Thursday, November 12, 2009

The World Is Flat

It’s true. The world is flat.

This is undeniably true and I will give two reasons for believing as such:

1) The world has an edge; I fell off the face of the Earth, at least for as much as many of you all were concerned. True, I did make some late-night phone calls, write a few emails, and even sneak on Facebook at time or two. But, for the most part, this blog remained untouched for a good part of four months. This isn’t to say that I didn’t want to share my experiences with you all through the World Wide Interwebs—definitely not true; I most certainly did (and still do). It isn’t to say that I didn’t want to share the photos of what I’ve seen through my lens—also not true; I’ll post as many photos as my bandwidth (and subsequently, my pocketbook) allows. I guess it’s simply that here in South Africa, life’s been one incredible experience followed by another with only a few slow moments to rest in between. I won’t try to explain what these “incredible experiences” are like in this blog posting—it would take days writing non-stop to give you a true picture of what I mean. Even so, I don’t think I could ever write enough or take enough photos to achieve what I want to share about how normal, yet—at the same time—completely unique, my daily life is. We’ve got two years for that and I’ve got a long and growing list titled Things to Blog About of things jotted down that I can’t wait to share with you.

(I want to interject here to explain what I meant before when I wrote “slow moments.” I don’t mean “boring ones,” not in the least. The evenings slow down and I often find myself enjoying a cup of rooibos tea outside in front of the house as the sun sets with my host mother, MmaTebo, or with neighbor elders that are passing by and stop to chat, all of which I value more and more as time goes on; it gives me a chance to appreciate the peace that life can bring once I slow down.)

2) The world here is flat in the most literal meaning possible. My village in the western part of North West Province is a dusty, rocky stretch of shrubs and sand, dotted with trees here and there, but flat as the eye can see. There isn’t a hill in sight. Granted, the landscape isn’t the most spectacular, nor is it something I write home about, but it has it’s noticeable benefits, which have become more and more apparent as I’ve looked for them. The most obvious are the sunsets and sunrises. If you’ve ever traveled to the flat parts of Utah or other similar areas in the southwest and noticed the skies, you'll hopefully agree that the skies can explode with color and spectacular cloud shapes with nothing obstructing the view.  I’ve seen more beautiful sunsets sitting outside my house than I can count. I’ve had to put away my camera because if I didn’t, I’d become obsessed.  Other reasons I’ve learned to love the flatness of my village is the ease of getting from point A to point B on foot with relative ease. Since we’re not allowed to operate a motorized vehicle in the Peace Corps, I go basically everywhere on foot, and the occasional donkey cart (yes, there are a lot of them—more carts than cars). I am so very thankful there are no hills to battle with. Add a hill or two to the dry heat we’re experiencing (high 90’s this week) and I’m not sure if I’d survive. I’ve got friends who deal with hills in their villages and it doesn’t sound fun. Yet another reason to appreciate this landscape: we get terrific thunderstorms that start on the horizon with some absolutely spectacular  shows of lightning, followed by a cool stiff wind which feels great after the heat. Finally, the flat expanses remind me of home on the plains of Minnesota—not quite as green, but still comforting to be able to see all your surroundings.


More than anything else that I want to share with you now, I will explain this: living here in a sleepy, dusty village in rural North West Province is truly an enriching experience, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. I look forward to the opportunity during the next two years to share what I can with you of my life in South Africa through words and pictures, and to give you a glimpse of the obvious and maybe not-so-obvious dichotomies of daily life in the village, which I’m learning about every day.◊ Salang Sentle—Stay Well