Typical thoughts on a day in my African life

Nov 8th 2011

Since arrival I’ve been having some recurring thoughts.  At first it was “Now where the hell did I park my car this ti……Oh yeah, that’s right.  Never mind.”  Then I kept thinking “I would do horrible, horrible things for a 30 minute high-pressure shower right now”.  Now the thoughts I keep having are either “……..This is so ridiculous!” or, predictably, “Sweet Jesus, it is hot.”  The former thought usually occurs at school, like whenever I take a moment to think about what’s actually going on.  Kids running around full tilt in and out of classrooms, yelling at full volume, final exams right around the corner, and are we teachers worried?  Not as worried as we are about this scary new policy from the department of education.  Not only do we have to submit assessments in digital form (what the hell is a digital form?) but they must be formatted to the DOE’s PFECA standards (I’m so confused), reviewed by at least 2 other educators (does the American count as an educator?) and they must be in English (Yuck).  Seriously though, the department has this awful habit of sending intentionally longwinded, bureaucratic and trivial instructions around exam time.  It’s like they’re trying to challenge and test the intelligence of the school staff instead of simply being clear in what’s required.  And yes, the teachers are understandably pissed, so what happens is they take time away from class to deal with this headache.  So as I’m on my way from class, dodging uncontrollable high-speed fifth graders whilst trying not to drop my lunch, books and several stacks of boring paperwork, I’m thinking “….This is so ridiculous”.  The other time I end up having this thought is when I need to use the dreaded public taxis.  I mean damn driver, you’ve been honking at that old lady for like 5 minutes.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want a lift.  Maybe you’d have better luck if your vehicle wasn’t already stuffed to the gills.  I’m sorry, but I still kind of hate dealing with the transport scene.  One thing is I’ve always had a kind of claustrophobia when it comes to lack of elbow room and whatnot, and these drivers really don’t leave until every seat is taken.  And then of course I get the whole stunned silence, wide-eyed wonder, is-there-really-a-white-guy-in-this-taxi effect, which by this point has really lost its charm.  The final nail in the coffin is that no matter how hot it gets, people don’t open the windows.  This stopped frustrating me quite so much once I figured out the reason:  It’s because of the dust.  Now of course if it were my choice, I’d say “who cares about the damn dust?  It’s hot!” but folks around here see things a little differently.  It’s kind of like a vendetta against the dust or something:  People carry polishing rags so that their shoes are always shined and spotless, they’ll wash their car twice or three times a day if it’s windy, yards (which are pretty much made of dust) are swept constantly and vigorously and nobody opens their car windows unless the vehicle is stationary.  I see it as a kind of vindictive attitude: “I don’t care that we live in one of the hottest and most arid climates on the planet, I’m NOT letting this dust make me or my property dirty”.  It’s actually sort of admirable, when I’m not sweating like a hog while being squashed between two strangers during the first 5 minutes of an hour ride to Thohoyando.


One Response to “Typical thoughts on a day in my African life”

  1. Susan Conklin Says:

    Dear James, You are wonderful to share your experiences and your inner reactions. I love how real you are in relaying your experiences. This also taps the wisdom in me from living many more years and gaining other perspectives. The thing about service and Jesus is that we never know when we are called to do what and for how long. I admire you for taking this journey with to South Africa. It occurs to me that the journey may go farther into Life and culture than you expected. Ah! It’s amazing the adjustments we make as we are sculpted into new human beings! Susan

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