03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004
I know that I've been awful about staying in contact so far. Our access to the internet is few and far between (it's been about 6 weeks I think). Blogger isn't working today from the internet cafe so I can't even post there.
Things here a up and down. We recently spent ten days doing training at an outdoor education centre called Hobbiton because it is in the very picturesque Hogsback mountains where JRR Tolkein was born. We did the usual hikes and team building activities as well as learning 'Non Formal Education' techniques that the organization prides itself on. NFE means teaching a lesson without using a traditional linear classroom set up. When I brought up Michel Foucault's theory of the panopticon during the lesson I was met with a lot of blank stares. During the training we had a night to debate the statement "Only young people with higher education can succeed in life" I was on the 'DISAGREE' side. Ah HAH! After allowing the debate to progress very slowly and predicatably (I wasn't one of the initial speakers) I was finally given the floor and I went on a rant attacking the "ivory tower elitists who only attained their privledged station in life by exploiting the working class". Most of the volunteers had no idea what I was talking about but the international volunteers and some of the staff were in stiches with laughter. It was pretty entertaining.
During training we had a free afternoon, so myself and 4 other international volunteers (they are all female) made the 30 minute walk to the town of hobbiton and found our way to an amazing little backpackers hostel. We hung out on the patio, had a few beverages and took a dip in the pool. It was heaven. We made friends with the owner and bartender, they convinced us to stay for dinner which was mouth watering wild boar stew. After dinner the owner offered to drive us home, so we piled into the back of his truck, with some other hostel patrons in the cab. We drove up to the top of a very big hill or small mountain where there was a radio relay station. The owner got out a 5L box of wine which we cracked open and watched the sunset. The other travelers included a photog from the dept. of tourism and young guy from Red Deer, Alberta named Ben. Ben had worked as an engineer on the oil fields around Fort McMurray, then decided to sell his house, come to south africa and travel from cape town to cairo, egypt! The view and sunset were spectacular and were returned to Hobbiton with a nice warm buzz.
Unfortunately, we are really supposed to drink while with SPW. My supervisor Shupiwe came up to me after I got back
"Alex, have you been drinking?"
"I had a beer with dinner"
"Do you know that you broke the code of conduct?"
"I think so"
"Do you know what the consequences are?"
"Okay, thank you for being honest, goodnight"
I immediately dug out my copy of the code of conduct which said "volunteers shall not act irresponsibly with regards to drugs or alcohol while with SPW"
The next morning the 5 of us were called in for a meeting with Shupiwe and another staff member, so they could slap us on the wrist and give us a verbal warning. Apparently some of the south african vols had approached them the night before to say that the internationals had been drunk (we weren't) but they didn't expect us to be punished. We tried to argue that we had all behaved as responsible adults (for true, I was on my best behavior). Among the Xhosa people there is no concept of drinking socially, they only believe in abstinence or complete passed-out alcoholism. She said that the image that the other volunteers had of us would be tainted. We were all pretty angry for being treated like naughty children.
A couple nights later I went back to the hostel with two others, some of the staff from Hobbiton were there and they teased us about the silly restictions. One of them told us that Shupiwe had asked her to spy on us. This really put us over. So we drank anyway.
Working with the 3 other partnerships in our cluster is difficult. People here are OBSESSED with their phones! Many times I have wanted to slap people around for messing about with their phones.
This week we were doing grocery shopping in Umthatha when I had an unsettling experience. Four of us were walking up a busy street when I noticed one guy infront of me who kept looking over his shoulder at me or past me. Another guy got beside me. This made me nervous, I could tell that they had marked me as a target for a theiving. In south africa they are called bully boys. I tried to change direction to go around, but they changed formation to keep shadowing me. The sidewalk got tight as we passed between a big parked truck and a loading dock. The guy in front of me turned around and banged into me and started profusely apologizing. He had my jacket pocket half unzipped and my wallet half out. I crushed him up against the side of the truck and said "You're fucking right you're sorry" then I kneed him in the balls and walked away.
WB with his blood lust up is not good. All I could think about the last couple days has been the further violence that I would have liked to do to those guys.
Because there are jokes that I think of that other volunteers wouln't get I have been drawing MT comics.
**** SEND ME YOUR MAILING ADDRESSES AND I WILL SEND YOU LETTERS AND COMICS***
My address in case you don't already have it is:
PO BOX 1925
Some one please send me some Black Sabbath, Zeppelin or Iron Maiden. The people here are too earnest and god-fearing, I need some devilment back in my life. Or any north american music for that matter. If you burn a CD just give it to my parents to send. You will be my savior.
News and pictures from home are always welcome.
But I think we've outgrown blogger. It's obviously sucking pretty fiercely right now, and I haven't the time to fix it.
What I'd rather have-- and I mentioned it before-- is a wiki format. I seriously doubt anyone will fuck with it too badly, we can have it appear in a linear format (then interlink like crazy) and I think that there'll be more to do with it.
As it is I don't really have the time more often than not to write more than a quick word here and there. A wiki would make it more possible for me to make meaningful contributions to a dialogue. I sense it would probably be true for many of us, because not many still post very often.