The house we live in is charming, a two bedroom flat in the middle of nowhere. In the morning, as it was when we were kids and had sleepovers, I am usually the first one awake. There is a sweet little loft, bare, and so still that you are forced to sit with your thoughts being the only company present.
Of course, what you care about is what I’ve been eating: a delicious, stick to your ribs type carbohydrate food called “mealy meal”. It is reminiscent of grits, (which already means it’s a hit with me!) but thicker, and with the fluffy quality of mashed potatoes. Heart chicken stew, butternut squash mashed up—it’s almost like a Thanksgiving meal. Other meals are generally pretty Westernized: basic staples are quite inexpensive. The conversion is I believe 7.2 Rand to 1 USD. Pretty favorable, so long as I don’t try to purchase electronics, and what not.
BUT. Yesterday at a Sundowner, I had BILTONG! First, I should explain that a Sundowner is basically drinking and snacking and enjoying the sun going down. Easy enough. Wonderful enough, is more like it! Happy hour! And ours was spent with the boys of a family whose farm we had toured earlier that day, and played some soccer while there was still light, as the cows looked on. Biltong is a cured, salted meat, usually beef, or venison, though I believe the process can be done to ostrich too. (Which I’m very curious about). It was tasty beyond measure, and I think I quite prefer it to beef jerky. I suppose that in the analogy form which I am so fond of:
Beef Jerky:Well Done::Biltong: Medium Rare/Rare. Makes sense? You’ll just have to try it.
I had mentioned a farm, and didn’t want to forget to tell how delicious the cheese made there is. Even more impressive is that they do it without any electricity. Stunning. I wish you could taste it. Complete with a veritable ark of farm animals, acres of gorgeous greens, and a monkey rope (“swing”), it seemed like something straight out of a storybook, or a dream of what you wish your childhood had been like. When a baby lamb came up to me, I began to feel extremely guilty of the lamb kabob joint that I had made a point to visit at least once a month in LA.
Actually I realize what you really care about is what I’ve been drinking. And I’ll tell you. The tap water comes from Ebenezer Dam and Letaba. Other than that one place in China, this is the most delicious water I’ve tasted. As for the other more alcoholic beverages, I was able to taste some at my birthday party held at the local bar/restaurant. The “Pot and Plow” had me enjoying some Windhoek lager (which mixed with Sprite is actually quite tasty too, a “shandy”), Black Label—a beer that is darker, and more reminiscent of a pale-ish ale, and Amarula. Amarula is the South African, creamier version of Bailey’s. With that, and a few rounds of pool at the Pot n Plow (neighborhood bar) I celebrated turning 23!
As for Haenertsberg itself? The place is gorgeous, like Ojai and the bluffs of the Santa Monica mountains, a tiny 5 block town tucked sweetly inside. Secretly, even. But this is a stark contrast to where we’ll be working. The office for the Bjatladi Youth Center, where I will very likely be spending a lot of my time is located there. At a welcome dinner, a few nights prior, I had met the directors and think that I really could be teaching dance there! I will also be learning dance there, I’m sure. I tried my hand at the marimba too, that day, and had a blast. What a thrilling instrument!
Oh, and Thobela! (Which means “hello” in Sepedi). I have been trying to pick up bits and pieces of the language which may be helpful to me as most of the people in our centers speak it.
Internet is available, but not every day. I think that there is a certain joy in solitude, and being away from the wide world. Another certain joy? Learning to drive stick shift. Not just any old manual transmission, but on the right side of the car, on the left side of the street. It is: unbelievably fun. I think that my entire perception of driving has now changed. Brilliant.
Hopefully by next post, I will tell you about some of the words we use, and words the South Africans use. But for now, Shalang Habutsi! (Which, in Sepedi, means, “stay well”, or “goodbye”)