Friday, January 16, 2015

Vacations and the New Year

January 15, 2015

It’s been over two months since my last blog post about what’s going on in Swaziland. December and January are not only the hottest months in Swaziland but also the most boring. The country shuts down for the holidays and on top of Christmas, Boxing day, and New Year’s Day there is also Incwala which is similar to what the reed dance is for the women. But here’s the highlights of what’s been going on for me:

Books for Africa:
I want to send a big thank you to everyone who supported our Books for Swaziland/Books for Africa project. We raised just over $7600 in less than a month! I’m very excited to get the project moving so we can receive our books hopefully by late April. Thank you thank you thank you to all of you that donated or spread the word.

Christmas isn’t a huge holiday for Swazis and I was away last year. This year I left on Christmas but I made sure to give each of the kids something small on Christmas eve. They were very excited. I spent Christmas at a hostel/backpackers where the owners know us and take care of us PCVs. They had food, music, and punch to make for a nice holiday party.

Obviously the most exciting part of the last two month is the two weeks I spent on vacation! I went to St. Lucia, Durban, and Drakensberg which are all in South Africa.

St. Lucia is a small little one-street town that sits along a huge estuary. I only stayed two nights so I didn’t get to explore it fully. I did get to see some hippos up close and personal. The first night I was pretty tired from travel so I ate, watched TV, and went to bed early. The second night I was joined by a group of PCVs from Swaziland and we had a nice lunch out and grilled cheese dinner in while we debated outfits for New Year’s Eve.

Durban was next. I stayed there the longest. The first night I got there I stayed at a different backpackers than the PCVs from Swaziland since it was full. Happy Hippo in Durban is really nice it’s just not the best location. It’s next to Ushaka Marine World which is pretty cool and it’s near the beach, but other than that there wasn’t much around. The next three nights I stayed at Tekweni’s near Florida Rd. Both Tekweni’s and Florida Rd. have a reputation of being the party place. Florida Rd. has more food options than Swaziland as a country. There was even a restaurant that served good Mexican food…still not real salsa though. I went to the beach, Victoria Street market, the botanical gardens, and a really amazing resort with an infinity pool and amazing views.

Drakensberg was the last stop on the trip and my favorite for sheer beauty alone. It’s no secret that I miss home a lot. The mountains in Drakensberg are very different than the ones in Vermont but it still felt like a small piece of home. We did a four night three day inclusive package. We went up the Sani pass to see Lesotho and get a view from the top. The highest pub in South Africa was a neat little place with money and signatures all over the walls. The next day was a hike to see the bushman paintings on the rock faces…a somewhat grueling hike I might add. We went over a partially broken bridge, up the mountain, and back down what was basically a very steep goat path. It ended at a beautiful waterfall but we did get a little rushed by a group of Germans who were trying to leave for Lesotho which was a bummer. I got the first real sunburn I’ve ever gotten here which was a bummer but hey the views were worth it.

The final day resulted in a very long and somewhat concerning car ride that took 10 hours from Drakensberg back to Swaziland. Low and behold we chose a janky little border post that actually checks for Ebola. And by checks I mean they take your temperature so let’s face it that could me anything from a mild cold to the flu to Ebola. Not a very sophisticated system. My favorite part of the drive was when my friend’s boyfriend who was visiting from the State said: they don’t even have a real gate; the guy just pushes it up to let cars through. Even better is we drove right around that gate after we got our passports stamped. Despite the drive, it all ended on a high note with dinner and drinks at Malandela’s with a bunch of friends.

I know I’m missing a lot of parts of the story like the gay bar I went to for New Year’s Eve and the crazy little children that drank my friends tea at Happy Hippo without invitation, but it would take a small novella to tell all those stories so I’ll just save those happy tidbits for when I come home.

What 2015 holds for my future:
I’ve talked to some friends and family, but I want everyone who is curious to know: I will be home by August 8th of this year. One of my best friends from high school will be getting married in Maine and I fully intend to be there. So come April and May Peace Corps works with volunteers to choose a Close of Service (COS) date. I’ve also been accepted to Tufts University to their Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy program which was my top choice. I’m still waiting to hear from the other six schools I applied to so hopefully by April I’ll be able to tell everyone my decision. So weddings and grad school here I come! I’ll be sad to leave my home of two years here in Swaziland, but I also can’t wait to be back state-side!

Book: The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly
Show: Weeds (Season 4)

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