Connie in Morocco and Beyond

These are my travel experiences beginning with my Peace Corps service in Morocco from 2006-2008. 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., as well as my service as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in South Africa for most of 2014. This blog will continue as my travel journal.

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Location: Billings, Montana, United States

The Big Sky country of Montana is home sweet home!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CALIFORNIA FUN IN THE SUN

 Went to San Diego with daughter Marci to walk/run the Tri-City marathon and half in Carlsbad with daughter Heide and her husband Jim, and granddaughter Jasmine.  Here we are at the expo day before, followed by a trip to Coranado Island for see the great old hotel and, of course, have ice cream!.
Perfect weather, fantastic course and volunteer supporters, beautiful route along the ocean.  I just got partial top braces a few days before so was struggling a bit with my mouth getting ripped up with wires.  (Correcting a tooth that got cock-eyed from a fall on a hike a few years ago)

Friday, January 02, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Celebrated the New Year with a trip to West Yellowstone with daughters Marci and her family and Cinda and her son Kellen.  Did the snow coach tour to Old Faithful, stopping at numerous thermal features throughout the day, saw lots of bison, a few elk, coyotes right at Old Faithful scavenging for tourists' food remains (not a good thing) bald eagles, other birds.  Was a great day!  Here I am with my youngest grandchild shortly before the geyser erupted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PASSING THE PEACE

Last Sunday I lighted the Peace Candle from my South African church and Rev. Steve read a letter sent by Rev. Vusi.  A wonderful exchange of blessings from one country to another.

Friday, December 05, 2014

GUATEMALA, ANYONE?

Have been relatively busy getting settled back into my house, catching up with friends and family, and now interviewing applicants for my team for the Habitat for Humanity Global Village build in Guatemala in March.  http://www.habitat.org/gv/trip/GV15256.  Am planning to do a two week Spanish immersion prior to the build, most likely staying in two different locales.  Maybe this time I'll get past "hola" and "gracias"!

Looking forward to Christmas with two of my daughters and their families here, then going to CA to do a half-marathon (walk)with my daughter and granddaughter there (along with my daughter from SLC) mid-January.

Wednesday, November 19, 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 from this diverse country of South Africa 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.

Sunday, November 09, 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!