September 22nd, 2011
Being a Community Development Health Volunteer is a really vague title. We don’t really have anything specific that we are assigned to do aside from educate about HIV/AIDS. We are just instructed to go out into our communities and find ways to do that. Ways in which the community would like us to help.
One place my community has for me to work is the local High School. So this past Wednesday Addy, the other PCV I am working with, and I went back to High School. We cleaned out our “office,” which is the counseling building that isn’t really being used. We have taken it over and are planning to turn it into a functional resource room. For the rest of the day we shadowed a Physics class, which solidified my lack of passion for the sciences, had an hour siSwati lesson from one of the Head Deputies, and for the grand finale got to introduce ourselves to the entire student body at closing assemble.
On Wednesdays they break class at 2:00pm to have time for Sports. I didn’t actually see anyone play any sports but it allotted us time to meet with the students. However after 2pm all of the teachers just vanished. Indirect Swazi culture of course left us having no idea what was going on or what we were suppose to do not that we were the only “staff” on campus. The Head boy and girl told us that they would gather the students for assembly and make an announcement about our desire to start a health club and instruct those interested to meet us.
So all the students were assembled, a few hundred at least, and then the head girl just looked at us and said go. We were like what, come again? Not being prepared, but having no choice, we got up in front of the crowd. In our very broken siSwati we introduced ourselves, where we are from, where we are living, and why we were there. They of course laughed at our sad attempt to speak siSwati, but listened to our little speech. It took all of three minutes and when we were done one kids yells in English “that’s it?” and they all rapidly disassemble in every direction. We walked to our office and hoped that someone would stop by. It took about five minutes then we were swarmed. Of course everyone was interested in us but as soon as they realized we were actually doing an activity the crowd dwindled to about 20. We had the boys and girls split up and draw a map of their school campus to compare and see what they find important and what they think is missing. The boys surprising spent half on hour precisely drawing out their map with detail down to the design of the flag on the flagpole. The girls were done in 10 minutes. We also got them to fill out surveys to determine their level of HIV knowledge. It went surprisingly well for not really knowing what to expect.
All in all, first day of High School went well. I didn’t get lost or thrown in a locker. I did get three marriage proposals from some students however. Oh Swazi guys always looking for a window in the conversation to throw in the marriage proposal. It their version of the pick-up line, but they will swear it’s a cultural compliment. One student even said it would be fine if he could just marry my daughter. That’s when I just shake my head and laugh at the ridiculousness of the whole conversation and that it has managed to last the entire 20-minute walk from school to town.
Now if we can just get the kids to show up again next week!