Connie in Morocco and Beyond

These are my travel experiences beginning in 2006 with my Peace Corps service in Morocco. At the request of friends and my own desire to document, I continued blogging my journeys to other countries as well as in the U. S. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in South Africa. The content of this blog is mine alone, and does not reflect any position of the U. S. government or the Peace Corps

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Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

The Big Sky country of Montana is home sweet home!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

JACARANDA TREES

One of my most favorite things about being here...these gorgeous trees!

Monday, October 27, 2014

TEACHING AND A CONCERT

I did my second session with young adults this past Saturday morning at the workshops for D-vine Solutions, and will conclude with the final modules this coming Saturday morning.  A good group, and although the presentation venue is not ideal, I think they are learning (and hopefully retaining) new and important concepts to use once they begin earning money.

On Sunday I went to church, then up to Rosebank Mall to pick up a few more items for one of my recent visitors, then walked home.  The Scout leaders who were kind enough to take me to the raft building competition last March came to my (socialization) rescue again.  They picked me up and we went to the Joburg Theater to see Johnny Clegg and his band perform.  It was a wonderful concert and experience.  His is quite a remarkable story; if interested, you can google his name to learn more of his unusual background which includes teaching at a local university. A bit of a renegade kid, he was singing Zulu and playing music with blacks during Apartheid, which of course caused him to be banned from playing in South Africa. Some in the band have been together nearly 30 years.

This week I'll be going with my counterpart to Soweto to teach a group there as well, but a larger age range of attendees.  Soweto is an acronym for SouthWest Townships...and was for years associated with extreme poverty and crime, but is now a city unto itself (over a million people) with nice brick homes (as my counterpart's mother lives in) as well as areas with tin shacks.  It is still a distressed area, but I feel safe with her.

Have been working on my trip photos and elaborating on that posting as well.

Friday, October 24, 2014

PCSA NEWSLETTER ARTICLE

Peace Corps South Africa publishes a newsletter six times a year, with articles written by various volunteers and sometimes staff members,as well.

The most recent Oct.-Nov. edition contains an article written by a PCV whom I worked with my first few months here, I've tried to cut and paste from the actual newsletter to no avail, but here is the copy (note:  creche is the South African term for day-care/pre-school) :

INFORMAL PARTNERSHIPS
While conducting research in villages for my Response project with Operation HOPE, a financial education NGO, I had an opportunity to visit with a community leader who was PCV Laura Bramblett’s host father. He was interested in assisting with the development of a much-needed crèche for the area, and asked if I would visit with him and the woman who he envisioned to be the manager.  I think perhaps his initial purpose was to determine if I might lead him to a source of funding, but I indicated that was not my purpose here and he would need to seek other avenues for that.  Then we had a good discussion, talking about the many factors that needed consideration in starting up a new business.  We rapidly developed a mutual respect for each other.  That session generated a later confidential chat about his personal finances. To me, this is what being a PCV/PCRV is all about.  In addition to an assigned project or work duties, we are to make our knowledge and experience available to anyone who seeks it.  It was a pleasure and joy to have this opportunity to perhaps be of assistance in such a simple way.  Laura will continue the story.
Connie Genger, Johannesburg, PCRV 2014

It was great to connect my host Baba with Connie and I think both parties enjoyed the productive visit. As Connie continued with her financial management project in Joburg, my baba continued progress on getting the creche up and running. I put him in contact with a student doing her practicals at our local hospital and off they went, planning a development day for the creche that involved village efforts as well as a Rotaract club.
I really liked the fact that Connie and I only gave Baba the empowering tools to succeed. He himself utilized them in an effective manner with a terrific result: a functioning creche due to external resources as well as internal fiscal support from the community. I think Peace Corps is supposed to be about empowering them to help themselves and I'm thrilled to say Connie and I were part of a successful venture. Sustainability, here we come.

Laura Bramblett, central KZN, SA26

Thursday, October 02, 2014

OCTOBER HOLIDAY! (a work in progress as photos come in from others)


Susie and John arrived first on Thursday night.  We rode the Gautrain to Pretoria on Friday and saw the Voortrekkers Museum and the Union Buildings, then back to Joburg in time to greet the next group:  Pam and Terry, Dale and Jackie, and Ann..  Saturday we did the Red Bus, seeing the city/area, visiting the Apartheid Museum, then going to Ellis Park for rugby.

Rugby game was a hit with my visitors!  Springboks vs New Zealand.  Same teams as in movie "Invictus" and it couldn't have been a more exciting match~


Deane and Rufo arrived late Saturday night, then Sunday morning our driver picked the ten of us up and we headed to Hoedspruit to a game reserve near Kruger Park, called Tshukudu.  Saw lots of antelope, water buffalo, petted cheetahs and leopards, saw a few elephant and giraffes, rhinos.


Cheetah resting in a tree


Twin termite hills.  Lots of very large termite hills all over the game reserve.



The game reserve owner/driver Chris would rev up his engine a few times, then the lion would roar back in response.  We could see the energy it takes to roar, using the entire diaphragm, but he did it in a very non-threatening way, just laid there and roared.


(to post: photo of Jessica the hippo)

After two nights there, we flew to Livingstone, Zambia, staying at a not-so-great backpackers facility.  Our river safari to Chobe Game Resereve in Botswana was spectacular, seeing hundreds of elephants, water buffalo, many crocs, lots of birds, hippos and always, antelope. The game drive in the afternoon was okay; didn't see any zebras and only a couple of giraffes, as they were in migration.

One of numerous crocodiles we spotted
nice perch for birds in happy hippo land
water buffalo make a good resting spot as well
vultures cleaning up a carcass
warthogs on their knees...eating, not praying
 (one of many places) where the antelope play
catching a little snooze  between safaris
Dr. Livingstone, I presume?  His named island on the Zambia side of the Zambezi, where we all visited, and a few daredevils in our group did the "Devil's Pool."

Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe side.  Look closely and see the people in Devi'ls Pool.  I chickened out before we even got there and believe it was a wise decision!

Do you see the arm of the person on the right?  That's how close they are too the edge of the Falls.
Victoria Falls near Devil's Pool - Zambia side.  Devil's Pool is behind me.



More to come!



Saturday, September 27, 2014

SATURDAY STUDENTS

Operation HOPE was asked to do the new adult curriculum for a group of young adults who are attending numerous courses on Saturday mornings that is sponsored by a religious organization to help them achieve a better life.


I presented to twenty-eight 19-20 year olds, covering the first three modules of the program:  Dignity, Values, and Goals; Wants vs. Needs and Trade-offs; and Money and Budgeting.  They were a great group of young people and it was such a pleasure to do Peace Corps' goals on a direct basis!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL PILOT

Stop Hunger is a local NGO that provides food to needy, including day care centers.  Tshidi has been doing some financial literacy sessions for many of the owners/teachers in a township, and they asked for a training on NGO Management Basics, the other program I designed but not yet tried.

There were 12 women participating, and after they warmed up to me and the content, we had a pretty lively session, ending with their desire to have us return to do more in-depth training on some of the areas we skimmed over and/or didn't have time to cover.  Always leave them wanting more, right?  It was rewarding and I hope to be able to go back in November.

Otherwise, it's been pretty "quiet" (aka boring) both at work and play.  In the evenings and weekends, I watch lots of movies/TV programs stored on my computer, read on my Kindle.  I think my social life/friendships is pretty much with the characters in my stories!  Am seeing some good movies at the theaters for about $4 and don't mind going by myself.  Knowing I'm getting to be a short-timer helps curb my loneliness.

I tend to walk 8-11 hours a week, which is a good thing.  The yoga studio where I went to classes (on a great Groupon deal)  was supposed to have moved and hence closed for a period of time, but sadly, she never re-opened.  I rather enjoyed it and felt it was beneficial to my aging body.  I do have some yoga videos so need to get motivated to do it at home on my own.  My eating during the week is pretty minimalistic and healthy, then I indulge in treats on weekends, same as in U. S. Gotta have some sort of pleasures/rewards here besides good workshops!

Enough mundane stuff for today!  We have a big training on Saturday for a NGO for about 36 young adults.  Will report on that next week.

Friday, September 12, 2014

EIGHT YEARS AGO

On 9/11/2016, I was headed to Morocco for 27 months with the Peace Corps. The plane was fairly empty, and it was a strange feeling to be going to a Muslim country on that day.

As part of that experience, I was involved in training new PCVs and made several trips to Ouarzazate (near the Sahara)...a 90 mile drive (from my village) that took 3 hours in a passenger car...longer by public transportation.  There was a recent article about this road that showed up on FB yesterday.  Here tis:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

TO BEE OR NOT

As I have not a lot to do at work, I offered to help Kai, my landlady who has contracted with the Department of Ed to help run the Spelling Bees, for a few days.  Here is a photo the three top finishers (out of 39 sixth-grade competitors), along with a couple of officials, and Kai at the podium.  As always, it was fun to see the wide variety of physical sizes of this age group.  It was very exciting when it got down to the elimination round. The short little black girl was the winner.

It was very cool that she introduced me as a Peace Corps Volunteer from America who was also a volunteer with Operation HOPE.  Nice when both of those orgs get publicity for what they do.  This is the first ever for South Africa, so there were some glitches but it ran pretty smoothly. Next is the Nationals in October but I'll be on holiday with my American friends at that time.

Monday, September 01, 2014

STROLLIN'

Although I make it a point to walk about an hour a day, it became very clear to me yesterday that my walking was not what it was back home...that is, it's been more like a stroll here!  I did a 10K with a friend, and with her encouragement to go my own speed, walked faster. I met my goal of doing it in 90 minutes, but discovered that now the 15-minute mile is quite  hard work, which it hadn't been so much a year ago. And, I am sore today, primarily in my hips.  So I guess competitive walking is likely no longer in my future.  What's the point if it makes my hurt?  However, there were a lot of older walkers ahead of me, so not sure I'm ready to give  up the ghost yet...(who?  me?  competitive?!)   I'll be posting the official results of the walk when they get them online to see just what the outcome was.

Otherwise, at work I have made the revisions to the adult curriculum except for the case study, which I'll complete this week.  Am trying to set up a week in Limpopo (where I did research) with PCV Gilbert to do the program at the adult learning center there with him either this month or in November.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

UNIQUE AFTERNOON

One of the teachers here has been doing the Operation HOPE financial literacy program for a number of years, and we were invited out to do a "Financial Walk for Freedom" which was done elsewhere on Mandela Day, but since they were on holiday at that time, we did a delayed talk/walk on Monday afternon.
This is the lobby entrance to the facility. The school is located way out in the middle of nowhere, intentionally, to deter tourists, I think.  After all, it is simply a boarding school and not a museum or tourist attraction, but with Oprah's name on it, it is bound to attract the curious.




Ubuntu means "I am because we are."  This is a verse of their school song.  The school's motto is all about Education Is Our Tomorrow.

Two of the learners were the emcees, and wore the uniforms of green and gold.  The other students wore their casual clothes, as there has been a water shortage in the community lately.

Tshidi doing her presentation.
The audience.  The enrollment is about 270; this presentation was just for certain grades; probably about 150 in attendance.

I got a few minutes to talk about the Peace Corps.

Finished up with a walk around the circumference of the property.