Friday, June 24, 2011

Large Families, Language, and Lipalishi

I have fully dived into Swaziland!  I am currently living in a small rural village with a host family that was kind enough to take me in for 2 months!!  Honestl,y as nervous as I was to move in with them 5 days after arriving in country, it has been the best part so far.  My host family is fantastic!!  I have eight siblings: 4 brothers (Bhutis – Boo-tees) and 4 sisters (sisis – See-sees) and I love it!  Not only do I make the family count 11 but there are neighbors over all the time so it is a usual even to spend the evening in the kitchen, warming by the wood burning stove with 14 other people.  And yes I did say warming.  It is winter and I am training in the High veld (aka the southern region) where it can get to 40F and below at night.  During the day it get up to about 70 and the sun is warm, but nights can be a bit nippy, especially when your hut doesn’t have heating.  My hut is more like a 2 a separate house that I get two rooms out of.  It has no furniture expect a bed, 2 tables and a chair but it is beginning to feel like a home!  It has a tin roof, which hasn’t been a problem but can you imagine when it rains…

Language… so the two official languages in Swaziland are English and SiSwati. Nifundza SiSwati = I am learning Siswati.  It has been a challenge, but I am slowly getting the hang of it.  I can introduce myself and say what I like and don’t like, and somewhat ask questions and give directions.  We have language training almost everyday and you are constantly practicing with your host fam and people in the community.  It is really important for integration purposes to learn the language best we can even though most people speak English also.  My host bhutis and sisis help me a lot and my make (Ma-gay = mom) only speaks SiSwati to me so I have to learn.  It feels so good when they say something and you can figure it out and develop a response.  Not always the right response but one non the less.

Liphalishi is one of the main staple foods here in the Kingdom.  It is a porridge made out of mealie meal, water, and salt.  It doesn’t really taste like much but get used as a base to put things on top of like rice is.  My host family eats it almost every other day with spinach, cabbage, sweet potato, and/or a potato, tomato, onion, carrot combo.  I find it filling but hard to eat on it own.  My favorite Swazi dish that I make with my Make and Sisis is Sidvudvu (pumpkin porridge).  Just boil a pumpkin into mash, add mealie meal and water and your good to go!  Did I mention it is also avacado season.  Actually I think I am in avacado heaven because there are several people in my village who have avacado trees.  You just pick them and eat them!! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm a PCT!

I am officially a PCT or Peace Corps Trainee!!

I have spent that last 24 hours in Philly going through my staging (aka orientation).  I have met the rest of my group, of which there are 39 of us, and we are all working in either community health or non-formal education programs.  We spent the morning going over what it means to us to be apart of the Peace Corps and how we can incorporate the Peace Corps' 10 core values into our time here.  Then after lunch we took a field trip to the clinic and received our Yellow Fever vaccination.  We will get the rest of our shots once we get to Swaziland.  Then we finished up talking about things that we are going to face and how to handle them.  Of course training will be much more in depth once we get there, but staging is meant to be a reflection to make sure we were all still committed to service.  We have the night off to spend the rest of our govt sanctioned food money and get packed because we leave for JFK airport at 3:00 am tomorrow morning.  I will definitely enjoy my last night in a real bed!!  We are staying at the Hampton Inn, which is ironically located next to the Travelodge (funny for those of you who remember my experience with the Travelodge in Phoenix).  I am feeling much more at ease now that I am here and with my group.  I am excited after orientation today and just want to get there.  Training is going to be intensive, stressful, and uncomfortable at times as we learn how to emerge into a very foreign culture, but if I do it right, my 2 years will be phenomenal!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bon Voyage!

So it is the night before I leave for two years in Africa…

Two Years in Africa.

It sounds scary, yet incredible at the same time.  I am nervous to the point of feeling physically sick, cry at even the hint of sentiment, and am beyond exhausted from packing.  It is amazing that you actually can pack your life up into 80lbs of stuff.  I am sure that I have forgotten something and have over thought on others but either way I just have to tell myself “don’t stress, you will be just fine.”  Easier said then done, but non-the less I am ready to go.

I am ready to start the journey and open to where it takes me.  I am nervous of course.  Its never easy not knowing what you are getting yourself into, but I am willing to work hard, excepting the fact that it will be challenging, knowing that the rewards will balance everything out.

Tomorrow I fly to Philadelphia for my Staging (orientation).  I will meet my fellow trainees, learn more about my service with the PC, and get my vaccinations.  On June 8th, we leave the US on a 15.5 flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.  From there we take a five-hour bus ride to Swaziland.  We will be staying in a Teachers College until June 14th then we move in with our host families, where we will remain throughout training (until August).  I won’t be able to access the Internet until June 16th or 17th, so until next time… safe travels!