Bringing it All Home

I’ve been back in the states for almost a month now so before I become totally re-assimilated I’d like to say a few final words about this crazy adventure that just went by in the blink of an eye.  To ensure that no one gets the wrong idea, let me preface with my closing sentiment about the whole thing:


More on that later.  Let’s get started with these two comparative lists.  I love lists.  And in the true spirit of Peace Corps training (which I did not love, but has certain a nostalgia), I’ve made my list of positives twice as long as my list of negatives.  You win, Peace Corps South Africa: even after two years this volunteer still remembers his training.  Also, I’m told a picture is worth a thousand words, so that puts my positive list around 2000% the size of my negative list.  Now I win.  Anyway…

12 Things I will Miss About South Africa, and the Peace Corps Experience!

(in no particular order)

  • High quality meat, fresh fruit and produce.  Available everywhere, all the time, dirt cheap.

Fruity Limpopo

  • Being “the guru” of computers and technology at school.  People have a lot of confidence in me, and I like it.


  • Freedom from daily rants about American politics.  I guess this is kind of an “anti-miss” since it’s something about America that I didn’t miss in South Africa, but whatever.  American politics = barf.  Washington, pull yourself together or I’ll run away to Africa again!
  • SA24, each and every one of you guys and gals.  What a great group!


  • The exceptional principals and staff I’ve met who care immensely about their schools and strive for improvement, in spite of everything that’s wrong with the education system.  Mr. Murwamila TJ, Mr. Raselabe PI, Mrs. Irene Mhlanga, Mr. Rashamuse TJ and Mr. Selby Tshilimandila (in order of appearance) come to mind immediately.  Many people reading this don’t know these folks, but they’re worth mentioning by name nonetheless.  There are others of course, many whom I didn’t know well enough or meet at all, and South Africa needs more individuals of this caliber.

IMG_2498IMG_1915 IMG_1854IMG_1983

  • Too many other fantastic people I’ve met here.  In the interest of brevity and not forgetting anyone I won’t try to list everyone by name.  You know who you are.  If your picture doesn’t appear, it’s because I don’t have a good one of you so be thankful I didn’t post a bad one.

James + RoyIMG_4214Group with RhinosFunduzi CrewIMG_0155

  • This……. LANDSCAPE!  Oh Venda, you’re too beautiful for words.

STB_0041Someday son, all of this will be yoursBoababs

  • Listening to people talk about me in Tshivenda, thinking I can’t understand what they’re saying, then chiming into the conversation and watching them react.

James the African thumbnail

(I can’t believe this is the only picture of a confused-looking South African I have.  I should have been less polite/discreet with the camera)

  • Cell phone banking.  So convenient.
  • The kids.  Who’da thunk it?  I really will miss ‘em though; when they’re not driving me crazy, they’re pretty cute.

Grant+Seani with PidgeonIMG_1702IMG_1833IMG_2795

  • The immense sense of satisfaction of getting something done, and done right, in spite of all the snares and obstacles that make this place so dysfunctional most of the time.

IMG_0081IMG_0019  WorldMap_Before WorldMap_AfterIMG_3229 Desks Done

Before and after.  You dig?

Special thanks to Hannah Biggie and Irene Mhlanga for organizing the desk restoration, and for taking great photos of the finished project.

  • Rhinoceros!  And all the other adorable wildlife SA has to offer.  But mostly rhinoceros!James and da RhinosJames_Civit James_Giraffe Da Pumbas Da Baby Lions Da Elefunt Da Gemsbok Da Rhino Family

And for all of you comedians/skeptics out there with quips to the effect of: “that is like sooooooooo obviously photoshopped, Higby…..”  Well I say unto thee:

So SarcasticJank

So there.

And now, dear reader, if you’ve had enough sarcasm I suggest you stop at this point because it’s time for the negative list

Six Things I will Never Miss, Ever

  • Harassment.  I do not want to give you money, or my groceries.  Nor do I do not want to marry you, or take care of your children.  And I am so done with being stared at and having to ignore people yelling “white man!” every time I walk anywhere.
  • Dismal work ethics, and just lethargy in general.  It’s 8:30 and you won’t get out of your chair because you’re tired, again?  You can’t come to work because you have personal matters that you failed to deal with at the appropriate time?  You need to cram 10 weeks of lesson plans which you never wrote or taught into your portfolio this afternoon before the school term ends?  If you answer “yes, but…” to questions like these then you are incompetent, and contributing to this country’s manifold problems.  Get serious, stop blaming the kids, and do your job PROPERLY.  And no, I don’t want to help you in your frantic, half-assed rush.  I want to fire you and work with someone dependable and responsible.
  • Taxi rides.  Ugh.  Never thought I’d say this, but fuel efficiency be damned, I do not approve of this system!  Countless hours of time wasted in extreme discomfort aside, the road hazards and violent territorial confrontations are just awful; there’s gotta be a better way.  Also, the inconsistency of minibus taxis enables people to be even more lethargic, further reducing productivity.  Fail.
  • Waiting.  Waiting for a taxi to fill up.  Waiting in a line because there’s one qualified banking clerk for the entire township.  Waiting for a phone call which will never come, because someone who can’t spare R1 airtime for work-related calls will spend R35 to call their girlfriend/boyfriend during work hours.  Waiting for someone, who’s waiting for someone else, who’s waiting for another somebody, who’s waiting for some jackass lying on a couch watching TV, bringing the whole broken system to a grinding halt without a care in the world.
  • Intentional non-communication.  South Africans and SA PCVs know what I’m talking about.  Go ahead and call me culturally insensitive, but this one really grinds my gears.  It has nothing to do with the language barrier.  When I talk to someone, I believe in relevant questions and straight answers.  Reasons, explanations and thought processes.  Rarely do I get any of these things in my conversations here and it kills me.  Sometimes it seems like people just get kicks out of being intentionally vague and withholding information for no reason, at critical times even!  So frustrating.
  • The cycle of poverty.  Orphans beget orphans.  HIV begets HIV.  Stigma begets stigma, ignorance begets ignorance.  This is a vicious cycle that’s been really painful to live in the midst of.

OK so that’s my list-style reminiscence and ranting.  Thanks for listening!

Ug I have to go now and I’m not done with this final entry.  To be continued, AGAIN.  Did I mention among the things I’ll miss about SA is a massive amount of responsibility-devoid FREE TIME which seems like a distant and inconceivable fiction now that I’m back in USA?  Well there’s that.

Can’t leave on a bad note, so….. Captioned Monkeys!

Monkey Lunch Break


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: