Gogo’s Fried Tinfish Recipe

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Dumelang! Life as we wrap up Peace Corps training is busy, but I wanted to share this killer recipe for fried tinfish (sardines) from my gogo (grandmother or older woman). My gogo was a family chef for many years, and her cooking is amazing. This recipe is cheap, simple, and makes sardines taste like gourmet fish!

Ingredients
1 can tinfish/sardines
2 cups flour
2 eggs
Frying oil (enough to cover bottom of pan)
Preferred spices

The iconic Lucky Star tinfish

1. Take one can of tinfish and empty into a large mixing bowl. Mash lightly with fork.

2. Add 1/2 cup flour and 2 eggs. Mix until well blended.
3. Mix in your preferred spices. I added peri-peri, mixed herbs and salt & pepper, which was delicious.

4. Heat up oil in a large frying pan, using enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Place on the highest burner setting.

5. Take a large plate and spread some flour on the bottom.

6. Scoop up the mixture onto the plate, aiming for slightly larger than a tablespoon.

7. Cover the fish patty mix in flour and roll into a long cylinder. Add more flour to the mixing bowl if the patty is not staying together.

8. Repeat with 2-3 other patties, then put in the pan and flatten each patty.

9. Fry 30-60 seconds each side or until a dark brown/slight black.

10. Repeat until you’ve fried all of the remaining patties. You may need to reduce the burner over time as it gets hotter.

11. Enjoy! My gogo typically makes this with chips (fries) for a tasty fish & chips meal.

Hope you enjoy! If not, our cat had kittens yesterday so you can enjoy these little fluffballs instead.

Can you spot all five newborns? 😍

 

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Welcome to the Next 2 Years

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Former PCV’s project at my new site

Among the many things that happened over the very busy past 3 weeks, I found out that I will be headed to northwestern Mpumulanga for the next 2 years! I am working with a drop-in center that feeds and cares for local orphans and vulnerable children.

We visited our sites 2 weeks ago. I have another PCV as a site mate (woot!), and our supervisors took us around to meet several principals, clinic staff, indunas (traditional leaders) and others. My org has had several previous PCVs, and it has a garden and small library! The other staff are great, and I am excited to be working with them soon. I also really enjoyed staying with my new host family, which consists of a gogo and a teenage sister and brother. Gogos are the best!

Gogo baked buns for breakfast, yum!

The last day, we went to our shopping town, Bela-Bela. It took a full day of waiting for the taxis to fill up, but the delicious burger made it all worth it. I also found a delectable local dark chocolate in the grocery store there. I am so excited to wrap up training and get started on the next chapter, although I will definitely miss my host family here and being so close to the other PCVs.

Before site visits, my group also wrapped up our practicum. We had an hour a day for 3 days to cover healthy relationships and safe sex, which was nowhere near enough time. However, I was so impressed by the smart, engaged kids we were working with.

There have been a lot of positives over the past 3 weeks, but it’s also been full of challenges. Training is Monday through Saturday; I’m more exhausted that I ever have been before, even when I was in training for my half-Ironman. Monday is a big exam for language (LPI), so any of my virtually nonexistent free time is spent studying. But I am looking forward to life at my site, when I will have more independence and flexibility! I’m also grateful for my current host family for providing me with a home and our staff for everything that they do. We have an appreciation day for our host families coming up, as well as swearing in as official volunteers and a fun day so that we can take some time to enjoy ourselves. I’m trying to take it “tšatši le tšatši,” or day by day!

Trainee cooking competition- my team’s food, incl. my gogo’s fried tinfish (basically sardines) recipe

Going away party thrown by the girls’ group

The Halfway Point

Today marks the halfway point for pre-service training (PST)! In 1 week, I will find out where I’ll be working for the next 2 years. In 5 weeks, I will swear in as a volunteer. The last 6 weeks of staging & PST feel simultaneously like a lifetime and like no time at all.

My host gogo & brother!

The main focus lately had been on our practicum. During PST, we have an opportunity to practice our facilitation skills over the course of 5 days (1 hour each) with a group of secondary (high school) students. The practicum has been a welcome relief from day-long sessions on technical, language, health and safety! The first day we focused on building relationships with the students, and the second day we voted on the health topics we wanted to talk about. We also came up with a game to talk about life in the US vs. South Africa, which was fun.

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Pedi Pals, my language group!

Speaking of language, I took my midterm language test and did better than I expected! It’s amazing how much we’ve learned in such a short period of time. I had an opportunity to practice even more last weekend when we went to a local dance festival! It was amazing. The young girls pictured below moved so quickly I could hardly follow their feet. There was also a group of young men and women in what looked like military garb that did an interesting march/dance. I tried on a skirt from the Tsonga culture, but it was quickly clear that I have no dancing skills :). I had just gotten a pixie cut the day before, and I was grateful for the extra coolness!

Crazy talented dancers

Some of our cohort at the dance festival

Me attempting to move my hips in a traditional Tsonga skirt

We also went to Johannesburg (Joburg) last weekend. We visited the apartheid museum first. I’d previously gone in 2009, but the impact was even more profound now that I’m actually living in the after effects of apartheid. I’m still processing many of my thoughts around the museum. It begins with the rock paintings of the native Bushmen in Southern Africa, talks a bit about the next 2,000 years, then jumps into the 1800s and the circumstances surrounding the rise of apartheid. Some of the architects of apartheid studied under Hitler’s Third Reich and other forms of institutionalized racism, like the
treatment of Native Americans and African-Americans in the U.S. The giant casspir, or armored truck, forcibly reminded me of the Wars on Poverty and Drugs. There was a room of ropes hung from the ceiling to represent those who had been hanged, a common occurrence under apartheid, that really gave me pause. Another room was dedicated to the photojournalism of Ernest Cole, who exposed the realities of life for blacks under apartheid, including the government sponsorship of alcoholism. It was also difficult to see how long it took the U.S. to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime. I didn’t end up finishing in time to see the Mandela exhibit, but I was grateful to have the opportunity to visit the museum again.

One of many moving photos by Ernest Cole of a Hector Pieterson, a young student killed by police who used live ammo during a student protest against the apartheid-era Bantu education system that sentenced black students to an inferior education (Soweto, June 16, 1976)

Additionally, we had the opportunity to speak with a panel of people living with HIV in South Africa. It was an incredible privilege to have these strangers come in and share these raw, emotional life stories with us. Many spoke of being ostracized by family, friends, significant others, and community members. One woman contracted HIV after being sexually assaulted; another lost her first child, which was born with HIV. There is a stigma often associated with HIV that you sleep around a lot, as well as how you can contract HIV (you can ONLY get HIV through semen/vaginal fluid, blood, breastmilk or pre-cum). However, that stigma does vary by area and individual; South Africa has conducted a lot of awareness-raising. Medication has also improved to help counter side effects and to reduce to 1 pill, instead of 4 or 5 pills. It was encouraging to speak to those who had lived with HIV for over 10 years.

Additionally, I just finished Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime.” I highly recommend it. The book is funny, but it sheds light on a lot of the tragedies of life here as well.

I’ll end this rather long entry with another, very useful Sepedi phrase: “Go a fiša kudu” (pronounced “ro ah feesh-ah koodoo”)= it’s very hot!

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.

Dumelang!

Dumelang! The last 10 days have been a blur of training, bonding, and enjoying gorgeous Mpumulanga province. A few days ago, I found out my language assignment is Sepedi! This means my permanent site after the 3 months of pre-service training (PST) will either be in Mpumulanga or Limpopo province.

The conference center we stayed in was really nice- running water, toilets, a pool, and lots of adorable wild monkeys running around. Pictures to come soon! We’ve been in nonstop training on languages (we learned greetings in isiZulu, Sepedi, Xitsonga & Afrikaans in addition to focused training on Sepedi), culture, medical, safety & security, HIV/AIDS, and the history and context of SA. We also watched some of Trevor Noah’s stand up and Searching for Sugar Man, which I highly recommend. I feel like PC is doing a great job of preparing us for the unpreparable. Our country staff and PCV leaders are also amazing and so incredibly patient.

We’ve also had some intense bonding as a cohort (PCSA 35!), aided by the fact that we only got cell phones 2 days ago. One of the trainees tore part of her ACL and fought to come back! I’m very impressed by the quality of our fellow trainees and the support we provide each other. Also, if you want to contact me, the best way is to find my US number on Whatsapp.

We’re now headed to meet up with our new host families. We’ll be living with them for the next 10 weeks, so I’m a bit nervous- I hope they like me! I’ll be in the same village as about 9 other trainees, and we’ll be fairly close to the rest of the cohort. PC is gradually easing us into what life will be like at site, so we’re in for bucket bathing, filtering our water, and intensive language and technical training. I’m pretty excited despite the nerves.

That’s all for now, but I’ll leave you with a Sepedi greeting:
Dumelang! (doo may lahng)
Agee! (ah Khay, pronounced like the French r or Arabic kh)
Le kae? (le kay ee)
Re gona, lena le kae? (ree Khona, layna le kay ee, with rolled r’s)
Le rena re gona. (Le rayna ree Khona)

This means:
Hello!
Hello!
How are you?
I’m fine, how are you?
I’m also fine.