March 4 and 5 and 6
Friday after school, I drove with Mam Zulu from school, to her home in Jozini. There, we picked up her daughter and grandson and continued on to Pongola. She goes on south from Pongola a bit farther, to Nongoma, where her family home and husband are. She has been trying for quite a while to get a new teaching position closer to her home but it hasn’t happened yet. Almost every weekend she makes this 100+ km trek. She dropped me off at Pongola Country Lodge. I needed a break from the heat, the dust, the isolation, and the routine.
At the Lodge, situated right next to the mall, there are rooms available for R380/night. That is about $35 and includes a big hot breakfast. The room is clean, has air conditioning, a flush toilet, sink and a shower! I booked two nights. Mam Zulu will pick me up and bring me back to Jozini. I paid her R200 (less than $20) for petrol.
It is worth it!!!!!! I still am alone. But the clean sheets, comfy bed, color TV, air con, and shower are worth it! I went to the restaurant for dinner and had a gin and tonic, Greek salad, and French fries. I will do it again tonight! I am grateful to have enough money to do this.
I brought along some work. Assessments have started (although the curriculum remains unfinished, of course) and I just finished marking 42 Economic Management Systems Controlled tests and 42 Descriptive Essays.
Fewer and fewer children come to visit me now. I am not as interesting as I once was and some come just to get the free yarn and crochet hooks. A few come to sit at my table and draw. I am teaching them to say “thank you” when someone gives them something. Here are a few little girls who stayed to crochet for a while at my house. The little one on the left you might recognize from earlier photos. She is now in grade 4. I met her when she was in grade 2, on my very first weekend in my little house. Amazing!
The family houses have been freshly painted, a peach color. They weren’t quite sure what to do with my stenciled trees and flowers so they just avoided painting that area.
A while ago, I also went to a funeral. It was for a 12-year-old boy, a family member of my host family. I was driven there by Mfanelo and arrived just as the sun was rising. It was the time when the light is purple and red and golden and magical. He went to join the family and I sat on the ground on a mat with the women attendees who made space for me. I missed most of the service which was fine with me. Soon the whole crowd got up and walked behind the small casket to the burial spot behind the main yard. Men on one side. Women on the other. Women from the community recognized me and were welcoming. There were chants and song and sermons but no loud ranting. Very peaceful. After the boy was buried and covered with dirt and stones, people walked back to the main house area. I checked on protocol, and found out it was okay to leave then.
I walked back home with a woman who works at my school. She asked if I could help her with her English correspondence classes. I assured her I would be glad to. So far, it has happened only once. She cancelled the first time we set. I decided that if she isn’t worrying about, why should I. It is due on April 15 and she has a lot to read and write before then! We did work well on one beautiful poem by Gcina Mhlope about the river of tears cried by African women.
My good friend Sifundo (and son) (he calls me mom) has left his employment at our school. He had plans to go to Johannesburg to look for a job but he hasn’t left yet. His friend there told him to wait, it wasn’t a good time to stay there. I miss him terribly. He is kind and thoughtful and loving, and 22!
As I wrote earlier, our fabulous admin clerk got a new job teaching in Johannesburg. She calls me occasionally and I hope to see her again during the upcoming term break. The job was posted and 150 people turned in their envelope with their CV. A committee sifted it down to seven people who will be interviewed. It has been hard on everyone not to have that position filled, especially the principal. For some reason, I am allowed to make photocopies for teachers and community members on our two machines but teachers are not. And they are not interested in learning how to do it. They are waiting for the new admin clerk.
We are still experiencing a long unprecedented drought. It is very hot almost every day and night. Exhaustingly hot. Rain is rare. A few weeks ago, there was a bit of rain. When it comes, it is a brief and dramatic downpour, temporarily flooding the yard with much needed water. I put out some buckets to collect water and if there is enough and the geese don’t get to it first, I have a little more water available for clothes and dish washing. A few days after a rain, little white flowers appear briefly, until the scorching heat dries them up.