Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Last Week of Hut Life!

In true procrastinator fashion, I waited the last week at my site to type up one of my final blog posts. I have seven days until Peace Corps picks me up from my community, ten days until I leave for Johannesburg, and a day shy of three weeks until I land in Boston. The last week of May was filled with lectures about how to get a job, what your Peace Corps experience has meant to you, and a good ol’ SiSwati test thrown in there just to make us sweat. We do all this wrap up at a four day conference called our Close of Service conference. It was useful in some ways and not so much in other ways. It was the last time we all came together as a group before people started leaving the country and it was good to hang out with some folks I hadn’t seen in a while. We were at Magadzavane north of Siteki near the border to Mozambique. It’s a nature reserve so we got to do game drives but it’s been so dry there wasn’t much around or much to see. On Thursday, I hustled home and repacked just in time to leave on Friday morning for Bushfire. I wrote about Bushfire last year but here’s a refresher. It’s a big international music festival with lots of delicious food and beautiful crafts to buy. The music last year was okay but this year was excellent. I think the music acts were much better. Bushfire also gave me a chance to see some of my friends from South Africa who I will see on my way home. I also got to meet new people which are always great since Peace Corps creates sort of a small, drama-filled bubble. After the craziness of the final week of May, everything sort of dropped off and moved much slower. I didn’t do much for my birthday this year. I went to Mbabane and had dinner with my friend Jess. It was far less interesting than my trip to Cape Town last year but it was a great way to celebrate regardless. Throughout June, I held a few meeting about the positive discipline workshop that my schools participated in during May. This was a way of evaluating the project so Peace Corps can justify spending money on the grant. The next big event was 4th of July. This is an exciting celebration because it’s the first time the current volunteers get to meet the new trainees. Of course, this is overwhelming for everyone especially since we have over 100 volunteers between the new and old folks. There is also always a lot of excellent food! It was great talking to some of the new volunteers because it helps you realize how far you’ve come. One girl asked: when does it all start to feel normal? I told her it all felt normal when I moved to my site and started making my hut my home. Now I’m tearing apart and emptying out that home! There’s a volunteer from Vermont in the new group so three out of the four groups from G10-G13 has had one! Go VT! July has been the longest and fastest month. My family finally got running water! The pipes that were laid in front of our homestead in December were connected! This makes a huge difference for my last three weeks, but it’s more important for my family’s entire life. That sound dramatic I know, but my family spends hours fetching water and going to the dam to wash laundry each week. Those hours have been cut out and they’ve started a garden that actually has a fighting chance. There have been moments in last month where I felt “hey I really made a difference here” and other moments where I feel “I did nothing and I’m just a passing through this village.” I went to my far school yesterday. It was the last day I was going to have a chance to visit and I had heard that not all the teachers were going to the celebration on Friday at my closer school. I showed up hoping to see the secretary, Busi, who I had grown close to. It turns out she had moved jobs and never called me. Its times like that where I feel like I haven’t really made an impact on people, but I also understand that she hadn’t been paid in three months because our school continually had money issues. I still plan to give her a call but it’s not the same as saying goodbye in person. I didn’t join Peace Corps to save the world or with the impression that I would change a whole community. In fact, in many ways my community doesn’t need changing. There are things in Swaziland that need to change, but it is almost impossible for volunteers to affect that change on the community level. Instead, I remember all my dad’s crazy little stories of international exchange students on our farm in Vermont when he was a kid. I can only imagine the crazy crap they saw from my dad’s stories. But he still keeps in contact with at least two of these people and, through that, he has a better understanding of two more corners of the world. That was my goal when I joined Peace Corps and it’s two of the three goals Peace Corps is based on. I wanted to touch a few people’s lives and make meaningful connections. The people of Kashoba have certainly changed me more than I have changed them. My career goals have always been international relations of some sort. Seeing the crushing poverty as well as the untapped potential has given me more direction. So I’m moving forward to work in international development with the hopes that I can work on projects that lift people out of poverty even in rural or remote communities. So that’s a little glimpse to how I’m feeling in these last weeks in Swaziland and southern Africa on the whole. I can’t wait to get home to the U.S. and I will be sad to leave my home in Swaziland. Watch out America! I’ll see you in two weeks and six days! Books: The Economist (working my way through the Jan and Feb issues) Show: Supernatural (Season 7)

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