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November Update

November was an interesting month. It started off with a bag, Obama’s election and lots of celebrations in the USA and the RSA(Republic of South Africa). From the last post, you know that we stayed up all night and had a nice party. For most of November, I did nothing. November is the month in the school year when the students take an end of the year examination on all the material that they have learned. It usually constitutes 75% or more of their final grade, though not officially. With no teaching going on and since I am supposed to be working with the teachers on workshops and other teaching activities, I don’t have much opportunity. November is the month that I am most concerned with the South African education system. No teaching or learning seems to go on. This happens from Grade 12 students, called the Matrics, down to Grade 1 students. I am not a Primary School teacher, but it shocks me that they are having examinations at all, much less year-long summative examinations.

I spent my free time going to the Youth Centre, planning the Longtom Fundraiser, and working in the garden. For Thanksgiving, we had a visitor in Joey Cardella, a Peace Corps volunteer who arrived with us in July. He had been working in Mpumalanga and in Limpopo. Both projects have been unsuccessful for him for last of initiative and medical problems by his boss. While his work had been frustrating, he came in to town with a positive and upbeat attitude. It was great to see him. Joey taught me some cool stuff with Picasa on editing pictures. (I will try to post them on my PicasaWeb Albums soon.) For Thanksgiving dinner, we had a traditional meal of Enchilladas and Nachos Grandes. Four PCVs in Jericho, seeing the village and generally shooting the breeze. It was a lot of fun.

At the end of his visit, a family member, Poppy, had his wedding to longtime girlfriend, Karabo. It was very neat to see the culture and the differences between Tswana culture and American culture. For instance, the wedding was in Rustenburg, about 2 hours by car away from Jericho. Poppy’s mother and father (our host parents, Mama and Ntate) and the family did not attend the wedding. The wedding ceremony was a traditional affair, with only a small number of people present (as far as we can tell, only Poppy and his children. Maybe an uncle.). After the ceremony early Saturday morning, they drove in a caravan from Rustenburg to Jericho. Jericho was a grand party where everyone was invited to celebrate the wedding. Anyone from the village was allowed in to partake in the food and drink. I explained to Mama that it is the opposite in the US. Almost anyone can go to the wedding ceremony, but only selected individuals are invited to the reception.

Last December, Robi and I started a newsletter that was -written and created by the out-of-school youth in Jericho village. We had a great group that came up with wonderful articles and we made a top-notch newsletter, through the blood, sweat, and tears of Robi’s editing prowess. Unfortunately, in January, when the newsletter was ready to go to print, there was no money for ink to print it. And the newsletter died. No one pushed it, including us. So it had a premature death. While at the Youth Centre in November, I was asked to start up the Voice of the Youth newsletter again. So, I spent a frantic one-week period putting together a 12 page proposal for funds from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Volunteer Activity Support and Training (VAST) programme. I got the proposal done during the week prior to Poppy’s wedding, during Joey’s visit, and submitted it on time just before the December 1 deadline. (Since then, the funding was approved and it began in earnest in February, but more on that later.)

So November was quiet in the middle, bookended by a very exciting time.


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