Socks and Underwear

Socks and Underwear: December 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hiatus

This is just a note to inform you all that I am taking a break from writing here for a while. I will be back in 2011 for sure. I hope you all have a nice holiday and a happy new year. Here is a picture of a monkey to hold you over.

Monkeys are great.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chameleon

Never get into a staring contest with a chameleon. You will lose.

This chameleon is probably the most exciting animal find that has happened in the village. This was several months back when I was without computer. My host brother was just sitting on the porch, staring off into the distance and then he calmly scoped out this fella in the middle of a bush. Needless to say, I was impressed. Sure it is a a pretty big chameleon but they are the animal used to characterize something difficult to spot. And it's not like he was right next to it either, the bush was about 8 meters away. It was a fascinating discovery that gave at least 20 minutes of entertainment. I strongly considered having a pet chameleon but decided that it would probably not be a very good idea. It vanished later that day or at least found a better hiding spot.

video
I have no idea what it was doing here, this seems like a peculiar place for a chameleon. I spent a good amount of time going around it to see it wonky eyes move about.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hodgepodge

If you recall last post, I mentioned catching up on some promised posts. Well I am putting that off yet again to take care of some other assorted topics. Since this is my blog I can do that and there's nothing you can do about it!

Weather

That's right, I am going to talk about the weather. You can choose not to read this part but it's your loss. It has been extremely pleasant the past couple of days. The temperature is mild with a gentle breeze for most of the day and then in late afternoon there is a storm that comes in and it rains for most of the night. It is a gentle rain too which makes for a phenomenal sleeping atmosphere. It seems that the sweet spot for enjoyable rainstorms is a lot narrower if you live in a house with a metal roof which is my current situation. If it gets too intense then it is just insanely loud and a little unsettling. As I said, this has not been a worry recently but since things will change soon enough, I have been mindful to savor it.


Food


I am thrifty with my stipend so that I might enjoy my vacations a little more. In particular, I try to draw out my food to last me as long as I can while at the same time only buying the bare minimum required for daily nourishment. It has almost become a personal challenge to see how frugal I can be with my food (a post for another day). I get extra bonus points this time of the year because of the garden (another post for another day). Just when I am down to the last few servings of rice and beans and have to go into town to buy more food which I do not enjoy, the garden supplies me with a little treat.

Possible the most delicious sweet potato anyone has every eaten in the history of eating sweet potatoes.

Last week I had a few sweet potatoes prepared by my host mother which were incredibly delicious. Today, a few of the pumpkins were ready which means I will be eating a lot of pumpkin in the next couple of days. I have never cooked pumpkin before but on the culinary advice of my host mother, it turned out better than expected. I have no worries about eating the rest. Normally, I wouldn't say I am particularly keen on sweet potatoes or pumpkins but any change from rice and beans is amazing. This is in addition to the fact that the food was grown about 30 meters from where I live, so there is triumph and pride mixed in as well. I am eager for the actual harvest time, there is going to be some serious eating with little spending going on.

Their "pumpkins" are green, what a country!

Meteors

Ryan reminded me of the Geminids meteor show tonight which I have to say I am pretty excited about. I have missed the previous couple for various reasons: some I just flat out forgot, some were too cloudy, and one time I was mistaken about the correct date and was standing in the dark like a fool the day after it ended. I feel like this would be a great opportunity to have a solid explanation about an astronomical events and be able to point it out to my host family, unlike the last time I was tested. I just checked outside and it is cloudy but I am hopeful that it will clear up before midnight. If it doesn't then meteors are stupid and I didn't want to see them anyway.

Christmas

I realized today that Christmas is less than two weeks away. Sadly, it does not feel like Christmas in any way. This was more of a shock to me last year but no less upsetting to experience again this year. All of the cues that it is the holiday season are absent; the weather is warm to hot, I don't watch t.v. so I don't get holiday commercials, and I haven't been to town recently to see any sort of decorations.

The only chance at Christmas spirit I have control over is the Christmas music and to a lesser extent the Christmas movies I can watch. It feels a little forced but after putting on some Christmas tunes this afternoon I definitely felt a little more Christmas-y. My demeanor is decidedly more Christmas-like. A quick aside, I really enjoy Christmas music. I have learned to keep a lid on it these days but I used to like it to the point where some would consider it odd. I would listen to it a couple months after Christmas was over to the frustration to at least one of my sisters. In my defense, I was pretty young and this was when I had maybe 8 cds and Christmas music was one of my only options. Additionally, music is usually less about lyrics and more about melody and rhythm to me and Christmas music has that stuff in spades. I challenge you to listen to some Johnny Mathis or Vince Guaraldi when it is not actually Christmas-time and see if you enjoy it.

Vacation


The polling stations are closed and the votes have been counted. The people have spoken with a loud and booming voice. The St. Lucia Wetland won by a landslide unanimous vote. This is for the best, now I don't have to use my special voting powers. What I didn't tell you is that my vote counts for a billion votes and I wanted to go to St. Lucia. Everybody wins this time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cleanliness

There is not much new to tell for today. School finished on Friday and I celebrated by doing nothing for the remainder of the day. The rest of the weekend was devoted to a deep cleaning of my room. It had gotten to the point of being cluttered and with the year winding down I thought it would be a good time to get rid of the old to make room for the new.

In addition to this, it had just become a little grimy. It is a daily struggle to keep the kalahari sand where it belongs, outside with the rest of the sand. Beyond that, unfortunately, even with care taken to be clean and orderly, dust and detritus accumulates. I figured this weekend was a good time to do more than just sweep but also introduce soap and water into the mix. I went so far as to be proactive about potential termite and ant entrances by filling them in with candle wax. With a vacation coming up, this was wise since last time I was hit pretty hard.

Finally, I managed to find the cricket that has been torturing me for the past couple of days. It was not responding to my verbal threats or pleas and my half-conscious, 2 AM searches were futile. Today it was captured and the moment was immensely satisfying. Simple pleasures.

Hopefully, the rest of this week I can deliver on some of the posts I have been promising and putting of for another day. It has been a digital cleaning weekend as well and I have a couple of half written ideas I should just finish and send out. We shall see.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Farewell Again

For some reason I thought this week was going to be uneventful and trouble free. It turns out that I was horribly mistaken. It is the last week of school and grades are due and it seems many administrative tasks were put off until the last moment. I have been working pretty late the past few days helping on getting the reports done and printed correctly. Tomorrow is the final day and it seems like everything should be done on time which will be a relief.

In the midst of all those grades and reports, the other school I work in had its farewell/graduation/circle-of-learners party yesterday. I feel like the last week of a school is a much better time to have this party than before the exams (like the other school did). Although I felt a little frustrated that the school was putting off all the things that needed to be done for yet another day, the party was a good time. As you might imagine, it was very similar to the other farewell in most respects: many speeches, songs, and dancing.

video
I told you that you would see the female traditional dancing soon enough!

The biggest difference was the graduation of the grade R learners entering into grade 1. I would say more time was devoted to the grade R than the grade 6 graduation. A fellow peace corps volunteer saw this same event recently. There was at least an hour devoted to them coming out and marching around in their finery and then another hour for them to pose in their cap and gowns. It was a little bizarre for me. The kids seemed to have very little idea as to what was happening. They were just walking around as orders were barked at them. It was cute enough but I felt like I had enough of it pretty early on. Perhaps I am a little biased towards the grade 6 and feel like they were an afterthought to the whole party. "Yeah, yeah good job grade 6, you spent 6 years here and now you are going to middle school. Let's see more of the small children in adult clothing!"

Those ties are pretty great. Should look into getting one of those.

I mean how hard is it to graduate from grade R anyway? You learn numbers and letters for a couple hours then play and eat and go home early. Although the grade 6 learners here are not exactly working themselves to the bone, their days are not as easy as all that. I'm not saying get rid of the whole grade R affair-- I know I did something similar when I was that young and that parents enjoy this sort of thing-- I just wish there was a little more for the grade 6 is all. I call for graduation parity, I demand cap and gown equality! Am I coming off as a curmudgeon on this one? This is probably one of those times where I am the only person with a gripe about the situation and my opinion really doesn't matter at all. If any of the grade 6 learners felt the same way, they didn't show it. I think they were happy enough just to be moving on.

I was trying to get a picture of the kid in the way back because he had a sweet mohawk but as you can see the photo was stormed and he barely made it into the frame.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beetlemania

Beetle massacre?

A few kilometers makes a big difference. On my side of the village the beetles are certainly around but not in any alarming numbers, not that I can notice anyway. When I head to the primary school on the other side of the village things change quite a bit. It is hard not to run across one every couple of steps. The school itself seems to have a beetle infestation. There are heaps of dead beetles of various sizes in all the gutters and plenty more living in all the nooks and crannies of the structure. I don't know what attracts them to this particular spot or what causes them to die soon after arriving but it seems to be an annual event. The same sequence happened this time last year, the beetles come and then they go to the beetle graveyard of K-village to die.

This beetle was squirming helplessly on its back until I decided to take pity. Not so much as one thank you. That is one ungrateful beetle.

As I was stepping over a particularly large pile of dead beetles today, I made a mental note to do a little beetle research. Wikipedia was my first stop but to drill down more on South African beetles I went to this site. I am positive there are better ways of identifying beetles but as a layman I liked the format presented here. It starts of identifying certain beetles by what they eat such as cicadas or leaves. Then it moves on to identifying beetles by where they live and then it gets to some really interesting beetles. Categories include: "Beetles with explosives and poisonous chemicals", "Beetles that use 'aqua lungs' " and "Beetles that are erroneously reputed to be good for sex".

I'll only repeat one of the many interesting facts if you were not inclined to click on any of the links because I am sure your attention span fades every time you read the word "beetles". Ready for it? Ok here it is, beetles comprise the largest group of currently identified species. As of now, a quarter of all identified life forms are beetles which means there are a lot of types of beetles. I'll leave it at that for you to ponder on and to put in your mental vault for the next time you play trivial pursuit or even "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". If you win money from that little tidbit on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" I fully expect a cut from it, for beetle research of course.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World Heritage Site Quest


There are a few days left of school. Eventually I will put up some thoughts about my year of teaching but that is not for today. The power is out so I don't have much time to write and it will and should take some time.

With the end of school also comes vacation time. It is really going to be a slapdash one at that. I will be going wherever the wind takes me all the while squeezing as much relaxation and enjoyment out of my meager savings as I can. My only guide will be trying to visit as many World Heritage Sites as possible. I am hoping that by the end of my service I will have visited all of them but would like to see at least one during this break. But even if I don't there is always 2011.

As an experiment I put up a poll on the side of the page for suggestions as to which Heritage Site I go to first. Think of it as a way to control me through cyber-democracy. It will be a bit of a distorted democracy because I think you can vote more than once but I am comfortable with the dedicated getting what they want out of my World Heritage Site quest. Any sort of response will surely get me to try my hardest to see that place first and then write about it.

For your consideration:

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Cradle of Humankind
Cape Floristic Region
Kingdom of Mapungubwe
Richtersveld
Drakensberg
Vredefort crater

UNESCO - South Africa

Monday, December 6, 2010

Home Improvement

Recently, a fellow volunteer painted his roof white to reduce the heat absorbed by the metal sheets. He then generously offered to donate paint and a helping hand for me to do the same. It turned out to be exceedingly simple. Most of the difficulty and frustration came in securing (paint was hijacked) and transferring (khombis ran out gas) the paint from his site to mine. The actual painting took an hour at most. There were two of us working on a pretty small surface and I was not particularly concerned with how it looked. It has only been a few days now since the project was completed but I can already tell there is a difference. I would say it knocked a few degrees off the temperature which is most appreciated in the afternoon. This is the sort of thing that is extraordinarily satisfying to me; it was a simple and easy procedure that has a fairly substantial payoff. For posterity sake here are the steps:

1. Wake up early so that the sun has not had time to turn the roof into a baking tray. Get out the ricketiest most unnerving ladder you can find and scramble up onto that roof.


2. Once your up on top, the metal is probably sturdy but it helps to walk on the support beams-- I could only picture in my mind were exactly I would be falling through into my room if things went terribly wrong ("right about here I would snag the electrical supply to my room and then hit my head on my desk"). Clear away any objects that might make painting difficult, this includes things like shards of animal bones, wheel rims, bike chains, and all manner of scrap metal.


3. It would also be good to give your roof a once over with a broom just to get all the finer sand and dust particles. This is especially true if you live in the desert. Mark out your intended area of roof coolification.


4. Paint the roof white. Using white paint might be the most important step of all; any color would not be as effective and probably worse, much worse if you choose black. I feel sad for you if you don't believe me on this point but test it out for yourself.


5. Enjoy the benefits of a more comfortable living space.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Traditional Dance

Another video so soon? You betcha. I am flush with data at the moment but even if I were not, after a little computer magic these short movies are about the same amount of data as the pictures I post.

This video is of a few learners showing off their traditional dance skills. You will notice that one of the boys was doing particularly well because one of the gogos (older ladies) jumps out and dance-assaults him. He kept his composure where I would have been ruffled. That's the mark of an artist, the show must go on!

video
Don't worry, the girls get to dance too. Somewhere along the way, I'm sure you'll get to see it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

KLM

I am planning on participating in the Longtom Marathon again this year. Don't be impressed just yet, I am only going to do the half marathon. Still impressed, well you shouldn't be because I am probably going to walk it again. Although I might change my mind if the circumstances are right.

More important than the marathon is the KLM foundation which is attached to it. The foundation which was setup by former Peace Corps Volunteers in South Africa has been running for several years now. Its goal is to send students from rural areas to Uplands College in Mpumalanga. I have it on good authority that this school offers a world class education which makes it head and shoulders and then another head and shoulders above a typical rural high school. It also has a swimming pool.

I am asking for donations for the cause. Help make opportunities accessible to some deserving kids. Make it so they can enjoy a swimming pool when it is unbearable hot. How to donate:

Method 1: Online

1. Go to the KLM foundation website http://www.klm-foundation.org

2. Click on the Donate photo in the upper left corner.

3. This opens up a secure https connection for people to donate.

4. Put my name (Noah Prescott) in the Longtom Marathon field so they know the donation is in my name.

Method 2: Check

1. Make out a check to: Kgwale Le Mollo (US)

2. Add a post it declaring which PCV the donor is sponsoring (Noah Prescott)

3. Mail it to:

KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107



I tried to figure out how to do a nifty donation meter like Wikipedia has but soon realized that I do not have the skills to do this. My next idea was to just make a picture and update it as donations came in because I do have the skills to make simple pictures. Now I was faced with a tough choice, there are lots of different motivational tools to choose from. There's the thermometer-type fundraising graphic, but I felt uncomfortable encouraging you all to raise the temperature. Even if it is the fictitious donation temperature. Then I briefly considered the tool used in the greatest movie about the Cleveland Indians ever made, Major League. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I highly recommend you watch the movie. This idea was passed over though because I realized it would only make you want to win the AL Penant so your team wouldn't move to Miami which is not really my goal. After much deliberation, I ended up choosing the gauge style and am unashamedly proud of the result. I am pretty sure this is going to compel otherwise miserly people to give as much as they can. Let the donation begin!


As you can see from the donation gauge, we are at a dangerously low lever. I mean we are below the "Pathetic Region".