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 handsatwork.org.) 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 cinema...you 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"