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.