August 1, 2013
Yikes almost a month since my last blog. Sorry folks! I am now in week five of nine for training and since I don’t think I can get it all down in any other form, I’m going to list some of the big events from the past few weeks. (In chronological order of course)
I got to visit a high school and facilitate an activity where we compare girls’ and boys’ daily schedules. This is a tool volunteers use to assess what activities each is responsible for and how to plan our sessions. For example, if we want to do a session with girls about HIV we wouldn’t do it at 3pm on a Thursday because they are probably doing chores on the homestead or doing their homework.
Week three was all sorts of technical stuff and activities to assess what projects are needed most and discuss with the community what projects it wants to do. It was a seriously stressful week because a lot of the sessions felt forced and there were some personality clashes I think. Nothing major or groundbreaking but I think having so much time all as one group can push peoples’ patience (including mine).
On Monday July 22nd my Nana passed away. I have had a lot of ups and downs about this. I would have loved to go home but there was simply no way to go. We are in the heart of our training and I certainly don’t have the $2000-$3000 to spend on a short-notice plan ticket to the U.S. Instead, I sat through training in which we learned about OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children). There is an astounding number of Swazi children with only one parent or no parents particularly due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although, I’m sad I can’t be home, it makes me incredibly thankful I got 23 years of stories, love, and learning from my Nana. I wouldn’t have that perspective if I weren’t in Swaziland so I try to remember that when I’m sad.
Week four was off to a rocky start with the passing of my Nana, but it was a good week for several reasons. I passed my first round of tests in all sorts of topics. We got tested on how to assemble cook stoves and water filters, SiSwati, technical training, medical training, and on and on and on! My SiSwati score wasn’t as high as I had hoped for but I’m trying a lot harder to speak with my host family and do better on the final test.
I FINALLY HAVE A CELLPHONE YAYYAYAYAYAYAYAYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please please please get Whatsapp if you can. Otherwise I can email and facebook message. Skype isn’t terribly expensive but it does use up my data pretty quickly so I’ll have to save it for special occasions. The single biggest stress reliever for the week is the ability to connect with my family especially after my Nana passed away. Peace Corps was very quick to give me a phone to call home the day I found out but honestly it is way better having my own.
Last but not least, we had an interesting weekend full of randomly organized events. We went to a museum, King Sobhuza II’s Memorial, culture village, a shopping mall, and Sondzela game reserve. Let me start by saying Saturday was more stressful than relaxing. Our first stop was actually a permaculture/premagardening place called Guba. It was beautiful and fascinating. I got to see compost toilets in action. They actually seem cleaner than the pit latrines despite doing your business in a glorified bucket. This was a little way for PC to show us all the gardening techniques they’ve been trying to teach us. Granted they have a lot of hands on deck to do the work. Then we went to the museum. I basically saw the bathroom because we were rushed out to the Memorial where a man was supposed to give us a tour at 10:30. That did not happen…Swazi time is a real problem some days. Instead we got whisked off to Culture Village to see some traditional dances, songs, and beehive huts. I think this was the most interesting mainly in the sense that if you did a colonial village in the states it wouldn’t be the same as the way we live today. I wonder how Swazi culture has changed and why. I have some idea for the obvious reason that I live on a modern homestead, but I’m still not living in “rural” Swaziland. The game reserve was pretty cool but a bit of a letdown because we didn’t get to do a drive. We got there and all the women were in this one massive dorm building with 23 beds. We did finally get to use some showers which was AWESOME of course. Any water that runs itself is a friend by me. The three guys and the two married couples did get to stay in little rondavels. I was just jealous because their beds looked waaaayyy more comfortable. Anywho we ate some uh…wildebeest and other poor animals sausage. So that was adventurous. It then was so hot I felt a bit ill. I came home and rested up the whole afternoon.
This is week five and I can already tell you the most exciting thing that will happen is official site announcements on Saturday! Then next week we get to visit where we will be living for the next two years! Whew no pressure or anything right? I’ve been told I’ll be in the Lumbumbo region with a very small host family with just a Make, a Babe, and a kid.
That’s all I can think of for now but it’s been a tough two weeks. A lot of down moments last week but a lot of up ones this week. For example, I climbed up into the cage where my family keeps the maize (corn) to dry so it can be made into mealie meal (aka corn powder). We were putting the corn into bags so it can be sent through some sort of tractor/machine to separate out the kernels and the cobs. Either way I learned some new SiSwati and braved some NASTY bugs and worms. There is some cockroach/earwig hybrid and man is it gross. Thankfully it moves slowly. Moral of the story here is that I felt like I was really part of the family helping out and talking. That’s the reason I’m here and it’s nice to have some Kodak moments like that to remind me of my ultimate goals. Salani kathe (stay well)!