Driving towards the border, staring out at the savanna-like landscape passing by the window, it somehow feels more like africa in the low-veld. The mountains in the distance, the tall yellow grass barely moving in the stale heat of mid-day, the vast amount of large homesteads scattered with thatch-roofed, mud and stick huts. It occurs to me, this must be where my family imagines I live– and isn’t it? But its such a contrast from the scenes of even our tiny city home on the other side of the country- it somehow feels like another world. My family has often been on my mind lately, as I plan the unofficial wedding I intend on having here next year; I plan a little more for my family to see and experience each day- this sight is on my list.
The New Years holiday always puts me in a reflective state of mind. Last year was my first year in the Peace Corps and I spent the holiday surrounded by young volunteers as we purged every ounce of bottled-up lonesomeness and frustration we had experienced into the bottom of empty glasses and over exposure to the searing African sun. This year I feel like a different person. There is a calmness to this years end, with a tingle of excitement of what is to come.
The beach in Ponta Do Ora is perfect for the way I’m feeling. This town is a hidden jem, literally unreachable by most unless you travel in a 4×4 through 30 minutes of pure sand-dunes. Traveling with George and his childhood friend Christian, this small group of non-complainers, adventure seekers with a “go-with-the-flow” mentality is an amazing change. We traveled the 300 km’s to the border in a small car, listening to Jack Johnson, while Christian read in the backseat- when we reached the sand dune border of Mozambique and had to hitch-hike the rest of the way, no one was concerned. 15 minutes of chatting with strangers and we had found a ride, a short time later we were in our sandy campsite setting up and by the end of the day we were swimming in the clear water lagoon of the Pacific Ocean.
2012 has offered me a lot of changes. I’ve gone from an American squatting in Swaziland via the US government to feeling like a Swazi with an American accent who lives and works here. Its taken a lot of effort and emotional strength to get to this mental state and as I watched the explosions of fireworks on NYE from the beach, I felt like I was watching a reenactment of all of my personal trials of the year- clearing every challenge with a cloud of smoke and leaving me a clean slate.
It’s only been a week into 2013, and this feeling is still lingering. Changes are on the horizon. I am looking forward to the end of the month, when my teaching job starts. George’s parents are building their second private primary school in Swaziland, and have offered me a position teaching art for grades 0-7. I have never thought of myself as a teacher, and just two years ago expressed a strong feeling against teaching with the Peace Corps. But yet somehow, this sounds like the most amazing opportunity. This position will allow me to be around children, which I desperately miss. I will be teaching Swazi children to be creative and will hopefully give them an outlet to express themselves which is often a rare opportunity for children here- especially in the schools. It will also allow me more freedom- a chance to get out of the house and away from my computer. I also feel very honored to be offered this opportunity by George’s parents- a sign that I am becoming a part of family more and more.
In fact the whole family has played an intricatal role in my optimistic view on the upcoming year. Michelle, George’s sister, tricked me into joining her social basketball team just this week. I thought I would just go a do a few hours of fitness training, but by the end of the 2-hours I was having so much fun I couldn’t deny the coaches request to return for running the next day, and practice the day after that. Considering I haven’t worked out for more than 10 minutes of Pilates in the comfort of my own home (where cheating is allowed), I was impressed at my ability to keep up and often lead my new teammates. I haven’t played basketball since I was in 5th grade, and so far haven’t touched a basketball on the team- but I still have a good feeling about being a part of it.
Its amazing that just a couple new things, tossed into my existing schedule can make such a big difference– and it’s only been a week! I’m looking forward to getting everything kick started simultaneously and see how this new and improved life runs. I really feel like i’ve found a home here. Here’s to looking forward to 2013. 🙂