Monday, September 10, 2007

The only prescription is more COWBELL!

Hi everybody! We're in Pretoria for a couple of hours today, on our way back to our training village after almost a week at our permanent site. We had a GREAT visit! We met our supervisor Vivienne and the Hands at Work team, including volunteers from North Carolina, Florida (YWAM volunteers), and the UK. (If you haven't done so yet, check out They all live and work on campus at the African School of Missions, which is absolutely beautiful. (There is a pool and tennis courts on campus! Can you believe that?!) We stayed with Ma Flo and her 16-year-old daughter Thandoxolo (Thando for short) in Masoyi (about 10 km from the campus), where we'll be living for at least the next couple of months. Ma Flo leads Masoyi Home Based Care, which is one of the many organizations funded by Hands at Work. Ma Flo and Thando are just wonderful! They also have two dogs--Fluffy and Timmy, who are hilarious. (Dogs aren't usually treated like family around here, but Thando has a heart for animals.)

Mpumalanga is BEAUTIFUL! It's very green, even though they don't get a whole lot of rain in the winter. (Don't forget it's barely spring here.) The hills and mountains are breathtaking. We're surrounded by the largest artificial forest in the world, so there are blue gum trees and pine trees everywhere we look. And Masoyi itself is like nothing we could have imagined. It's called a "rural "village" but there are 250,000 people living there. There is one tar road that stretches north from White River (our shopping town), and there are houses along both sides of the tar road for miles and miles. It really is incredible. There are 38 schools and a smattering of tuck shops here and there, but the nearest "grocery store" is in White River, which is about 10 km away. White River is a cute city. There's a shopping center there called Casterbridge that is probably the most upscale shopping center I've ever seen. There's a Moroccan restaurant, a sushi place, a name it. Apparently there are quite a few private housing developments and gated communities in the area that they are catering to.

On Thursday we went into Masoyi with the GOLD peer educator programs and watched 3 high school kids talk to about 35 primary school kids about HIV/AIDS. One of the peer educations went in to be tested for HIV last week, and she shared her experiences with the kids, who were remarkably open with their questions. They also did some other activities, and we all played a fun game called "cat and mouse" that the kids loved. The kids were also served sandwiches before they went home.

On Friday we attended a workshop on some new monitoring and evaluation forms that are being implemented in the organization. (This is an area I'm sure I'll be enlisted to help in the next couple of years.) Hands at work was very interested in our feedback on the forms. So, they've put us to work already! :) Really, we are very much looking forward to learning more about how we can contribute to the organization. We're thrilled that it's a faith-based organization, and we felt very warmly welcomed.

This weekend we actually went into Nelspruit, about a 20 minute taxi ride away, and met up with a bunch of PC volunteers (and some of our trainee friends) at a backpackers. They were celebrating some of the volunteers who are leaving after their two years. We had a blast hanging out with all of them, and we're looking forward to getting to know them better.

So, all in all, this seems to be shaping into a very atypical PC experience. We were warned that the "First World/Third World" dichotomy would be a little shocking at times, so we're trying to just roll with the punches.

We'll be back in Pretoria for swearing-in on September 20th, and then we'll return to Masoyi soon after that. We'll keep you posted!

Lots of love,

Ma Flo and Thando

Masoyi from the tar road

Near Hands at Work office

Brooke and Jed on the bus

Timmy and Fluffy "playing"

Saturday, September 1, 2007

If you want to slim you must gym!

Our SiSwati language group--John, Simangele, Jed, Craig, and Abby.

Abby and Jed walking to language in the morning.

Senosi's living room

Sanibonani Nonke,

The days in South Africa have started to turn warm. 85 today and it's technically still winter. The nights used to be cold dropping to the low 40's and upper 30's, but now it only drops to the 50's. Today we received our placements. Yay! The town we will be spending our next 2 years at is Masoyi, Mpumalanga, just outside of witrivier (White River.) We will be working with a faith based NGO (FBO) called Hands at Work. It is a multinational FBO, with a website, which means it is very large and sounds like it is well funded. On Tuesday we will go there for a five day site visit to see where we will live, work and if we have time play! Meet some of the people we willbe working with and learn about what they will have us doing. So yes we do have our placement, but there really was no job description. Just continues to prove that, "Peace Corps is what you make it." Hopefully by our next post we will have more info. We are really excited for a change in scenery. Not that where we are isn't nice. We love our host family and things are going great, but it is so dry and dusty here. We asked our project director today if where we are going is similar. She said no Mpumalanga is very, "Garden of Edenish." Our language thacher is from there and she has told us how green it is and there is easy and cheap access to fruits and vegetables. Can't wait. Also they don't eat sour porridge there. For those of you that don't know, sour porridge is a milk and sourghum mush that they allow to ferment for several days, then boil to kill the bacteria. Just add more good milk sprinkle some sugar on top and enjoy? We usually have it two times a week. It is hard to complain though because our host brother is such a great cook. He has made dishes ranging from butternut squash frittata to a pasta and feta dish with spices, tomatoes, onions and peppers that we had just the other night, delicious! We will definitely miss Botlhe's cooking. As well as running water, flush toilets, and a washing machine, from the sounds of our new site. We'll update that info later. White River has the airport that services Kruger National Park, so any of you looking for a place to visit over the next 2 years you are more than welcome to come visit! To all of you that have sent mail, THANK YOU! It has been great to get letters and packages from home, family and friends. You can buy $.80 air mail stamps at any post office and our address is under our picture on the left of the screen. Check back often because our address will change once we are set up at site, but peace corps will forward our mail to us. We are also planning to buy a cell phone soon, and we will give out our cell phone number. Brooke's parents found phone cards on for around $.08/min. Also check out skype for you computer savvy people. As for now please keep praying that God will bless our time here. We love you all. Keep the mail coming.