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.