Sorry its been a while- in the interest of time and slow internet speeds, this post is actually 3 in 1! have
fun catching up on the last few weeks- wish it was more interesting!
I applied for the peace corps in february of 2010, and through it all I have been called several
acronyms, but could not call myself an official peace corps volunteer. Even the last few months, while
living in swaziland, I have been a peace corps trainee- not a volunteer. But as of yesterday I have
crossed over, and am proud to be a part of the peace corps family.
On saturday the 37 volunteers of group 9 (the mighty fine group 9) packed up our belongings and got
ready to move to our new sites. We packed-up buckets, basins, boxes from packages sent from home,
and giant bomake bags (which literal fit a person inside). It was the weirdest packing I have ever done,
and i’ve had my share of moves. We loaded everything into the back of a pick up truck and headed to
our last night at Ngwane, the college where are classes have been held. We unloaded one truck, and
filled up a bigger truck, and then the next day a bus. Sunday we headed to Mbabane the capital for our
graduation/swearing in ceremony and tour of the capital. Highlights of the tour included finding a mall,
a Mr. Price (the african equal to forever 21) and a cup of coffee that wasn’t instant, and was also in a togo
cup. This last bit was such a novelty for me, that I could barely contain my excitement.
Tuesday was the big day. Peace corps is celebrating its 50th year this year, so our ceremony was
amazing. Many of the volunteers dressed swazi traditional- as did I, with a “Ginger-twist”. I made a
skirt out of the traditional material (Bobbi you would be proud), and wrapped another sheet of fabric
around my neck. I thought wearing a sheet in public would be “easy breezy” and carefree- but it was to
be honest, it was so uncomfortable. I was sure my knots would all come on done, or a slight gust of
wind would expose myself to our honored guests. Speaking of, we were joined in celebration with the
Prime Minister of Swaziland, which was a treat. He pulled up in his fancy car, adorned with flags on
the hood, and a police escort. He spoke to us about his excitement for our coming journey and how he
studied at the university of Wisconsin. He also mentioned a story about a time he spent time with a host
family in NY, and how he still talks to them regularly. It was both adorable and inspirational. Like a
graduation, I wondered if anyone from our group would one day grow up to be someone big and
important. Even our country director, a returned PCV has served in congress. It was a motivational day,
and a good reminder of why I’m here, and what I want to make of this whole experience. In other
words, there was a lot of crying involved in the day.
That night we celebrated with volunteers from group 8 and some from group 7 (which are now starting
their 3rd year!). It has been nice to spend time with the vets, and get a good idea of what we can look
forward to- both the good and bad. They organized a bar to open for us downtown and we (mostly I)
danced until the wee hours of morning. At 6am we were up and lugging our random bags and buckets
into more trucks. There were 3 girls in my transport group and they provided us with a tiny truck- we
barely fit one person before they realized we needed another truck. It was entertaining and
embarrassing at the same time. We stopped for coffee, red bull, coke, candy and snacks on the way, and
we all made attempts to wake up to meet our new families. If it wasn’t nerve racking already, 3 hours of
sleep made it worse.
I was the second person to be dropped off in my village of Tikhuba. It is beautiful here. My view is
unbelievable. Tikhuba is on a plateau, and my homestead is right on the crest. 10 feet from my door the
landscape drops…steep drop. If you look out you can see the valley and the edge of mountains colliding
together. There must be a river at the foot of these mountains, but I can’t see it. My homestead grows
avocados, mangos, bananas and Pompeii (which I have no idea what they are, but look like they may
be like papaya). We are considered “mid-veld” on this plateau, but on the drive in the clouds were
closer, you literally felt like you could touch them. And the valley is so far down below you can’t make
out cars, roads, trees or anything- like being in an airplane. Tikhuba is on a plateau, like I mentioned
before. My house literally teaters on the edge of the creast. Our homestead is on a pretty steap incline,
so the main house sits about 3 feet higher than my hut, which is only about a foot away from eachother.
If you look out my front door you will see a third building straight ahead, where a local woman, Busie,
runs a salon. I spend time hanging out in the salon talking about girl things, and painting our nails. To
the left of my house there is a 4th building used for cooking. Its a pretty bare building, but it is where all
of the food for the family is cooked on an open fire. Directly behind my hut is the water tank, chicken
coop and maize house. I actually think this is the most beautiful area of the homestead. There is a huge
fruit tree next to the jojo tank, that gives nice shade and has an amazing tropical vibe. The trail to my
latrine is amazing. Behind the salon and before the land drops off to a steep hill covered with fruit trees
and crops. In the distance as far as you can see is mountains. And not distant mountains. I’m IN the
mountains. There is a river below, that has carved its way through the hills, and I have a direct line of
view inbetween the bends as it weaves around the hills. If that isn’t a reason to stay hydrated, I don’t
know what is.
My communtiy is pretty awesome too. I have been meeting a lot of kids, (I seem to be pretty old
around here), but they have some pretty good connections. One little girl kaitie is 11, but the funniest
little thing. She is a spitfire, and witty as all get out. Her mother runs the clinic, so next week I am
going for a tour. Kaitie is favorite of mine, even though she can murder at uno- I don’t stand a chance.
My neighbor zanellie, is 18 and beautiful. She looks like the keyan super model from victoria secert.
She has been very nice about showing me around and introducing me to her friends- like today when
we played volleyball. It was embarassing- who knew swazi’s would be AMAZING at volleyball? The
girls at the salon are also pretty awesome. I am older than everyone who hangs out there, but they are
all single with children. They are very christian, and it has been interesting to find conversations that
will culturally merge- I like them a lot, and I’m hoping I can do something with them. Single moms,
and small biz conference in the future? We shall see.
Tuesday I will meet with mandla my counter part, to follow him around the kagogo center. Not sure
what to expect from that- but i’m hopeful. Right now i’m content just meeting people and getting to
know my new home. Its a pretty awesome place.
My family, so far, is awesome. I have 4 brothers and sisters (I’m pretty sure) and one of the cousins
lives with us (I think). Its very hard sometimes to get a grasp on who is who, and who is related to you,
and which kids randomly show up at your house, and which kids live there after dark. I know I am
horrible (HORRIBLE) at remembering anyones names. I have a Hacheema, Bulanda, Nontsetsetefo,
Menzi, and Bongekile. These are names I have written down on a paper- but I’m not sure which one is
which, or how to say them correctly. I shall practice.
Tomorrow I am making a trip to the nearest town, Siteki, to buy a bed and some lumber to build
shelves, tables etc. I suddenly think I can do these things, so wish me luck. After my town trip, and
building wanna-be ikea furniture, I will spend until november just hanging out and observing what the
community is doing, and what it needs. This may be harder than building a level table for me. Not sure
how much i’ll be writing, as I mostly think i’ll be bored out of my mind, but I will try.
Just a note, I know some people are sending packages soon- send me a facebook note when you send
something so I know when to travel to the capital to get it. I have been spoiled the last few months with
the office delivering packages to me personally, but now that we are spread out we will only get
packages when I’m in the capital, which will only be when I need to be- so give me a heads up so I can
time it right.
Also, I can’t tell you how happy I have been to get letters from people. Packages are always fun, but
letters you can read over and over and over again, and lately they make me cry- in a good way. As
mundane as your life could be, I would love to read about it. I miss Americanisms –share them with
Now for bed- I hope I remember where I am when I wake up this time.
Recycling (Peace Corps style)
We all know how important recycling is. In the USA we are taught to recycle our plastic bags,
cans/bottles, paper goods etc. We even have fancy recycling bins, that go to a fancy recycling center
that we never see, but we know that our beer bottles will become a nice park bench somewhere in the
suburbs, and this makes us happy. In the Peace Corps “recycling” is seen in a whole new light. Just a
note to the reader, the following post may make you cringe a little; I may loose friends for this, I am
sure I will be judged (although the judgers will most certainly have a shower, fancy appliances and
access to a never ending supply of water) None the less, it is a risk I am willing to take for
The following is the most common forms of “Peace Corps Recycling”(PCR):
1. I collect trash in a plastic bag in my room. This misc garbage can range from plastic wrappers,
broken water bottles, dirty baby-wipes etc. Every week I take my small bag of rubbish to the
trash pit, where the family will burn in every so often. However, within moments of re-entering
my room, someone from the main house will exit. My trash bag will completely disappear and I
can rest assured I will find my broken bottles or scrap paper in my families house the next day.
2. doing dishes here…sucks. Those who know me, know I struggle with dishes at home, where I
have an actual sink, a facet and liquid soap. To avoid doing dishes as long as possible I have
developed a cooking sequence. For example, in my one large pot I first make french fries,
which leaves a lot of left over oil. On day two I will make popcorn which leaves un-popped
kernels and oil residue. On day three I make kettle corn, which always leaves a sticky sugar on
the bottom of the pan. Day 4 its time for carmel corn (don’t worry I share all this popcorn), this
is a really messy one, but when you reheat the pot on day 5 it works as a great base for toffee.
On day 6 I boil a little water, which is great for 2 reasons, it gets out all the stickiness, and its
good sweet water for tea. On day 7 there is still a little oil residue on the pan, but not much, so I
boil water for bathing. It actually works as a nice all-natural moisturizer. After bathing I wash
the pot in my bath water and start over.
water is scarce in many places in Swaziland, and if it is available, it is probably still hard to get (no,
literally, physically difficult to obtain). This creates many opportunities for PCR. You need the most
water for 3 things: bathing, washing clothes and dishes (see points 2-4)
3. washing clothes- SIGH. I HATE washing clothes here. First off, I was not raised washing
clothes in a bucket, and I suck at it. I do my laundry in the wee hours of the morning, locked in
my room so my family doesn’t laugh at me- this means I am usually not awake enough to care
if I boil water for the venture- which also means within minutes my hands are numb and purple
from ice cold water. I honestly don’t think my clothes could ever really REALLY be dirty
enough for me to get them clean like they are at home. I start with a pile of everything I own. I
stare at the pile for several minutes. I then try and remember how many times I actually wore it,
not really considering that I probably was sitting on the ground (or god knows what else) in that
particular item. It is purely limited to the number of times it was worn. Anything less then 3 is
weeded out. Then there is the spot/smell test. If nothing is alarming, it’s out of the pile. This
always leaves me with a manageable 5-7 items to be washed- the rest is recycled. Also, laundry
is only done on days where I have bathed- to recycle the water. DOUBLE recycled!
4. Bathing is a struggle. Bathing requires you to heat water (in a semi-clean pot (see point 2)), haul
out my large basin and try to fit it somewhere in my tiny room, have a small bucket for “clean
water” and a pitcher to function as my shower. It requires strong thighs (thank you WCR), so
you can squat long enough to wash and condition your hair without falling over and spilling
any of your buckets. Bathing also requires a good memory or good labeling skills. I have 2
wash clothes, one for upper body and one for lower. I share the washcloth for my feet with the
cloth I use to mop my floors- it is very important not to confuse these two clothes for obvious
reasons. I have a dedicated bath bucket too, unfortunately it is the same color as my “kitchen
sink” bucket- again important to remember. I have one rickety chair in my room which is the
only good way to shave your legs- it is also where I put my drying dishes, and where I have my
morning coffee. I only really go through all this trouble after assessing 3 main points. 1. “how
dirty am I really?”, 2.“how many dishes do I have?” 3. how much laundry do I have?” the rest
of the time I wipe down with baby wipes- which depending on how dirty they are, means I can
clean my table.
5. Buckets are the biggest recycling tool I have. Buckets can be helpful for all kinds of things.
Who knew right? I use buckets for water, bathing, dishes but also as tables, food storage (to
keep away lil’critters) and for emergency bathroom situations (don’t worry that bucket isn’t
recycled). Buckets have become my best friend- I will never look at a sand castle the same
I could continue, but i’ll let these top 5 settle in your sensitive American tummy’s first. Know that
despite these “conditions” I am healthy and well- in fact 80% of our group has been sick at some point
in the last 2 months and I’m happy as a clam. I would like to think this has something to do with
embracing my PCR habits 🙂
its AUGUST! When did that happen? This week marks my last week of PST. Providing I don’t do
something stupid in the next 6 days, Aug 9th I will be swearing in and will officially become a Peace
Corps Volunteer- i’ve been waiting a long time to say that.
Being the last week, it will be a busy one. Yesterday I did as much laundry as I could fit in a bucket,
and began packing up my little room. Its amazing how much stuff I can squeeze in here, especially in
such a short time. The PC has helped me with the hording by giving me at least 30 new books, manuals
and workbooks throughout training- they are currently taking up an entire suitcase. I have until Friday
to finish packing and eat as much of my food as possible.
Yesterday our village, Khiza also had a little goodbye/thank you party. It was very sweet. All the
bomake and bogogo stood up and said something nice about us, and thanked us for being respectful,
clean and on time. My gogo also added that I made her fat by feeding her so much kettel corn lol. My
family does like the kettel corn, so for my thank you gift I bought them a large bucket which I intend
on filling with the sugary popcorn, along with oil, kernals and brown sugar so they can make their own
while i’m away. My family also runs a sutto-store out of the kitchen, so I bought them small snack bags
so they can sell it for a profit if they want. Sustainable living objective for the PC met! Lol. I hear it is
common for the family to give me a gift as well- i’m not sure what it is, or when it’s coming but i’m
hoping for a live chicken or two. At one point gogo said this would be my gift so i’m hopeful. I will
name them Lunch and Dinner and I will let them have lots of baby Appitizers! Its the little things that
entertain me here….
Sorry its been a while- in the interest of time and slow internet speeds, this post is actually 3 in 1! have