The week in Pretoria also afforded an opportunity for me to see an orthopedist about my left knee that has been giving me trouble since last July. Unfortunately, the MRI showed a “significant” tear in the medial meniscus. While I am a candidate for arthroscopic surgery, we are trying a course of Physiotherapy – lower body exercises- to see if the knife can be avoided. I have been at is now for three weeks. It takes me about an hour to run through the routine which I have to do twice a day. I have not dropped my usual exercise routine, which takes a little over half an hour a day and is mainly upper body focused, and still try to walk two or three days a week for at least 5 or 6 kilometers. It would not be a stretch to say that I am getting somewhat muscly in my old age. I feel good and sleep better too, so I am not complaining. So far the knee has not gotten noticeably better, but I will give it time.
Last weekend I attended a graduation ceremony for one of the community health workers with whom I work. She and her daughter were graduating from a 3 month commercial (i.e. not government sponsored) computer training course with about 150 other people who attended the courses in three villages in the area. The event was held at the local Tribal Authority hall and turned out to be a full dress cap and gown affair with several speeches and awards. Though the event started an hour late in true African fashion, the audience was boisterous and demonstratively energetic, dancing, singing, parading and ululating throughout the 5 hours it took to complete. You wonder what the fuss was all about, but when you think of this course in the contest of rural South Africa and rural education here, you see that this is probably the most important and practically useful education that these 150 people have ever had. It gives them a distinct advantage over their peers both in pursuing further education and in the job market. The greatest challenge these enterprising souls will face in the short term is finding computers to use so that they don’t loose whatever knowledge they acquired. Now if only they could learn to start events on time!
We are in the middle of the dry winter season here and the world is now mostly brown and dusty. Days are cooler and damn cold if the sun is not shining, and the nights are mostly around freezing. Remember, the buildings have no heat and no insulation and all I and most people have over head is a tin roof, so don’t tell me about your below freezing temperatures unless you live with those temperatures inside you home as well as outside. With three blankets, socks and a wool watch cap I sleep in reasonable comfort, though getting out onto the cement floor is a little tough each morning. I actually start my physiotherapy exercises under the covers until I have a little internal heat going.
About three weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to find that the municipality has partially remedied the water supply problem. There is no more pressure than before, but we have started getting water as many as 4 days a week. We still don’t know what days it will be, so we just leave a tap open over a 75 liter wash tub and remain flexible. The change has greatly benefited my garden. All we have right now is chard, but that is 100% more green leafy vegetables that the family had before. I have some tomatoes coming as well as some peppers and basil. Not much else will grow until the spring.
At about the time the water came, one of the major South African supermarket chains opened a mini version of its stores about 3 kilometers from my house. By no means is this a full service store, but they do sell some things that I used to have to make the 55 kilometer trip to town to buy – lettuce, carrots, green peppers, cheese, fresh milk products, butter, fresh eggs and some spices etc. I still have to make the longer trip to get good meat, most spices and adult refreshments, but I won’t have to break my back carrying my groceries home every two weeks. I just work a pass by the store into one of my regular walks once a week. Ahh! The modern life! I don’t know why it has taken so long. The round trip to town now costs 60 Rand and consumes more than 2 hours of a day. There are more than 30,000 people living within 15 kilometers of this store. It is mobbed from the time it opens until it closes very day. It’s just good business.