• 28Jun

    Lights, camera, Move a Mountain!

    One of ASAP’s longstanding supporters (and incidentally the woman who introduced us to Priscilla) has organized a filmmaker to do a promo docu-video for ASAP. Yes, I was also trying to work on something, but Move A Mountain Productions are real professionals! The film crew consisted of Andy & me, Priscilla, Linet (ASAP’s office manager and all around can’t-live-without awesome woman), Elizabeth (the producer and filmmaker), and Elio (the editor-turned-camera-man). We made a good team! On the first day Elizabeth said we should all throw in our ideas, that there was no ‘director’ which made us a bit nervous. Having made a 1/2 dozen Potato Riot flicks, we know how easily there can be too many cooks in one kitchen. But actually, we all worked well together. While Elizabeth took notes and suggested shots, Elio filmed, Scilla worked with the interview-ees, Linet got forms signed and helped translate, and Andy & I did sound, lighting, and production stills.

    Linet, Boniswa, Priscilla, Elizabeth, Elio, Alex (photo by Andy)

    Linet, Boniswa, Priscilla, Elizabeth, Elio, Alex (photo by Andy)

    The first leg of filming took place in Mount Frere. We filmed at the home of one of our favorite village health workers, Mrs. Tshalana. She invited her sangoma friends, and there were about 30 kids there, singing and dancing when we arrived. The weather wasn’t great–lots of wind–but we still managed to get a few interviews of Boniswa and Mrs. Tshalana in the garden. And Andy and I finally got to try Xhosa beer! It was … interesting. It looked a bit like hot chocolate, and tasted thick and very yeasty. I’m pretty sure it won’t become my new drink of choice.

    Andy tucking into the Xhosa beer

    Andy tucking into the Xhosa beer

    The next day (my 30th birthday!) we filmed at a local JSS to get the “kids walking to school” shot. We then rushed out to another school (which, though it was described as “not very far”, turned out to be almost an hours drive) to interview one of our OVC. He’s one of the kids Andy has been tutoring in maths, and he is such a sweet kid. His English has improved immeasurably since he has switched from junior high to high school. Also, working with Andy has probably helped, too. He was very nervous and tongue-twisted on camera, but he talked about how much Hlomelikusasa and African Solutions has helped him over the years with school uniform & supplies, and helped him to feel the same as all the other kids.

    Filming at Osborne Senior School

    Filming at Osborne Senior School

    Then we had to rush back to Mrs. Lila’s, another village health worker. She is an adorable woman who doesn’t speak much English, but she has a fantastic garden and an uncanny knack for getting the orphans in her area put on child care and foster grants. She’s a saint. And she was a really good sport about the filming. Scilla really wanted a shot of a VHW fetching eggs that had been laid by indigenous hens and holding the egg up to the camera to say “One egg can provide the protein needed for a child.” It took a few takes, but Mrs. Lila nailed it!

    All you need is one egg...

    All you need is one egg...

    Stay tuned for the second installment of our filmmaking adventures!

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  • 16Jun

    Beat It!

    While we were away, ASAP organized a workshop series with a non-profit called Siyayinqoba Beat It! to help our staff and village health workers become qualified HIV/AIDS peer educators. Everyone around here has heard the requisite AIDS awareness speech, but there is a lot of AIDS denial, and some people who still think AIDS is a curse. Siyayinqoba aims to give the scientific information on the virus—where it originates, how it spreads, how treatment works—in a visual way to overcome language and literacy barriers.

    Each participant was given a certificate, and soon Hlomelikusasa will be sent a 21-part DVD series so that our VHW can become peer educators and show the DVDs in their rural location (though not everyone has electricity or DVD players, so I’m not entirly clear on that).  The buzz on the workshop is that it was a huge success, and everyone found it incredibly informative. They’d never thought about the virus in such scientific terms, and it was eye-opening for everyone. I only wish we could have been there to participate!

    Certified and ready to peer-educate!

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  • 11Jun

    We’re back!

    After a lengthy haitus—during which we went to the beautiful, lovely, fun, and unforgettable wedding of Jen & John Hassett…


    What a gorgeous couple!

    …and celebrated Andy’s doctoral degree at Columbia’s commencement ceremonies…

    The Grad

    Doctor O'Neill, at your service

    —we’re finally back in Mount Frere! Freezing, freezing, freezing cold Mount Frere. So far we’re off to a slow start. Having been away for so long, we’re not hip to the current day-to-day activities going on at Hlomelikusasa. We’re still “supposedly” being evicted, though our evictors have promised to find us a new office, so I guess we’re waiting for that. At this rate, I’m not sure we’ll still be in Africa when Hlom. finally gets relocated!

    While we were in New York Andy and I went to visit 2 schools on Long Island who have been raising money for ASAP’s School to School program. I have been trying to jump-start a penpal relationship with the American kids and some of the orphans around Mount Frere. After our nightmare presentation (we’d prepared a somewhat more cerebral discussion than the roomful of 4 year olds could handle) they gave us a big stack of letters to bring back to the OVC here. So, once settled back in Mount Frere, I went to one of our local schools and had the kids read aloud a few of the American letters. It was a blast.


    The kids in the US wrote lovely letters, but they do have a very different lifestyle. It was pretty hard for the Mount Frere youth to wrap their heads around sentences like “I enjoy swimming in my pool and sailing in one of my family’s boats,” or “I have three dogs and my favorite sport is Jujitsu.” But I think they had fun, and I’m going to pick up their response letters tomorrow–here’s hoping they make sense!


    I am hoping to continue the School to School program when we return to the states. If anyone knows of a school (elementary or high school) who might like to become a part of this program, please let me know! The US schools on Long Island have been raising funds through donations, bake sales, lemonade stands etc. to help orphans with school uniforms, learning materials, and also furniture for classrooms. It’s a great project.

    More posts to come. Thanks for tuning in!

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  • 02Jun

    The Hawker

    What do you need?

    Come on, you can tell me.

    What would strike your fancy?

    Could it be … a battery-operated chicken, perched in a nest, that sings “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”

    The Hawker and his chickens

    Yes, an electronic chicken—just what I’ve always wanted!

    The hawker aims to please.

    He pushes the chickens pretty hard, but we’ve never caved. (Alhtough we did see one on the mantel of a VHW once, so they’re obviously a market for them.) But electronic chickens aren’t for everyone. We were, however, talked into buying a casette tape. The Mauve-a-tron is old skool, and we like to play tapes when we’re feeling nostalgiac. The Hawker mostly has bad gospel, but one day he flashed The Trojan Hits of Eric Donaldson. We couldn’t resist. (Nokulunga sold us on him by saying she used to groove to his records, and that he’s South African. He’s Jamaican, but its the thought that counts.)

    Eric Donaldson -- reggae master

    Seeing how much we loved that tape, the Hawker tried to tempt us again. He came in one day, very excited, and told us he had something very special, and then whipped out a pristine Dolly Parton tape. What self-respecting umlungu doesn’t like blonde, white chicks singin’ country music? Us, apparently. This made the Hawker very sad. But then we bought a key chain from him, which perked everyone right up.

    We would probably enjoy the Hawker’s random visits a lot more if he didn’t completely reek. He smells like sweat and urine, and the smell lingers long after he’s left the office. I know that’s mean to point out since the guy probably doesn’t have easy access to a shower, but I wanted to give you the complete picture.

    ps-I’m taking chicken orders starting now.

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