November 19th-25th, 2011
IST marks the end of our three-month integration period. The mighty fine group 9 gathered in Mbabane for a grueling 5-day training session. We debriefed our first three-months, learned how to apply for funding, practiced filing out our trimester reports, and met representatives from local NGOs and government organizations that can assist us on our future projects. We had sessions from 8:00am to 5:00 or 6:00pm most days, which is a much more intense schedule then I am used to. After the first day I couldn’t even sleep because my brain was so energized. I had had more brain activity that day then I think I’ve had in three months. The last two and a half days was an all-volunteer conference with Group 8 and Group 7 extenders. We elected our members of PSN (Peer Support Network – who you call when having a break-down), VAC (our official group reps to the office), and Sojo (our newspaper editors).
Honestly, the best part of the whole thing was… the showers. We stayed in a dorm like hall but I felt like I was in a palace. The showerhead is situated at my shoulders and the warm water was either scolding or freezing but once you got the temp figured out it was the best shower of my life. After three months in the field I have come to appreciate the shower as one of man’s best inventions. It also helps that Mbabane is in the Highveld, which is much cooler then Malindza, so I wasn’t sweating all the time. I could shower and feel clean all day, it was amazing.
The second best thing about IST is that I didn’t have to cook one meal or wash one dish. I gained at least 5 lbs because I was eating three very full meals and sitting all day. My host sisi even said I looked as of I’ve gained weight and I couldn’t even be offended because I new it was true. However, it was weight gained in a state of bliss because I know it will be another 4 months before I can overindulge like this again. No OCB or Chinese Lunch Buffet to fatten up on here.
The third best part of IST was the social life. It was so great to see all the volunteers again. It felt like being at college again and I loved every minute of it. We had late night movie parties, went out dancing one night, celebrated a birthday by seeing how many adults we could fit into a 15-passenger van (its 30 by the way), and just socialized like old friends. We are old friends by now in our sixth month here in Swaziland. Hard to believe it been half a year already, it really does go by fast.
Overall it was a great week. It was a much-needed break from village life and refueled me to continue with my work in my community and gave me the tools to start new projects.
Snap Moment (when I give myself snaps for getting something accomplished):Malindza High School (where I have my Health Club) had applied to participate in a Peace Corps and Books for Africa sponsored library project. Addy and I found out at IST that the High School was selected as one of the participants, so we will be getting a shipment of 1,500 books next spring (your spring, my fall) to supplement the library and our librarian will get some further training. It is all very exciting.