a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A different life

It is Tuesday and we are having a cool day. A welcome reprieve from the hot temperatures of the weekend. On Sunday afternoon the temperature was 40C (104F) in Pietermaritzburg (PMB for short) and although the outside temperature was 36C when we drove back into Tugela Ferry, the thermometer in our park home (having been shut up all day) read 40C as well! Today it is only 22C (70F) and I think I might need a jacket. :)

So driving on the other side of the car and other side of the road wasn't too bad. The narrow windy road just out of Tugela Ferry is about a 60kph (37mph) road on average though. A couple of the curves have suggested speed of 20kph (12mph)! There were goats and cattle in the road to swerve around and people to watch out for on both sides. It's nice to have the automatic transmission, which we just lucked out in getting; most vehicles here are manual. Evidence of the huge rain and hail storm from Friday night (causing our power to go off briefly twice) was in the lake nearly covering the only road through town on Saturday morning and the numerous piles of dirt and rocks washed from the hillside into the roadway.

On the drive to PMB, we stopped at a "Tea Room" just a few kilometers on the other side of Greytown because it sounded so inviting. But the only coffee was instant with "fresh milk" and I don't think there was any tea at all. Just one example of how terms do not have the same meaning here as they do in the states (or even Europe for that matter)! :)

We actually did back to back trips to PMB (too many hours in the car!) and Sunday was the first time we've driven into Tugela Ferry in the light of day! And it's quite a view. We climb down a fair bit to this village where we live.

That evening, I was looking out my kitchen window when I heard some goats bleating (is that the sound goats make?) and as I watched them, a black one was repeatedly butting a brown & white one. It seemed like the black one was trying to get the brown & white one up off the ground but something was preventing that from happening. I wondered if the brown & white one was sick or hurt so I told Stephen we should go take a look. When we walked out there we saw that the brown & white goat was caught by her horns in the wire fence. She must have tried to get through but when only her head fit she pulled back catching her horns on the wire. Stephen and I stretched the wire fence over her horns and freed her. We saved a goat! And she had quite a big belly too so we saved more than one!

Well, we didn't find the right compost bin over the weekend but I needed to do something about the bowlful of kitchen "refuse" (garbage) under my sink! My new "Gardening in South Africa Throughout the Year" book recommends putting rough organic material right in the soil for "clayey" soil which is definitely what we have. So that's what I did Monday morning. And this morning I planted tomato seeds into trays. So I've already begun working on my vegetable garden! Thrilling! And good exercise too. Great for "the core"! And no gym or personal trainer needed! Ha.

Today is also the day I told the young woman (who asked me for a job cleaning last week) to come back. Stephen and I talked about it and we both asked our new friends here what they thought, but I still hadn't totally decided what I was going to do. Since I asked her to return, we decided I should pay her something, even if only for transport (who knows how long of a walk it was for her) but I also had a task ready: mud-caked shoes to scrub. I thought I could at least have her do that, pay her a full day's wage, and it would be just a one time thing. But when she arrived, intuition told me that giving her a regular job cleaning for me would be a good thing to do. She brought her sister along, who spoke English well, I imagine to translate for her. So I'm going to have this girl come by once a week to clean the floors and the bathroom. Maybe we will be able to practice our language skills on each other; I'll work on Zulu and she can work on English.

Tomorrow I am going to visit the private school here. One of the teachers, whom I spoke with last night at a birthday party/dinner with Stephen's colleagues, is coming to "fetch" me in the morning. She will introduce me to the principal and hopefully I will observe in some of the classrooms. The school year is almost over; next week the high school students start "writing their exams" for the end of the year, and the following week grades 3-8 start their exams. December 10th is the last day of school and then they go on "holiday", summer break, until 20 January 2010 (that's how they write the date here).

Today Stephen went into Greytown for the TB clinic. Yesterday patients came to the hospital here in Tugela Ferry to have tests run. And today those patients and the research team all went to Greytown for clinic. Stephen mostly observed this time and looked on as many patients consulted with the four doctors. Most of the patients were young men and women and about 90% of them are infected with HIV/AIDS on top of the multi-resistant (MDR) TB. So they have a life-long disease (HIV/AIDS) for which they must take multiple drugs that cause multiple side effects. Then in addition to that they have a difficult-to-cure type of tuberculosis, more drugs and more side effects. One of the common side effects is hearing loss. Stephen saw a chest x-ray where the TB had eaten holes out of the lungs. With treatment the holes will close and become healthy again. He also saw lymph node scars on a patient's neck. The lymph nodes become infected and cause sores that ooze. Treatment helps those sores to heal but the scars remain. Stephen said he didn't see the doctors take a break all day from 10am to 4:30pm. Some of the patients are part of the research study but many are not. The doctors and research staff provide care to them all. After clinic was over for the day, the nurses of the hospital in Greytown provided tea, quiche, and cake for the Tugela Ferry staff. English teatime, a tradition left over from colonial rule.

We are living a different life here already. Saving goats from wire fences, driving 3 1/2 hours (round trip) for groceries, hiring someone to clean our house more to provide a job for that person than because we need the service, witnessing profound disease.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - you don't waste any time, do you? Love to hear about your new life!