its been 365 days, exactly. One year since my feet first touched the soil of Swaziland. For the last 12 months, I have been living in a rural African village. With nothing more than a small, thatched roof hut, no running water, spotty electricity, a small camping stove, a pit latrine and earning about $11 dollars a day. To say it has been a challenge would be an understatement, however, the amenities of life (or lack of), is not the hardest part. I have had a lot of time to get to know myself, and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. As I approached my half way mark into my Peace Corps service, I could feel the knots in my stomach when I thought about finding another office job in the states, I could sense a bit of depression creeping in when I imagined leaving Africa again. As I spent countless hours mulling over my options, stressing to the point of breakdowns, I realized the answer was right in front of me the whole time. Why don’t I just stay?
One of the hardest things about my personal Peace Corps service is that for the majority of the time I have been stratling two worlds. Half the time I am a PCV, living in the bush, fighting for the opportunity to help in some small way. I was often frustrated by the lack of interest in my community, and the consent recycling of staff I was working with. I was happy with my host family, as they have been become my true umdemi wami (my family). I loved sitting with them by the fire in the evenings, laying on grass mats on the lawn playing uno and talking about anything under the sun. I was comfortable with them, even in my little hut. I was able to find small successes in my daily life in Tikhuba, even if it was just a friendly conversation, but I wanted to do so much more.
I found solace in Mbabane, the capital city of Swaziland. In the last year I have established an amazing group of friends and through them I have found myself contently busy with work. I’ve helped start new businesses, i’ve networked with several swazi companies and I have been offered countless jobs. In my urban life, I stay in my friends house, which has running water, a full kitchen, a fireplace, a yard (with my 2 dogs), a full bathroom (actually 3 bathrooms) and even my own office. It is a very communal group, we spend every weekend together for brii’s, listening to music, or cooking dinner. Its not rare that plans are made on the spot and we find ourselves celebrating something or another. Many times this includes plans to take a weekend trip to South Africa, or Mozambique and I’m always disappointed because I can’t go.
Its been a struggle to maintain both worlds, and I have spent the last year trying to find an unforeseeable balance. In the end, I have decided to go with my heart, and follow happiness. This week I resigned from the Peace Corps. I have taken a “field separation”, which basically means, I am no longer a PCV, but just a tourist (for an undetermined amount of time) in Swaziland- no plane ticket home, no more hut or policies… just me on my own. I am BEYOND excited.
Now, don’t fret, I have a plan. In the last month I have been offered several jobs, and considering the job market in the states- it’s just silly for me to turn down work here. With a few freelance graphic design jobs I have on the horizon I will be making a comparable income to what I would in the states. In between I will spend some time painting at Swazi Ceramics, and doing odd jobs here and there. Finding work is not an issue at the moment. I will be here as a tourist until the end of the year at least, which just means I have to cross the border every 30 days. It takes approx 5 hours to cross the whole country, so the 20 minute trip to the border won’t be a problem, and it will allow me to see a few more places I haven’t been able to get to in the last year.
As you may have guessed, there is also a boy in the picture. It may sound ironic for those who knew me as the girl who sore she would never get married or have children, but as Rhianna sings, I have indeed found love in a hopeless place. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine coming into the Peace Corps and leaving with a guy at my side- but life is full of surprises. George has been adamant from the beginning that I shouldn’t leave the PC because of him, so my decision to leave was based solely on work. George is an amazing guy, who is driven and passionate about everything he does. We are both looking forward to this new adventure together, and seeing what the next year will bring for us both. I am very excited to take him to the states (hopefully by this time next year) and introduce him to all of my family and friends, and watch him take in all of the sights of the states. We do plan on living in Swaziland for a little while, before moving to South Africa- he failed at finding the foreigner who would offer HIM a green card (lol). There is something about Africa that has always drawn me in, a feeling of home. I knew when I was in Kenya that I would come back one day, and now, in Swaziland I have truly found my place in the world.
The Peace Corps has truly been an unforgettable experience, and although I have chosen to end my service early, I would highly recommend it to anyone that is feeling a little lost, or needs a little adventure in their life. The last year has been life changing in so many ways; I have been given an opportunity to experience a way of living that no other tourist could, met people I never would have found and had some of the most astounding conversations of my life. I will always be grateful for that opportunity. Thank you all (dedicated readers), for your support in the last year- I couldn’t have come this far without all the love and well wishes you have sent me. I will continue to keep you abreast of all the new adventures this new year will bring.