Sunday, January 29, 2012


I don’t know exactly what it is about the past few days, but I am loving this place. It really feels like home; maybe its school starting, maybe its cooking and baking with Make and Mia, maybe its working so hard during the day that I can’t keep my eyes open at night, maybe its a combination of all of these things. Whatever it is I am definitely in the right place doing the right thing.

I went to the office on Monday and was welcomed by a number of WONDERFUL packages. Thank you!! I also made some solid decisions for my sanity at school.  This term/year I am focusing on the kids.  Last term was a little different because our title and job description was still ambiguous.  We now have changed from Non-Formal Education Volunteers to Youth Development Volunteers.  This change releases us from the necessity to be at school all the time, and to find stuff to do as it comes to us there.  This arrangement made it really hard not to feel used, and kept a distance with the kids.  I have decided that I will arrive at school around Lunch break, 11:00am, to hang out with the kids while they have their short 30-45min break during the day, and then I will stick around for the last hour and a half of school, reading, setting up the library, preparing for after school clubs. After school I have let a number of the kids know that I am available to help them with any homework or studying they need to do, whether it is in groups or individually. Hopefully this will be the basis for some really great relationships with a few kids to help start more exciting after school clubs such as Library/reading club, English Club, Life Skills Club, etc.  I also plan to reach out to the younger kids by having an after school story time, just like Hannah and I went to at our local library on Sundays.  Whatever happens, I am loving having/getting more time to spend with the kids.  They are so full of life and energy and really interested in learning.

School started on Tuesday.  That was a little depressing.  We had assembly and then it was all around pandemonium.  So, I took my leave and went to town to pick up a few groceries

The next day, Wednesday, started at 5:30am. Make, Siboniso (the boy who takes care of the cows on my homestead), and I started weeding the field behind my house. I started out pulling the weeds by hand, but the ground was so dry that I wasn’t getting a lot of root. So, for the first time I used a hoe. I don’t think that I did too badly. I only accidentally got one stalk of maize. However, I did notice Siboniso stealthily following behind me smoothing out the ground and getting the smaller weeds that I missed.  Holy cow did my arms start to hurt!! After about an hour and a half with the hoe I went back to pulling weeds by hand around the pumpkins that grow amongst the maize. It is harder to hoe around there and the broad pumpkin leaves kept the ground a little more moist.  Then at 8:30am I left Make and Siboniso in the field to get ready for school. Make wanted me to rest, but at that point it would have been counter productive. So, I had breakfast, bathed, and then did some of the laundry that I was piling up to do after school. At 10:15 I left for school, arriving around 11:00. I said ‘hello’ to all of the teachers that weren’t teaching at that moment and sat myself down with The Catcher in the Rye, which I have not yet read. All of the teachers that passed asked questions like: “What are you doing?”, “Why are you late?”, “Where have you been?”, “Why weren’t you here?”, “Why did you leave early yesterday?”. Deep Breath. “I am not a teacher, and I don’t have to be here any specific time.” Their responses amounted to, “Wow. You must be happy.” It feels like a shame. I would love to be busy with the kids all day, but there is just little use to me being there while the kids are all in class. Finally, the younger kids were finishing up their lunches, they are released about 15-20min before the older kids. Then they all gathered around to say ‘Good Morning’ and see what I was up to. The little ones are still getting used to me. Sometimes they run up and touch me, wait to see what I do, giggle, then run away. The more outgoing kids will come up and say ‘Bye Bye’, I’ll respond with ‘Hello’ and then they run away giggling. When the older kids get done with lunch they come over just to sit next to me, sometimes to talk if they have anything they want to ask, or I ask how they like their new classes, etc. This is all the slow process of getting to know the students and earning their trust and respect. I love it!! After lunch break I spent some time organizing how we are going to get our library stuff together. I taught the two Grade 5 classes dots and boxes. They loved it, and I showed them how to imagine the outcome of drawing their line before actually drawing it. For example: if I put my line here it will leave 2 boxes open for the next player to claim, but if I put my line here they won’t get any boxes. Problem solving skills anyone?! At about 2pm I headed home to do the rest of my laundry. Two hours later, about 5pm, I started making this amazing lentil salad that Mia got me hooked on. It has lentils, pasta, green pepper, tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, feta, balsamic, and olive oil. YUM! Everything is fresh and you just add as much as you like of each ingredient.  A couple bowls of that and I was ready for bed.

The next day started a little later and this time it was just Make and me in the field at 6am. We finished weeding the field we had started the day before at about 8:30am. I used a hoe the whole two and a half hours! Again, I bathed and ate breakfast then headed to school early, at the request of the head teacher. He said that I must be at school before 10am to get the library stuff sorted out. I got there at about 10:15am. Turns out it was no matter that I was late because the head teacher wasn’t even coming in to school at all that day. …So, I found my same seat and started reading again.  It was pretty much the same as the previous day, except this time I taught Grade 6 dots and boxes.  Again, they loved it. (And I love those kids!!!) I headed to town around 1:30pm where I splurged and talked to a very talented local woodworker to make a bench and a washstand for my hut. I am SO excited for these 2 items. You all know how important hand washing is to me, and now I won’t have to bend all the way over to get soap and put my hands into the basin, not to mention the exciting prospect of storage shelves to get some of my toiletries off the floor!! I’m sure the kitchen/bath will fee like a new room. The bench will be under my front window, hiding my shoes and easily transportable for sitting on the veranda. YAY!
On my way home from town a couple of boys who live at the homestead next to me asked if I would come teach them the game that I taught grade 6 today. How exciting!!! So, after I dropped my stuff off at home I went back and played dots and boxes and hangman with them for an hour or so. At 4:30pm I left them to keep playing together and ate a bowl of that amazing lentil salad, and went straight to bed. Yep, that’s right. I was asleep by 6:30pm.

Friday morning I got to skip the field work because I wanted to get to school for the assembly. Shem. That’s all I have to say. Mia joined me at the assembly and then we went around to classrooms making announcements about soccer for today. I then had a frustrating conversation about my new title, that the PC had not told the schools or Head Teachers about, and my plan of action. Oh, man. I was so riled up. Mia and I then left for home where we had some awesome baking time with Make and made stellar Banana muffins, rested with True Blood and were Make’s dish fairies. It turned out to be a great day!

Saturday was a day full of cooking (and doing my PC Volunteer Report Form), butternut squash soup, homemade applesauce, and helping Make with her first time baking chicken. It all turned out very well!  I got to eat with Make and another Make from the Emphakatsi.

I realized that I really like how productive I am after a good workout in the morning. So, that’s how today started, with some pilates and a good 40 minute walk to get bread for breakfast. And look at that, 3 hours after I wake up Blog post done.

I miss you all so much.  Even though Emkhuzweni is starting to feel more and more like home it is still missing all of my friends and family from home.  In a way the more I feel at home the more I notice that you all are not here. I hope that if any of you have any interest in visiting that you can make it happen. Anyone is welcome anytime.

Love you!!! Stay well and take care of each other.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Settling in…again

It really rained last night for the first time since Christmas. Finally. We have been desperate for rain. Our maize is still small and our tomatoes in the garden are nearly as hard as rocks, ripe.

For some reason the rain makes it feel a little easier to settle back into things at home after traveling around for the holiday season. It is like everything was holding it’s breath for the rain, and now that we’ve had some, breathing is back to normal.

The holidays included spending some great time with other PCVs and my host family, though I am sure that next year I will spend much more of the holiday season with my family. I did some awesome hiking with a group of PCVs at the coolest tree/rock house ever. We spent Christmas day cooking a HUGE feast at a backpackers. I got to spend some quality time with Make wami and bobhuti, usually cooking. Since school has been out for the holiday season we have eaten some amazing things: Pizza numerous times, including one time that I may have had the best pizza outside of Italy, Make made the crust and we didn’t even have any cheese, Cinnamon rolls a few times, a few different kinds of banana muffins, baked chicken, sautéed cabbage with carrot and onion, spinach with peanuts (one of my favorite swazi dishes), fried zucchini, onion rings, and fried green tomatoes. I ‘m sure that I am forgetting something but this is what I can remember for now. We also got a chance to watch some Planet Earth together which was quite a hit. After Christmas Make and I did some solid gardening together, mostly weeding. The New Year was also celebrated in good company, with other PCVs.

Since I arrived home after the New Year there has been a definite period of readjustment to a number of things at home, including a rural community where everyone expects you to stop and say ‘Hello’ to them, getting back into the SiSwati, and the fact that school is out until Jan 24th and technically I’m not even sure what I am doing when school does start again, so not exactly having anything to do back at home. Hopefully, now that it has rained, I will be able to help out in the fields a bit. However, Make is, rightfully, pretty concerned about me using most gardening tools with any sort of a point or edge.

Since being home I have read a couple of books, watched a few tv series and movies that I have on my computer, and cooked. Below I will put a list of the books that I’ve read, tv series and movies, and I will give you my recipes that have all been tested a few times.

I started reading a series about Mary Russell, but had to quit in the middle because I loaned out my kindle, but I look forward to picking that back up.

I’ve been listening to Harry Potter on ‘tape’

The Year of The Flood, Margaret Atwood

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver

Both of these books were interesting and kept my attention. The Year of The Flood was a little sci fi for me, especially with an ending that lacks conclusion. I also was more than halfway through the book and felt like I still didn’t understand what it was about, and what exactly I was reading. Which is a huge reason why I stuck with it to the end. When I got to the end I finally felt some connection to the characters, and then was left with no conclusion for any of them. The Bean Trees was more my speed. It took some time to get into, but once I did I really liked the characters and the story.

TV and Movies:

Season 1 of The Wire
Very good. I had to watch the first episode a coupe of times. I have a problem  with series. I cannot stop myself from watching episodes one after another. I will try to take a break before I start season 2. Season 1 took about 2 days.

Season 1 Suits
Also very good. This is a newer USA series and I highly recommend it.

Classic fun, just watching what I have until I can get some more episodes.

French Kiss
It had been a long time since I have seen this one, and I have a really hard time with Kevin Kline in his role as a Frenchman. I still watched it 2 times

Surprisingly good. I hadn’t seen this one before.

The Invention of Lying

The Last King of Scotland
I was hesitant to watch this one because I was a little tired, I want’ sure what it was about and if it would keep my attention. It did, and I am very happy to have
finally see it. I will watch it again when I can.

Love in the Time of Cholera
Good, but slightly slow and frustrating. Good music.

Planet Earth
With the Fam. They loved it. Make actually had some of the ladies in the neighborhood over and they all watched it together. :D

True Blood
I have seen all of these episodes but continue to watch them over and over again. I am learning to skip the parts I don’t like as much (maenad anyone? Ugh.).

The Tudors
I’m new to this series but to be honest the incredible gender inequality, surrounding the King especially, is really hard to watch here. I think that I get enough of that in everyday life. Generally I find myself watching and asking ‘Why do I care?’.

Recipes: (to come later. I’ve written them and rewritten them a bunch of times for the family and friends lately. I will type them up soon, maybe later today.)

I miss you all so much!!! Please come visit :)

Love you! I hope that you had a great holiday season and that the New Year brings happiness.