Monday, December 12, 2011

The Last Weekend & See You Later!

Saying farewell again...I think my final blog post from the first 6 months in South Africa describes much of what I still feel now that I'm back in the Prairies.  I would say, though, that a full year in the Eastern Cape reminded me how no place in this world is perfect and your state of mind determines your happiness, regardless of where you are.  Still countless lessons, adventures and insights, but perhaps some of the shiny novelty of South Africa wore off and it became another spot to add to the long list of places I've lived.  Or more importantly, the places I've called home filled with people I love and this time is just as conflicting as I balance the wonderful feeling of being home with the roots that inevitably grew deeper in the Eastern Cape.  You can create a little nest wherever you go, but it can be tough to have a foot on two continents!

I wish I could make the claim that I was calm and composed the last weekend, but as these photos hint at, those last 48 hours alternated between laughing and sobbing. I don't know if it was a good or a bad thing that my last 3 weeks were wonderful; if it left me with amazing memories of love and gratitude or made it more painful to say farewell!

Group beauty effort
On Friday afternoon, the WSU Chiselhurst office held a surprise going away party for me - a totally unexpected surprise and my fragile emotions were not prepared.  Upon seeing the platters of food, cameras and expectant faces of people I've worked next to, I burst into uncontrollable tears and had to spend a few minutes in the bathroom to get myself together.  I felt very special that day and I'm still working on getting those photos!

Saturday, the last full day and night, involved spending the day with Sis Ghana and the entire Matolengwe family as we prepared Zintle for her Grade 7 farewell formal. All hands on deck to get her ready before the brand new white BMW rolled up to take her to the event and dazzle everyone there. 

Zintle - the final product

Gogo, Sis P, and Sis Ghana

Sunday was the inevitable trip to the airport where it became a matter of counting last minutes in East London versus weeks, days, hours. By the time everyone arrived, I was cutting it very close to getting on the plane but it wouldn't have been complete without a family photoshoot! I also wish I could make the claim that I am an attractive and gentle crier but my face, already completely swollen from the morning, had barely returned to its normal size and colour before these photos and goodbyes only triggered more serious waterworks and face swelling and knowing and sympathetic looks from airport staff and fellow passengers!

With the 12 person airport farewell from those I love most in the country, I hopped between pure excitement of being back in Canada to realising that the walk through the security gates to the boarding gates would be a final closing of this chapter.
My airport entourage - makes you feel pretty special and loved!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chef Lumka's New House

Lumka is now just around the corner from me and we have taken full advantage of being neighbours in my last weeks left in South Africa.  I am proud to say I was there the very first day she moved into her garden cottage and have now spent many nights learning new recipes to bring home (with perhaps some ingredient substitutes!).
I know you are all sick of hearing about umvubo or umphokoqo with amasi (the coarse mealie meal with sour milk) but I love it so much and still consider it a major challenge to make.  So Lumka gave me what is now my final lesson in preparing it and I'm proud to say I've made it twice, by myself, since!

Showing off the new appliances

Adding the White Stair super maize meal
Getting my exercise

The final product - amathambo and dumplings

The most recent recipe is dumplings and amathambo. It was a cold and wet day when Lumka called to say we were making dumplings with meat soup and our hunt began for a bag of bones from the butcher. All they had was the leftovers for dogs, which we passed on, but we finally found some lamb bones. They weren't exactly what Lumka was looking for, but we had to improvise after apparently everyone else in East London wanted to make amathambo.
First, we rinsed the meat and let it simmer on the stove with some salt.  Then, with the big bag of raw dough that we bought, Lumka flattened four large circles of dough which we placed on top of the bubbling meat.  You let that sit for a while and the steam from the meat cooking slowly cooks the bread through and through.  Once the bread is nice and soft and steaming, you remove it and add spices, onions, and vegetables and let it all cook together.  Finally, to serve, you place the bread back in the pot to heat it up and have your big dumpling with the big pieces of soft meat.  It was a big hit!
Stewing lamb

Fresh lamb bones

Beginnings of the dumplings

Listening carefully to all cooking advice

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Professional Conference Crasher?

I have had a crash course in the world of conferences and workshops.  If you blindfold me, I could easily navigate a registration table, a breakaway commission, and most importantly, a buffet table. 

In the last week, I visited Mthatha to assist the Centre for Rural Development with the initial workshop for their Centre for Creative Industries.  After nearly getting stranded in Mthatha (what's new?), we drove back to East London for two simultaneous events: the 2nd Annual Eastern Cape Cooperative Indaba through the University of Fort Hare and a conference on Informal Housing through the Department of Human Settlements.  In both events, I assisted Prof Luswazi on her presentations and speaking engagements.  The beginning of this week saw me assisting the Centre for Learning and Teaching Development at their 3rd Annual eLearning Conference.  It is an interesting opportunity to hear presentations from experts in their field, especially on issues that may not come up often in Canada. 

As a consequence of my conference hopping, I have more logoed pens and notepads than I will ever need, a computer bag, a mini hotplate which you plug into your computer to keep a mug of tea warm (I kid you not), and an extra 15 pounds.  With 3 hot meals and 2 full teas per day, I consumed enough food to feed a family of four for a month.  You go to bed totally bloated and vowing to never touch a piece of food again and that tomorrow you will eat like a reasonable human being and yet somehow, you wake up hungry and wondering what will be served at the next meal.

A Birthday Party, Photo Shoot, and Chance to Wear $7 Shoes

With Sinalo and Zintle, pre-party
The beginning of the sandwich prep
I was forced to pose like this!
Finally got a smile

The birthday girl
It takes a village to raise a child and apparently to also plan and execute a giant birthday party. On Saturday (after earlier weeks of assisting with other preparations), Angela and I woke up bright and early to help out with Sis Lusanda's 30th birthday party. A few of the church mamas had cancelled last minute, so we were happy to help with the preparation of a 3 course meal for 130 people. Including peeling 3 industrial sized bags of carrots, buttering and filling 25 loaves of bread to for huge sandwich platters, and finally dishing out 130 heaping plates of homemade food.

After a full morning on our feet, we got dressed up (we were both happy for an excuse) and made our way back to the party. I am proud to say that we knew to show up an hour and a half late which was perfect timing because the birthday girl showed up about 30 minutes later, which gave us just enough time for a photo shoot with Sis Ghana's daughters.

As per usual, a full program of speeches and songs in between, with a heavily religious tone. But it was still a party with people dressed to the nines and lasted late into the night.  The food was great and it was nice to feel that we had contributed to the evening.

The highlight of the night was the birthday cake with icing dyed so darkly and beautifully blue that it stained everyone's tongues, lips, and teeths. Even the old pastor was sticking his tongue out to the laughter of everyone at his table. 

Canadians enjoying the fruits of their labour

An excellent hostess

Serving one of many platters

Our Sis Ghana

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Lunch Menu

Amagwinya (deep fried dough) and chicken hearts in gravy

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Umbhaco for umama wam

The marvels of technology mean that my family in Canada can almost immediately put a face to the name of my favourite cleaning lady and isiXhosa teacher, Maradi, from the WSU office in South Africa.  And it also means that I can show a woman, who may never have sat in front of a computer, photos of my family and even her own photo on a blog!

The reaction of Maradi to seeing herself on my laptop and blog was priceless.  As I fumbled for words in isiXhosa to explain that “I write stories to my family over the ocean about my works in South Africa and put it on the computer”, she immediately was so proud and excited that my Canadian family knew who she was. 

So she then asked me to bring my camera to the office and she would bring her umbhaco or traditional dress to work and we would have a photo shoot so that umama wam (my mother) could meet Maradi and give her reactions to her beautiful and intricate outfit. 

I was sitting in my office with the door closed when all of a sudden I heard singing in the distance.  Maradi came singing, dancing, and stomping down the hallway with 3 of the other cleaning ladies as her entourage and they made quite the noise and spectacle.  The artfully layered skirt also has bells attached so when you move, it makes a loud tinkling sound.  The painting on the face is made with calamine lotion - who knew?  You see women wearing these dresses at traditional events; for example, Maradi recently wore this when her son came back from the bush for the very important  circumcision ceremony.

I took the many photos and then Maradi proudly showed off her umbhaco to the office where everyone declared, “awusemhle?” or “aren’t you beautiful?”

So, now, Maradi is waiting for my mom, about 17,000 kilometres away in Winnipeg, to comment on her dress and know that she is taking good care of her daughter!

Lumka's photos from the Zahara Concert

The concert was being professionally filmed and photographed to produce a "Live in Concert" DVD so they were confiscating any recording devices.  Somehow Lumka sneakily took all of these photos.  Because we were in the front row, I think there are some more amazing photos of us floating around somewhere in the world!

DJ Pastor (and the MC who noticed my blonde head)

DJ Sbu

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Big City

I just returned from my first trip to Pretoria to present proposal ideas to the Canadian Embassy for funding through their Local Initiatives Fund. I was excited to travel to the big city and get some quality bonding time with Sis Ghana, but needless to say, I was more than a little nervous to be speaking in front of the Embassy representatives as well as Jos, Sis Ghana, and Clemens. But what an opportunity to practice presenting two proposal ideas regarding gender and technology in the rural classroom and leadership and advocacy for young rural women. 

This was also a chance to see a bit of Pretoria and our driver was kind enough to drive past the Union Buildings which were beautiful and historic. In the distance, we were also able to see the Voortrekker Monument. Sitting in the Hatfield district of Pretoria was a reminder of sitting in any Canadian city in the summer with the cafes, restaurants, and hipsters and business people walking by.
Voortrekker Monument
Union Buildings, Pretoria

Nelson Mandela statue in Nelson Mandela Square
(and some random guy's head)
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After the business portion of our trip, Sis Ghana and I took advantage of our extra time to take the Gautrain to Sandton City mall and Nelson Mandela Square.  You realize how that Joburg is another big city and I’m still frightened by the criminal reputation that precedes it.  I was quite happy to get my feet solidly back in the Eastern Cape!

Impromptu Beach Photoshoot

One of the warmest and sunniest spring days we’ve had yet called for a trip to the beach with Lumka and Karin and an impromptu photoshoot on the boardwalk (with these other women we’d never met who had the same idea)!