• 24Apr

    Trip to Matat


    View of Lesotho from Mamohau

    We spent Easter weekend staying in Matatiele, and visiting one of ASAP’s newest CBO’s: Mamohau. It’s in a very remote village 1.5 hrs from Matatiele. As of now they have about 60 OVC, which is an alarming rise since ASAP came in, when they only had about 15 orphans. The funding brought more OVC out of the woodwork, which is probably both good and bad. ASAP’s social worker has already been there a few times to do assessments and help get the kids on government grants for support.


    Rosemary, project manager of Mamohau

    While we were there, we did an interview with the project manager and some of the Mamohau officials. We ended up shooting over 3 hours of footage and we got some great stuff.
    IMG_8626_800 Mamohau is a breathtaking area. We’d already been there once in October (posted about it, I think) so we were a bit more used to the area. It is so rural. In fact, when we showed up on the second day, Andy had to get out and grab a sample of land to take back to Scilla, and while he was getting it EVERY single child in the area came over to the car and poked their heads in. They all wanted candy, but I didn’t have any. So then they asked to hear the radio, so I kicked out the jams for a bit. They were adorable, but the horror-movie-maker in me sort of wished they’d turn into zombies and roll the car over and attack! But that didn’t happen. Probably just as well.


    Mobbed by kids in Masupha!

    We were invited back on Sunday for their big Easter feast. Andy and I were both scared it was going to be a major bible bashing event, but there was only about a 1/2 hr of “bible sharing” which was all in seSotho anyway, so we just let our eyes glaze over. The singing was the best part, as usual. Those Mamohau mamas sure do like to sing! And one of them even ululated a bunch which was wicked cool. The whole day was great, but as usual, very delayed. Rosemary asked us to get there at 11, so we showed up at 10:30, and we didn’t get started until after 2 o’clock. As per! But we were made to feel really special, and it was a great honor to be included in the festivities.


    Mamas dancing at the Easter feast

    Our other day in Matatiele was a free day, and so we drove into Lesotho! God, it was beautiful. The drive up to the border was somewhat painful for the Mauve-a-tron but we finally made it. The passport check was harmless but time consuming, and then we realized we didn’t actually have any Lesotho money (whoops!) but they take Rand.


    Village along the road in Lesotho

    We didn’t have much time to spent there, and so we just drove and drove … and then turned back. Had a quick bite of lunch in Quacha’s Neck, on the border of Lesotho and South Africa — not a restaurant I’d recommend. It was a great mini-excursion, and left us yearning to explore Lesotho in greater detail. However, I don’t think our car wants to go back EVER.
    Speaking of the Mauve-a-tron: All the dirt, gravelly roads really wore down the car, and after the Easter feast, we started to head back toward Matatiele and on to Mount Frere. It was getting dark and we had a few hours driving ahead of us still. We’re not car people so I had no clue what the problem was, but as we drove down a tiny dirt road there was a loud screetch and then a hefty clank, and we were afraid to drive any further. We stopped and randomly looked under the hood, etc. Within minutes a nice guy called Moses had stopped behind the Mauve to see what was the matter. “If it was just a flat, I would be happy to help,” he told us kindly. But he wasn’t really equipped to help with our problem — ‘something’ underneath the front left wheel had broken off. We didnt’ know what that ‘something’ was, but it was obviously detached when you compared it to the other wheels. Moses offered to stop by a tow-truck shop in Matatiele and send them out if we weren’t able to reach our insurance, and as he drove away, he added, “You might want to put the hood down and sit in the car. It’s not that safe around here.” …uh, thanks Moses, for scaring the crap out of us!!! We got through to our insurance co, they told us it’d be 49 minutes until a tow-truck arrived, and so we waited, despondantly, for aid.
    Anytime another car drove past, we’d put on our best I’m-sitting-here-on-purpose looks and hope they’d just keep driving. They all did. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains, our tow truck arrived. The less-than-talkative mechanic took the car back to his shop and told us it was the stabilizer link. “You don’t really need that. You can drive without it,” he told us. It’s kind of sketchy when the guy just removes a piece of your car and tells you to keep driving … but who were we to argue! To his credit, the car drove fine after that, and Andy went to Kokstad a few days later to get a new stabilizer link put on. They even fixed our handbrake, which made The Mauve very happy.

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  • 18Apr

    Dealin’ electric

    Once a month we track down Nomvano, our ‘super’, to buy electricity. Not something I’m used to, bein’ an American gal. And it’s always more complicated than it needs to be … much like everything else in Mount Frere.

    First we have to call Nomvano. Sounds easy, right? Nomvano speaks pretty good English, but hot-damn is she hard to understand on the phone! Once we’ve been cut-off a few times and have all become extremely frustrated, we decide on a meeting spot for the ‘transaction’. Sometimes we meet outside the bank, sometimes in the parking lot of our building, or the taxi rank, or down a back road we didn’t even know existed.

    Andy buying electricity from Nomvano.

    The buy.

    Nomvano carries the electricity either in her bra or up her shirt sleeves, and if you’re lucky, she’ll ask you to fish it out for her when her hands are full! Electricity costs R50 for 80 kilowatt hours. Pretty fair deal, and we go through about 5 units per month. Therefore, we always try to buy extra — maybe 6, maybe 8, depending on how many she’s got. That is always a huge surprise to her. Most people buy them one at a time. Even phone cards are sold in R5 increments. Can you imagine filling up your cell phone with .50 cents-worth? That’s how they roll in the Frere.

    Then we take our little paper electricity cards back to the flat and punch them into the electricity box on the wall. It’s actually great for energy conservation because I’m more likely to turn off lights and appliances when I see the numbers on the electricity box going down, down, down.

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  • 08Apr

    Art Visit from hell …to heaven!

    I haven’t done many art workshops at drop-in centers lately because school registration uses the bakkie, but Fikiswa helped me find a location that we might be able to drive to in the Mauve-A-Tron. So I gathered all my supplies and we headed out to Njijini to visit a VHW named Cecelia. We drove out there without a real clear idea of where we were going and had to pull over a few times to ask for directions (something that happens a lot. Everyone knows everyone in the rural areas). Finally a young boy jumped in the backseat to show us the way. He told me to turn down a tiny dirt road, which I was skeptical of, but thought I’d give it a try. We stopped in front of one house, but it was the wrong one, and when I tried to drive forward again, the car got stuck! The wheel went in a ditch, and when I hit the gas it just spun in the air.


    Uh-oh. Poor Mauve-A-Tron!

    Several kids came over to see what was going on, but they were all about 5 years old and too small to help. They ran off to get help, and a two teenage boys eventually came to assist. Yes, it was a little embarrassing. The car didn’t need to be pushed, it needed to be lifted up off the ground while I drove in reverse to get the tire back on the road. Shu! I would have offered to help with the lifting, but I was the only one around who knew how to drive a car.

    Once the car was out and back on the main dirt road, I refused to do any more off-roading. That meant we had to find somewhere to park the car before walking the rest of the way to Cecelia’s house. We pulled though a random person’s gate and parked in a field. Then we knocked on their rondaval door to ask if we could leave the car for a few hours. You should have seen the looks on the woman’s face when an umlungu walked in. Her eyes almost popped out of their sockets, wondering what a white person was doing at her house in the middle of nowhere. She let us leave the car there, but all was not well: as we were leaving, I bent down to pat their dog — bad idea. He bit my arm! The bite barely tore through the skin, and I have a big purply bruise now (not so bad), but Andy’s going to keep an eye on me to make sure I don’t start showing signs of Rabies. Fingers crossed!

    Finally we got to Cecelia’s. We were there in time for nutrition, which is always fun. I got some great photos, and also some video footage which I’ll edit into the VHW video piece I’m working on. They were eating semp & beans, spinach, and soup (they use dried soup and make it really thick so it’s more of a gravy for the semp).


    Kids eating semp & beans with yummy veg from Cecelia's garden.

    After nutrition we got to do a fun art project! We made masks, cutting eye-holes out of paper plates and then painting them; and then I got out a big bag of beads (to a crescendo of ooohs and aaahs) and elastic string so we could make a strap for the masks.


    Such adorable, creative kids!


    Badass in a painted mask.

    As usual, they all seemed a bit tentative at first — nobody wants to be the first one to start — but by the end they were practically devouring the supplies. Everyone looked very fabulous in their masks, and looooooved having their photos taken, as usual.


    13 masked OVC, plus Cecelia and two of her kids

    ps — Oh, I almost forgot the last bit: After we were done, we went to pick up our car. It was still there, to our immense relief. A boy took us to a different rondaval on the property so we could say thank you, and Fikiswa knocked on the door then went in. It was bath time! The lady of the house (a rather large mama) was standing in the middle of the room, completely butt naked, and washing herself with a cloth. She wasn’t the least bit embarrassed that I was standing there, trying not to stare at her ginormo boobs. I didn’t take a picture, but I’ll leave it to your creative imaginations. teeheehee.

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  • 03Apr

    Mini-break to Cape Town

    Our friends Amanda and Jeff — friends from Columbia who are both from South Africa — invited us to their wedding in Cape Town and we had a blast!

    We stayed with our fantabulous friends Alex & Kristen and were busy busy busy the whole time. Jeff has just convereted to Judaism, so there were many traditions upheld. Saturday morning was shull, which was an odd experience for an athiest/feminist like me. The women sit seperately from the men, for instance. That was not something I was expecting, and felt even more out-of-sorts when we were ‘shooshed’ from time to time by the men on the other side of the partitian. But that’s the way they do things, so I went with the flow. We were given a copy of the Temple’s newsletter for women called ‘The Princess Diaries’ which was full of all sorts of info on how to be a good Jewish wife. Lots of tips on how to tame bratty children, plus some confusing stuff about turning on the stove for your maid. There are so many rules in Judaism, I can’t keep up!

    Later that day we went to Chapman’s Peak to do a little sightseeing. It was so beautiful! Cape Town really is gorgeous.

    Andy at Chapmans Peak

    Andy at Chapman's Peak

    Then we went to a fish market in Hout Bay and bought a massive piece of Yellow Tail fish and went back to Alex’s for a braai. And yes, we braai’d hard! It was a blast, not to mention we also got to see our friend Chrissy from NYC and her really great boyfriend Steffen. It was like old times, hanging out with the Columbia crew and having drinks.

    Guttin the Yellow Tail

    Guttin' the Yellow Tail

    The wedding was a beautiful, magical event. Amanda looked like a super-duper princess, and Jeff looked like the happiest guy on the planet! The ceremony was traditional. They were under the huppa; Jeff crushed a glass; Amanda circled Jeff 7 times (quite a feat in that dress!); Jeff was the only one who had to say the ‘I Do’ stuff, but I think the 7-circles counted as Amana’s ‘I Do’.

    Ceremony at Boulders Beach

    Ceremony at Boulder's Beach

    The Israeli dancing was a blast. Very energetic and confusing. And all the speeches were lovely. Both of Amanda’s parents have passed away so her older brother gave a speech, and it was great. I nearly cried!

    Chair dance!

    Chair dance!

    And, of course, I closed the party down, requesting pop songs and having a blast with both old and new friends. Quite a fun weekend!

    Alex, Kristen, Andy, Alex, Chrissy, Steffen.

    Alex, Kristen, Andy, Alex, Chrissy, Steffen.

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  • 01Apr

    Frankenstein in the Eastern Cape?

    Andy and I heard this story on the news this morning: A taxi driver in Ngqeleni (near Mthatha) who was shot to death in 2001 has come back from the dead! Dun-dun-duunn!!! Here are a few exerpts from the article:

    The man, identified as Nkosinathi Ntente, who could no longer recall his own age, told his family that he was kidnapped by witches. He had been living in a local forest for the past eight years.

    The guy was shot in the chest during a taxi altercation in the Eastern Cape. He was issued a death certificate after his family identified the body. However, he claims that he attended his own funeral!

    “He [Ntente] told us that he saw something like a picture of himself being shot and suddenly there was blood in the car. He says he lost his mind shortly afterwards.

    Ntente told his family that while driving a taxi on the day of his “death”, he came across two women chasing someone that looked like him and hitting him. He said the women then also hit him with “something” and took him to a forest in Mqanguli.

    “I lived in a Mqanguli forest all along with a shadow. We drank people’s blood because we did not eat food. Now that I am back I cannot eat food but I can only drink water,” Ntente said during a brief interview.

    Now the family is starting to wonder who — or what — they buried.

    We also heard on the radio that the man claims that the witches finally decided to let him go because he was too powerful, and they wouldn’t be able to get him to do evil deeds for them. Fikiswa thinks they returned him because his family must have prayed very hard, and that we must all pray very hard to avoid situations like this.


    ps-April fools! (I think…)

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