Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More pictures - mostly from Lobola (the price a man has to pay for a bride, in cows)

Frog from Crocodile hunting, yeah it was just sitting on that leaf when we spotted it.
Very fun Bomake at the Lobola.

This girl was very photogenic. We couldn't resist

Swazi Home cooking.

Hey kids, sit on that Hilux bumper and smile. Always cute photos of kids.

These two are brothers. The guy in the blue was telling me that his brother, in the black, could have 30 cows ready for my lobola by the next day. And we figure out that it costs about 8 cows to fly round trip to the US. That's my new skirt and scarf! I love them and can't wait to have another one made :)

Kyra is taking the picture, on the right. Gugu is in the middle. It was her lobola (15 ->17 cows, 2 were pregnant and what to do with them had to be negotiated).

We were pounding peanuts to add to the samp. Samp is chunky corn kernals and beans boiled together and then add raw peanuts ground into a powder.

It was rteally hard work and the sisi in this picture helped us. She was an awesome lady!! Kyra did most of the grinding then I did the sifting. Kyra then proceeded to arm wrestle several teenage girls. At least she beat 2 of them (an tied the other one ;) It was a very fun time!

These are the cattle in the krawl. Bobabe are deciding what to do about the 2 pregnant cows. They end up just giving Gugu 17 cows, but it is possible that they could have asked her to give the 2 baby cows back after they were born.

This is the scorpion that was in my hut. It is on the curtain and that netting is the head of my bed. EEK!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More pictures!!!

Capacity Building at Portugalia's

Identifying an opportunity for capacity building

Agreeing on the specials for PCVs, which ended up making the bar E.50 more per drink sold. 

Crocodile hunting and Cow petting expedition

How many G9s can we fit into a Khumbi?

More still...

Hhohho Shenanigans, everyone included.

 unsuccessful Cow petting

Sammich. Holly this is in memory of our diving days.

We had to bring our multi purpose tools. Just in case we had to gouge out any crocodile eyeballs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Long Lost Post, kind of

Ok, so I know that there is a lot to catch up on, but if I think of all of that then I will never write this blog. So, here’s what happened today.
I forgot to take my water bottle to the pool, and just found out that my Make thinks some neighborhood kids swiped it off of the veranda L We got to stop by Vusumnontfo, which was nice. We had a mini conflict with a khumbi driver. This was a major first. Usually you always want to be on the good side with the drivers, but this one wanted us to pay way too much for our ride. We got on the khumbi at Pigg’s Peak and told the ticket writer that we needed to go to Mkhuzweni, totally forgetting that we needed to get off of the khumbi early at Ngonini. Total, for Mia and I both, it would cost 44 Emalengeni to get from Pigg’s Peak to Mkhuzweni. Ngonini is about half way, about 11.80 Emalengeni. When we called ‘stesh’ to get off the khumbi Mia asked the driver how much it was and handed him 30E to cover both of us. He asked if we got a ticket and said that was how much we had to pay, and that we were 14E short and owed it to him. He was there arguing, we were trying to get change. Eventually we just left him with 6E extra and walked away (after he asked for our bags!!!). We were so mad and kind of confused. There is no way he would have ever asked a swazi to do that, or at least sat there and argued with them. But, we talked to a couple of people who have more experience with transport here, including a few Swazis, and found out that this in not standard and that we did the right thing and probably should have gotten change anyway.

This minor bit of drama followed quite a fun day at the pool. I had a delicious chicken salad and a chocolate milkshake. We swam and sat in the sun all day. I tried to write this huge rewind blog (not so successful). After we left the pool we went to Pigg’s Peak where we sat down and had a cold Coke, 3 Emafethi, and the best Swazi Chow Mein EVER!!!  This is a big deal. There is minimal Chinese available in Swaziland and when you get it you take a risk of it making you a bit sick. But this was great! I sat down at the table and felt like I was at a hole in the wall in the states.  When I walked out I walked back into Africa.

Here is a list of the things that you missed and I promise to catch you up on eventually, slowly, but eventually. I promise.

In Service Training
            Stolen electronics
            Typhoid Fever (maybe) (not me)
            Rambla’s fancy cocktail restaurant (we drank cheap drinks anyway)
            My Library Application got approved
                        Please donate to our Library!!! (link coming soon)
            Dancing at Portugalia’s
            Capacity Building bartenders at Portugalia’s and dancing round 2

Mia’s Surprise Birthday Party
            Make dancing
            Dancing in the rain
            What’s yours like?
Hhohho Shenanigans
            Swimming (sort of) at Orion
            Ridiculous transport
                        Windshield sunglasses, lost to the cause
            Grocery shopping in Pigg’s Peak
            Fruity khumbi rides (we were so squished fruit ended up poking people in various                         places)
            More crazy transport to Shauna’s homestead
            Penis pasta from Italy
            Crocodile hunting (attempted)
            Delicious food for the rest of the stay with Shauna and relaxing watching True                                     Blood and Swamp People!!!
Simunye Country Club
            Swimming and trampoline
Visit with Kyra
            Saw an elephant on the khumbi ride from Simunye to her homestead
            Again watched movies and enjoyed a couple of cool days in the Low Veld

Just as I am finishing up this email Make came and knocked on my door. When I told her that I was typing a blog to you all, she told me to tell you all, ‘Hello’. I said how about ‘Sawubona’, hello in siSwati. She said, no Busisiwe. They don’t know Sawubona. But Hello and Sawubona any way J She also said to tell you all that she is happy to have me here with her, and Babe is happy too, and boBhuti, and Lihle! Make is SO cute.

I love you all and think of you everyday. I miss you all So much. Thank you so much for the packages and mail. They really make my week everytime something arrives.

Happy Holidays! Eat some extra deliciousness for me. YUM! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The group of volunteers headed to Umhlanga

Umhlanga Dancers

Make's cat, Lihle, who for some reason frequently has her tongue sticking out.

Maize field, clothes line, chicken coop, garden (to the right with all the trees), and latrine (to the left).

View of the homestead

My hut. I stay on the right side only. A brother stays on the left side when he comes home.

Inside the front door. The main living space.

Mini hallway/water closet, from the main space. Kitchen to the left.

Kitchen to the right, bathroom to the left.

5L of Neopolitan Ice Cream, because that's what we can get. It was really hot that day. We had arrived at my hut about 30 min earlier and have eaten about 2.5 liters already! :)

Enjoying Taco salad on the veranda. This was a serious treat!

Male dancers at Umtsimba (traditional wedding)

 a bunch of neighborhood kids at Umtsimba

Getting ready to start dancing

Mia and her counterpart (Nelsiwe) pose with me for the first picture of the night at Umtsimba.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Future spells Fun

I don't have a whole lot to post today mostly because I am too excited about these next few weeks. First of all, I do actually do work. However, the students will all be busy taking exams next week thru the end of term. There is then a month break in Dec. School will start again in Jan.

Here is a brief glimpse of the next few weeks:

Sunday, 11/6/11: Soccer practice
Monday, 11/7/11: Dark and stormy picnic in the woods
Wednesday, 11/9/11: Got to Mbabane to visit PC office- research Tofo, load pics on blog, and get packages!!!!
Friday, 11/11/11: GLOW mtg in Manzini
Saturday, 11/12/11: Swimming lessons
Sunday, 11/13/11: Soccer practice
Saturday, 11/19/11: IST begins (I have to have our Library App completed and my                                                        community assessment report).
Wednesday, 11/23/11: IST ends, All Vol begins
Thursday, 11/24/11: Thanksgiving with the Ambassador
Friday, 11/25/11: All Vol ends, day in Mbabane *shopping*, freedom party at Kathy’s
Saturday, 11/26/11: Swimming, head home
1st Weekend in Dec (dates TBD): Hhohho Shenanigans
2nd Weekend in Dec (dates TBD): Visit to Kyra
Dec 23rd Heading to Moz for Holiday!!!! Beach, Sun, Surf 

Miss you all!!! Love you. 

Can't wait to hear from you!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Catch Up

Glorious just barely begins to describe the macaroni and cheese that I am enjoying right now.

Here is a quick catch up:

On October 12th I taught grade 5 English all day. They were in the middle of learning about television so we did a group exercise where they worked together to write an episode of whatever show they like, or they could make up a show. We did this after reviewing genres of shows, and the idea of characters, settings, plot, and resolution. After doing this through both A and B classes I asked them what they wanted to do next… they all voted for a 20 word spelling test!!

On October 13th I gave my first Student Survey to grade 4. It went wonderfully and I have since also given the survey to grades 5 and 6. Now I am inundated with over 100 surveys that are waiting to be entered into excel in order to write this report for PC by Nov. 19th.

On October 14th I taught Grade 3 with Mia, who was visiting the school for what turned out to be an epic assembly. At one point Mia turned to me and said, “This looks like it could be a concert for a boy band.”! That was slightly painful. With the language barrier we had some behavioral issues. I tried to remedy this by handing out cards to each child, asking them to write their names on it. Then we made up some classroom rules. Then if a kid broke any one of the rules, then they got a mark on their paper and would not get a candy the next day. For the most part this actually worked. Then for practical arts we were learning about stop lights, the colors, what they mean and the words. Then we went outside and played red light green light. A very nice end to a trying Friday.

We have been continuing our soccer every week, and it has been going great! A lot of boys still show up but they are learning to play with the girls. Especially when Mia and I play with them. We have also learned that the key to successful soccer practices is to wear the kids out before we let them play a practice game. So we have started doing a full workout session before actually starting practice.

That Monday, the 17th, I decided to try to go to the office even though we had heard rumors of a transportation strike. Well I went, and as soon as I arrive in Manzini (the route to the office is Manzini to Mbabane then a khumbi to the office) MV our Security Officer for PC sent a message saying that there are planned strikes and that we should avoid Mbabane and Manzini, if you are already on route call me ASAP. So I called him and he told me to get to the office immediately and not to spend anytime in the cities. So I did, and then was trapped in the office all day with no food. Then a small group of us got stuck in the city and had a free night at a backpackers called Bombaso’s. That was a nice break, even though I had a sinus infection and had nothing to clean myself, sleep in and no toothbrush.  Then on Tuesday we waited around to make sure that nothing was going to happen. Then we walked to the office to double check that nothing was going to happen while we were on route. I got on the khumbi to Manzini and got another call from MV, asking if I could get off before reaching the city because a girl who arrived in Manzini ahead of me was ordered off of the bus due to a transport strike.  I couldn’t get off of my bus and when I arrived in the city left the bus rank immediately and waited for MV to get there. When he arrived an hour later, nothing was going on and he just walked us to our khumbis to get home. I got home at 3pm on Tuesday. Talk about worn out!!!
The next day was grade 5 surveys. Then on Thursday there was a Goat Commercialization ceremony at a village near ours where our (Emkhuzweni Primary School) Drum Majorettes were asked to perform because the Queen Mother would be present. On Friday- grade 6 survey.

We have had our second swimming lesson day this past Saturday! Very fun, perfect weather. Except the sun was a little extreme. We got a ride from the hotel –Orion, look it up- to Piggs Peak because it is easier to catch one home from the city, rather than try to catch a one from the hotel. The person who picked (4 of) us up is a head teacher at a near by school, the brother in law of one of my teachers a EPS, and had a connection with a previous PC volunteer who happened to be from Kent State! His name is Dennis Desantis, Musa Shiba has lost contact with him and if you know Dennis please have him contact me. What a small small world :D  Then we had some glorious KFC in Piggs Peak waiting for the lady whose school we run the swimming lessons. Then we got to talking, and incorrectly assumed that she would give us a ride home. No such luck. By the time we got to the bus rank the last khumbi heading to Buhleni had already left. So we had to take a khumbi headed to Matsamo, the South Africa border post and get off at a T junction where to get to Buhleni we would turn right. We had quite a task even spotting the junction stop in the dark. Luckily we moved to the front of the khumbi at the right time and asked the driver to let us know when we got to our stop, which was right then. We also asked him if he thought we could catch a khumbi to Buhleni from there. He said he thought so. And it turns out with good reason- he had called the last khumbi going to Buhleni and asked him to wait for us. What a nice guy.

Then early on Sunday we left to go to Manzini where a bunch of volunteers (both group 9 and group 8) were getting together at a….wait for it… PUB! to watch the Rugby world cup. Turns out I really like Rugby. It was such a great time and I got to meet some of the group 8 volunteers that I hadn’t met before.

Recently this week I had a talk with the thishela mkhulu (head teacher) about no longer being available to sub, after another day this week with grade 5 without a lesson plan, blowing in the wind, it was not good for me or the students. Especially, if after we start the new school year in January I want to teach any of my own –planned- classes. Then we talked about what I was thinking about for next year: a life skills lesson 1 day a week for grades 4, 5, 6, and 7; and I said that I could teach 1 English lesson a week for any grades or classes that wanted experience with a native English speaker, and my lesson would in no way be connected to the teacher’s regular curriculum; I also offered to run an alternative disciplinary option for teachers, a detention where students could be sent out of the classroom, or ordered to attend detention during break or after school with me where we would work quietly together.

Ok- that about sums everything up. Sorry if it was kind of boring.

I miss you all so much and think often about seeing you again, even though I still have about 21 months. Speaking of which, anyone is welcome to visit anytime!!!


Monday, October 17, 2011

New post coming soon!!

This post will soon be replaced by a new post. I have a few things to update, and depending on when I get home tonight, or tomorrow I will tell you all about it. For now I am stuck in the PC office waiting for my head to clear up (allergies) and the transport strikes to be over.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Crossing streams with Make

 I apologize that I did not keep my weekly promise/ritual of updating my blog yesterday. It has been a crazy few days.

Let me start from right now and work backwards, like that backwards episode of Seinfeld- the wedding in India. Okay, maybe it’s been a while since I’ve seen that episode or any Seinfeld for that matter, but just go with it, ok?

It is raining buckets, literally, and has been since about 2:30pm this afternoon (it is now 7:00pm) with the addition of some hail every here and there. Make and I just started ‘harvesting’ the rain water about half an hour ago (except for the really big barrel Make has, that’s been out the whole time, under the one dripping gutter) and we have already filled 13 buckets, the smallest one is 25 liters, and we have filled her 125L (This is a guess, it is for sure bigger than my 100L barrel but I don’t know how much, and believe it or not I am erring on the small side) barrel two times now! We fill our buckets with big openings and then use them to fill barrels kept inside and the ~25L jugs with smaller openings, then fill the first round of buckets again. Every single bucket possible is filled with rainwater.

When I got caught in the storm as it started this afternoon, the roads were already turning into colliding rivers. And remember that there is only one paved road here, so they are nasty mucky rivers. Even more nasty since I passed a Gogo this morning, on the way to school, with the back of her skirt hitched up around her waist just slightly hunched over a bit of grass on the edge of the road. This is not a normal occurrence, as far as I know, but hey, emergencies happen. And now whatever it was that has graced the road since our last rain is floating around in the rivers we are forced to walk through to get anywhere. I can’t even imagine driving, or at least driving and getting very far.

We saw the storm approaching as we (2 teachers and I) were walking from the prayer service all of the teachers attended at the families homestead to mourn the death of a student’s mother, who was also a nurse at our clinic, in the bus accident last week. We were going to deliver scones to the Gogo of the sons whose bus crashed, killing the mother, and several others, we had just been praying for. The sons brought Gogo to their home to receive visitors offering their sympathy for the devastation of owning a bus that has killed people. The bus was actually sitting in the side yard with a tarp over it. It seems funny, coming from a culture where we always look for someone to blame, to think that people are sympathizing with the bus service/owners for bearing part of the responsibility of that tragedy (the bus operator was also killed in the accident). The Elders of the woman’s family, she was also a Dlamini (like me, so technically, but not really, we were related on some level), were the ones at the homestead sitting in an empty house, with the exception of mats for visitors to sit on, receiving anyone who might stop by offering to mourn with the family. This is viewed as their job and they never leave, even to cook and feed themselves. So they rely on other members of the family to feed them.

We left school at around 1pm and went to pray. We sang a few songs and our school’s pastor (not exclusively) led some prayers in SiSiwati. Even though I could understand so little of it, it was incredibly moving. It made me think of a part in ‘The Poisonwood Bible’, that I am reading right now (huge spoiler alert!!! And for any one who hasn’t read it, go do it now! Really now, run.). It is when Ruth May has just died and Orleanna, the mother, puts her body out on the table under a traditional alter and all of the other mothers in the village, many of whom have also just lost children under different circumstances, come crawling on their knees to help Orleanna mourn her lost child. And whoever is the narrator at that time realizes that this is the same pain that these other families have been feeling this whole time; that they are not exempt from the pain and possibility of losing a sister/daughter in Kilanga. I think that I did a terrible job explaining that, but hopefully if, or once you have read the book, you will understand the comparison and realize, if you haven’t already, how anyone who has lost can help mourn and feel the heavy fog of sadness. Even when helping to mourn someone that you have never met, and never will. Just knowing that they were someone’s mother, daughter, sister, someone is enough. Then on top of that feeling, realizing that this is something that, as a part of their culture, Swazi’s have seemed to understand and accept more than I could ever imagine without coming here and seeing it for myself.

That pretty much covers today. For now I will skip the weekend and continue with the heartbreak and tragedies of last week. This bus accident happened last Thursday evening. A tire blew on a bus that travels from Manzini to Matsamo border post, SA. The accident was in Dvokolwako, which is about 30 min south of Mkhuzweni, and Mkhuzweni is the next to last village before Matsamo. So this hit our community hard. The news of this accident arrived on the same day that a boy in Grade 1, about 7, was deserted by his mother for eating his little brother’s fat cake. He showed up to school with his eyes welled up to brim with tears and a grocery bag not near that full of dirty clothes. We are still trying to figure out what to do. Last Friday also happened to be the day that we received an official SMS (text message) from our CD about 2 more volunteers leaving the program.

Talk about a bummer.

Luckily, Mia and I had already planned (thanks to Shauna who is the current Volunteer Swimming instructor) a pretty fun weekend of swimming lesson introductions, and an over night with some awesome people and awesome food. I actually got in the water and swam with the kids some, even though it was freezing. My own swimming instructors would never believe it, since one of the most prominent things I remember about swimming lessons was complaining as much as possible before I actually got in the water. So, now I will be teaching swimming lessons every, or every other weekend!! After integration we are also allowed to overnight any time we need a get away. Unfortunately, being so emotionally exhausted after the previous week and then physically exhausted after swimming lessons I was plum wore out on Sunday.

However, now I have rearranged my schedule to accommodate everything and myself. It looks like this: School Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Girls soccer after school on Friday; Swimming lessons on Saturday, and Sunday to Monday are free for whatever, maybe more community work, but I’m not sure if I have that kind of energy. Re-reading this I know that it doesn’t sound like a lot for how exhausted I have been, but think about doing everything you do in a day with people all around you speaking a different language, all of the surroundings different and walking at least 30min to get anywhere, including to catch a khumbi these days, in scorching sun or pouring down rain.
The way my schedule at school is going it looks like I will be sitting in on classes for this week, and attending a few meetings, then organizing on Friday. Hopefully, the following week I will be able to start surveys with the teachers and the students. I am actually supposed to type the teacher survey tonight, but I am just too tired and now with a roaring headache. The rain has stopped and my head has filled in the now missing constant pounding of rain, with just pounding.

Alright, next week I will post again either Monday or Sunday with happier stories.

Love you all and Miss you!! Please take care of yourselves and remember that everyone is someone’s someone.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Survival of the Fittest, Natural Selection. By the way, Chickens make terrible mothers.

A Hen on my homestead hatched 11 eggs/chicks last Sunday evening. Today, one week later there are only 6 left. Everyday I check on the chicks, and sometimes in the evening when they can’t figure out how to get into the chicken coop I help them in. Still, there are only 6 left after a week. I guess that may be why the have so many chicks to start with.

I also started school this week! Finally. There is lots of fun stuff going on and I have lots of new teacher friends, who are really all SO nice! I feel very lucky. They already want to plan a one night trip to Krueger. Hopefully PC will let me go, even though it will most likely  be during integration when we are only allowed one night a month away from our villages. This month I already have too many things to do: I would like to go to the Orion hotel to get a tutorial about teaching swimming lessons, this will be with Kathy from the Perma-culture workshop that we did during training and will be an overnight thing, and obviously there will be a Halloween gathering at the end of this month. Eish.. what do I do?

Anyhow back to school- I love it, but it is incredibly tiring. I’ve asked the principal for one day off a week, to process, while I am still in integration. He said that would be fine and selected Thursdays for me. So, I have spoken to a possible SiSwati tutor about tutoring on Thursdays. Tomorrow I will be working with Miss Qwabe on our School Library application. Everyone is so excited about this opportunity! I will let you know more about it as we progress with our application. 

Miss Qwabe is the school’s guidance teacher, and my main resource at this point for working in the school. This last week I shadowed Miss Q for 2 days and then shadowed the computer teacher. The other days were spent sitting in on meetings with the Principal and getting to know the school. So far I have drawn a map of the school and done a Key Informant Interview with Miss Q. I wake up every morning, hopefully before 6am, and head to school at 7am so that with the half hour walk I can get there before the 7:30am bell. Even though the bell seems to be more of a suggestion than an indication that school should start. Every morning the kids clean the school grounds, so if classes start by 8am we are on track for the day. 

These next few weeks I will sit in on whatever classes are on my schedule for that day, I am taking 1 day to observe each grade. (Grades 1-8 are Primary school and then beyond that, high school is referred to in Forms, eg. Form 1, Form 2, etc.) Then break when the teachers have a break or when the kids have lunch 11:00am-11:30am, this is a whole other experience that I will talk about later. Then it’s back to classes until school is out. For grades 1-3 that is 1pm, for 3-5 that’s 1:30pm, for 6-7 that is somewhere between 2-2:30pm. Then I head home to tackle whatever home chores are waiting for me after rushing out in the morning, usually sweeping, mopping if it has rained, and cooking something, because by the time school gets out it’s a chore in itself to decide whether I am more tired or hungry. I usually bring a small lunch with me and eat breakfast at home, but everyone shares here, and I don’t mind it at all, but I am very hungry by the time school gets out and I get home. After all of this I usually rest for a couple of hours and then tackle an evening of bathing, cooking dinner (sometimes, if I don’t gorge myself too much after I get home from school), and getting ready for school the next day.

Now, school lunches-
There is a bell at 10:30am which signals the monitors from each class/grade to go to the kitchen to go get the bowls for lunch. Each child has a number at the school and all of their books and their lunch bowl correspond to this number. Then the monitors hand out the bowls to each student, and they ‘line up’ at 4 buckets of soapy water to ‘wash’ their bowls before getting in ‘line’ to be served their lunch. They ‘line up’ by grade, the youngest ones going first. As for what the lunch usually consists of, this week there was no lunch served on Monday or Tuesday because of technical issues, then on Wednesday it was indegane, thin porridge, basically, runny grits, on Thursday they had beans, which I’ve heard is sometimes served with rice. Friday I was in a meeting during lunch so I didn’t see what they had, but considering how many children were loitering outside of the meeting hall I’m guessing it was indegane again, because most of them don’t like it enough to eat it and they just run around with their empty bowls for ‘half an hour’. Everyone eats with his or her hands, almost always. The adults usually make an exception when eating with me because I can’t do it, eat with my hands that is, not just because of the whole dirty hand germ thing, but also because it takes a different kind of coordination. I end up with food all over the table and myself. Then at 11:30am another bell rings and the children rush to clean their dishes in the same buckets and give them to the monitor. It has been a very interesting week, and a very fulfilling one, even though I am still exhausted.

Mia and I played soccer yesterday; really we just kicked the ball between the two of us. This was the inspiration and beginning of an idea to start girls soccer teams with the schools in our area. For whatever reason, girls never play soccer here. They play other sports, like netball and volleyball, but Mia and I are determined to equal out the opportunities. The boys do get pretty rough sometimes, which is why Mia and I started out playing on our own, instead of with a boys team. The boys are also VERY good and VERY competitive. As we were leaving the pitch a group of girls came running to us and said, ‘Please let me have your ball.’ It may seem like a strange question, but this is always how it is- I like that, give it to me. So, we said no, but that they should all come out next Saturday to play with us. They looked at us kind of funny, and then we asked if they knew how, if they could play, then they got excited and said Yes, of course. So, we’ll see what happens this Saturday (if Mia and I are around, this weekend is the weekend we are supposed to go for the Swim lesson introductions). Mia and I both played soccer and swam/dove respectively. Quite a coincidence, though Mia played soccer a lot longer than I did. Also, as we were finishing up playing around we saw a gigantic Millipede/Centipede, which ever ones are the big, gross, fat ones!!!

I finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho this week, I found a few passages that I feel are very apropos to my current PC life. I will leave you with those this week.

I love and miss you all. Thank you all so much for all of your unending support.

‘… people need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want…’

‘Because people become fascinated with pictures and words, and wind up forgetting the Language of the World.’

‘… so that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life… when we strive to become better than we are, everything else around us becomes better, too.’

Monday, September 19, 2011

Still No School

No school this (past) week. Hopefully I’ll get some good news tomorrow and things can get moving. Though, I am SO tired today. It is hard to imagine having the energy for school tomorrow.

This weekend a bunch of volunteers got together for a September birthday extravaganza. We went to Manzini for coffee and donuts, (yes, that’s right real donuts), then to the office to pick up packages (AWESOME packages again!! Thank you!), then off to Mbabane to get a delicious sandwich (Chicken salad, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and bacon all on a toasted baguette) and party supplies . Sandwiches are a pretty big deal when you can find them here, for whatever reason it is rare to find a delicious sandwich. Then we headed to Sondzela’s, which is a backpackers on the Milwane nature reserve. We got there just in time for a dip in the pool (!) and to set up the tent. Then we got all showered and dressed up (which is a big deal here, I mean a shower?..amazing) and went to House on Fire, which is one of few dance clubs in Swaziland, and also attracts the many expats in the country. It was so fun, and nice to be with people that I don’t feel like I always have to try and be ‘on’ around.

Something else that I have been meaning to tell everyone who is even the tiniest bit inclined to visit: The flight is the most expensive part of the trip. The currency here (Emalengeni=Rand) is 7E to one dollar!!

Cold water highly is under-rated, cold anything else also under-rated, but maybe a little less so.

More updates tomorrow, even though it sounds like there will still be no school. Mia and I will be visiting Zama (Matt) in his village of Bulandzeni tomorrow!! Yay!

No School today L I cannot get in contact with my head teacher (Principal) either, which is slightly disconcerting. This means that today I am going to finish up Blade Runner ( I started it yesterday for the first time ever), eat breakfast, do some laundry, make my chick pea salad with tomatos, onions, oregano, and olive oil. Then Mia will come over to say ‘hello’ to my mother and we will head off to Matt’s where I think we will be making chicken soup.

Also, anyone who would like pictures: send me a letter with a memory card of sorts. This way I can send a full memory card back to you in a return letter.

This update feels so short compared to my usual novels. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sundays in Swaziland

OK. So, Make has been to church 3 days in a row now, they are doing some sort of marathon thing, and I am feeling like a total bum. Since it's Sunday and at my homestead everyone is allowed to worship as they like (and they all do, a lot) I have decided that to make myself feel better, both productive and thankful, that I will designate some time each Sunday while Make is at church to write a blog entry. It's hard not going to a Swazi church because one of the first questions people ask you when they meet you is, ‘Are you a Christian, where do you go to church?’. While I would qualify myself as a spiritual, and maybe a religious person, I am pretty uncomfortable with organized religion and even more so in this country. Now, in designating this time on each Sunday I can feel like I am having my own connection, and less guilty about telling people that I don’t go to church here.

Anyhow, I forgot to mention something in my last blog post, about our latrine.  I saw one of the mice/rats that lives in there before I scare it out every time I have to go out there (usually it flees before I even open the door). It has a very cute face, but still gives me the shivers. I also have named one of the many lizards that is in there practically every time, even after my efforts to scare everything out before I even open the door. It fits quite nicely between 2 cinder blocks. I decided that his name is Earl because the way he looks at me reminds me of the song by the Dixie Chicks – Goodbye Earl. Not that I would ever try to poison him with Black eyed peas. Do lizards even eat legumes? I found his brother’s tail in my kitchen this morning. That was disturbing especially since I think that something has to be threatening it when it loses its tail. Which means that something bigger and scarier than a lizard was in my hut last night. It’s possible that this thing was Lihle, the kitten that my Make got. For some reason she left Lihle outside last night and the little stinker managed to climb in through my window. I think that I put her out (she has fleas and she really needs to be Make’s cat) pretty soon after she got in though, not to mention the fact that she is way more interested in human attention than catching any lizards.

Yesterday evening we got to go to one of my neighbor’s (Matsebula) Umtsimba (traditional wedding). It was so fun!! We got there in our traditional wear (emahiya) and greeted a TON of people who were just so excited to see us. We met a lot of really nice, friendly people who are so supportive and happy that we are even trying to ‘be Swazi’ (integrate). However, one thing that comes with traditional weddings is alcohol and in this culture a bunch of drunk men and boys can be very intimidating and sometimes scary. Luckily Nelsi, Mia’s counterpart came with us to help us diffuse some of the situations. For example, a married man refusing to stop talking to Mia and I while we were trying to watch the awesome dancing and singing (I have pics and videos that I will post when I get a chance to go to an internet café). By talking I mean repeatedly asking us why we won’t date/marry/go with him, all while being (very) in our personal space. We did answer his questions at first, you know the standard where are you from, what are you doing here, etc. but as drunk people anywhere will do, he forgot the answers and would just go through the cycle again. Oh well, it all turned out alright and I suppose things like this can really happen anywhere.
Another little, but thing that I loved, was all of the kids! One little girl and her brother(?) came and sat by me as we were waiting for the wedding to start. They both hung out with us all night. Near the middle of the wedding I picked the little boy up so that he could see and he fell asleep on my hip. They reminded me so much of all of my cousins (kids) and Layla and Angie’s kids and Greyson and Shelby. I miss you guys!!!! It was a nice reminder of what really matters here though. I think keeping that in mind will be easier for me once school starts. The kids here are all so great, amazingly well behaved, and love any kind of attention. Heart melting stuff, really.

Speaking of school- I am not sure when that is going to start. There has been some issues with everything that needs to happen between the schools and govt before schools can start. I hope that they start soon. I am realizing that I really am waiting to get started on a lot there. I have tried to do some things in the community, but it is SO big and I don’t want to start something that I won’t be able to finish once school starts. I’m not even sure that I could draw a map of Mkhuzweni before I would get too busy with school, it’s that big (roughly 600 homesteads). I have however discovered one really awesome project for me to pursue, something that is community wide- A community English club!! It will be open to anyone in the community who is interested in practicing or improving their English. The idea was brought to me by a Rural Health Motivator (RHM) that I met while hanging out with Mia and her counterpart, while they were doing productive things. She came to me and said that she wanted me to teach her English. It is also a great opportunity for young mothers, who maybe didn’t get to finish school. So, I am going to start with it being targeted at those groups. I will go with Mia and Nelsi to the RHM meetings and rural baby weighings and set up a schedule with those who are interested. I am SO excited!!

Next weekend we are taking a mini vacation. It will be a celebration of all of the PCVs with September birthdays. I am going to take off school (if it has started) on Friday and leave early in the morning so that I have time to stop by the PC office to pick up some mail and packages (and maybe shower). Then we are all going to Sondzela’s backpackers, which is near the Milwane Nature reserve (we had a trip here during training) and DJ Cleo will be at House on Fire that night!! Yay.

OK, Happy Sunday everyone. I miss you all and can’t wait to hear from/see you.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Bit Scattered...

OMG! There is so much to say!

Umhlanga (Reed Dance) was so fun and beautiful. I even got to see some of the princesses and the king. Unfortunately, we had to leave pretty early since it started on Swazi time (which amazingly enough is pretty darn close to the Kunkel time that I have been adapting to my whole life :) and the Peace Corps has a one night away during the first 3 months of integration rule. Still, it was nice to spend some time figuring out how to move around this country, and tiring. We had to rush to make the last khumbi home and then do an in transit swap with a khumbi that was going to continue in our direction. I got back after dark, and it is scary walking here when you can’t see five feet in front of your face. Luckily I was able to ask the khumbi driver to let me off at the road to my house that is more populated and therefore a little wider, meaning that there is more space between the scary tall grass and me, that anything could pop out of. Also, all of the families that live along the bigger road know me. So if something were to happen I would ask them for help and they would not hesitate at all. This makes me realize the real importance of integration.

Then the next day back we went to meet the Inkhundla, which is a gathering (place) of bucopho (Headmen/chiefs) for the surrounding 5 chiefdoms including Mkhuzweni. It was very nice to meet all of them. They are seem very supportive of Mia and me, and are willing to work with us on anything. The Inkhundla is like the local court house, it is where any local issues are solved. Afterwards we went into town to see if my chair was ready and to get a few groceries. Chair was not ready….still chairless.

However, I did get enough groceries to make dinner for/with Make and Bhuti (Derek/Mfanafuthi). It is actually a pretty exciting point that bhuti has been home for the past couple of weeks. He is awesome!! I am a little sad that he went back to the University of Swaziland today.

This dinner Make and I made was unreal- it was so good. We made a veggie stir fry with chicken and then combined it with fried rice. YUM! After this night Make got a cat (Lihle) from Mia’s counterpart. So, as a thank you for the cat I invited her to family dinner that Saturday night (which now we have decided to make an every week thing) along with Mia. We all cooked together and it was again, amazingly delicious! I have to give a shout out to the Pilates Innovations crew in Columbus for sending me 2 wonderful packages with the spices that made all of this great cooking possible- Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!! There is a letter in the mail to you all as soon as I get to town to mail it J The second dinner was pasta with a homemade sausage gravy. We sautéed the sausage with onions, garlic, and green peppers then added a ton of fresh tomatoes and spices/herbs. We made garlic rolls to go with it all and finished the meal with freshly sliced pineapple and sweet bananas. Yum!

Ok, I must apologize. I have been writing this same blog post forever. Hopefully I can finish it up today. School starts (or is supposed to start**) next Tuesday so, I have been trying to make my way around this gigantic community while avoiding the heat of the day to draw a map for my community report due at the end of integration. Seriously, this community is huge. I don’t think that one could walk around the village if they walked all day. I am supposed to be walking now but my phone is charging and Make doesn’t really want me to walk alone, so the least that I can do is take a charged phone with me.

** It turns out that school will not start on Tuesday.

A few days ago I discovered this AWESOME spot. It is perfect for just sitting and thinking. It feels kind of wild because there are no houses near by, even though it’s got paths running through it, and it sits opposite another hill/mountain so the view is great. It turns out that after further investigation there is another area of Mkhuzweni (imagine that, this place is HUGE) on the opposite hill from my homestead that feels the same way.

I saw my first snake a few days ago. It was dead lucky for me, not so much for the snake. It was a light mocha brown. I think it had been trampled by cattle. Hopefully that takes care of my snake quota for Africa.

Sorry that this has been so scattered. I guess that creating a post over a few days is a bad idea for coherence.. next time I'll be sure that I have plenty of time to write a whole update in one sitting.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I have contributed to the Swazi PCV Newsletter

I have been asked to make a contribution to the Swaziland Peace Corps Volunteer Newsletter, the SoJo. And since I have actually put something together I figured that I could also put it up here, for you all. It does, however, contain the recipe for emafethi again. In case you haven't tried to make them yet, this recipe is a little more detailed with the experience that I have had making them since I last posted it.

Waiting for emafethi. The addiction continues.

For those of you in Group 9 who know me, you also know that I have an addiction to emafethi. Well, being at site has not caused my sweet craving to wane at all. This started back home when I was in charge of running a seminar series for a bunch of grad students. For those of you who have been students, you know that the best way to persuade them to attend anything is to have food. I chose to have doughnuts and coffee at my seminars. They were every week. Of course that meant that I had at least one donut a week, and sometimes I had to go into the store (they were delivered for the seminar) to work out logistics, or to get lunch or something. Anyhow, it had been about two weeks since I had last indulged in an emafethi and about four days that we had been at site. Needless to say, I thought I was dying.

Mia and I planned to go to Buhleni, our shopping town a few days after we had arrived at site to buy the standard household things, as I’m sure most of the other G9ers did. It was an incredibly hot day around 1pm and we had just sat through about three hours of our fist Umphakathzi meeting under the big fig tree. Standing by the side of the road Mia called her Sisi, who had previously mentioned that she would like to go with us to town, to let her know that we were ready to go and could meet her there. She told Mia that it was too hot and she would come ‘pick us’. So we waited, mostly thankful for the ride. We got in the car and found out that Sisi actually had other plans for the day, the first of which was to go home for lunch. This was fine, no big deal, lunch and then a ride to town. Another three hours later we asked Sisi if she was ready to go to the store yet. She was, so we all piled in the car. When I say all, I mean all, including Gogo and Sisi (another one) who we had to drop off at home really quick before going to town. Ok. In the car, hot, windows down, on a dirt road forever, seriously about an hour!! Finally we got to Mhlume, and my Dramamine kicked in. Great. Luckily it only took about 45 minutes to drop off Gogo and Sisi, then we were back on the road. Sisi said that we would stop at a store on the way back, after she showed us off to some more of her friends in Tshaneni. By the time we actually got to the store it only had a few more minutes of being open. Luckily they let us in and we got to do some shopping, even if we didn’t get to explore our shopping town with a local guide. On the way back we had a nice leisurely drive passing sugar cane fields, monkeys sitting next to the road eating the sugar cane watching cars drive by, and a gorgeous sunset. Quickly, I called my Make to let her know that I was with Buhle and her sister, I was ok and I was going to be home late, not to worry. This was quite an adventure in itself, and then the icing on the cake, or the dough in the oil. We did stop in Buhleni, at one store, for one thing, emafethi. It was heavenly, I mean really. Mine didn’t even make it to the car and I was debating if I had time to run in and get another before Sisi drove off without me.

A few days later Mia and I decided to actually go to Buhleni to get a look around and pick up a few things. I had not had an emafethi since that day with Sisi. Little did Mia know that this adventure was going to turn into a hunt (or long wait) for the fat cakes.
The first place we went to in town was the emafethi place, it’s past the gas station, near the shebeen in Buhleni (stop by if you ever get a chance, note the timing). They said that the emafethi would be ready at about 1 pm (who makes emafethi in the afternoon anyway?!). It was about 9 am. Could Mia and I use up 4 hours in the small town of Buhleni? Two tables, a few brooms and mops, and groceries galore later Mia and I walked back in to the sitolo. Were the fat cakes, by any chance, ready early today?  About 11 am. No. So we decided that we couldn’t wait until 1 pm to eat and headed back out to He Provides Restaurant, previously Twinkle, for PCV famous fried chicken. It was delicious, but by the time we got done it was only 11:45 am. We were so hungry we both wolfed our food down. We went back to the sitolo, were they ready yet? No, one hour. Ok, so we went back to the woodcraftsman to figure out possible transport for the tables. 12:00. Not yet, but we didn’t have anything else to do. So, I asked Mia if she would mind waiting just 45 minutes sitting in the sitolo for the emafethi. She said no. That was her mistake, because the emafethi weren’t ready until around 2:30 pm. Every single person who walked in that sitolo sat down to talk to us about where we were from, how long had we been in Swaziland? what were we doing here? when were we leaving? could they come back with us? even if it was in a suitcase? where do you stay? no, really, where do you stay? what’s your real name? On and on. Then finally, after truly earning it, and making a few friends in the meantime, the emafethi were ready!! And oh were they amazing. I got 8, that’s right 8. I ate 2 on the way home, one when I got home, I gave 2 to Make (who also LOVES emafethi) and ate another one with her.  The rest just had to wait for tomorrow, because I was full. Oh, emafethi. Unfortunately, I have a recipe for them. 

So, as a reward for suffering through this story, below is my recipe for how to make emafethi. A little warning though, with this recipe they are quite a bit fluffier and more cake like. To make them more doughy and dense do not use self-rising flour and knead for longer. What’s next for the emafethi? Chocolate emafethi anyone?

Emafethi – using 2 cups of flour yields about 16, 1.5” (in diameter) emafethi.

2 cups of self-rising flour.
2 tablespoons of oil.
½ (about) teaspoon of salt
½ (about) teaspoon of active yeast
4 heaping tablespoons of sugar

To make a bigger batch use 3 cups of flour 3 tablespoons of oil and 6 cups of sugar and increase the amount of salt and yeast only slightly, or follow ratios accordingly.

Mix all of the above ingredients together and stir thoroughly, until well integrated (haha, get it?). Then slowly add water to the mixture and keep stirring. I add water about a half cup at a time. You want the dough to be a little thinner that pizza dough, but not runny. Just so it sticks to itself rather than the sides of the bowl. Then I take the spoon out, put it in a cup of the remaining water, put a towel over the bowl to let the dough rise a bit.

While the dough is rising pour about an inch and a half of oil in a pot. If you use a bigger pot it takes more oil, but is slower to over heat. Vice versa if you use a small pot, it takes less oil but the oil can become too hot quickly if you are doing a big batch. If I am using 2 cups of flour I use a small pot (about 3 rounds of frying), if I am making any more than that I use a big pot. Heat the oil. The oil is ready when you sprinkle water from your fingers in the pot and it sizzles as soon as it hits the oil, not when it hits the bottom of the pan. Then take your spoon out of the cup of water and one at a time, by the spoonful, drop your emafethi dough balls into the oil. If the dough starts sticking to the spoon dip it back in the cup of water. The emafethi may stick to the bottom of the pan, so be ready with a pancake turner if they do. The dough will need to be rolled at least once while in the oil, cooking to perfection. They are ready when they are just golden brown. If the emafethi start coming out raw in the middle and burnt on the outside, your oil is too hot. Take the poor dough balls out. Let your oil cool and try again.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pictures! - They loaded backwards so start at the bottom and work your way up :)

Men's traditional wear. Sorry the boys weren't looking at the camera, the photos with their faces were totally inappropriate. Silly Boys
Mia (My Village-mate) and me at Swearing-in. Women's traditional wear.
The Ladies of Group 9, Swaziland.
Ryan sitting with some OVCs in Makhonza during one of our applied language classes.
View opposite the waterfall; at a cultural village we visited.
Th waterfall at a cultural village we visited. It was a hike to get there, but it sure was gorgeous. Plus I was trying out some new settings on my camera. Notice how vivid the colors are?
Sunset view from right outside my training village hut.
View from the training center.
My language group!!
Me and Calile, my AWESOME language teacher :)
Host Family appreciation, with Make Quality (Calile's host mother), Pila (my bhuti), and Make wami.
Pila's Soccer Team
Cutest goats ever were born on my training home stead.
The Host Family...well most of it. And Pila, eating the ceramic fish, I taught him to do silly things while people are taking pictures earlier. It seems I've created a monster :)
Home, home on the range. Yep Cattle graze 100% freely here.
More traditional homes near my training homestead.
Animals at the nature reserve. Can anyone identify these?
Animals at the cultural village. Can anyone tell me what kind of monkey this is?
That's right. We saw a real live Zebra at the reserve!

I love you all!! Take care.