Tuesday, March 6, 2012


These last few weeks have been fairly busy for me. I've been to the University of Venda a few times to start working with them. I'm hoping to have some University students come volunteer at my schools (reading with learners, coaching, etc) and to get them interested in volunteering. Next term I'll take my Grade 6 and 7 learners to see Uni Ven's library and have a small program explaining what a library, how to care for books and other general library information. Out of 300 Grade 6 and 7 learners at my two schools, only about 10 have ever seen a library before despite living fairly close to some. The school libraries are moving ahead, still building up support  from the community to maybe get some shelves donated. Teachers have already started coming in and asking for  help from the library at one school--very exciting. At TVEP we've had some meetings about doing a radio play script writing competition focusing on sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and HIV/AIDS. If we can get this going it should be an interesting project.

Still training for the Longtom half marathon, though I did fall off for a bit. One recent run I was joined by five Grade 1's. The sun was at our back with our shadows stretching out in front. Their shadows only came to my elbow and constantly moving as they all tried to be right next to me. The day before some of these same kids ran with me rolling tires as they went. At one point a taxi was coming up behind us and a herd of cows coming towards us. It was just a fun moment.

Mango season is now over, but no time to be sad as avocado season is just starting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Call me Tom

Call me Tom, most of my village does. If not Tom then some other form including Tomo, Thomas, Tommy, Thomisa, Tom & Jerry (yes the cartoon), Teacher Tom, or Thomani. Thomani is my Venda name that means beginning or start it's also very close to my surname Toman. In South Africa people normally put their surname (last name) first followed by initials-- Toman K. S. -- and often introduce themselves by their surname. This means that people thought Toman was my first name and that Thomani comes from my first name. Meaning to most in my village I'm Tom.

Frogs. I have a lot frogs. They seem to really like my room and I catch at least one a night to take out. My host brother, Grade 9, and his friends will run, and run far, if they see me with a frog. They really don't like getting near them. Snakes are another creature that are really feared and hated here. My host dad actually swerved in the road to hit a snake, I thought we were going to crash, and when he found out he had missed backed the car up. He then parked it and got out to throw rocks at the snake until it was dead. This took about 20 minutes in all.

At my schools I'm trying to get libraries started. We have the books, well we have old textbooks, and we have the space. We just need to figure out shelving, organization of the library and how to organize the books. If anyone has any suggestions on funding sources, methods or anything else please let me know.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Yes, still here

I offer you a very South African apology for being so late and few with my blog posts. Seriously, apologies is one agenda item on most meetings and other gatherings I’ve been to.
I am alive (despite what my blog looks like) and am doing great. I’ve now been in country for seven (almost eight) months and have loved most times—can’t quite say all but overall wonderful time. I made it through my lockdown phase fine and have now started more on some projects. At both my schools I’m working on getting libraries set up. Currently books, mainly textbooks, are scattered everywhere gathering dust and making insects happy. Also I’ve started volunteering at Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP) on Wednesdays and hope to help get Scouts South Africa going in my area.
                I’m actually eating much healthier than I was in the States, less fast food and soda and fresher food for the most part. I have multiple grocery stores a short khombi (taxi) ride away and sometimes I go stop by with my host dad in his car. I’ve currently got about six butternut squash grown in my village sitting on a chair in my room waiting for me to cook them. My diet along with walking to school one school is around 3km away and because I’m training for a half-marathon means I’ve lost around 30lbs since coming here. Which is great!
                My local language skills in Tshivenda are honestly not very strong, but some of their words are adopted from English with vowels simply added on. At my schools English is supposed to (emphasize supposed to) be the language of instruction from Grade 4 on up with Tshivenda spoken only in Tshivenda class. So the teachers and many people in my village have at least some English and I can have conversations with many about anything. I actually had a conversation talking about exchange rates and why different countries have different currencies and so on…I did not bring up the topic, but was happy to talk about it.
                About the marathon, it’s called the Longtom marathon that takes place on March 27 in Sabie, Mpumalanga Province, not too far from Kruger Park. It starts at the top of the Longtom Pass and goes downhill most of the way into Lydenburg. I’ll be running the 21.1km option, which is a whole lot further than I’ve ever dreamed of running before. It’s a great personal challenge to me, gets me focused on something while in the village and it’s for a good cause. The marathon is a fundraiser for the KLM Foundation, founded by to PCVs that served in SA, the funds send a child to an excellent independent high school in Mpumalanga called Uplands College. You can check out more at www.klm-foundation.org. The minimum amount that each runner needs to raise is 100USD, nearly 800ZAR (local currency), so if you could donate any amount that would be great (especially since I have to cover the difference and. well, Peace Corps Volunteers don’t exactly get paid much).
So please go to the KLM website to make a donation, just click on the 'donate' photo. The online donation is preferable, but if you need to mail in a check, please make it payable to "Kgwale Le Mollo (US)" and send it to:
KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107
Please make sure to include a note that your donation is on my behalf and this is tax deductible.
                I have gotten packages and letters from people back home and I just want to say thank you to everyone. Knowing people are thinking about me back home means a lot.

Off to bed now, it’s 1400 EST while I write this but 2100 here and get up early here. I promise the next entry will be much sooner than this and will have more stories.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Settling in

I have now been a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) for over a month and just want to share some of what I’ve been doing since swear-in.  I was sworn in on September 8th, 2011 with fifty-four of my fellow PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees). Since then I have been living at my permanent site in Limpopo, South Africa.
A typical day:
I wake up around 5:30 am local time (that’s 11:30pm EST) to get ready for school. I make my breakfast of Jungle Oats, a type of oatmeal, on my hot plate/stove combo or have some yogurt and granola. I head outside to empty my chamber pot and then visit the pit latrine (no running water for me). I do have the good fortune of being able to enjoy a cup of real, not instant, coffee in the morning (except when the power is out). I bathe in my bucket, a process called “bucket bathing” very original name. My last shower was at the supervisors workshop around September 14th and my next shower probably won’t be until IST (In Service Training) in December. I leave around 7 or a little earlier, depending on which school I’m going to as one is further away. I make it to my schools in time for morning assembly at 7:20. I spend the day at school until teachers are dismissed at 14:00. Right now I’m focusing on building relationships with my teachers and working on the computers at my schools—installing anti-virus, organizing files, etc. I hope to eventually work more directly with the classes, but don’t want to end up as a substitute teacher. After school I head back to my rondavel to collect my thoughts and decompress. Many days I go out walking around my village so people get to know the “makhuwa” or “white guy” that lives in the village and so that I know the village and its resources better. I have also started working out to Insanity (via my computer) timing it so I finish in time to watch the sunset over the mountains.  Until recently (Monday, October 17th) I was sleeping in my ENO hammock because my bed hadn’t been delivered. My wardrobe was just delivered Wednesday, October 26th. Until then my paracord was working just fine to hang my clothes up with. I cook dinner for myself making rice one night, pasta the next and putting leftovers in my dorm fridge. I listen to music from my iPod, read books on my computer and watch movies and tv shows on my computer. I am often asleep by 20:30 (12:30pm EST) so that I’m ready for another day of the same. 
I’m very close to my shopping town, only about 6-7 km away with regular transportation to and fro. I also often travel around with my host dad, a headman, in his BMW meeting various people and sharing “cold drink” (aka soda) with them. In my shopping town I can really buy almost anything I want to (provided I have the money, which on a PC stipend might not happen). I can even have KFC anytime I want, though I don’t want it much.
Most people I meet here know English to some level or another. Often English is mixed with the local tongue—think Spanglish. When I do speak I try to slow down and use simpler words and sentences. I have had some conversations about the meaning of money and why we have currency exchanges however. I am working on learning the local language, but it is not necessary for my survival. Even if I just put a word or two of Tshivenda in a sentence of English I’m often understood (given I speak slow enough and suppress my Southern/American accent).
My service is going well so far and I can see areas that I can share different techniques or knowledge with the schools and communities. Also the power of me just being here really can’t be overvalued. I’ve never been told “I love you” from so many people all for the simple reason that I am here and am willing to live and work among them. There are certainly plenty of challenges with just everyday life, but I'll go into more detail about those latter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Limpopo Visit

PST (Pre-Service Training) will be ending soon and tomorrow I'll be heading to see my permanent site up in Limpopo. This is where I'm going to be for the next two years so I'm really looking forward to seeing what it'll be like. I should be living in a rondavel in the Chief's kraal which should be an interesting time, not quite sure what to expect with that. I'll be working with two primary schools as my main project and I'll just have to see what they have for me to do and where I can provide the most assistance.

Saturday I took the first malaria pill and I'll continue taking them until I'm back in the States for a month.

My blogs should be getting better once I'm not typing them on the spot at an internet cafe.

Friday, August 5, 2011

One Month in (Almost)

I have now been in South Africa for almost a month and am having a great time thus far. Right now I am at a larger town near our training village in a mall's internet cafe (which is full of other PCTs-Peace Corps Trainees). PST (Pre-Service Training) has been intense so far with so much coming at us all at once. I'm learning Tshivenda for my final placement up in the Limpopo Province where I will be working with schools (still not sure what exactly I'll be doing with them). For school training I have observed some Grade 4 classes, talked with teachers and taught fractions and uses of water to three Grade 4 classes--classes of around 55 learners (students). Which is the size of classes I will probably be seeing throughout my service here. I'm really enjoying my host family here during PST and am somewhat glad they speak English especially as they do not speak my target language (Tshivenda). It's been pretty nice to wake up and go pick an orange for breakfast...also I do have electricity and running water with my host family, though that will likely change for my permanent site.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the Sour Patch Kids and Archie's Comics...they sent them July 19 and I just got them today. Which is quicker than some others have been getting their mail. Also Post Office workers here might be going on strike soon...so maybe longer waits.

There are many great people in this group of us and I'm enjoying getting to know all of them better. Game reserve on Tuesday (National Holiday for Women). Oh and my birthday is the same day as Freedom Day (April 27) the day of SA's first national election after apartheid.

Updates will likely come more frequently as I will be having more internet access after the next month when I am at my site.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

As I am writing this I am enjoying some wonderful beer while playing chess with my dad (just lost one game) on a set I brought back from the British Museum. This just highlights how great my family has been and how supportive they are of me. They have been amazingly supportive of my decision to join the Peace Corps and very understanding during the long process of my application, nomination, and invitation. I just want to say thank you to my whole family for being there then, now and in the future. I love you all.

I also want to thank all my co-workers, friends of the past year plus who have made this so much easier to go through with. Your encouragement has meant a great deal to me and allowed me to pursue my dreams. Thank you.

 I am getting ready to head off on a great adventure where I shall hopefully learn much and do some good. I will be in South Africa on July 8th until September 2013. Feel free to leave comments here, send me a message on facebook, email or skype if you want to talk. I will attempt to keep this updated with my life, to reassure people that I am ok, and my thoughts on what is happening.

Please keep me in your minds, hearts and prayers.