Becoming Motlalepule

Phew! It’s been a crazy two weeks. Two Sundays ago, I met my host mom and brother, received a new name (Motlalepule, or “one who comes with the rain”), and moved into a beautiful little purple house in Mpumulanga province. (Host family pic coming soon!)

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View from my backyard at sunset

We jumped straight into an intensive week of Sepedi training. I’m very grateful to have such good Language & Cultural Facilitators (LCF), as well as an amazing language group! We’re the only Sepedi group. Last Saturday, we went to Pretoria to see the Voortrekker Monument. It was a very interesting experience, with many parallels to Native American history in the U.S., such as the land treaties between the Voortrekkers and tribes such as the Zulu and Nguni. (Will try to expand more on this in a later post)

This past week, I went to Limpopo with several other trainees to shadow a current volunteer. The mountains were GORGEOUS, and I was a little sad I would be serving in Mpumulanga instead! It was intriguing to see daily life for a PCV. Our volunteer’s gogo (grandmother) is fantastic, and told us “hakuna matata” and not to worry because there were no dogs or witches 😂! Our volunteer and her site mate conducted four health training sessions for home-based caregivers, as well as two sessions of Souns for preschoolers, a phonics-based English teaching tool. Even so, there is a lot of downtime and other challenges as a PCV. I was ruminating on this during the long drive home when we heard that one of our cohort was heading home due to health issues. I had been very close with her, and I was really sad that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.

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Our shadowing group with the best gogo!

On the plus side, I saw an eland on the drive home!! It was wonderful to come home to my host family and my gogo’s delicious cooking. Yesterday, a young women’s group called Rise invited us to come to their talk. I felt so inspired and uplifted by these amazing young women working to do their best for their community and lift each other up. I’ve also picked up a new hobby- whittling- courtesy of another trainee.

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RISE!

So life has had some challenges but also many blessings. I am still figuring out how I fit into South African life and culture, and who Motlalepule (or South African Lindsay) is. In a lot of ways, I feel like a child again. I’ve had to learn how to bucket bathe and clean myself thoroughly, which isn’t tough but takes some time and patience. I’m also adjusting to using our pit latrine, which is blissfully not smelly. I’ve begun to tackle household chores like washing dishes in a bucket with hot water from the kettle, sweeping the omnipresent red dust from our floors, and most recently, cooking (scrambled eggs). But I’m also hyper aware of issues like lack of rainwater, as our water comes almost exclusively from a water tank (jojo) that catches rainwater, and the crushing rate of unemployment here. It’s a lot to navigate with language added on top, but I’m very grateful to be surrounded by a loving host family, an incredible cohort, a great community, and my unfailing support system from home.

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