Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Inspiring Words of Wisdom:

This has helped me deal with the stress of making the third year decision.  I hope that it can help some of you make the next big decision in your life. 

Oh, the Places You'll Go!
by Dr. Seuss

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets.  Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry.  Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame!  You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

What's next?

I have been, for many months now, considering the possibility of a third year of volunteering in Swaziland.  To help clarify where I am now in my service, and understand my goals for my time in Swaziland, I have decided to try to quantify everything that I have been doing here.  Noticing that it has been, oh forever since my last blog post, I have decided to illuminate what I have been doing for you all, as well as for myself.

While I’m here, I can’t imagine leaving. The question is the balance between my own progress in this life versus the progress I can inspire in this country and it’s people.

Here are a few things that will help you to follow the detailed outline I have created of my service in Swaziland so far:

Mia is the Community Health Volunteer in Emkhuzweni.  She and I have struck a balance with our work in Emkhuzweni.  There are several projects in which we have found it advantageous, as volunteers and to the project, to work together. 

One school term is approximately 13 to 15 weeks.

  1. Co-ed Soccer Club
I.      Soccer Club is held every Sunday while school is in session. Beginning in October of Term 2 in 2011. Practice is held at the Emkhuzweni Primary School Soccer Pitch.  The members and attendance of soccer clubs varies each school term, but ranges from 10 to 20 members each week.
i.      Mia and I have started a coed soccer practice open to any and all kids in the Emkhuzweni area, though most advertisement of this soccer club has been at Emkhizweni Primary School.  Previously, it was a commonly held idea that only boys could play soccer, within the school and in the community. 
            Initially we began this club for girls only, but it didn’t take long to find that we couldn’t keep the boys away.  However, having practices as co-ed, instead of only having girls play, the boys were being asked to work with the girls in the club as equals and learning that girls can be just as good as boys at soccer.  At the practices girls and boys learn to work together, learn from each other and teach each other, and are encouraged to view each other as equals.  We have seen a number of girls really assert themselves, when in other circumstances they have been more shy and reserved.  We have also seen significant behavior change in a number of our male club members towards the female members.
            Another aspect in which this club has affected children in the Emkhuzweni area, is working together among age groups. The older children have better English skills and frequently help the younger kids understand the activities at practice.  The older club members are regularly asked to think about their actions as a role model to the younger members. We have appointed both a boy and girl peer leader for the soccer club.  Our weekly soccer club is also a safe out of school social activity, instead of drugs, sex, and alcohol. 
            We start each practice with running to warm up, stretching, drills, concluded with a scrimmage.  Each week we work with the kids to help them understand that exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle.  At the end of practice each week we select one club member who has shown exemplary behavior as Player of the Week.  At the end of the school term we have a party where we give awards to members/players who have earned recognition in our weekly meetings/practices. 
            We hope that this practice will grow and encourage boys and girls to work together in every aspect of their lives. This has also been a great opportunity for Mia and me to get to know the kids at Emkhuzweni Primary School to develop the relationships needed to start a GLOW group, Study, Life Skills, and English Clubs.

  1. Teaching Swim Lessons
I.      Each week during school terms 1 and 3 Mia and I have been teaching swimming at the Pigg’s Peak Club (previously held at the Pigg’s Peak Hotel) to the students of Hlanganani Primary School.  English is the only language used to teach, offering good practice for the students English skills.  Lessons are coed, and we work to encourage gender equality among the students.  Children are encouraged to make their own decisions, and taught pool safety.  The lack of knowledge of water safety in greater Swaziland can be a very serious issue.  Children and adults alike are often required to go to a near by lake or river to do regular household chores and frequently risk drowning due to the lack of water safety skills and knowledge.

  1. English Club at the Primary School level
I.      Emkhuzweni Primary School English Club meets each Monday that school is in session and focuses on developing English and Life Skills.  The club ranges from 7 to 15 members.  This club was developed after a school wide vote for after school clubs.  Thus far we have completed activities about creative writing, improving reading skills, expressing your beliefs and opinions, reading comprehension, writing complete summaries to prove comprehension (which is the method the school uses to test comprehension), communication and problem solving skills.  After our school library is set up we have plans to concentrate on reading skills, of which the students have expressed the most interest in getting help.
i.      Term 1 2012 was an assessment of English skills and a dialogue with students about what they want to get out of their English Club. Activities included: help with school debates, creative writing exercises, reading comprehension, discussions about respect, vocabulary, communication exercises, and problem solving skills.
ii.     Term 2 2012 we focused on parts of speech and conducting interviews to share the culture, traditions and daily lives of Swazis with Americans. Throughout the interview process we discussed representing yourself and your country.
iii.   Term 3 2012 the English Club completed Fairy Tale curriculum that I developed specifically for the English Club. This curriculum includes reading, reading comprehension, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and concluding with writing our own fairy tales.  This term included a special assignment to specifically address the International Day of the Girl Child, which was very well received by all members of the English Club and spread the knowledge and appreciation through out Emkhuzweni Primary School.

  1. English Club at the High School level
I.      English Club at Gija High School started in term 3 of 2012.  The club includes 15 members.  We worked through the first part of a ‘This I Believe’ curriculum that I developed for the Gija High School English club.  This curriculum was designed to address all aspects of English learning as well as instigating discussion about many pertinent Life Skills issues.  The aspects of English focused on during each class include reading, reading aloud, reading comprehension, active listening, vocabulary, and speaking in public.  At the end of the curriculum, which we will reach in term 1 of 2013, the students will write their own ‘This I Believe’ essays, to work on writing skills.  The Life Skills issues addressed include, identifying your own beliefs, equality of all humans, specifically across race and gender lines, decision making, and setting attainable goals.
            The club will resume next school year, in January of 2013.  The majority of club members are in Form 2 or below, which means that they will continue with English Club next year.  Gija High School is a newer school that currently only goes through Form 3.

  1. Computer Club at the primary school level
I.      Computer club was started at the beginning of term 1 in 2012.  We met each week on Wednesdays through terms 1 and 2 of 2012. After term 2 of 2012 the Computer Teacher was dismissed and Computer Club was postponed until a new computer teacher has been appointed. This club was developed the same way as the English Club, after weeks of promoting and discussing after school clubs followed by a vote of which clubs the learners at Emkhuzweni Primary school want available to them after school.
II.    I worked with Mrs. Sibeni, the computer teacher, to hold and run the club. We focused on typing skills, decision-making skills, problem solving on the computers, and improving English skills.

  1. Assisting Computer Teacher
I.      I worked with Mrs. Sibeni each week usually on Wednesdays, her classroom-planning day. We would discuss the progress of her classes, different teaching and discipline techniques, and ways to reach different students.  We made behavior charts for the younger grades. Mrs. Sibeni and I started a journal to write lesson plans before classes and then reflect on the successes or improvements to be made to each lesson based on how the lessons were received by the students.
II.    M. Sibeni was dismissed from Emkhuzweni Primary School after Term 2 of 2012.  Despite the fact that she is no longer employed at Emkhuzweni Primary, I have hopes that she will used the skills she developed as we worked together in any future teaching endeavors.  Leading by example for teachers in other schools.

  1. Primary School Library
I.      We received 1,000 books from Books For Africa thanks to the donations from many of you.  To qualify to receive these books we had to complete an application, which included a library development plan.  Since receiving these books we have also received a second shipment of books from Fundza for our library.
II.    There are two rooms that are currently the school office. The library will have a bigger room (reception area currently) for study tables and leisure reading after school, with a smaller room at the interior (currently the office), which will house the books. A new office is under construction and the library will take the place of the old office area, which is located within a classroom block.  We are now waiting for the furniture to arrive for the new office space as well as shelves to be completed for the library.  We have a librarian set up and trained for when the library opens.
III.  Hosting a library at Emkhuzweni Primary School will encourage the students to read and improve their reading, writing and English skills through exposure. Once the Emkhuzweni Primary School Library has been established we will ask each teacher to take 15-30 minutes of the English period each week to take their class to the library to learn how to use the resources available and to check out books. If students show interest we are interested in starting an after school reading club, with the possibility of opening the library for restricted hours on the weekends.
IV. As soon as the library is functional  I will post another update as to how well the plans are working and being followed through.

  1. Volunteer Data Entry
I.      I have been working with my host brother to over see and teach him data entry and other computer skills that he has volunteered to put to use for Kathy Gau at Vusumnotfo, a local community based NGO.  Data is entered into Excel, and recently we have opened up learning to the entire Microsoft Suite.  He is learning the skills mentioned above as well as data collection and data analysis skills as a part of grant writing and fundraising, which makes him more eligible for a number of jobs while also building his resume. 
II.    He has recently also taken on the transcription and translating of most significant change stories for grant reporting.  As well as going out into the field with Babe Tsabedze to collect garden data that he will enter into the Excel database with which he has been working.  Kathy has also asked Derrick to sign a one-year contract working with Vusumnotfo as a volunteer/intern.

  1. Healthy Eating Lessons
I.      My host Make has a hard time remembering to eat, and then when she does eat, eating well.  So, on a regular basis we have discussions about what she is eating and what food groups perform which functions for her body; what is healthy for her to eat and what is junk food.  To help monitor these things and to get a more tangible, comprehensive look at what she is eating, we set up an eating chart where she writes what she eats for 3 meals a day and 2 snacks.  At the end of each day we go over what she has eaten that day, which food groups are lacking and what her goals should be for the next day.  This practice has progressed from the food chart to a conversation at the end of each day about what she has eaten and what she needs to work on for the next day.  She also regularly shares the lessons learned through our conversations with her friends and other women in her prayer groups.  These discussions and the coming realization that she can take care of herself, for herself has done a lot to empower her and build her confidence in herself.

  1. GLOW: Girls Leading Our World
I.      I am on the organizing committee for Project/Camp GLOW in Swaziland.  So far I have made fundraising efforts, planned a lesson on exercise, nutrition, and decision making for our camps, which include the Training of Trainers, which will be for the GLOW club counselors, and the more extensive camp GLOW, which will be a chance for Swazi counselors to teach and work with girls from all of the GLOW clubs nationwide. 
II.    I am working with a teacher at Emkhuzweni Primary School to start our own GLOW club. Unfortunately with the end of the school year progress on our local club will wait until the beginning of next term in late January.

  1. Decision Making and Problem Solving
I.      One day in the beginning of the 2012 school year I took some of the student’s down time to teach grades 5 and 6 a game called Dots and Boxes. This is an interactive game that requires the students to practice decision-making and problem solving steps and encourages them to anticipate the outcome of their choices before they are made, as well as to adapt to the choices of others- to make their own decisions and to foresee consequences.  Games and skills like these, for the most part, are not taught in Swaziland.  There is sometimes an overwhelming feeling of ‘this happened to me’ as opposed to realizing that ‘ I made this decision which can lead to this’.  So, even though this was a fun, one time activity, teaching these kids this game and pointing out the decision-making and problem solving steps that are needed to succeed in this game really gives them decision-making skills and an outlet to practice these skills with each other, in hopes that they will be able to recognize and utilize these skills in harder, more important decisions in their lives.  I have also seen, since teaching this game, the kids teaching other students and brothers and sisters how to play, passing on these decision-making skills.

  1. Grade 5 English Lesson
I.      Early on in the 2012 school year, while I was still trying to get my bearings at the Primary school, I was asked to look in on the double stream Grade 5 classrooms, whose teacher’s were out for the day.  As part of Pre-Service- Training we were asked to develop, in pairs, an English lesson plan. While I was ‘keeping an eye’ on these 2 classes of roughly 50 kids each I took some time to use the lesson plan that we created in training.  The lesson helps the kids understand adjectives and how to use them when describing themselves and each other.  Then the kids practice by writing a few phrases about themselves and then reading their phrases allowed to the classroom.  Then the teacher collects the cards and reads them back to the class randomly as the students guess one by one who the card describes.  In this lesson the students have a chance to practice writing, speaking English in front of an audience of their peers and getting to know their peers.  This lesson was very well received, even though some of the kids chose to write incorrect information about themselves, they used adjectives correctly, and usually the other students were able to identify who would write incorrect information about themselves based on their pre-existing knowledge about each other.  It was a fun learning activity.

  1. Tutoring
I.      On a rainy day just before grade 5 students were going to write their end of term tests four students came to me for help studying Science and Math.  Although I helped the students in math and science we spoke only in English, also improving their English skills.  This was a one time activity.
II.    Celomusa Dlamini, a neighborhood Herefords High school student came to on a few different occasions, asking me to help him with different school subjects and activities in which he has an interest.
i.      First he approached me to help him with creative writing, which then led to an informal discussion about gender roles.  In an effort to help him with the creative writing process we worked on how to outline a story, the flow of a story line, and the importance of details and reading to continue to develop creative writing skills.
ii.     Several weeks before practice exams, at the end of term 2 in 2012 Celomusa came to me to work on preparing for English, Economics, Biology, and Social Studies exams.  All tutoring was done in English, furthering Celomusa’s practice in English.  We also discussed the HIV/AIDS topics introduced by the school curriculum in depth.  Unfortunately, after term 2 Celomusa could not return to school because of his family’s inability to pay school fees, and cover daily transportation costs to and from the school.
  1. Coming soon:
I.      Community World Aids Day Event
i.      Headed by Mia, I have been assisting in meetings with the community inner council and will be in attendance at the event as well as helping wherever assistance is needed.
ii.     The event will have PSI led condom demonstrations, condom distribution, skits and a booth by the Red Cross, all of the Emkhuzweni Inner council will be in attendance with speeches and comments from various pastors and health center leaders. There will be a community discussion
II.    Working with community members to painting local bus stops with HIV/AIDS Prevention Slogans

Well, there it is.  Whether this list seems long or short to you, it has been my life for the past 16 months.  There are still innumerable conversations and personal interactions that take place on a regular basis here that hopefully effect, and encourage positive change in Swazis, but also have extensively changed me. 

Now to address the following questions: What adventures do the next chapter in my life contain?  Is this chapter coming to an end?  What do I want the next chapter to contain?  Am I ready to move on to the next chapter, no matter what it may contain?  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First Post back

It's 3pm and all is still. The day has just begun to cool down and it feels like it’s just me in the world. A moment of peace with the yellow birds squawking in the peach tree, the chicks in the coop peeping to each other and their hen.  The sky is clear and I can see homesteads on the hills in the distance.  There is a warm, gentle breeze that reminds me of the beach, everything else seems to be resting; even the houses.

Today was the official start of school.  I was anxious to go back after being home (in America), and still feeling like I am getting used to being back.  I tried to get to bed early last night, and as usually happens when I try to get enough sleep, I got hardly any.  I spent the night reading, tossing and turning, hearing strange sounds outside, messaging good friends, anything but sleeping. Until 3:15am, when finally, sleep came. 

This morning I was up late, waking to the sounds of Siboniso and Phinda fixing the fence around the garden.  I had a pounding headache, probably from the small amount of sleep, and the chickens would not shut up.  Ahhh, I’m home.  Despite these things I kept myself calm while getting ready, moving slowly and deliberately, not letting myself feel the pressure of the first day back to school.  I wanted to arrive at school around lunchtime; that way I would be able to visit with both the students and the teachers.  At about half past ten I started making my way to school.  I had my bag loaded with what I thought was my standard school stuff, my new dress on, and clean hair. 

When I arrived at school, it was as if nothing had changed.  There were one or two kids that I am closer with who seemed especially excited to see me, but that was about it.  The teachers were busy preparing themselves lunch and prepping for the national exams later in the term, most of the kids were just standing around eating their lunch as usual, the head teacher was still in his ‘old’ office (even thought he promised me before I left that the library, which is to be located in his ‘old’ office, would be running by the time I got back).  As the bell rang and lunch was wrapping up, teachers and students alike started asking me how long I would be at school today and were there going to be any clubs today.  I realized that I had been anxious for nothing.  It’s a Tuesday, so I don’t have to worry about any clubs, English club is on Monday and Computer club will start on Wednesdays again as soon as we get a new instructor.  It’s not as if I’m a new volunteer starting in the community.  I have done this.  I have made my place here.  I am no longer the exciting new white person at my school.  I am Busisiwe.  This is the first time that I have seen this clearly where I am in my service here, and what I have done in this school and community. This life did not happen to me.  I made it happen.  I choose what I do. 

On that note, now I realize how much work is before me.  No one would say anything, except for maybe Derrick, my host brother, who likes to give me a hard time, if I chose to sit at home and do nothing each day.  But I don’t choose that.  I like English club, and swimming and computer club, and working to start an English and girls club at the high school; I want all of these projects to succeed.

Thank you for all of your support.  It was wonderful to see as many people as I could at home, though I am thinking of many people that I did not get to see, and many that I did not get to spend as much time with as I would have liked.  I appreciate everything that you all do to help keep me going here.  I did not realize how much we have done.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Visit Home. Please read to the end to see how you can help!

It's been a LOOOONNNGGG time since I have written and I apologize. Time has been a very fickle thing lately.

April to May: Mom, Hannah and Bobbo came to visit. Then, just as I was re-acclimating to being at site, at the end of May, Mia’s family came for a visit and I got to spend some time with them. Both visits were so much fun, but it was a lot of anticipation and then it felt like it was over so quickly.  Shortly after Mia’s family headed out of Swaziland it was my birthday. Not something I am great at celebrating, but we did it anyway. We went to Ngwempisi Gorge (the same place that we went for Christmas last year). It was a great time.  We ate good food, drank good drinks, and hiked and adventured a lot. We even slept under the stars for a few hours one night, despite the chilly breeze that we got being on top of our rock house. The next weekend we celebrated Christmas in June, because most volunteers like to travel during actual Christmas, so we celebrate together in June. This celebration was another fantastic time with most people getting dressed up, eating a ton, swing dancing, and head stand competitions. Today, I am at the office while Make’s cats are at the vet getting fixed.  Next week is the 4th of July, and I am coming into town a day early to help prepare. Wow, talk about staying busy, and all of that is just the weekend volunteer fun stuff, I am still working at both the Primary and High School in my community during the week.  But, after the fourth there isn’t really anything going on to mark the passage of time. I am sure that as soon as August rolls around I will have no idea what happened to the time. For now though, time seems to be stalling.

At site everything is going well. The cats are all going to be taken care of, happy and healthy soon enough. Make is doing great and really exploring with her cooking and baking.  I am so proud of her. We went from I can’t do it, you do it; to me coming home and asking Make if I smelled muffins, and her telling me that she tried something new with lemons today. Derek aka Mfanafuti, my youngest host brother is home from University for the summer. He is thinking about staying home, continuing with school part time, and just commuting. He is really an incredible guy. He collects all of the school aged kids in the neighborhood around 3:30pm every weekday to tutor them and help with any homework they might have. He does this all on his own, no one asked him to, he just likes to work with kids and to stay busy.

As far as work and school goes, well, that’s where things are beginning to be a bummer. There have been some struggles between the government and the teacher’s union. There have been strikes going on all over the country for two weeks now, and this week protests have started breaking out at schools around the country. If schools are still operating the protests are usually held at those schools to disrupt learning. On Monday during my English club there was a protest at my school. I had stopped by in the morning just to feel out what was going on with my teachers. They said that they were not teaching.  They were doing the sit-in version of the strike where they come to school and sometimes sit in their classrooms but don’t teach. Anyway they said that it should be no problem for me to come for English club that afternoon because it would be after school and the students would be staying all day anyway. So I went home and came back for the club. We were going to review what we had done last week, parts of speech, then try to identify as many parts of speech that we could in the book Corduroy  (I think that is what it is called), and who ever could identify the most would get a pencil as a prize. Well, we had just finished the review and the preliminary reading of the story when I had let the kids look at the book together to identify the words. I stepped outside to get a broom and there was a huge group of people gathered at the gates to the school. They were carrying little trees and chanting, and some were running all through the school checking in classrooms. So, I went back to the classroom and we all scurried out the back way toward home. It was a little scary and as a matter of safety I haven’t been to school since; which is a bummer because that is where the majority of my work takes place. I even began to work with the high school Literature teacher, Mrs. Nkambule, and Mrs. Mabuza to start an English club, but we haven’t got anything off the ground. Basically because there hasn’t been school for a little more than two weeks, at least not consistently. These teachers are great. It is so nice to see teachers who care about the student’s learning, and when I sit in on Mrs. Nkambule’s Lit classes it is inspiring to see her students so engaged and interested in what she and their peers have to say.

So, now you can see how time seems to have stopped or at least slowed down significantly. There are no big volunteer events coming up between the 4th and the end of August and my work at site is up and down at best.

Anyhow, I am really looking forward to my visit home. Here is the tentative itinerary:

I will get into Cincinnati August 23rd. I plan to spend a couple of nights in Oxford and then head to Columbus. After about 4 nights in Columbus I will be going to Cleveland. On Sunday, September 2nd I will head back to Oxford for that whole week. I fly back to Johannesburg on Saturday, September 8th.

Now, here is where some of you can help me out. Peace Corps has 3 main goals:

1.     Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2.     Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3.     Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

I can earn up to 3 vacation days back if I give some presentations directed toward goal number 3. I am supposed to ‘educate Americans about the people and culture of Swaziland’. This can be in a classroom setting, a youth group, a community meeting, or really any group of people that I can talk to about, answer questions about, or show pictures of Swaziland. To get my days I have to have some sort of official documentation saying that I did this, either a letter inviting me to speak or a thank you letter for speaking. Are any of you interested in having me come educate you or a group you are involved with about Swaziland? Do you know anyone who might be interested in hearing about another country and culture? Please feel free to email me, facebook message me, leave me a message on the blog, or call me.

Thank you all so much for your continued support.  That really means a lot to me.

I love you, miss you, and will see you soon!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Look for a post in the next couple of weeks from my Mom!
The past 2 weeks have been incredible. Mom and Bobbo and Hannah (for the first week) came to visit. Here is a quick recap of the whole vacation:

Preparing for Mom, Bobbo, and Hannah to arrive. Mia and I (and Gaston, the cat) made a large Queen of Spades to welcome Mom at the airport.

April 27 (F)                Mom, Bobbo, and Hannah leave for Johannesburg!!!! I am staying at Bombaso's to catch an early morning bus to Jo'burg to meet them.           

April 28 (S)                All of us arrive in Jo’burg and stay at the Protea Hotel OR Tambo Airport Hotel.

April 29 (Su)              Travel to Swaziland; Drive North around Swaziland to enter through the Northern most boarder crossing, Jeppes Reef/Matsamo. Visit Emma’s homestead and family. Make is cooking a huge feast. Sitambo (samp and beans), Inkhukhu ekhaya (home chicken stew), and Lipalishi (porridge). Say hello to Gogo Matsebula laKunene and a few other surrounding homesteads. Derek/Mfanafuthi is home to eat with us and Babe pulls in just a few minutes before we were getting ready to head out. Drive to Big Bend, Swaziland and stay the the Lebombo Villa B&B. 

April 30-May 4            Kwa Zulu Natal, St. Lucia, South Africa   Stay at the Serene Estate Guesthouse in St. Lucia, on the edge of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Tembe Elephant Park

April 30 (M)                Drive to St Lucia. Walk to the beach (we saw monkeys and hippos!), eat some lunch at the St. Lucia Ski and Boat Club then get a feel for the town.

Vervet Monkeys on our way home from the beach in St. Lucia.

Hippos on our first day at St. Lucia.  Look at the babies.

May 1 (Tu)                After our phenomenal breakfast with the guesthouse we went to town to do some shopping and I got my hairs cut! Then we went on a horseback game ride! We saw herds of zebras, and since we were on horseback the zebras weren't even afraid of us, impala, wildebeest, water buffalo ( I think), and warthogs. Once we had all cleaned up from the ride we headed out to a fantastic dinner and hippo/crocodile hunt. Hippos are said to come up out of the estuary and into town at night to eat whatever grass they can find. We found two hippos and a small crocodile. One hippo was just standing in someone's yard, munching away at their yard! The other one was just on the side of the road, we saw it on the way to the jetty to look for the crocs. This hippo was HUGE!!

Turn off the surrounding lights to see this one better. He was practically in the road.

May 2 (W)                 We did a morning boat cruise through the estuary. We saw crocodiles, hippos, including baby hippos which are only 80 lbs when they are born, and tons of cool birds. Then I got my hairs cut and we went to the beach. The beach was awesome and huge. We had to walk for about 20 minutes through sand before we were anywhere near the water. 

This was one of the many crocs we saw on the estuary boat cruise.

Nyala or Kudu, I'm still unclear of the difference and Mom's tour book only had a picture of one. Either way he was big and his horns were even bigger.

May 3 (Th)                The big snorkeling day at Cape Vidal. Dunes and fish like I have never seen them, incredible. Then we drove through the Isimalango Wetland park. We saw a few animals, but mostly it was the views that were taking our breath away at this point. I won't even post any pictures, because you just have to go see it for yourself... Awe Some.

May 4 (F)                    Have our last Serene Estate breakfast and head for Jo'burg to drop Hannah off :(  Mom, Bobbo and I stay at the Protea OR Tambo again. I wish I had more pictures with Hannah.

May 5 (S)                     Drive to Mbabane, Swaziland, this time we drive through the bigger and more commonly used Oshoek/ Ngwenya Boarder Post. We drive straight to Pick N Pay to pick up groceries for the Bombasso’s Volunteer Chili Fiesta for Cinco de Mayo and for all of the volunteers that could make it to share a little bit of home with Mom's home made chili. She made regular chili with a skyline twist and white chili with chicken. Yum! Bobbo grilled veggies and Mia was in charge of whipping up the 2 cakes we had for desert, angel food and chocolate.
May 6 (Su)                   We (Mom, Bobbo, Eric, Matt, Mia, and Myself) pile into the Sportah-ge to drive to the homestead in Emkhuzweni.  Mom cooks an amazing dinner again, this time for Make and Babe and which ever brothers are home. We/She made meatloaf with roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, and an avocado salad. Just before the meatloaf was ready Babe got home and had brought emahiya for Mom and Bobbo. Mia stayed for dinner, we dropped Eric and Matt off in Buhleni. Then we drove Mia home so that Mom and Bobbo could meet Gogo Kumedze and Make came with us to say hello. This night we all stayed in my hut. Mom and Bobbo got the bed and I was on the floor. It wasn't bad at all. Actually, even though Mom had given me previous warning that she might need to spend the second night in a hotel she decided that the homestead was fine. Mom and Bobbo even took bucket baths! We were in bed by 8pm though.

Eventually we got it all figured out. Everyone was so happy that night. What a great place. What great people.

Ta Da!

May 7 (M)                   We took Lihle to the Vet in Mbabane to get fixed (YAY!) and then, with a drugged up cat in the back seat we stopped by the Peace Corps Office and picked up Mia and the went to meet our friend Faith in Manzini. We had lunch at the mall and then drove back to the homestead. Even though we were stuffed after lunch we ate Make's always delicious beef stew.

May 8 (Tu)                  First day of school after the break between terms. Mom and I walk to school while Bobbo picks up Mia to meet us there after a very emotional goodbye between Mom and Make. We are there for a quick assembly and to pop into most classrooms to say hello. After our quick Hello Goodbyes we drove to Buhleni to pick up a few things for our picnic and hike in Bulembu, including Eric and Matt. It is such a beautiful place, definitely worth the drive which is about an hour struggling up an old mining road. After our hike in Bulembu Mom, Bobbo, and I drive to the Ezulwini Valley for our first night at Malendela's.

Bulembu, an old asbestos mining town.  It took us an hour to drive there (the 19k) because of the condition of the road- about 19 kilometers from Pigg's Peak.
Mia and Eric. We went hiking in Bulembu about a week before the fam arrived. It was so beautiful I decided that we would have to find a way to fit a hike in with Mom and Bobbo. 
Here is the view from Kenny Powers Peak (dubbed by Eric and Myself). This is where we took Mom and Bobbo (plus Matt,  Mia and Eric) to have a little picnic. It feels like you are on top of the world.

May 9  (W)                  After another delicious B&B breakfast, this one at Malendela's,  we find the Swazi candle factory, Gone Rural, and a few other shops to do some shopping.  Then we head towards Manzini to do a few more errands, including pick up some steaks and veggies to grill a the Hlane Wildlife Reserve that night. We also collect two stragglers, Eric and Mia, who both join us at the game park. Then pick up Kyra on our way to Hlane. By the time we get there we find out that the evening game drive that we were planning on going on leaves in 20 minutes. Just in time. Kayla and one of her friends from home join us for the game drive and dinner also. The game drive was pretty cool, two and a half hours and an African sunset. We saw a mom and baby rhino taking a mud bath, a giraffe at the water hole, a herd of elephants, babies and mommas, nyala, kudu, impala, and a lion that was totally stuffed after a huge dinner. The lion didn't even move when our driver growled at him. Then we got back to our cottage (definitely worth it!), the fire was already going, and started prepping everything to grill. We finally played some hearts after dinner, with the Kunkel. Hearts is the origin of Mom's welcome Queen of Spades. We even got some euchre in too. A very fun day and  night. I might even say epic.

On safari.

Mom and Baby mud bath.


Lion after a beeg dinner.

May 10 (Th)                   Say goodbye to the elephants, giraffes, hippos, and impala getting their morning drink at the water hole. Head back to Mbabane to have lunch with the Swaziland PC Country Director. He recommends Ngwenya Glass Factory to satisfy our afternoon shopping fix. It was a cool place, a lot of the surrounding shops had crafts that were made in Swaziland, most of which are crafted by boMake, teaching them a skill, and providing a fair and sustainable income. Then we return to Malandela’s B&B for Mom and Bobbo's last night in Swaziland :(

May 11 (F)                     After breakfast we have just a bit of time for a little more shopping. We check out the Gone Rural shop near Malandela's again and stop by the Ezulwini Valley Craft Center. Then I am dropped off at the PC Office and we say some more teary goodbyes. Mom and Bobbo drive to Jo’burg airport to catch their flight home.    

I'll miss you! Happy Mother's Day!

Sunset from the Homestead. See you next time.