Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two blog in one courtesy of Swazi internet connections...

July 4, 2013

Whew where do I even start?! I left off with kindles and prospective host families so I suppose I’ll start there. Good news is I got my last blog posted only two nights after I wrote it and I got my PC Kindle to connect/register to the internet. There is an overwhelming wealth of information and instruction books that came already loaded on the Kindles. It’s phenomenal the amount of information us trainees (PCTs) are trying to absorb. We have had classes on language, culture, safety, transportation, health, and almost anything else you can think of.

I want to start with my host family because they are amazing and I’m thrilled with my experience so far (which was the main stressor for me in Senegal). On Tuesday, July 2nd each family send one member to eat lunch with their trainee. After lunch we loaded up the khumbis (15 passenger vans…well they say 15 but let’s be honest why not squeeze a few more in?) with all and I MEAN ALL our crap. We had to give up one piece of luggage to be stored at the Country Director’s house for the duration of training and, despite all my whining, thank goodness we did! I didn’t do my research on internal frame backpacks so one piece was 50lbs and the other was ~25lbs when I left. Now it’s probably more like 70/18 because there was no weight limit for the bags. Peace Corps did an amazing job of organizing tubs, stoves, silverware, bedding, pots, pans, plates, etc. and delivering them to each volunteer’s site. Granted the process wasn’t perfect. Some people didn’t have pots because of a supply problem. Poor Babe Mussa (Babe meaning father and Mussa is our training coordinators name) was ready to kick some butt yesterday when he couldn’t get his hands on the correct stuff. I sure did have lots of spoons and zero forks when I showed up but on the whole the staff got us everything we needed. It was organized chaos for this week while we moved in but hopefully us Trainees can find our groove thang soon. I can’t speak for the whole group but MAN I can’t wait until Sunday when I can do laundry, sleep in, and just be still.

SiSwati is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn and I’m convinced it’s because my brain is just full. Hopefully, it will get a bit smoother soon as my host family repeats repeats repeats every word and phrase a gazillion times. My host family is my Gogo (grandmother), Mkhulu (grandfather), Babe (father), three sisis (sisters), and three bhutis (brothers). My sisi’s names were hard to learn. The one who traveled from the training center and helped me move is named Thabile. She gave me a SiSwati name of Calile which of course has a click in the beginning of it so that’s nearly impossible for me to say, but hey it’s good practice! There is another sister who told me her name tonight while making dinner but whew I just can’t remember it…the last and smallest of them all is Sisi (yes her name is the same as the word for sister which makes it the easiest to remember). The brothers are Andi, Thando, and Swalithe (I’m not sure how to spell that smallest boy’s name and saying it is almost just as hard). Andi is maybe 16-18, Thando told me he is 10, and Swalithe is four. Thabile and her sister are my age and Sisi is two. It’s truly intriguing to see how similar children are even across cultures. She is just as playful, mischievous, and curious as my niece Genevieve.

So Thabile is my main gal. She’s the one who really makes sure I get where I need to be and helps me learn how to cook. Tonight I cooked with my other sisi because Thabile is in town doing her Gogo’s hair for an event. Thabile runs two hair salons and was a business major at university. I admire her go-get-it attitude and it gives me a great jump-off point for teaching younger Swazi women how to be business women and leaders. It’s hard to say “You can do it!” if you don’t have an example. Her sister (the one I cooked with tonight) wants to go to school for business and economics but hasn’t been able to get any scholarships. She helps at the salons so it’s a learn by doing education. It’s really hard for students to get scholarships to universities in Swaziland but there are three universities and a variety of vocational schools. My whole family speaks English except for Swalithe and Sisi so I feel like I got lucky in that sense. I want to learn SiSwati but I also didn’t feel overwhelmed on day one. I have a small room that’s sandwiched between the one car garage and the house. There is an indoor toilet (a real treat!!) and a pit latrine. We have six pigs (I may have counted wrong) who are MASSIVE. Then there are four dogs and a variety of chickens and highly irritating roosters. When I read all the other PC Swaziland blogs before my trip I was thought surely roosters aren’t that bad right? Wrong…all wrong. Seriously they stand like three feet tall (as tall as Sisi) and are SOOO noisy. The dogs are pretty noisy too but I like dogs better so I’m biased. There are three dogs who run around the property and one on a chain because it’s the “naughty dog” and, based on its freak out last night at me leaving the house, it would eat your face off if it got the chance. The other three are lovely and two of them are a little over a year old. For anyone who knows me, they know I’m in heaven with these pups!

I studied abroad in Senegal for four months and I did not even consider the health risks involved. Our PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) Daynese has basically made us the most paranoid people on earth! Apparently our water could have Schistosomiasis which is a parasite that takes two years to get rid of in the human body…yay. So we either have to let our water sit for three days and let it die or boil it. Now, those of you who worried about my health shouldn’t forget all your worries but seriously we have a three step process for our water. We boil, filter, and then bleach. Yuck. The bleach makes it taste like pool water. I’ve been doing two of the three. I boil everything and then filter it if it’s for drinking/eating and then I bleach anything I do dishes with or bathe in. I’ve also learned that those two months of diarrhea and cramps in Senegal wasn’t just normal “crap”…oops. Here we have ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) to battle the lost of fluids. I’ve come to realize this may be why my energy level was always a little low in Senegal. Heat definitely played a part in my energy level there but I’m glad we have ORS here. Especially if I get a little shaky and icky feeling. There’s a whole slew of other diseases, parasites, illnesses, ailment, etc. we learned about but I don’t want to cause nightmares. I do have to take a malaria prophylaxis here. So far I did dream but nothing wild and out. Nothing like Malarone dreams my friends in Senegal described. I just wanted to let you all know I have the best health care I’ll ever have. Seriously 24/7 care from the PCMO. If I can’t walk or make it to the office on a bus, PC will pick us up. If we are so ill it can’t wait, we will get airlifted. Honestly, don’t worry parents 

Last but not least, today was Fourth of July. It always makes me incredibly sad not to be sitting front and center behind Hinesburg Community School watching the fireworks with my friends and family. The last two years I was in DC which was a lot of fun but both years I was sad on the Fourth because I wasn’t home. Today we went to the CD’s (Country Director’s) house for hot dogs and hamburgers and potato salad and everything a gal could want! Today I wasn’t sad because I felt the strength of the PC community. There are still some folks from Group 8 who have extended into their third year, there are folks from Group 9 who leave in a week or two, we got to grill Group 10 which has been here one year, and us Group 11 folks got to meet our new family for the next two years. I’m still sad I wasn’t home and I was a little overwhelmed at how much information there still is to learn when I heard stories from Group 10, but considering I cried over Kaylin’s secret note the first night alone in my new hut, I felt a lot less alone in the sense that these people really do care about one another and they have done great things so far. I’m so excited to push through the tough training period and make this experience my own. I cried my first night alone but I wasn’t unhappy to be in Swaziland. I miss you all but I’m enjoying 99.9% of Swaziland so far. Now if only I could get internet to post this blog…. 

Just an fyi – one of the most comforting items so far is my ipod and the external speaker I bought the night before I left VT. So nice to have some background noise in my home when everyone goes to bed at 8pm. Also, my host family is so amazing they gave me a key to the actual house so I can use the indoor bathroom rather than a pot for my potty needs at night. Super duper plus plus.

July 12, 2013

They did say there would be a honeymoon phase when I went abroad to Senegal. I didn’t really get that feeling there but I sure do feel it in Swaziland. Before I explain, I’m still in a great mood and happy to be here. It all started Wednesday when I e-mailed my parents. My dad e-mailed me a big huge list of questions. I didn’t have a lot of time to write back because there were a bunch of other volunteers waiting to get on the internet. Our router can only handle four people at a time at its best…and it’s never at its best. Either way I got my e-mails out and then tried to post my July 4th blog. wouldn’t even load over a 5-10 minutes span and I tried to reload it over and over. I got super frustrated and for some reason just crashed. All of a sudden I was homesick, pissed off, and just generally wished I had a phone so I could call someone or they could call me from home. I thought I shook it off and that day a group of PCVs had made us a ton of delicious, familiar food to eat. I went up and of course our PCMO, Daynese, asked if I was okay and I couldn’t help it. I cried. Funny enough during our discussion I said to Day “I’m a healthy and happy volunteer for the most part, I’m just frustrated I can’t communicate with people at home.” WHEW did I jinx myself. What an idiot.

Part two to this blog. Don’t continue reading if you have a weak stomach (you had fair warning). Wednesday night after all that delicious food the other PCVs made us I had diarrhea like you wouldn’t believe. It wasn’t just diarrhea once in a while. After eating dinner with my host family, I thought I was just having a little bout of diarrhea. Today is day two, night three of that. I went to the bathroom about six times Wednesday night. Not fun. I tried to figure out what I did wrong and I think part of it is that my host family ran out of water this past weekend. Usually we have a tap that brings water off the mountain, but for some reason it stopped working Saturday night and didn’t start working again until Tuesday morning. Saturday morning of course I thought it was a great idea to soak my laundry while I was at class. Low and behold, I come home to no water. So I used a lot of my filtered/boiled water on my laundry hoping the water would come back soon. No luck chuck. That also happened to be the night my host sister, Thabile, bought five chickens to slaughter. With no extra water. See where this is going? I tried to wash my hands and make sure all the water used for dinner was boiled and I tried to be as hands off with the chicken preparation as possible, but it’s too hard to keep track of all these things. Eventually I think something yucky made it into my food or water. I lost the battle but not the war.

Today was much better. We have five language groups and each group had to try and cook a Swazi meal but in a slightly healthier way. They use a lot of salt in their meals and something called Aromat which is basically straight up MSG. Yummmyyy! They also serve huge portions of rice and barely any vegetables. So my group cooked beans with onion, rice, patata (which is like a white sweet potato type deal) mashed up, coleslaw, and sautéed cabbage because we just had so much cabbage we had to do something with it. It was really delicious so I couldn’t resist. I ate a bunch and it seems like my stomach only tossed about half of it. Last night after dinner my host family served Coke. Let’s be clear about one thing: soda is my kryptonite. In my heart of hearts I knew I should just avoid the caffeine because it’s a diuretic, but I just couldn’t resist. This resulted in a run to the bathroom about 15 minutes after dinner. Sad but true. Today I ate a ton at lunch and did much better. Hopefully I’m on the upswing from whatever made its way through my intestines. Also, thank god/allah/or whoever you pray to that we have an indoor toilet. Six trips to the latrine at night may have caused heart failure and pneumonia from the amount of time I’d have to spend in the cold.

Rolling back a little bit to last weekend (when we ran out of water). We had a birthday go-to-town day on Sunday for Matt. His wife Caila put together a trip to Riverstone Mall in Manzini. It was nice for us all to get out for a while and feel a little taste of freedom. We also got a nice taste of BURGERS!!! We ate at a place called Wimpy’s. I’m told it’s a chain in the UK as well as down here? Someone else would have to verify that since Google and I broke up when I had to leave the U.S. All weekend my host family was gone to South Africa to visit family. It was just Thabile, Andile, and the three little tykes who were around for the weekend. Andile, the 17 year old bhuti (brother), totally took advantage of this as all teenagers do and blasted his American hip-hop and R&B as loud as he could. I enjoyed it because it was all music I liked from home and I didn’t have to waste my iPod battery listening to it  All in all it was a good weekend which lead to an interesting week.

This week was all about gardening and nutrition. There are a lot of spice and vegetables Volunteers can grow for the sake of availability and expenses. I totally have a black thumb but I’m more than willing to give it the old college try if I can have fresh basil, cucumbers, etc. We learned a technique called permagardening which uses double-digging to allow roots to stretch down rather than out. We also learned how to compost as a way to supplement even the hardest soils. It’s a great concept and, to everyone at home who has had a hard time gardening, I highly suggest you do some research. This will probably be my favorite week because I love food. On Sunday, we get to cook anything we can muster up with 150 emalangeni. That’s about $15 for those of you who were curious. It gets you a lot further than you think. We were able to feed about 12 or 15 people with our Swazi meal using that amount of money. Granted it has less fancy ingredients than what our group is going to try for Sunday. I’ll get back to you on how it ends up…although don’t expect it to be soon. As you may have seen this because a double entry blog since I wasn’t able to post my fourth of July blog. Don’t fret about my health. I’m happy and keeping myself healthy despite my umsheko (diarrhea in SiSwati) days. Sorry if you posted questions I haven’t gotten to see them yet. I know my dad e-mailed me a big list and everyone is welcome to do the same. When I get a cellphone and a SIM card on July 26th I’ll have much more real contact with everyone through email and whatsapp. Until then it will have to be through rushed emails and overly thunk blogs.

1 comment:

  1. I looked up the Wimpy's for you, it's a UK chain but is in many other countries as well. :) New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, Egypt, and more. Love hearing about your experience, I think of you often! Take care!