Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sweaty Seasons Greeting from Swaziland!

It’s a new year but it certainly didn’t feel like the holiday season for me without snow! Granted I don’t miss digging my car out of the snow. You’ve probably been wondering what the heck happened to my blog. I’ve been slacking. There are a few noteworthy things that have happened in December and January.

First, I had a training the first week of December and this time I got to bring a community member (a counterpart as Peace Corps calls them). I brought my Rural Health Motivator (RHM) because I’m hoping to work with her a lot in the community. We have some ideas to start an HIV support group and I want to work with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs). We were in Matsapha for three days learning about the steps we should take to ensure our projects are successful. It was long and stressful for both of us but I’m really happy we got to do it. Unfortunately, my RHM had to leave a little early on the third day because her son was in the hospital! He’s fine now but still it worried me. I’m glad she was able to leave early and take care of him. Also fun fact: her son and I have the same birthday (June 11th)!

Second, I thought I’d have a hard time being away from home for Christmas for the first time in my entire life. It was hard to be away from family, but I had a great Christmas here in Swaziland. There is an organization called Vusumnotfo run by a former Peace Corps Volunteer. She served here and stayed her whole life. Now she and her daughter live in Ngonini. She runs this organization which does preschool teacher trainings and some permagardening work. About 20 PCVs and some other friends from the area got together and ate two AMAZING, DELICIOUS turkeys. There were tons of side dishes from all of us who attended. Tons of mashed potatoes which are my favorite! We also got to watch movies on the projector. All in all it was a great way to spend Christmas and I got to see the northern region of Swaziland which is beautiful. On Christmas day my dad called and I got to talk to my grandma, my brother, and my aunt. I hadn’t heard their voices in forever! As much as I wish I could be home with family for Christmas, I still had a great Christmas in Swaziland.

Third, New Years Eve in Swaziland is a real party at House on Fire. If you google House on Fire, you’ll see they are a music venue of sorts. They threw a big NYE party. I spent two nights in town at Sundowners and went to that. A group of volunteers went to Tofo, Mozambique but the prices were about double the normal prices to stay in Mozambique during NYE so I didn’t go. Also I finally got packages from home! Two from my mom and one from a friend! Getting my mom’s packages home from the office proved to be a bit challenging but I made it. Unfortunately, I did get stranded at the Siteki bus rank on the 2nd but it meant I got to spend the night at another PCV’s house in Siteki. She has a shower and a flushing toilet so I wasn’t too sad about getting stranded.

Last but not least, last week I went to Mozambique! I spend five days in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The first night we had a group of 12 since 6 of the volunteers were going to Tofo in the morning. We went to a restaurant on the beach called Centaurio (spelling?). I found that I really like 2M which is a beer made in Mozambique. Of course…it’s not sold in Swaziland. Then the following day we went across the bay to Catembe and walked down the beach. We found a little place for lunch. The beach was really dirty so we planned on going to Inhaca island for our beach day. More on that later. Then we found this amazing mall! Everything a girl could want and all the food I could hope for. Whodathunk it was built by a drug lord wanted by the United States!?! Filipe is a friend of a friend from Wells College and he told us that fun tidbit. He also took us out that night to Mira Mar another restaurant on the beach in a different area of the city. It was great food but the bill turned into a bit of hell. Math is hard…esp with 8 people eating. Regardless we got it figured out and some of our group wanted to go out dancing. This also turned into a bit of  a mess. We had to go in two groups because of the whole one car deal. We tried to go to a place but it cost too much to get in and apparently flip flops aren’t club wear in Maputo (as if it matters what shoes we wear). So we called it a night and went back to Fatimas. Ohhh yes I meant to mention where we stayed.

Fatimas is a hostel (called backpackers here) with a nice open kitchen and bar area. The rooms were nice enough with lockable cabinets for our stuff and bug nets. Granted the bug nets weren’t the best. Our roommates were also a strange mix….to say in the least. The first night there was an old guy who said if were weren’t all married we were in trouble (joking but still…ew). Then there was an ACTUALLY freaky guy who said he couldn’t sleep in the room the first night because he wouldn’t be able to control himself. Wtf does that mean….we will never know and I don’t want to. Luckily he left after night #1. The old guy…well he continued to scar us. One afternoon after returning from walking around the city, my friend Liz and I walked into the room to find him laying on his bed naked. We didn’t see everything but there was little left to the imagination. Nasty.

Some other landmarks we visited were an old Fort, the Saturday craft market (I got some earrings and a bag), the train station, and the Central Market. On our last day we were supposed to go to Inhaca island which is known for beautiful beaches and great swimming. Now I’m not a big fan of sand but I do love swimming. Of course we woke up Sunday to rain and thunder. I didn’t want to get stranded on an island. I don’t need my own rendition of castaway please and thanks. So we read there is a hotel on Catembe (the beach we went to day one) where we could swim because the beach was clean-ish. In my grumpy, lazy mood I didn’t bring my bathing suit because I didn’t think the rain would clear up. Of course, the rain did clear up and it got hot! We went over to Catembe Gallery Hotel to find a beautiful restaurant set out on a dock with a beautiful view of the water. Then four of our group swam and laid out. Liz and I went back to the city forgetting on Sunday everything is shut down. So we tried to go back to central market only to find it locked. Another little gem we found was a man bucket bathing naked….so bizarre. I understand it’s hot but really guys? You can wear shorts and be clothed. Us gals have to be wearing a shirt and a skirt down to our knees. The least you could do is cover your junk.

The trip to Mozambique had been a bit of a struggle because we waited three hours for the khombi to fill up and had a bit of a dispute about paying extra so they’d bring us to Fatimas when we arrived. On our way back we thought we would try the other border crossing and the transportation that had to offer. All around the Lomahasha border crossing was a much better plan. It cost me a lot less and I got home around 1pm after a little grocery shopping in Siteki.

It was a great vacation but I’m happy to be home. Now I have a week before school starts! I’m excited to get started on projects that actually relate to my service. I enjoyed sleeping in late and just traveling in December and January but I have so many ideas I can’t wait to start on. Also, thank you to all my friends and family who donated to Books for Africa/Swaziland! We reached our fundraising goal in just six weeks and my school’s application for a library was accepted! I’m so excited to start getting the library put together. Thanks to everyone at home for their support!

TV Series: Breaking Bad (Season 5)
Book: Gang Leader for a Day, Freakonomics


  1. My name is Nia. I am in the medical clearance process for the Peace Corps. I have been invited to serve in Swaziland. I'm not sure how often you get to check this but I have a ton of questions. First, what would you say is necessary for packing? If you suggest anything that has to do with technology, which kinds should I bring? Would a laptop and a camera suffice for capturing the experience?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Nia,
      Sorry it took me so long to reply. I wasnt sure how to respond to blog comments from new people. I'm excited you've been invited! Hopefully by now you've accepted and found the facebook group for Group 12 for Peace Corps Swaziland. For technology: a sturdy laptop, an unlocked smartphone, and they'll give you a kindle but if you want a separate one for personal use that's a good thing to have. For the camera, I brought a nice camera but I take a lot of pictures with my phone because its less obvious than a big camera. You should definitely bring some sort of digital camera but it doesn't have to be crazy expensive and huge.

      Hope some of that helps!