Friday, January 26, 2007

Goings On at Refeng-Thabo

I have just concluded my third week at Refeng-Thabo and wanted to post some photos of my students and the school. Last week we had a track meet against the other school in town, which is a school that had formerly been completely white. Refeng-Thabo students did very well and all of the students were excited to have their pictures taken. The facilities at the former white school are drastically different (and better) than Refeng-Thabo's facilities. Though the school population at both schools is almost completely black, it is clear that the schools were set up to keep the opportunities that each group will have separate and unequal.

My students have been so thankful for the donation of atlases by Jonathan Senn, of Booth-Fickett. Whenever they come out, the students pour over them because they are so beautiful. I took several pictures today of students working together (which they do very nicely!) on an atlas project. I plan to print several photos for Mr. Senn as a Thank You card, but in the meantime, Refeng-Thabo students wish to thank him for his very valuable donation.

All is going well at school and everyone has been very helpful. The students are getting used to my accent and I am working on my Sesotho and Zulu, which always gets a laugh from the students. I've mastered "enter class" "You're being noisy" and "sit down" as well as greetings and good-byes.

I've finally been able to upload photos, so I've added quite a few to previous posts. We've taken over 500 photos already and are sure that we'll take thousands before we leave. It's hard to take a bad picture here as the landscape and the people are absolutely beautiful!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Kate and Andy's Weekend Trips

There is absolutely nothing to do in Tweeling on the weekend, so we've decided to have every weekend be an excursion farther into South Africa. The first weekend that we were here we visited Clarens Golden Gate National Park. The park is an hour and a half from our home and is absolutely beautiful. The town of Clarens offered restaurants and B&B's, both of which were a treat. The town is beautiful and we
were awed by the fields of sunflowers that are in bloom on the ride south from Tweeling. Free State is famous for its sunflowers, which are gorgeous and stretch as far as you can see.

Last weekend we visited the Drakensburg Mountains, southeast of Tweeling and on the border of Lesotho. We watched baboons in the Royal Natal National Park and hiked through the park to a series of beautiful waterfalls. On Sunday we went on a tour/hike from the guest house where we stayed to Sentinel Peak. The misty mountain peaks were absolutely gorgeous and we were blown away by how beautiful the green mountains are after the summer
rains. We were caught in an impressive storm on the mountain, which drenched us and ruined our cell phone. A shopkeeper in Tweeling thinks that he might be able to fix it, but for now we are cell-phone-less. Even with the intense storm, the mountains and the whole area are gorgeous and we plan to return soon.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Programme to Welcome Kate and Andy

We were already feeling very welcome in Tweeling, where we have been treated like family members by the family that owns the main house for our cottage, when the Tweeling community went above and beyond in welcoming us to the community. Last Thursday, school ended at 12 noon so that the faculty and town could welcome us "South African Style."

There was quite a to-do at a school assembly, which included students' singing, reading poems, and performing, speeches by members of the community and the school, a ceremony by traditional healers (sangomas), and an unbelievable South African feast for the faculties of the secondary and primary schools. Andy and I were so touched that I said to my principal, Mr. Rahdebe, how incredible that the whole program was making us feel and he told me, "That is the South African Way."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Arrival in Tweeling, South Africa and a Warm Welcome

We arrived in Tweeling, Free State, South Africa on Tuesday afternoon (January 9th). Mosuwenyana's friend, Thabo Mafokeng, had told us to call when we were approaching Tweeling. When we were about 10 minutes from the town, Thabo, Mosuwenyana's wife and daughter Gugu and Bakomoso, Gugu's cousin Khanai, Patrick, and Mishak all came to meet us and guide us into town. Several teachers from Refeng-Thabo came by our cottage to greet us and to welcome us to Tweeling. We were
already feeling very welcomed when we learned that the school had planned a big party for us on Thursday, which included beautiful singing by many of the students, speeches by teachers, students, administrators, and members of the community, and an unbelivable feast with over 60 people. We were incredibly touched by this welcome and told the Principal of the school so. When we told him how welcome and happy this production made us, he told us "That is the South African way."

We love our cottage, which is in the backyard of a wonderful family's house. The house is much bigger than we expected and Mosuwenyana's wife did a great deal of work to get it ready for us and to make it feel like home. Many people have asked for our mailing address here and it is:

Kate Mahady and Andy Farkas
19 7th Street
Tweeling, Free State 9820

Kate is able to walk to school very easily, as the cottage is about a 10 minute walk from school. Andy will be volunteering at the town's clinic, which is right up the street from the school. We will likely stay in Tweeling for the whole year (there had been some vague plans to move to Frankfort) as we have already made several friends here and like being in such a nice community.

We are learning as much Sesotho as possible and everyone has been helping us in our learning. The children learn English when they go to school, so children who have not yet started school speak very little English. Luckily, everyone speaks the international language of Barefoot Soccer, and we have made several friends this way.

We are very safe and happy in this community, so there is no reason to worry about us. We are being very welcomed and cared for by our many new friends!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Kate and Andy Arrive in Pretoria

Andy and Kate arrived in Johannesburg on separate flights on January 7th, after over 24 hours of travel for Kate and over 17 hours for Andy. Darren and Karen Peterson joined Kate on Fulbright's flight, leaving from New Jersey and meeting up with Kate in Atlanta. Kate spent 5 hours in the Atlanta airport (look below if you have received something unusual in the mail with an Atlanta postmark), making last minute phone calls.

We were met at the Johannesburg Airport by Lucy and Deter Hoffman, whom Kate had met in Washington, D.C. in August. Deter valiantly loaded our over-weight luggage for the drive to Pretoria, South Africa's capital. Lucy had kindly booked us into the gorgeous Rozenhof Guest House, where we are basking in luxury before heading out to our small towns.

Monday was spent meeting with a secruity representative at the U.S. Embassy, who gave us tips on how to avoid becoming victims of crime during our stay. We then had lunch with a Fulbright teacher who had just returned from teaching in Pennsylvania and dealt with cell phones and our needs for fancy coffee. Mary Ellen Koenig, who has been very kindly keeping our car safe, transferred the keys and was an excellent sport while Kate drove our manual car for the first time on the left side of the road. It took a few minutes (and we got passed alot), but I think that I have the hang of it.

Tonight Kate will be driving to Mary Ellen's house for dinner and then tomorrow we will be heading to our new home in Tweeling. It's about 2 1/2 hours south of Pretoria on a good road and Darren and Karen will be following us and then proceeding on to Clocolan, another hour south.

Alphios tells me that the internet doesn't work in Tweeling when it's cloudy or raining, so the next post will likely be a few weeks from now. We are very well taken care of and have been told that Alphios' wife Gugu has done a good bit of grocery shopping for us. Our stay in Pretoria has been lovely and we are looking forward to heading out to the place that we will be spending most of our time this year.

Alphios arrives in Tucson

Welcome to Tucson!

Mosuwenyana Alphios Mokoena arrived in Tucson on January 4th in the afternoon. We drove to our house, where he will be staying for the year, and Alphios had his first burrito. All agree that, if he likes burritos, he'll do just fine in Tucson.

On Friday Alphios and I were all over town, visiting Booth-Fickett, setting up utility accounts, and getting an Arizona ID. In the evening we had a party with teachers from Booth-Fickett, who were incredibly supportive and promised to take good care of him. I am incredibly thankful for their kindness and their interest in and willingness to help Alphios during his time in Tucson.

Mr. Manny Contreras offered to take Alphios to school on the first day and to bring him on Saturday to buy a cell phone, which Manny has offered to pay for with funds from the Student Council. I leave Alphios feeling confident that he will be well cared for by Booth-Fickett staff!