The Largest Buddhist Temple in Africa

Last weekend, I celebrated Thanksgiving with some of my fellow PCVs in Bronkhorstspruit, South Africa.  We cooked some delicious food, relaxed, enjoyed showers and AC, and visited the largest Buddhist temple in Africa.

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The Nan Hua temple is gorgeous and, as its title indicates, huge.  I’ve never been to a Buddhist temple previously, so I feel this is a bit of an unfair precedent for any future temples I may visit.  We enjoyed a vegetarian lunch and then were treated to a tour of the grounds.  The temple offers a series of meditation retreats, and I was able to indulge in some incredible white oolong tea!  I was impressed by the mixture of cultures present at the temple, representing China, South Africa, and many other nations.  The temple has several shrines, a museum, gift shop, and tea room.  We were also treated to a demonstration of the gongs that call people to prayer.  It’s a great place to visit if you are ever in the Bronkhorstspruit area.

 

Thanks to Katie for the photos!  Check out her blog here.

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One is(n’t) the Loneliest Number

This past weekend, I travelled to the other side of Mpumalanga to visit some PCV friends, celebrate Halloween, and enjoy the beauty of Nelspruit.  I got to indulge in many of my favorite activities, but the best part was going for a solo hike at a local nature reserve.

The reserve had two small trails, and as it turned out, I was the only person there.  In fact, there were no other people within a 1km radius of me.  Once I got over my initial pangs of fear if I slipped and fell, I was able to appreciate what a gift that hour alone truly was.


I haven’t really been alone in 9 months.  In my village, my host family is next door (and even when they’re away, my neighbors).  Most days, I love how connected I feel.  But some days what I want more than anything is to be completely alone.  I love to simply be alone sometimes.  During my hike, I was able to turbo-charge my introvert batteries as well as appreciate the serene beauty around me.


How do you find alone time, especially as a PCV?  Tell us in the comments below!

Six Month-aversary

Apologies for a long delay between blog updates!  The past month I’ve been all over South Africa for work and vacation, and my cohort celebrated passing its six month mark (and my half-birthday) in South Africa on July 26!

We started in Bronkhorstpruit, a pretty little town outside of Pretoria, for PCSA’s All Volunteer conference.  We hold these about once every two years, and it’s a great time to meet people outside of your cohort, especially those working in the education sector.  I had a great time making new friends, appreciating the natural beauty around me, sharing knowledge with the other PCVs, and having some time set aside to process our experiences so far.  All Vol lasted four days, and then my cohort (SA35) headed straight down to Pietermaritzburg, KZN, for a two-week long work training called in-service training (IST).

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Lakeside view at All Vol

IST was long and intense.  We started with a project design & management training with counterparts from our organization, then moved on to some training on potential projects.  First, we worked with Grassroot Soccer, an organization that uses soccer to teach youth about HIV.  Next, we were trained as i-ACT facilitators for HIV support groups and were able to benefit from the wealth of HIV knowledge that SA Partners had. I am so grateful for my counterpart, Lydia, who went through these trainings also.  We wrapped up with some admin training on writing grants using PC’s system and monitoring and evaluation for programs.  Sadly, we didn’t have much time to explore Pietermaritzburg, but I did enjoy the nearby park!

Image 1: PCSA35 poses after completing IST and our reaching our 6 month mark; Image 2: My counterpart, Lydia, and I celebrating after designing our “Tirisano” project during PDM training

Following the two and a half weeks of nonstop work (no rest days, including the weekend), it was time for a much-needed vacation.  My friend Megan and I traveled to Durban for some beach time.  There were a lot of highlights of the trip, including going to a great art museum featuring women’s exhibitions for International Women’s Day, eating a gelato pop dipped in dark chocolate and almonds, and walking along the beach collecting seashells.

Clockwise from top left: Megan & I enjoying the beach breeze; Relaxing on the porch; A powerful exhibit at the KZN Society of the Arts gallery; Obligatory feet in the sea photo; Freedom Park

Then I was on to Johannesburg (aka Joburg or Josie) to see Trevor Noah‘s “There’s a Gupta on My Stoep” show with a few other PCVs!  Trevor Noah, who replaced Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show in 2015, is one of the most well-known South Africans in America and has received a lot of acclaim for his recent memoir, Born A Crime (which you should absolutely read if you haven’t already).  His amazing show did not disappoint with spot-on impersonations of politicians and incisive quips about current events in both South Africa and the US.

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A horrible quality photo of one of the best stand-up shows

We also explored Joburg, a city with a rich history and culture that reminds me of Atlanta in many ways.  The NeighbourGoods Market was a particular highlight- great food from many vendors, a beautiful rooftop, and a DJ spinning great jams who could read the crowd perfectly.  The Maboneng district in general was a lot of fun.  Saturday night, we went to the Sharks vs. Lions rugby match and cheered the Sharks onto a Cinderella-esque victory!  Next time I hope to do a tour of Soweto, a critical location in the anti-apartheid struggle.  I’m grateful to have commemorated six months in South Africa with so many great and interesting experiences in this amazing country!