Greetings from South Africa

Pretoria, South Africa- for the Grateful Web
Johannesburg, South Africa- for the Grateful Web

Just to let you know, I'm in Pretoria, South Africa, to see the dentist.  It looks like I may be here until the end of next week, August 7th, and I don't have much to do, so if you want to write, I will certainly have the time to write you back!  The PC Medical office in Tanzania sent me here because the dentist in Dar es Salaam thought I needed a root canal and a crown, and there is no one there who is trained to do these things.  The dentist here, however, says I don't need a root canal, YEAH! Only a crown, but it will still take about a week and a half for this.

Usually from Tanzania we are sent to Nairobi, but currently we are not allowed to travel there because of a ban issued by the State Department.  Apparently links have been found between the diamond and tanzanite mining companies in Kenya with Al Qaeda, and the British and American governments are making a big deal out of it.  People who I have talked to from Kenya think this is all totally absurd, and are pleading for the ban to be lifted because, as one of them said, "the tourism industry has been brought to its knees."  British Airways have cancelled their flights to Nairobi since about the middle of May. 

Also to let you know, Johannesburg and Pretoria are really not as dangerous as their reputation suggests.  I flew into Johannesburg earlier this week, and everyone I have met has insisted on this.  However, they say it is still smart to be precautious.  From what I've seen so far, nearly everything here is exactly like in America!  The only differences are people drive on the left side of the road, have mostly German vehicles: Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW, and most of the signs are in Afrikaans, that funky language that is the derivative of Dutch.  Besides that, Pretoria could be any college town in the Southeastern US!  There are tree-lined streets, stylish residential areas, good restaurants, lots of nature preserves and parks, and many young people out and about, riding mountain bikes and walking.  This is what I've seen.  But from what I've heard, Pretoria and Johannesburg give the impression that this is first-world country, but once you get out in the bush, it becomes obvious that South Africa really is third world.  The disparities are enormous!  Only about 15% of South Africans are of European descent, yet almost all of them live within the greater Johannesburg and Pretoria metropolitan areas, giving the impression that more than half the population here is white.  It is obvious though; that help is needed otherwise Peace Corps would not be here.

Pamela's stories from Africa

- for the Grateful Web

Hi everyone!  Hawajambo wote?

I returned to my village 6 days ago, and have been adjusting well despite a few struggles.  Being in the States ruined me in some ways!  I had a fabulous time there, enjoying all the luxuries that are so often taken for granted, such as daily hot showers, driving, a vast variety of food, comfortable chairs, clean stuff, wine and GOOD BEER.  And of course above all else, I immensely enjoyed spending time with family and friends.  Other volunteers that have gone back to the States warned me that everything would be so strange and that I might have a hard time relating to people.  However despite having felt a bit repulsed by our greed (which repulsed me before I left) I otherwise did not at all feel out of place.  With family and friends, I felt more connected to them than ever before.  Everything felt so comfortable and so much like HOME.  
The two weddings I was lucky to attend were very special times.  My friend Lori had a very simple yet elegant wedding set in an old mansion bed and breakfast, catered with Indian food and a scrumptious chocolate strawberry cake that she made herself!  My sister had the big traditional wedding, quite extravagant yet earthy, with gorgeous yellow and orange roses, a hummer limo, huge gourmet buffet at a country club and a raging dance party.  Good times all around, with so many friends and family in town!  Time of course flew by way to fast.
The Wednesday after my sister's wedding, I got on a plane again for Tanzania, reminding myself I have only 8 months left.  All my flight connections went smoothly, even having a 3 hour emergency landing in Goose Bay, Quebec to let off a sick person.  I spent Friday in Dar taking care of business related matters, and all day Saturday on the beach, where I ended up sleeping off most of my jet lag.  A great place to do it!  Sunday I took a bus to Mafinga, and Monday returned to the village.
I returned to find my house and everything in it intact, except there was dirt everywhere that had fallen from the ceiling or blown in, my clothes cabinet and all my clothes inside and my bed and bedsheets were infected with mildew, weeds had overtaken my garden, one of my (thought to be) hens turned into a rooster, and my cat was missing!  She later turned up; I discovered she had kittens in the forest behind the house because she apparently was scared of my guard who slept there every night.  On Thursday she finally brought them (4 of them!) to live with us.  I love having kittens!  Other things to be happy about (after cleaning and washing everything)  is returning to the awesome natural beauty I am surrounded by, the peaceful solitude, being out on my bike again, and my very welcoming village friends. 
I brought back almost as much stuff as I brough to America - all gifts - but to America I brought baskets, wood carvings, batiks, and fabrics, whereas to Tanzania I brought M&Ms, sweaters and sweatshirts (thanks Mom and Dad and Vic!), potholders, calendars, candles, jewelry, and bubbles.  They LOVE everything I brought for them, especially the jewelry and bubbles.  Even the adults have never seen bubbles before and get quite a kick out of them!
My last 8 months here I'm sure will go fast, because I have plenty to keep me busy!  This month I'll continue teaching English at the school, organize a second beekeeping seminar, begin making fuel-efficient stoves, and track down another place to buy modern breed roosters.  The Rhode Island Reds I brought a few months ago are not getting it on with the local hens!  (Any advice in this area would be much appreciated!  My uncle suggested country music, but I haven't tried this yet.)  The first week of May will be Girls' Empowerment Camp, same as last year but this year at an Italian convent (= good food!).  Then mid-May I'll head to Dar to pick up my friend Jamie from Alaska.  She'll be here for almost a whole month and we're doing everything there is to do here - safari, village, Zanzibar, and most exciting, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! 
I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated money for my students.  I now have enough to take (maybe 30!) primary students on safari, buy several books for the new library, and pay secondary school fees for at least 3 maybe 4 students.  I'm still in the process of organizing everything now, but as soon as I can I'll be sending you pictures of the students and hopefully letters from them.  *** If you haven't donated but would still like to, it's not too late.  You can still send checks addressed to me (my mom has power of attourney) at my parents' address.  They'll deposit them in my account there, I'll withdraw the funds from an ATM in Dar, then deposit them in the account I am setting up here.  Wanafunzi wanawashukuru sana!  The students thank you very much!