First Impressions from Near Ingwavuma, South Africa


As most of you know, I love hot summer weather.  Here in South Africa, after about a half-hour of Spring a while ago, it turned into Summer.  Yes, I do know it is the first day of Spring/Autumn. But here in Kwa Zulu Natal province, it is hot, dry, dusty, and very sunny.  Both the plants and people are thirsty.  There is a water shortage and the Spring rains haven’t arrived yet.

I’ve now been at my new house for 3 nights, 3 days. I have an adorable rondaval, painted pink, with tile floors, fresh yellow paint on the walls, a little porch in the front.


My Rondaval!

I cried when I first saw it!  It is situated in the large yard of my host family, nearby their home.  Ducks, geese, chickens, goats and a peacock roam freely keeping the dry, dusty yard free of bugs and organic matter. As I said already, there is a water problem.  Apparently, about 5 years ago, there was municipal water from taps in the yards.  The family put in a bath house, with flush toilets and a shower/bath room.  The yard had green grass that had to be mowed! The water system failed and now water is brought in by trucks to big green containers (JoJos) and shared in neighborhoods.  The family uses a latrine (outhouse) now like everyone else around here.

I heard from one of the boys that the geese eat snakes and make lots of noise at night if there is an intruder.  Good to know!

My host family is so kind and have been very welcoming.  The dad is a policeman and the mom works at the local circuit office (education).  Dad is a polygamist and has at least 4 wives and 9 children. My host mom lives here and is the birth mom of two, a boy and a girl, but considers them all her children.  The children go back and forth easily to various households.  She and I have talked a bit about the marital situation since this quite legal arrangement is new to me and I’m curious. Apparently, it is illegal for a woman to have more than one husband.

I met my principal (Mrs. N.) on Thursday at a meeting in Manguzi.  All the Ingwavuma and Manguzi volunteers were treated to a night in a lodge with a bar, a swimming pool, and showers!!!!!!!! It is a lovely thing to be able to take a shower and wash your hair with unlimited hot water coming from above your head.  What an incredible invention!  The next day we all met our principals and discussed joint Expectations and Peace Corps requirements.  We said goodbye to our friends of 2.5 months and drove off (with our suitcases, water filters, mosquito nets, some household items) with our principals to our new villages and homes.  Most of us stopped along the way for essentials for our first night.

The principal picked me up at 7:15 a.m. Friday morning to drive me to school the first time. I was introduced to the teachers and staff in a brief meeting.  I hope I can live up to the hype she gave me of what I will bring to their school!  They were so welcoming!  Mrs. N. remembered to tell them some advice from the previous day’s Peace Corps meeting–Americans wait to be invited to events; in black South African culture there are no invitations–everyone is welcome!  I was also introduced to the “learners” at morning assembly in the yard.  It is a dusty, poor school, with not enough space for 472 learners.  Some kids had no shoes, their uniforms were raggedy, and some get their only meal of the day at the state-provided feeding scheme about 10 a.m.  The “office” is also the library, staff room, and principal’s office (corner).


In the afternoon, I went to Jozini (my shopping town) with one of the teachers, in her husband’s pickup truck.  I purchased most of the things on my list to make my new home comfortable for the next two years: a stove, a fridge, mop, broom, pots, pans, dishes, extra cord of plugs, silverware, iron, sleeping bag, buckets, and some food!  By the end of the five hours, my shopping stamina was way over-taxed and I just needed to be home, settling in and nesting!  I was able to hook everything up on my own (!!!!!). 

I was apprehensive about my first weekend home alone after so much togetherness.  It has been great!  Time alone to put things away, wash, iron, etc.  and time with four little neighbor kids (from my school) who came by to play, sing and dance with me (see photo).  And today, at midday, in the hot sun, I went on a 2.5 hour walk to view my nearest clinic in a “nearby” village. Two of my host family’s children walked with me!   I had no idea it was that far!  I met the two nurses there.  They said they see 100-300 people/day, mostly for HIV/AIDS medication, diabetes, hypertension and mental illness.

I came home, took ibuprofen (Vitamin I), did some laundry, wrote this blog and made some lentil soup.  This is my new home folks!  Come visit!  There is room for a few mattresses on the floor!


4 thoughts on “First Impressions from Near Ingwavuma, South Africa

  1. Love your rondavel. How wonderful that you are settling in. Do you have any other volunteers near you; at the same school or nearby???

    Love to see the photos and think of you often way down there in South Africa. Much love from us all here in the Northern US.

  2. Hi Karen,
    So glad you have your home now. It looks so picturesque. Thank you for doing these blogs and sharing your reflections, it gives us a peek at your new reality. You write beautifully . I love the pictures too, they are worth 1000 words. I hope your new associations are as warm as the previous,. Best to you!

  3. Hi Karen — I love reading your blog and wait expectantly for each new entry. Dd you get the email I sent you? My home email addy is Please write to me if you can.

    Godspeed to you friend — Ruth

  4. Hi Karen
    I really love and look forward to all your postings. The photos enrich your vivid descriptions. So interesting and fascinating. Good luck settling in to your beautiful new home. I sent you a long email and photos to your address at yahoo. Let me know if you received it. I accidentally deleted the info you sent us on how to get in touch. Maybe you can resend it to me? Gracias. Take care. Lots of love

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