A Chance Meeting with a Local Artist
I met an artist, right here on the main road through my village! I was taking a walk in the bush and was coming down a dirt road that ends at the tar road. At that junction, I noticed (for the first time!) a fenced yard with some interesting and unusual structures. I walked closer and noticed further that two of the structures had walls made of soda bottles! (I thought I was the only one around here using the trash for construction.) One small building had soda bottles filled with dirt and was held together with carefully attached wires. The other was a small outdoor “sitting area” that had filled soda bottle walls and a canopy of unfilled bottles (light!).
As I was taking photos of these structures, a man walked up from a house behind the compound and said he was the one who built these structures. He was a wood carver and offered to take me into the yard and show me around. Inside the large structure were some hanging pieces of wood that he had sewn together with a needle and string. Room dividers! Various pieces of hand carved wooden sculptures were on the walls, the floor, in the yard, on a table. He told me his name was Thulani Mhlongo (I hope that is right) and when I said I was Ms. Fine from Okhayeni he knew immediately. He has children at the school and we both praised the wonderful principal. I think I had one of his children in my grade 6 class. I am saying “I think” because we were speaking to each other in English but I am not sure I got the true content of everything he was saying. He also had about two hundred large snail shells on the ground in one designated area. They are the same kind I have been collecting. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand his explanation of his collection although he really tried hard to tell me the significance. When I was leaving, he took down a small sculpture of a boy playing soccer and gave it to me as a gift. So sweet and kind and generous.
For my benefit and yours, I have taken pictures of the inside of my rondaval, all one room. I love my little house and don’t want to forget what it is like.
.At this moment in time, however, I am wishing I could get away from it–there are a jillion flying bugs at night, the squeaking of bats is constant at night, and it is very hot both day and night. On December 21, it will be officially summer in the Southern Hemisphere but temperatures have been soaring for at least a month already and as I was told last year at this time, “just wait until January.” There is a drought, water is scarce, and it only rains occasionally and not enough.
In 2 weeks, I will get away. I am meeting Sumaya in London on December 18 (winter) and then on December 22 we will fly to Morocco where Lori will join us. I will be with good friends! I will stay in places with flush toilets and running water and sinks and showers! I can get clean! I can eat in restaurants! I will be with friends!
This time of the year is the “doldrums” at school, especially for a volunteer with no specific assignment. Term 4 is short with very little time for teaching and learning despite the curriculum requirements. There is a much longer time for assessments, marking, recording and report cards plus paperwork required by the district and department. Children play outside while teachers spend hours on paperwork, without a computer. The food service ends a week and a half before the term officially ends (What? Children stop being hungry? Who decides this nonsense?). Because there is no food and no teaching and learning, children stop coming to school even though the term has not ended. They will show up on December 9, 2015 to get their report card and see if they will go on to the next grade.
Farewell for Grade 7
Today was the day that the school held the annual “farewell” (not graduation) for Grade 7 and for Grade R (kindergarten). I tried all day long to have a positive attitude, to help out where I could, to understand what was going on. But, to tell the truth, I hated most of it and was extremely relieved when it was time to walk home.
It was another too-long (4 hours) Zulu ceremony, starting two hours late, people talking and paying no attention, very long speeches, lots of time spent cooking a meal for 500 people, all in isiZulu. I felt like an observer, a drone, a critic, an outsider. I swept the hall and the walkway. I peeled carrots and chopped cooked beet root. I took some photos. I waited around a lot not understanding any conversations nearby and no one bothered to speak to me. It was hot and dusty and the wind blew. Kids were everywhere running around. [The delightful part was the kids’ performances–dancing and singing.] No one thanked the teachers for all their hard work. The day ended with teachers “dishing” the food. I scooped sticky rice into over 100 styrofoam (yikes!) takeout containers. The typical Zulu meal was served: beef, curry chicken, rice, samp, cole slaw, beet root, butternut. I left when we ran out of styrofoam containers and had filled my container to take home some food.
The good part is that I will never have to do this again.