It has almost been a year since returning home from my two and a half years living and working abroad in Africa. Since the day I stepped foot in California I was eager to get back to Khula Village and to the people who became my community for two years. While preparing for this trip I was so nervous that once I arrived in South Africa I would feel strange and out of place as I have been away for quite some time. Luckily, my experience thus far as been quite the opposite. From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt as if I had never left. Within a couple of days I was back to my old routine of taking bush taxis, eating biltong, getting marriage proposals, drinking coke out of glass bottles, being starred at, being fed chicken feet and worms, hearing people constantly yell “umulungu” (white person) at me, and eating meals with my hands.
My first two stops in South Africa were to my friend, Charlie’s, site near Rustenburg and to Mokopane to visit my two host families from training. On my visit to Charlie’s site I rediscovered my talent for sleeping in completely cramped bush taxis and my love of polony (imagine a faker looking and tasting bologna). I then traveled north to visit my old host families who I stayed with during my 2-month Peace Corps training in January 2011. For dinner the first night my 16-year old host sister made spaghetti and meatballs as that was the one American meal I made for them years ago and she wanted to show me that not only had she not forgotten how to prepare it, but that she had perfected it! The younger ones of the family were eager to show off their newly acquired English skills and my host mother was keen on reintroducing me to corn as she is still convinced we don’t have it in America. After spending two lovely days with them I experienced arguably the most terrifying taxi ride of my life on my way back to Pretoria. Although quite sunny upon our departure from the village about one hour into the trip we hit a huge rain storm. The rain pounded down on the rickety taxi, the highway seemed more like a swimming pool than a road, the windshield wipers somehow managed to break and the driver could not find any way to defog the windshield. The scariest part of all was that the driver kept telling me how nervous he was. Needless to say, I was very glad when we finally made it to Pretoria safely.
After that taxi ride I was very ready to leave the north and travel down to Khula Village. I will head down to KwaZulu Natal this weekend to spend a few weeks in Khula Village, the place that was my home for two wonderful years! I am so eager to embrace each member of my host family, sleep in my hut, bathe with a bucket, trudge through deep sand, listen to the sound of melodic birds waking me up before sunrise, get caught up on the latest Zulu house music trends and hear children yell “Miss Piccinini” everywhere I go. Although I left America with the ambitious goal of updating my projects I must not forget the concept of “Africa time” and that things will probably move a lot slower than I would like. With that said, I plan to go in with an open mind and whether I accomplish everything I set out to do or not that isn’t important. The most important thing is just my presence in the village as a reminder to everyone that although I no longer live in Khula I have not forgotten them. The projects I completed, the friends I made and relationships I formed truly shaped the person I am today and I thank them.
Now off to Zululand!