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!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

THANK YOU, SOUTH AFRICA!

As I conclude another Peace Corps volunteer service experience on this huge continent,  I leave learning more than I taught and receiving more than I have given.  For a person in endless need of more humility, I pray that the lessons will be sustaining ones.   Coming home again (as I did from Morocco in 2008) at Thanksgiving time, it adds an overwhelming enhanced perception of gratefulness.

I'll conclude my last post with this wonderful quote from a strong, caring, intelligent, diplomatic, and forgiving man, the great Madiba.




Saturday, November 15, 2014

ONE MORE WEEK

Just one more week and I'll be on the plane headed for home!

On Friday, I met with a young woman from Botswana who has recently returned from a four-month visit to the U. S., primarily to attend the Young African Leadership Initiative, then to intern in New York.  She's a financial planner, and very interested in the curriculum I created, and now very excited to go back to her country and establish a collaberative effort for more financial education there.  Her energy and enthusiasm was very fun.

I've had more social activity in this past week than I've had for the past several months.   A woman who was also a presenter at the Saturday morning classes invited a husband and wife team who were involved and me to her home for dinner.  Very enjoyable; I laughed more than I have for a long time. Today I went to an AA meeting then breakfast with the woman who organized my birthday dinner last May.  Later my counterpart Tshidi picked me up and took me to dinner at her new home.

I'll go into the office one last time on Monday, to Pretoria for med exam Tuesday, and back home to divest myself of my belongings on Wednesday as well as a farewell lunch with my NGO.  Thursday back to Pretoria I go for two nights for final processing out of the Peace Corps.  As eager as I am to get back to the U. S., I must admit that it's going to be a bit emotional, considering all the varied experiences I've had the past ten months.

So glad I made this choice.  Looking forward to whatever is next.  At this moment, all I have on my mind is family and friends.

Monday, November 10, 2014

REWARDING WEEKEND

I was invited to attend a graduation ceremony on Saturday for the 35 completers of the six-month Saturday class held by D-Vine Solutions, at which I instructed for three Saturdays.  It was a grand affair, with lots of certificate-awarding and speeches and food.  I had an opportunity to tell the audience briefly about the Peace Corps and Operation HOPE.  Also was presented with a huge fruit basket in appreciation.

Then on Sunday, I received a surprise recognition at church for my volunteer service here, and was presented with a white candle with my name on it.  Very touching.  I will take the candle home to use as a Peace Candle one Sunday in my home church in Billings.

Rev. Vusi expressing appreciation

Blessings and Prayers for me

Friday, November 07, 2014

MS. IN-BETWEEN

This post, as are many of them, is mainly a journal for my own record-keeping, so readers will likely find it a bit boring or maybe repetitive.

As I know I have indicated in previous blogs, my life as a Peace Corps (Response) Volunteer this time around is so totally different that when I was a regular volunteer in Morocco 6 years ago (and that of the PCVs here in SA).  In many ways, much easier and nicer, in many other ways, much more difficult and unpleasant.

It is great to have hot showers and flush toilets, a wide variety of things to buy in very modern stores, the ability to go to movies and a church.

The one thing that I am showing you here is the thing I DO have a bit in common with most South African PCVs is the way clothes are laundered.  They use a big plastic tub and generally have a clothes line in their host family's yard.  I have my kitchen sink and a little clothes rack I bought.   Initially, I hired my landlady's "helper" two days a month to do my laundry (since housecleaning was for the same cost, she also did that, kind of).  But that entailed using my landlady's washing machine and clothes line, and just didn't work out too  great.  And, I wasn't keen on the cost.  It was cheap by U. S. standards but not by PC stipend.  There are no laundromats in this area, so to take it to a laundry entailed getting hired transport, so came to terms that hand wash was the way to go.  It's a very long process, as you can see...one sheet at a time, a few articles of clothing, etc.  But, here I wear the same outfit at least 3 times (at home clothes even more).  Since I really do have a lot of time on my hands, it's really quite workable.  And inexpensive!

My washing "machine"
My clothes dryer

But what is a bit bothersome is that I really don't fit in the world of the people that live in this neighborhood...which is upper middle class, I'd say.  Most of them work, have one-two cars, and domestics who live on site or come daily or a few times a week to clean house, cook, care for the children, walk the dogs, do the gardening, etc.  During the week when I am walking in the area, I see a few (white) residents walking their dogs or strollers, but the majority of those outside the walls (as most homes are walled) are the domestics.

Financially, my PC stipend is far beyond their compensation, I am sure, but much below that of the neighborhood.  Because of my working during the week and the walls, there really has been no way for me to meet anyone so it is not at all like the village sense of community.  The only person who has asked me to dinner has been my counterpart, Tshidi, who drove an hour in from Soweto (which area I believe I was not to ever go to) to fetch me, cooked for me, then brought me back home.  If I were in a village, I probably would have more invitations than I would want!

I also am in no-woman's land with the Peace Corps.  I am a Volunteer with them, but for the most part am outside their radar...and I can understand that and the reason why, but it doesn't change the fact that I have very little connection/networking there either.

So it's been a time of isolation for me, but as with all life experiences, another learning time from which I have derived benefits. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

SOWETO SESSIONS

Continuing to do pilot sessions of my curriculum, working with NGOs that are affiliated with the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.


The NMCF helps fund many NGOs such as Emseni, who sponsored this group in Soweto. The woman with the red top was struggling with the activities that calculated interest charges on credit cards.  As I stopped to assist, realized she could add and subtract, but could not multiply or divide.  The young man thought I was "brilliant" because I was doing the multiplication so quickly on the flip chart.  But, during the Saturday morning classes of young adults in the city, those without calculators were not exactly "brilliant" either.

The class was conducted at a secondary school.  It was challenging as nearly everyone came late and at different times.   The venue was very "basic" by our standards, but the attendees were most appreciative of our time and the beneficial things that they learned.  It makes it all worthwhile.

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.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

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

A much awaited vacation to see animals (first week) and  beautiful scenery (second week).  Nine people joined me the first week, then seven for most of the second week.   (P. S. Don't forget that if you click on the photo, it enlarges it)

Susie Weinreis and John Enright arrived first on Thursday night.  We rode the Gautrain to Pretoria on Friday, got a taxi,  and toured the Voortrekkers Museum and the Union Buildings (the primary capitol of SA), then back to Joburg in time to greet the next group:  Pam and Terry Keel, Dale Davis and Jackie Warner, and Ann Sadler.  Saturday we did the Red Bus hop on/hop off, 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~many locals later told me it was the best Rugby game ever in South Africa.


Deane Bell and Rufo Calvo 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,  a few elephant and giraffes, rhinos.

Leopard resting in a tree

Morning bush walk.  Susie petting the cheetahs

Twin termite hills.  Lots of these very large 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.

These rehabilitated rhinos are getting supplemental feed near the game reserve.  Their horns were cut off to make them less vulnerable to poachers, but even so, some poachers will still kill them for the amount of horn that is left, as the black market value is so high.



(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 Reserve 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 River, 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 Devil's 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 to the edge of the Falls (a 300' drop)
Victoria Falls near Devil's Pool - Zambia side.  Devil's Pool is behind me.  On to the Cape!


Boulders Beach -  Cape Point.  We hired a driver and van and spent the day going to the southernmost point of South Africa on the Cape of Good Hope, had a wonderful lunch, saw these wonderful creatures as well.

Pam and Terry at Good Hope

 Took a ferry ride over to Robben Island, where Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 23 years.  The guides at the now-defunct prison facility are former political prisoners.  Unfortunately, he has some interesting things to say, but it was very difficult to understand his heavy accent.


View of the coast line driving back to Cape Town from the Point.


Jackie and Dale enjoying another great lunch, this time at Camp's Bay alongside the Indian Ocean.


My roommate Ann and I showing off our tribal paint at a restaurant in Cape Town.  A multi-course dinner following a drumming lesson.  More fun!

 One day John, Susie and I walked from the wonderful guest house where we were staying up to Signal Hill, aka the Lion's Rump.  Table Mountain is in the rear, and most of us took the cable car up there the preceding day.  After a stop at Hermanus to see the whales (not as many as I had hoped, and none were breeching) they took off on their own the last few days, so I was the van driver for the remaining six of us on the Garden Route.  Had a harder time with the manual transmission than I did driving on the left side!
Zip lining at Storms River.  Stopped short so had to bring myself in to the platform.

Suspension bridges at Storms River (Pam and Terry on bridge)

Friday, October 17, 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

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!