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Memories; the good and the bad

This is a list of memories, good and bad. Some are inside jokes or “you had to be there” memories, but I wanted to keep documentation of them forever. Anyways, what would my Peace Corps service be without ridiculous memories?


-Cramming in the backseat of a public taxi with three bags of groceries, which is clearly only supposed to fit three people, but somehow its managed – even if only part of your buttcheek is on the seat – to fit four.
-Making it home with a loaf of bread that isn’t squished.
-Long distance taxi rides – taking a day to basically get anywhere in this country. (Leave my house at 7am, get there at 5pm or later – aside from Durban.)
-The battle of the window. No one, NO ONE, will open a window in a moving vehicle, even if it is 90F outside with the African sun beating down on you. You. Can’t. Win.
-Traveling through town as usually the only white person in plain sight that day, unless PCVs are around.


A special place

-Getting called in town, “umlungu” (white person), “baby”, “honey”, “sexy”, “beautiful” never fails.
-Ignoring men has always helped. (Screaming, when need be, helps too.)
-The mama vendors on the street who always cheerfully greet any of us.
-Seeing a rat scuttle through my grocery store and laughing, totally not grossed out.
-The day my grocery store stocked Nutella (dude, what?)
-Avocado season, obvi.
-The time a teacher yelled at someone in town who called me umlungu (white person) and told them to call me tombi (girl). Bless her soul.
-Sitting on the post office stoop with the other Volunteers, which is in a somewhat secluded area and the only place in town we are 100 % harassment free.
-Pot O dates – a hole in the wall place where you can buy “viennas” (hot dog equivalent) and soggy fries, but the owners have always welcomed us and it’s our special food haven.


-Walking through town with an American male and not a soul hoots and hollers at you.
-The awesome – but really just flavoured ice – ice cream from the liquor store.
-Month end: when all the people within the municipality get their social grants, and thus come to town to withdraw cash and grocery shop. Lines for ATM/groceries can be an hour or more. NEVER AGAIN.
-Buying 800 Rand worth of groceries for four people for three nights and taking a five Rand taxi up the road because we were too lazy to carry groceries to the other rank.


-Puddles of water (or?….) that never seem to dry.

-The first day of teaching grade 5, scared as hell, and the kids didn’t catch onto my accent until about two months in.
-My extraordinary and hardworking principal.


-Morning assembly: singing gospel songs, praying, and school announcements. Totally normal life now.
-Staff meetings that last one hour standing in a hot room. D—-yyyiiiiingg.
-When one of my favourite learners slipped a note for me in her English workbook asking if I could be her mom, with a check yes or no.
-Sebetsang, my little writer boy, who is all kinds of amazing, and I WILL fundraise in America to send this boy to college.
-When Sebetsang heard a kid had stole my earphones, found the kid in the village wearing them, and got them back for me.
-Phumla, another favourite learner, coming to me when it was too noisy in class, or she was bored by the other kids, and wanted to just help me label library books.


Phumla, far back left

-Walking past Grade R (kindergarten) and them in unison saying, “Sawubona Ms. Mathebula!” or “Shine Ms. Mathebula!” waving their little hands, then always saying, “buh bye!” (Seriously, this can make any day SO much better.)
-My staff doing everything they could to help me with the Books for Africa project and the library.
-Getting letters from Nolwazi, a student now at the Secondary school, to just chat.
-When my grade 5s started laughing because someone “suza” (fart), and I had to seriously hold back laughter too.
-The first time I saw girl’s boobs out in the open and felt uncomfortable. LOL, whatevz now.
-Coming into school late to find grade 7 using the library for research (and even using encyclopedias!)
-Smelling what I thought was dead whale, but really was just a cow head being slaughtered across campus.
-Freaking out when my staff later told me to eat it. They got a good laugh.
-A fellow teacher pulling me aside after a meeting and asking me half serious/jokingly, “Liz, when was the last time you were kissed?”
-Beans and phutu school lunch day — best food EVER.
-Class never starting on time, or being canceled.
-Standing on my tippy toes to write on the chalkboard.
-Playing Heads Up Seven Up with the other PCVs and grade 5
-Always some type of noise or kids screaming.
-Staff meetings in Zulu – whyy
-My counterpart befriending Sphe, the 16-year-old boy who can’t write or speak, but can hear. He always would come looking for her during break. They are the best of friends.
-Sphe coming into the library after school to help me put away things, wrap up my computer cord, etc. and cracking up when I would speak Zulu to him. ADORABLE.

My Peace Corps People
-WhatsApp conversations about anything and everything ridiculous or good that happened during our days.
-Movie dates/Breaking Bad dates with Shawn via WhatsApp.
-Karaoke voice notes and pictures of half eaten food with George via WhatsApp.
-Battlefields sleepovers at Monica’s house or Will’s site.



-When we cooked tacos for my birthday, ate so many, then my family invited us in for another dinner and cake. (Never been so full.)
-Seeing an African animal and camping for the first time. (Hippos in St. Lucia.)
-Dropping ground beef into a water bucket, but still retrieving it all and cooking it, because hell, we can’t waste any meat!
-Katie’s egg in the hole for breakfast.
-Cutting each other’s (and shaving) our hair.

-Sleeping on a twin bed horizontally with three people and chairs to extend our feet on; horrible decision.
-Everyone’s jealous of my spittoon.
-Watching videos of sloths, pugs, and porcupines at MST.
-Walking two hours to get to Will’s site from mine in the pouring rain.
-Buying horrible, dry, semi-tasteless cakes but still eating the whole thing.

-Taco nights from care packages.


Monica's birthday taco night at the lodge

-Romantic date night over a bucket turned upside down and wine in a tin cup in a dimly lit straw hut.
-Dancing in the rain with no shoes around FNB Stadium in Joburg for the Bruce Springsteen concert and screaming “AMRUCIA”. (Might as well be my favourite because it was so close to home.)



These were indeed some glory days

-Beer and burgers in Durban never fails. (OK, sometimes we are Posh Corps.)
-Rakeesha’s beauty salon at IST in our room.

-Babas/Umkhulus – older men. SWEETEST PEOPLE EVER. “ahhhh, Sawubona Tombi!” (Hello, girl!) with a big fat smile on their faces. Heart melts.
-Kids knocking on my door to say hi, depending on my mood.
-Weekend playdates with my favourite kids – making clay pots in mud after it rained, playing uno, and watching the Lion King.
-When Siyabonga came to me the first week after teaching when the class completely misbehaved, and apologized on behalf of everyone, and said in broken English he wants to learn English more. He is still shy, but now a top learner.
-My host mama dancing and singing a Zulu house music song, shaking her booty and all.
-My family always bringing me beans when they cooked them because they knew how much I love beans.
-Giving my family a taco and my uncle calling it sushi, loving it, and saying he was the Sushi King!
-Watching my mom yell at the kitten in Zulu when it’s getting too frisky. Hai bo kitty, hai bo! How wena! (Stop it, stop it, you!)
-Gogo (grandma) loving watching WWE wrestling and yelling at the screen.
-Rejecting sheep intestines on Easter, and my aunt playfully scolding me, saying she won’t eat anything I make with avocado.
-When I once told a woman I would help (ngizosiza), but I accidently said I will fart (ngizosuza).
-Unbearable – or barely bearable – winters. Wrapping myself up in an onesie, sweatpants, down NorthFace jacket, two oversized blankets as the only time I can ever retain any heat. Other than that, being cold 24/7 with no source of heat.
-The rootster raping hens infront of my hut.
-Slaughtering a cow on our lawn and then eating it.
-A chicken with its head cut off running at me.
-The satisfaction of killing mosquitoes, and having mosquito killing contests with fellow Volunteers.
-Killing insects with my bare hand/not flinching if a spider crawls on my blanket.
-Hiding behind a house on my property on my way to school to avoid the village crazy while he herds his cattle.
-Literally living off of eggs, ramen and lentils.
-Generations nights with my family. (Watching a corny, but oh so good soap opera every night at 8pm) with my family.) Yea, I’m gonna miss that show.
-My counterpart dressing me in traditional Sotho wear and taking me through her village; she introduced me to Gogo (Grandma) Mandela, who was born the same year as Nelson Mandela.


-Living with no water for a full week and only saving enough rain water for coffee.

Here’s to remembering!

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. dennyfoto #

    This brought back some memories….even if I was only there for 2 weeks…..I shall never forget the cold which was the reason for my illness, etc. And the jammed in taxis. I shall miss your delightful blogs. Mary Kate

    June 19, 2014
  2. slindo5 #

    ncoah man how swt……………..t actauly made me laugh seems like you really did enjoy hei……#peace#

    July 28, 2014
  3. Goodness, this makes me think about how much I’m going to miss everything when I’m gone — thanks for sharing!

    September 26, 2014

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