Friday, May 22, 2015

A Long Overdue Update!

Wow it has been way too long since I’ve written a blog post. It’s been a mix of slow, slow weeks sitting in my hut and busy, hectic weeks. In addition, I’ve been able to make some decisions about my future after Peace Corps which are exciting! January and February were a bit slow as schools started a week later than they were planned to. Of course there was little explanation for this, but the King’s fields still needed to be sown following the male version of the reed dance (umhlanga) which is called incwala. While schools in Swaziland waited in suspense as did I. As many readers know, I submitted application to seven graduate schools. I was accepted to six but received funding from few despite the Paul Coverdell program through Peace Corps. My goal is to work in the realm of international development through small business and family financial planning projects. It’s hard to say what sort of job this will yield because everything from the UN to small NGOs are working on development projects that could relate. After a lot thought and some number crunching, I’m happy to say I’ll be working towards a Master of Arts in sustainable international development at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. And in further good news I’ve already secured an apartment in Waltham! I can only imagine the day I return to the world of indoor plumbing and washing machines! Although I look forward to my July 30th close of service date, I feel sort of bad I’m so ready to leave a place that has absorbed me as one of their own. These past two weeks I have seen two big projects come together that help me realize how meaningful my experiences have been. The first project is Books for Africa. Thank you so much to all the friends and family who donated to this project! Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures at the moment to post since I was helping direct the unloading and distribution of our 560 boxes of books! Now 28 schools in Swaziland will hopefully spread the joy of reading to all of their students. The second project was a positive discipline and classroom management workshop for my two primary schools. Here in Swaziland there is a Belgian woman who has worked in Africa for many years (nine of which have been in Swaziland). She is a consultant with amazing ideas on how to integrate a culture of positive discipline into schools. This is important because many schools, including my own, still rely on corporal punishment which is damaging for a long list of reasons. Instead of telling people to give up their ways completely, this woman shows teachers new ways of trying positive discipline. It was a stressful week planning all the food and workshop details, but Wednesday came and went without too much trouble. I as the uptight American caused a lot more stress for myself than necessary :) In other fun news I survived my fifth snake encounter in Swaziland! This time it was a puff adder. Lucky me they’re real lazy. Tuesday morning I was stressing a little about the food shopping I’d have to do in Siteki for my workshop the following day. I distractedly walk into my pit latrine. I did a quick once over as I’ve learned to do since my encounters with large spiders and a scorpion in there. As I turn and close the door behind me, I see something in the corner. At first it looked like maybe a sweater or something balled up but the realization slowly took over that this was in fact a very fat snake. Obviously I ran out of there which probably been hilarious had anyone been watching. I was looking for my host mother and she came walking down the driveway. Apparently the boys had found it the night before but make (mom) told them not to kill it in the dark. I told them next time they can wake me up at any hour to give me fair warning. The boys figured it would go away during the night and I suppose that was a fair assumption but still. As I left for Siteki, a neighbor came and killed the snake as me, my make (host mom), and his wife looked on with rocks ready just in case. It was quite the adventure! Pictures coming soon to a facebook profile near you! The two projects above were my last large efforts. My far school now has library books that need to be organized and my closer school still needs to learn how to incorporate theirs into the curriculum better, but these are all small feats compared to the rest. I’m looking forward to our Peace Corps close of service conference next week because it is the beginning of the end. As volunteers, we reflect back on what we’ve done and how to use that in our future endeavors. We also get tested in SiSwati…I can’t say I look forward to that! As of today, I only have 69 days left in my service and I hope to make them all count. When I think of all the things I can’t wait for back home (running water, a washing machine, etc.) I can’t help but be reminded that my host family and all the people I work with don’t get that option. It motivates me to work a little harder each week even though I’m on my way out. Lastly, I want to post a small shout out to my dad who turns 51 tomorrow! Happy Birthday! Book: No books lately, catching up on The Economist (December 2014 issues!) Show: Mad Men (Season 5)

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