tuesday, we had language class then a session on vocabulary before preparation and lesson planning then after-school club. Our assignment was to teach something related to language structures and conventions, so I taught a lesson about personal pronouns and conjugating the verb “to be.” I wasn’t able to make the lesson as fun as I would have liked, so I wasn’t as pleased with it as I could have been.

On Wednesday we all dressed very nicely because the Limpopo Province Department of Education’s Curriculum Advisor was coming to speak with us. We played a language game in groups then learned about students with special needs and marginalized learners. We took a large group photo of all of SA28: PCTs, LCFs, and Peace Corps Staff. The curriculum advisor was amazing and it was very clear to me that she has a realistic view of how the schools are operating. We talked about how the National Curriculum isn’t really realistic for learners in this province and she urged us to focus on helping the learners read and speak. Darren taught a lesson on vocab that day in after-school club that our learners seemed to really enjoy.

On Thursday, we had language class and reviewed some useful phrases before sessions about libraries and IT in the classroom. It was graduation day for our after-school club and that went very well. We gave each of our learners a certificate for completing the program before we played simon says and had a race. Darren and I received two very sweet cards (which reminds me I need to give one of them back to him) and several of the learners expressed their gratitude and asked if we could come back. One of the learners in particular, a fifteen year old girl, pulled me aside and told me that she loves me and she will really miss me. My heart was definitely touched.

On Friday, Kgabo came to our language session to help us with adjectives. We then traveled to our village hub, where we took a kind of final exam for PST on all of the technical sessions we have had. Our Country Director, John Jacoby, came and spoke to us and told us that the schedule for the coming week has changed completely because we are swearing in early!!! We found out that our Language Proficiency Interviews have been moved to Tuesday and Wednesday, we will get our permanent site announcements on Thursday, and we will swear in on Friday before having Saturday to pack then leaving Sunday afternoon to go back to our first training site for the night. Which means we get to take showers!!! On Monday we will meet our principals and move to our permanent sites, which is bittersweet for me because I will really miss my host family and being able to see my friends whenever I want. We then did our LAST weekly debrief and I am so glad to be finished with those. They inevitably turn into a bitchfest where people invalidate others’ feelings, which is really hard for me even when I’m not the person it is happening to. Laura and I went into town to get some pictures printed out and a gift for our LCF. We met Lizzy there and hung out for a while before starting the journey to the cow slaughter, which we missed. I was really bummed that I didn’t get to see how they butchered the meat, but I’m sure I will have other opportunities. Laura and I caught a taxi into Mahwelereng where we waited at a gas station for Peace Corps to come pick us up. While we were there a car backfired several times and I was really scared because I thought we were being shot at. Once the car turned around, I realized that there were flames coming out of the exhaust pipe. When I asked a guy standing near me, he said the owner of the car had made it do that on purpose. PC picked us up and took me to Mokopane College, where I chopped some squash for the family function on Sunday. We then all went to the house of a cousin of one of my favorite staff members, Mr. Baker, and we had a braii (the South African version of a BBQ) where they cooked us some of the cow they had slaughtered a few hours before. It was a lot of fun to sit around the fire and hang out with people.

Saturday was a big day for a lot of reasons. Last week, our village Induna was hit by a car and killed. The Induna is what you think of as a village chief, but that isn’t exactly how it works here. Each village has an Induna and each Induna reports back to the Chief, who is typically responsible for a few different villages. The death of our Induna was made even more sad by the knowledge that he had just buried his son the previous Saturday. I wanted to go to the funeral but I didn’t want to go alone and I wasn’t really dedicated enough to wake up early. My mom ended up going, so I thought she wouldn’t be coming to the family function and I was very sad. My sister told me she was staying home because she was sick, and I went to the pick up point to wait with ten other people for Peace Corps to pick us up. The transport was late because they had to pick up so many people and we ended up cramming over 20 people into a 14 passenger van. The family function was beautiful and very fun. A few groups of traditional dancers performed and our LCFs sang us some beautiful songs. Nicole and Amanda gave a speech to our families on behalf of SA28, Nicole in Sepedi and Amanda in English. We each got to present our host family with a certificate of appreciation before serving food to all of the family members. Our LCFs barely got any sleep the night before since they were with us at the cookout until quite late then they all had to be at the college crazy early to help prepare. Melissa and Lizzy came to spend the night last night and we met up with some other people to go to another braii/party for the grand opening of a car wash in zone one. I woke up today with my first South African hangover and I can safely say that being hungover here is worse than in the States.

Today, Melissa, Lizzy, and I woke up and hung out until my host sister got home from church, then the four of us traveled to town together to eat at Maxi’s. Some of the girls needed to buy things, so we went to Game (which is owned by Walmart) before parting ways. My sister and I picked up pizza for dinner tonight then came home. You know you are hungover when you are able to sleep in a ridiculously hot and crowded South African taxi. When we got home I took a nap then went on a walk before eating pizza and talking to my parents on the phone. Afterwards, I did dishes then started writing this post!

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my amazing support system!


Jozi Field Trip

On Saturday, I went to our village hub at 6:45AM to catch Peace Corps transport. We stopped at a gas station on our way to Johannesburg and I met a very nice lady with an adorable Jack Russell Terrier. We got to Johannesburg and our first stop was the apartheid museum. Interestingly, it was inside the gates of an amusement park and casino, but there was nothing amusing about the apartheid museum. It was an incredible experience. We were immediately segregated between “white” and “non white” based on what was on the back of our tickets. -It was similar to what happens at the Holocaust museum. I walked in the “non white” entrance and their were signs from apartheid everywhere and sample passbooks, a kind of SA internal passport that non-whites aged 16 or older had to carry at all times during apartheid rule. There was an art exhibit, an exhibit of artifacts, and an entire section about Nelson Mandela. They had a video playing of Nelson Mandela speaking and it was beautiful but difficult to watch. On the second half of the tour, there was a room full of hanging nooses that also contained a long list of individuals murdered by police/prison guards during apartheid whose deaths were listed as things like suicide by hanging, suicide by jumping, natural causes, death by complications from a fall in the shower, etc. It was the most difficult part of the museum for me to witness, and I immediately felt emotionally drained. There was still quite a bit of the museum after that, but the parts that stood out were the exhibit on non whites fighting for equality for the LGBTQIA community and the exhibit showing decommissioned weapons from after Nelson Mandela became President and told everyone to throw their weapons into the sea. The gift shop was amazing and with the help of a friend (since I was a dummy and didn’t take my debit card), I bought the children’s version of Long Walk to Freedom for use in my classroom and a book of Nelson Mandela quotes.

For more information about the apartheid museum, please see http://www.apartheidmuseum.org

We left the apartheid museum to eat and I got to have McDonald’s!!!!! I have never been so excited over chicken nuggets and french fries. We ate quickly and arrived at our next destination quite later than we were supposed to. Our next destination was Constitution Hill, the site of the high court of South Africa, the constitutional court, and the historic site of the Old Fort Prison Complex, where Gandhi spent some time imprisoned and where Nelson Mandela and the other Treason Trial accused were imprisoned during their trial. Touring the prison was cut short by time restraints, but it was fascinating. After we toured the prison we got to go into the actual constitutional court. The architecture in the whole building is amazing. The whole theme of the court is African Justice under a tree. My very favorite feature of the court was a wall on the right hand side of the mostly round room. The wall was built out of bricks from the demolished block where Nelson Mandela was kept and they were placed there as a reminder that there can be no future without a past. I also sat in the chief justice’s chair, which was awesome. We got home pretty late and I went to sleep early so I could wake up and get stuff done.

For more information on constitution hill, please visit


Week 6

Wow! Was the last time I posted seriously over ten days ago?! Sorry everyone!

On Saturday, August 10, we had a session on internalized oppression that was fascinating then another diversity panel on gender. I went home from session and supervised my sister in making chocolate muffin tops. I read a bunch of Long Walk to Freedom then decided to go on a walk. During my walk, I ended up with a wake of about fifteen children. We laughed, played, sang songs, and did the hokey pokey. It was so much fun!

On Sunday, August 11, I went into town with a few people and had pizza for lunch then went home and did my laundry.

On Monday, August 12, I had language class then sessions on assessment, correcting learners errors and marking (grading), and understanding work partners (who Peace Corps calls counterparts).

On Tuesday, I had language class then sessions on classroom management and classroom procedures.

On Wednesday, I had language class then we had a session telling us about the after school clubs we would be teaching later. After lunch, we talked about cross cultural behaviors and attitudes before having another M&E session (Monitoring and Evaluating). I don’t think I could tell you anything about that session aside from the fact that we should always turn in our reports. I received THREE care packages on Wednesday, which was awesome!!! I got a book from my mom and other various goodies from Joanne and Laura :). THANK YOU! Seriously. It’s always amazing to get mail and even more amazing when it has little things I want or need in it.

On Thursday, I had language class then we had a session on managing large classes before returning home to kill a chicken. Our language group and a Tsivenda language group bought chickens, killed them, cleaned them, cut them, and cooked them over the fire with the help of our amazing LCFs (language teachers).

On Friday, we had language class then time to lesson plan for our clubs that would start on Monday. We had a weekly village debrief then practice language exams. After that, I went to town with my friend Alex so that I could get some baking supplies. My little cousin, Rati, and my aunt Regina came to stay with us for the weekend. Generations (my favorite South African TV show) was CRAZY Friday night and ended with a HUGE cliffhanger. We watched The Help together that night and it was a really powerful experience for me to see how it affected my host family.

On Saturday, I woke up and baked chocolate chunk cookies then got ready and left for another village, Mosesejane, for a PCT party. We drank, danced, talked, ate, laughed, and had a lot of fun before I went to spend the night with my friends, Lizzy and Melissa.

On Sunday, I woke up and hang out with Lizzy and Melissa for a short time then began my trek home. Even though it would have taken five or ten minutes for me to drive home if I had a car, it took me over two hours to get home since I had to catch a taxi into town then wait for another taxi to fill up to bring me home before they dropped me off about a 20 minute walk from my house. I got home and did my laundry then read JK Rowling’s new book that my mom mailed me for a lot of the day. In honor of watching The Help, I made fried chicken for dinner all by myself! It turned out really good, but I loved the onion rings I made even more.

On Monday, I had language lessons before we had a session on teaching listening skills and time to lesson plan for Tuesday’s lesson. We walked to a local school where Darren took the lead as primary teacher for our first day of lessons. He did awesome and I could tell the learners really love him. I went home and finished reading The Cuckoo Calling before just hanging out for a while.

On Tuesday, I had a language lesson before we had a debrief on our teaching from Monday then had a session on teaching reading and writing before we had lesson planning time. We walked over to the school where we are teaching the after school club and I was the primary teacher for my first South African class. We did a fill in the blank activity using the song We Are the World and it was amazing. My partner and I worked really well together. I’ll try to get back in the habit of posting every Sunday!


Just a day…

Today was a great day! The lesson I taught yesterday went really well, I felt good about our language lesson, and I genuinely enjoyed the session on teaching writing. My partner’s lesson on reading really well and an adorable little girl walked me part of the way home, jabbering along in Sepedi. I worked on typing up some charts and tables for my language group and I got a lot done, so I was feeling accomplished and relaxed.

Flash forward to about ten minutes ago: I was sitting in my bedroom (in South Africa) working on a project and I just popped a flash drive into my computer to use it. I opened it up and found all of the scanned in pictures from my cousin’s memorial slide show. I know he would be so proud, but I miss him extra badly right now.

My personal experience in Peace Corps so far has been that it is a wonderful, exhilarating, scary, exhausting emotional roller coaster.

Each day is a gift, so don’t waste it.


I’m Home Away From Home

There is a song here that goes something like this:

My home is far away, my home is far away, my home is far away.
But I am home away from home, I’m home away from home, I’m home away from home.

I feel like I don’t write enough about my host family. I live with the Tsatsi family and most of the time, the household consists of me, Morongwa (my mom), and Khomotso (Morongwa’s younger sister, so technically my aunt but I call her my sister). My host dad, Michael (I can’t spell his Sepedi name) gets to come home about once a month for four days at a time but sometimes comes for a longer stay.

I will be extremely sad to move away from them in a month. They each have many wonderful attributes, but as a family they are kind, welcoming, supportive, helpful, sincere, willing to answer my hundreds of questions, and each of them has a great sense of humor. It’s kind of crazy because I’ve only been here a little over a month, but this really does feel like home now. I will especially miss my mom’s laugh and my sister singing all the time.

I’m sure my permanent host family will be wonderful, but this family will always hold a very special place in my heart for welcoming me to South Africa with open arms in such a magnificent fashion and teaching me what “family” means here.

Of course, no one can ever replace my biological family (nor would I want them to try), but having such a wonderful family here makes it way easier to be so far away from my Mama, Daddy, and Brother.