Monday, March 28, 2011

Manis, Pedis & Outhouses

(Written on 2/28/2011 in Isandlwana, South Africa)

I hate to brag (well, not really) but I am AWESOME at carrying buckets of water on my head!  Oh yes my friends….I am a water bucket carrying fool.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

Does this make it worth 2,000 words?
Today was my first day immersed in my friend Katie’s world in Isandlwana, South Africa.  After unbelievable hospitality with the Kramers and the Lambs, this is a stark contrast (not to say Katie isn’t hospitable – but more so that this is a life I’m not accustomed to).  This morning we woke up to the roosters crowing and doves using Katie’s tin roof as a landing pad.  At 5:30 (yes, you read that correctly…5:30 AM), we started the morning routine.
Katie's house

From the outside
We boiled water from the river to pour into a bucket so I could “shower.”  Katie was impressed at how quickly I caught on to splashing water over myself with a coffee cup.  I was more impressed with the fact that her bucket was half as full as mine.  Bucket envy?  Minimal water usage envy?  Not sure how to phrase that one…
After a quick bite to eat (yogurt and granola, banana and toast), we trotted off to school.  Half way down the dirt path we were greeted by some children living in the huts nearby.  They wanted us to hold hands with them all the way – I think my child was more stunned than anything (I stick out like a sore thumb). 

The "road" to school

Check out my sweet outfit - Katie made fun of me the entire way
When we got to school there was a morning assembly with all the kids.  They sang and prayed in harmony but all eyes were transfixed on me – this alien from another world.  The kids giggled and laughed when Khethiwe (Katie’s name in Zulu) introduced me and explained that I’m from America and they need to help me with my Zulu.

As the kids scampered off to class Katie told me that when teachers were gone for the day, their kids were left in their classrooms alone – can we say “lawsuit” in the U.S.?! I didn’t understand why students should be at school if they’re not working or learning, so Katie and I decided to create a game of Bingo for an abandoned 6th grade class.
Since there were only 4 columns, we cleverly renamed this “Yebo!” or “yes!” in Zulu.  It was a struggle to explain the game in broken English and Zulu, but I felt like we accomplished something – some simple math and order.  They probably despised me for ruining their social day….for some reason this brings me back to my Middle School report cards that read “socializes too much during class time.”  I always resented that comment – I was just exercising my language abilities.
As the school whistle blew (really more like a combination of a fire alarm and a vacuum), kids and teachers stormed out of classrooms, and Khethiwe and her host mom and I started our 30 minute stroll back to her hut.  I was thankful to see the nice, clean outhouse (relative to those at the schools), where at least I only had to smoosh (not Jersey Shore smoosh, but “kill smoosh”) only a handful of mosquitos before squatting over the toilet.  And after a few girly chats (I mean, Katie and I might be in Africa, but we are STILL the same girls J) we heated up some dinner.
Thankfully tonight’s meal wasn’t as tragic as last night’s attempt at some horrid, canned meat concoction.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I like a good SPAM sandwich, SPAM musubi, or really anything with SPAM.  This was a whole different kind of canned meat – my gag reflexes were awakened with the mere smell as we attempted to char it to take away the flavor and texture.  It was an exercise in vain and after choking down a few pieces we threw it to the dogs.  Looked like it would be another night of carbs…

I could not even stomach 3 tiny pieces in my pasta

Katie...seriously terrified of the canned, corned meat
Speaking of a lack of protein and iron (remember…I’m a carnivore), every animal that dies here gets eaten.  The other day we saw a group of 12 boys (about 6 – 13 years old each) hoisting a dead goat into a wheelbarrow and rolling it down the road.  Hmmmm…interesting.  For your sake, I didn’t take a picture of it stuffed into the cramped space with its neck all twisted and turned…I’m sure you can imagine that “1000 words” for yourself.
So far life in Isandlwana isn’t too far from what I expected.  Actually, it’s exactly what I expected.  And I love it for that.  It’s a refreshing breath of life and a wakeup call.  The other day one of the dear friends I spent time with in Johannesburg mentioned her minimalist childhood that was marked by the presence of only utilitarian items.  In their house they didn’t have enough to buy more than the things that were useful or needed. 
My life in the U.S. is marked by abundance – shoes I don’t need (my dad counted them and I refused to know the number), clothes I don’t need, dinners out, manis and pedis (sorry Julep – in reality your membership is a luxury and not a necessity), and much, much more.  Although I don’t need these things in my life, I also realize that they are pleasures I enjoy. 
To me, those luxuries are special because they often include the joy of friends and families – we gather around unnecessary activities – shopping, pampering, and eating out.  And sharing with loved ones is what brings me the most happiness.  Rather than feel laden with guilt about the things that I can afford, I prefer to feel blessed, to give thanks, and to share those blessings with others.  If I can live within my means, splurge on my luxuries, and still give back to others then I shouldn’t force myself to feel guilt and shame.
My thought for you today…take a look at your luxuries and your necessities.  What is it that you could spare and why?  And what is it that you wouldn’t want to live without and why?  It’s always held true for me that answering “why” I indulge in certain luxuries helps me appreciate it, or recognize if it’s something that I should eliminate from my life.
And my thought for me today…add to my list: a man who can lounge at a boutique hotel on the beach one day, and roll up his sleeves to dig a ditch for a community in need the next. J


  1. I love it! I'm going to steal your add-to-my-list item: a man who can lounge at a boutique hotel on the beach one day, and roll up his sleeves to dig a ditch for a community in need the next

  2.'s a good one right?!


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