Monday, September 22, 2014

Another Big Vacation and a New Term

I should be sad that my parents just left last week after two amazing week of vacation, but I’m also very happy to be back in my own bed and to my old routines (except for the hand-sized spider I found inside the pit latrine door this morning of course). On Sept. 2nd, I headed to Pretoria, South Africa to meet up with my parents when they arrived on the morning of Sept 4th. The day I had in between was spent exploring some of Johannesburg which is somewhat off limits to volunteers. We can visit but we have to sign a waiver…I feel like that alone tells you it’s not the safest of cities. That being said, I thought it was pretty cool. Me and two of my fellow volunteers did a hop-on-hop-off tour and saw the tallest building in Africa as well as the apartheid museum.

I guess I should take a step back and explain that the week before I left for Pretoria I was out of my site as well. The last Tuesday in August I helped with a presentation to the new group of volunteers and then stayed in town for their swearing in ceremony on Thursday. We went out that night to celebrate with them and I only had one night at my homestead before I was off to town again. For those of you counting, that’s three weeks away from home save for the one night. It’s by far the longest stretch I’ve had away from my hut.

Vacation officially began September 4th when my parents landed in the morning. They were tired but who can blame them. That 15 hour plane ride is the worst! So we went to a hotel in Pretoria and while they napped some I caught up on my reading. The next day we were off to Kruger Park for three nights. We had to drive 7 hours and we were almost too late to make it in! Apparently the park gates and the camp site gates both close at 6pm. We got to the outside gates at 5:40pm and made a mad dash to the camp gates. Not solid advertising on Kruger’s part. But we made it. Letaba camp was really amazing because we got a view right out over the river. On our second night there we got to watch the elephants by moonlight! We did a lot of self drives and on our third night we did a night drive from Mopani park. We didn’t see too much that night but we got to see a leopard and I hear that’s pretty rare so I was thrilled! We still never saw any lions but we heard some. I’m convinced we passed them but I was holding one of the big headlights and as many of you know I don’t have the best vision in the world.

Kruger was full of cool animals but Big Bend is apparently home to the loudest little frogs you’ve ever heard/seen! We stayed in Big Bend so my parents could visit the schools where I work, the community I live in, and do dinner with my host family. It’s not a long drive but with the pot holes it’s a stressful drive. Either way, the place in BB had a pool with a serious frog problem. I’ve never heard frogs so loud in my life. Lord knows I don’t have enough water at my homestead to have a frog problem. Dinner with my host family stressed me out a little bit. I’m not sure my Dad and Vikki knew that but it did. I felt like I was the wobbly bridge between the two worlds and that seemed stressful. I shouldn’t have stressed at all because my host family speaks English very well and everything went great. My host family is still asking how my parents trip was and saying how wonderful dinner was with them.

Finally, after three nights in Big Bend, we moved on to stay at Sundowners in Ezulwini. Backpackers are an entirely new concept to my parents but for about $100 USD they got to stay four nights and see another common hangout for me as a volunteer. A bigger bonus still is that they got to meet some of my friends here in Swaziland. The coolest part our Swaziland leg of the trip was definitely zip-lining in Malolotja. Every volunteer I’ve talked to said they were very impressed my parents were up for that ( It’s a little scary to start but once you get about half way through the course you can enjoy the views and look around. It’s build into a canyon between two mountains so instead of tree to tree it’s more like rock to rock. We also went to the cultural village, the Ngwenya glass factory, and lots of the shops and restaurants around the valley.

Finally, on Monday the 15th, my parents headed back to Pretoria for some down time before the big flight back. I asked them to drop me off at the Peace Corps office and my dad took some photos of me heading in. Of course, the guard watched my dad take all three photos and waited for me to walk in before he informed me he had to talk to my father. I have many strong words to say about the lack of competence of certain people in that situation, but best to leave that unsaid. Like the saying goes: if you have nothing nice to say its best not to say it at all. Moral of the story: don’t take pictures of U.S. government buildings in other countries…Either way it was tearful goodbye. I’m not sure my parents could see it because I was raging about the picture incident but once they left and I got inside the office it took a little while to get myself together.

It seems surreal that they were even here now that I’m back in my hut living the day-to-day in rural Swaziland. July and August were some of the longest months in my service. There was nothing bad about them, but as I crossed the days off on my calendar they seemed like the never ending months. September was the tipping point. I got to share all the hard work I’ve been doing with two of the most important people rooting for me back at home. I know there are many more people at home who are rooting for me too! I realize now that I have 11 months until I leave next August and a long list of things I want to accomplish. I may spend 4 out of seven days of the week sitting in my hut, but those three days out of the week at my schools and planning projects mean a lot. You may ask: well Sammy if you sit around 4 days out of the week clearly you could be spending your time better? I say to that, we work on Swazi time. Nothing in Swaziland is ever rushed unless you’re fighting for a seat on the kombi/bus. (And grad school applications take more time than you might imagine!)

Well you’ve made it to the end! I shortened the story considerably so hopefully you at least got the highlights. Until next time….

Book: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Show: The West Wing (Season 2)


  1. Hi! I just got a PC invitation for Swaziland. But I'm on the fence about it. I have already volunteered a lot (one of those being internationally in Europe for a summer), so part of me is not sure whether to pursue the PC option. My two options: I could stay with my current teaching job, and simply travel abroad during my summer months. Or, I could do the PC for two years. Thoughts? What about your experience? Would you make the same choice again? Would you recommend it to others? Frustrations? Best experiences? I understand each of us have a different experience, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you! - Sunny

    1. Hey Sunny,
      It sounds like you have a great teaching job. I won't tell you what to do because it really depends on what you want out of peace corps. It is a frustrating job. I struggle to get projects done when people lose interest and I'm not a teacher so I don't teach at the schools but I do workshops. I would absolutely do Peace Corps again. It's been a great experience and I want to do work in international development so it's what I needed to move forward career wise too. I would recommend Peace Corps if you want to live abroad and don't mind working odd hours. Swaziland is limited in some ways but it's size allows us volunteers to get together often and its easy enough to get to town when you just need a day to chill with wifi and need a treat. If you've done your research about Peace Corps, I think you will make the right choice. If you want the 8-4pm teaching job you won't get it here but there's a lot of great projects to do and the people are welcoming and very nice.

      Hope that helps,