I managed to spend 5.5 years in River Falls, Wisconsin and not become a farm girl. I held steadfast to my city girl living in the county act, yet in the matter of 7 weeks in Swaziland I am now a self-proclaimed country girl!
I help out on my host families homestead whenever I can. I have raked cow manure, collected chicks, shucked maize, dug up sweet potatoes, and collected firewood from the mountain. And by firewood I mean entire tree branches. My host brother basically balanced on his shoulder a small tree all the way up and over the mountain (really just a big hill). Unfortunately I am not that talented. My Make (host mom) puts me to shame everyday with her strength. I have a 5 gallon bucket that I fetch water with and drag back to my hut. She can fill it, lift it up on top of her head and balance it back to my hut without even blinking. Did I mention she is only about 4’10”.
It is amazing how many more country songs I can relate to now or at least find a whole new meaning in. For example: Sara Evans “Suds in the bucket;” Miranda Lambert’s “Famous in a small town;” Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country;” Sugarland’s “Small Town Jericho;” Keith Urban’s “Where the Blacktop Ends;” and B&D’s “Red Dirt Road” just to name a few.
Aside from becoming a country girl I have also developed some new domestic skills; like hand-washing laundry. It’s actually really hard and I am discovering new muscles every time. Last weekend it took me 3 hours to wash my two weeks worth of clothes. I literally rubbed my fingers raw, no joke. There is this specific hand movement to hand washing that I am awful at, but its getting easier. I usually wash with many of my host brothers and sisters so we chat and sing and enjoy the sunshine if it’s out, which makes the task worthwhile. It is super windy here in winter so your clothes dry fairly fast on the line, however if you don’t get your emapegs (clothes pins) tight on the line your clothes fly off and into the dirt and you have to wash all over again. Of course with my luck it is always the one white piece of clothing that flies off the line and into the red dirt.
I am also learning to cook. I have a gas camping stove, two pots, one skillet, and one kettle that make up my “kitchen.” Forget variety because there are not too many things that can be made (or at least that I can make), but I am being very Peace Corps Creative (PCC) with my meals. I have perfected rice and am getting better at making liphalishi (maize meal porridge). Eggs are essential to my diet and I have learned when in doubt sauté carrots and onions and add it to anything to make a meal taste good. Its also avocado season right now so I eat them almost everyday. For snacks I make popcorn a lot, roast peanuts, and make guacamole. Some things I am going to try soon are lentil burgers, homemade spaghetti sauce, corn chowder soup, and pizza. I can makeshift an oven on my stove, but my host family has a wood-burning stove so I can use that instead.
To answer my own question about how a tin roof sounds when it rains… well it sounds like a hurricane. Not that I have experienced a hurricane, but when its 3:00am and you think that your hut just might blow down or loose the roof I assume is similar to a hurricane. And it wasn’t even raining hard. Just an average rain, a couple of inches maybe, but its so windy. I can’t even imagine what a full-blown thunderstorm sounds like. Thankfully my next hut that I will be moving to in August has a thatched roof so that will dull the sound a bit. Aside from the noise my hut also leaked a bit; just along the seam of the tin. I had to arrange my buckets to collect the water; thankfully my bed wasn’t located near the leaking area!
Anyways I am in my last week of training and sware-in to become an official volunteer is right around the corner. Busy studying for my final proficency test in language, safety, culture, etc. and spending as much time with my host family as possible. I am going to miss them so much.