Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hot Tea and a Shade Tree

About the time I finally learned to correctly pronounce "Mpumalanga" (one of the two provinces in South Africa (SA) to which my group has been assigned), I learned that I will NOT be going there or Kwa-Zulu Natal. Instead, my group will be assigned to Northern Cape, North West or Limpopo provinces, all which run along the border of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  Hmmmm.  

This means that rather than living in the land of the Zulus or living in the foothills of the lovely Drakensburg Mountains, I might be living at the edge of the Kalahari Desert or just south of the “great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River” (Remember Kipling's The Elephant’s Child from the Just So Series?).  I haven't had a chance to study much about these three provinces, but I think any assignment within South Africa is still pretty amazing.  I am curious to learn more about the terrain of these 3 provinces and the typical weather conditions. I'm guessing hot and dry will make up a good portion of the climate, although I do know it also gets quite cold in/around the desert. Nonetheless, I foresee requests for lots of body lotion in future care packages!

This location change has also had an effect on the language I will be expected to learn.  I am now told I will be learning one of the following languages: isiXhosa, Setswana, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Try finding a Rosetta Stone program for one of these!  Not happening.  Lessons for the language isiZulu, which we had started to learn, are surprisingly abundant.  I’ve managed to uncover a few lessons for Setswana, but have basically decided to follow advice of some PCVs currently in SA and wait until the formal training period to learn the language.  The few words of Setswana I've picked up from reading the delightful series, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which is set in southern Botswana, may be my only advantage.  By the way, that series of books by Alexander McCall Smith is truly a terrific read.  Red bush tea, anyone?  Meet you under the nearest shade tree.