Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Where There Is No Doctor

December 1st, 2012

First off Happy World AIDS Day!

Second, I have had a very important and defining moment in my Peace Corps Service.  I finally administered treatment for someone who was seeking medical care by consulting the book ‘Where There Is No Doctor.’  Every Peace Corps Volunteer around the world, as well as most workers in any rural part of the world, have this book on their shelf.  It is the go to guide when trying to diagnose and treat any symptom or injury where/when there is no Doctor available.  It’s the web-MD of the non-internet world.  Despite the fact that I am a community development health volunteer my copy of this jewel of a book is a bit dusty.  My experience with consulting its pages, mostly trying to self-diagnose, has made me a hypochondriac.  It seemed any symptom I was having was a result from contracting TB, Malaria, a parasite, and a worm simultaneously.  In reality I really only had mild cases of the runs (aka diarrhea), but its really easy to freak yourself out in the middle of the night in rural Africa when you feel like you are dying.

To avoid any un-needed stress I decided it was best not to look up my symptoms anymore.  However, a few days ago my Babe (host dad) was building a new fence and the wire snapped and hit him in the eye.  Make (host mom) had gone to bed and I was left to attend to Babe’s swollen and very painful eye.  It was night, going to the clinic was not an option, so I pulled out my copy of ‘Where There Is No Doctor’ just to see what it had to say.  It recommended an antibiotic eye ointment and keeping the eye covered for a few days since Babe was still able to see out of the eye, so I prescribed just that.  I wasn’t really convinced he had heard what I told him as the next day he was out working in the field again and not seeking treatment.  I left the homestead for a few days and arrived back today.  I asked Babe how his eye was (it looked much better) and he showed me an antibiotic eye ointment Make had bought him when she went into town and he has been wearing his sunglasses as a protective barrier.  He was so happy it was no longer causing him pain. 

I feel I can officially call myself a Health volunteer now.  I had read many accounts of PCVs consulting and treating out of this book, but so far my service had not presented me with a situation where I was being relied on for medical help.  I’m glad I can finally add a ‘Where There Is No Doctor’ story to PCV service resume so to speak.

Thanksgiving 2012

November 22nd, 2012

Thanksgiving was really awesome for me this year.  I have a lot to be thankful for. 

For the past three years the American Embassy has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the entire American community here in Swaziland, with Peace Corps making up the majority.  This year, however, there was a changeover in Ambassadors, and thankfully the new Ambassador was still game for inviting the 70+ Peace Corps Volunteers and staff over for dinner.  However it was just us and the Ambassador this year.  The new Ambassador gave the Embassy staff the option to come celebrate with us or to celebrate at their homes.  I actually really enjoyed the slightly smaller crowd this year, but since it was just PC it was up to PC to supply all the food.  Well everything except the meat, the Ambassador supplied that. 

Myself along with 4 other G9 PCVs were recruited to help our Country Director’s (our boss) wife and our Administration Officer make all the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal.  Addy was also recruited and her and I, plus Addy’s husband Ryan and our friend Libby who were in Mbabane (they edit our monthly Peace Corps Volunteer publication), got to camp out at our Country Director’s house for 4 days/3 nights.  And by camp out I mean we slept in a bed that was softer then a cloud and had full access to all the modern amenities (showers, internet, television).  It was the best stay-cation ever!!!  We were treated to home cooked meals, had running hot water to do dishes with, slept without the fear of bugs, and didn’t have to haul water.  It was amazing  - I am tearing up just thinking about it.

We did work for our stay though – but not too hard.  We spent a day and half baking half of what we needed.  The other three PCVs were at the other house baking away on the other half.  We made 2 pans cheesy potatoes, 2 pans baked potatoes, 2 pans oven baked beans, 2 pans green bean casserole, 3 pans stuffing, 2 bowls green salad, 2 cheese and fruit platters, 3 made from scratch pumpkin pies (actually butternut squash – no pumpkin here this time of year), 2 pans apple crumble, and 2 to-die for chocolate pudding and brownie trifles.  Once all said and done I think between our two houses cooking and the Ambassador we had 20 dessert options (sadly only two of which I could eat). 

 Even though I had limited options, it was still so, so, so delicious.  I ate way to much as expected.  The Ambassador not only had turkey but also ham.  I have no idea where she found a ham because I sure have not had it once since leaving the States – it was so amazing.  It was my first time meeting the new Ambassador, who if you didn’t pick up is a woman, and she is really cool, very friendly, open and approachable.  I am very thankful that even though she is new to Swaziland she opened her house to us PCVs. 

It helps to feel like you have a family to celebrate with even when we are so far away from our own families.  PC Swaziland has really become a great family.  I am truly thankful for my group, Group 9 volunteers.  We started with 39 in my group and we are now down to 24 still in Swaziland.  We have become really close over the last year and a half and I wouldn’t change them for the world.  I am also thankful for PC Swaziland staff for helping make PC Swaziland feel like a family.  The staff really becomes our surrogate parents; they are whom we call when everything is falling apart, but as of lately they have also become friends, mentors, and guides, as life after PC is getting closer and closer for us G9ers.

On An African Evening

It’s 5:30pm; the setting sun has cast everything in a golden light.  I’m sitting on my steps, the breeze is crisp and the air smells fresh.  I watch as the neighbor boys and Babe hand plant the maize.  The hoe pierces the ground with a thud and a shoeless boy tosses in a seed before covering up the hole with his bare foot.  Three teams of two scale up and down the rows.  This is the third and final section of the field to be planted.  Section number one is already burgeoning.  The maize stocks, about 2 feet high, rustle in the wind.

Everything is stunningly green from the recent rains.  Where there was only dirt last year, there is now rapidly growing grass that just begs to be laid in.  I just spent an hour bengihlagule (weeding) in my garden.  It is finally looking less abandoned.  Time to plant lettuce and beetroot!  I found a giant spider and what appeared to be its egg sack in the dirt.  With a heavy heart I sprayed it with bug killer and reburied it.  It may have been poisonous and had direct access to my window.

Now time for dinner and another glorious African sunset!  But wait… sisi Nisipho has just come into the family garden.  She is picking tonight’s dinner – spinach.  She carried her 1 and ½ year old son on her back.  She bends with the balance only a Swazi mother knows.  A four donkey drawn car has pulled through the far gate.  They are dropping off firewood; a symbol of time passed and self-sufficiency. 

Life seems simple and pleasant tonight.  Past remorse isn’t clouding the senses, the urgency of the future isn’t pressing.  Its nice to just enjoy the moment.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top Ten: Hey It’s Ok… in Swaziland (spoof off of Glamour mags “Hey It’s OK” list)

… to use a dirty pan because you are just going to make it dirtier
… to eat only popcorn for dinner because the day was just too hard already
… to wear whatever is clean or at least doesn’t smell, even if it is a striped shirt with a floral skirt
… to only wash your hair once a week to save money on shampoo, only to spend it on a weekly E20 cup of coffee
… to not leave your homestead for 5 days because you are perfectly happy there
… to dream about America and curse Swaziland some days
… to become an airtime dealer at the end of the month because you spent all your money already
… to skip the parts of your workout DVD that you don’t like (cough, cough… the dreya roll)
… to watch more TV series here then you ever did in America
… to plan what you want to do after COS even if you still have 8 months or 20 months left
... to sleep for 10 hours in a row, night after night
... to spend an extra 26 rand on a taxi just so you don't have to walk an extra 40 feet
... to replace your social life with a pet cat
... to feel no remorse when a rooster gets its head cut off
... to be s self proclaimed sommelier on PnP No name Box wine
... to say you are camping at Bombasos backpackers but never actually sleep outside
... to use your pee bucket in the middle of the day just because its 3 feet away and not across the yard
... to start excepting marriage proposals if the labola prices get high enough
... to think you are dying every day because 'Where There Is No Doctor' told you so
... to walk around with your lahiya or blanket tied around you and call it an outfit

"Africa is an addiction.  Life here is so challenging that you feel you've done something really fine - really rewarding - just by surviving from one day to the next.  There is so much that is new, exotic, and exciting, you feel like you are discovering unknown secrets to a lost world.  But the last few weeks have just been a glorified adventure holiday.  It is what you extract from all that raw material and make your own - that's what matters, that's your contribution."
- from "Into Africa" by Craig Packer

The End of Health Club

November 14th, 2012

The Health Club at the local High School that I was co-leading with Addy is finally finished.  We started this Health Club a year ago and we had the simple goal to complete a 10-week life skills/HIV knowledge course with them.  It’s now been 44 weeks and we only just finished.  That is the reality of working as a PCV.  Things never go as planned and even the most thoroughly thought out schedule never works out in the end.

Granted there was a 10-week teachers strike.  Then this past term all of our students were completing their Form 5 exams (exams they take in 12th grade to complete High School), so they couldn’t meet with us, but still this Health club has been dragged out way to long.  I was ready to call the class a wash in terms of finished, but the students really wanted to complete it.  You may say oh that’s so great that they care about their education, but no they just wanted the certificate we promised them if they finished.  Even though, we agreed that if the students wanted to come back after their exams were done, we could do the last four lessons and complete the course.  Organizing this seemed easy at first but ended up being a nightmare. 

Eight students agreed to come back on the Thursday and Friday of this week, however when this week rolled around we were informed that the students made an executive decision without consulting us that they wanted to meet on Monday and Tuesday.  Addy and I of course go the refugee camp on Monday and Tuesday so we reinforced that the plan had always been to meet on Thur. and Fri.  Despite our argument the students decided that  Wednesday would actually work better for them.  So Addy and I showed up at the school at 8am on Wednesday with the prepared lessons and a “bucket of verbal shame” we were ready to pour all over our students for being disrespectful to us.  By 9:15am only three students had arrived so we just started anyways.  No one else showed up, but we completed the course with the three we had and the lessons went well.  We played a game at the end to see how much information they actually pick-up and they did really well!

In the end it feels good to know we imparted some knowledge on a few kids, but it also feels really good to rid my life of leading this Health Club.  I guess I will count it as a success in the end, but overall organizing this was way more stressful the rewarding and not for my lack of trying, it just the nature of how things work here.

Oh Holy Weekend

November 10th, 2012

Shopping, hanging out with bosisi bami (host sisters) and Swazi friends, and a Benjamin Dube concert, equaled a very holy weekend.  I have officially been healed and probably been saved.

A Swazi girlfriend of mine talked me into spending the weekend in town with her and four of my host sisters.  The great South African gospel singer Benjamin Dube was holding a once in a lifetime Healing concert in Manzini and we had VIP tickets.  I was very skeptical that this weekend would be fun.  I had to surrender my days to the plans of my friends and sisters and that I had never done before.  I had no idea was to expect and I didn’t have the refugee of my hut to escape if everything became too much to handle.  However, I sucked it up and went.  Surprise… it was such a good time!!!

The weekend started with coffee with Addy (who I haven’t seen in a month, since she was on leave in America) and my Swazi friend Nosipho.  Then Nosipho and I took over the town.  We spent hours window shopping and having dressing room fashion shows to find the perfect outfits for the concert that night.  Then it was off to my host sister’s salon for nails and hair.  Then to my host sister’s apartment to get all dolled up.  I had on my new skinny jeans (thank you P90X, the last two months of grueling workouts was totally worth it) and a shiny new top that Nosipho insisted I needed to wear to stand out.  I was the only white person at the event, so I thought I already had that covered but no I needed to sparkle. 

I’m not really into the huge gospel scene here, but the concert was actually a lot of fun.  The who’s who of Manzini was represented (I sat 10 rows behind a Swazi Prince), and they were sporting their most fashionable outfits.  I was thankful at that moment for the new clothes I was wearing as my wardrobe is defiantly showing battered signs of rural living.  Benjamin Dube is apparently a really big deal and I soon realized that people didn’t really come to the concert to listen as much as they came to form a gigantic church choir.  His band consisted of two guitarist, a drummer, three keyboardists, a saxophone player, and nine back-up singers.  His songs are full of praise and energy.  The whole crowd was on their feet dancing the night away.  I even got swept up in the rhythm and was dancing.  His gig is a family act.  If South Africa had a Branson MO, the Dube family would be headliners.  Benjamin’s Mother came onstage and sang a song (actually my favorite song of the night), and his three sons also performed.  Appropriately named The Dube Brothers, these boys are the African, gospel version of The Jonas Brothers and the crowd just about died when they came onstage.

My friend Nosipho and I

My Bosisi (host sisters) and I
LtoR: Lungile, Zandile, Winnile, and Tengetile(Me)

The Dube Brothers
The concert ended well after midnight so I spent the night at my sisi’s apartment and then went to church with them on Sunday.  Social crowds defiantly develop around churches here.  Four of my host sisters and all their friends all go to the same church in Manzini and now I am officially in their crowd.  Church was three hours long, and it was really hot inside the cinder block building, but the service was full of energetic singing so I managed to stay awake after the short night.

Overall the weekend totally exceeded my expectations.  I increased my social circle, I discovered the social gospel scene in Manzini, and I had much needed modern girly time.  For PCVs in Africa, a social nightlife basically does not exist.  You get used to going to bed at 8:30pm because there is A. nothing to do, and B. the few after dark social options are not safe.  However, when the very rare occasion comes around where you get to get dressed up and go out after dark and have fun, you realize just how great it is.  I can’t wait to regain my social life in America.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Hey guys!  So a lot of you have been super awesome and have sent me packages.  I totally appreciate everything sent, but at the same time I only have 8 more months and some things just are not needed any more.  Many have asked what I do need during my last few months so I updated my wants/need page on my blog.  Thanks again for all the support and love you guys send.  I couldn't have survived here as well as I did (am still) without it!!!

English Class Goes All Game of Thrones

October 16th, 2012

Last week for my English class at the refugee camp the homework was to write the ending to the story that we had been working with for the last couple of weeks.  My students were split into groups and they had to write the ending to the story “The Lady and The Tiger,” which incidentally isn’t about a tiger at all. 

To sum the story up there is a Princess who falls in love with a soldier.  Her Father finds out and captures the solider as his prisoner.  The punishment for prisoners in this realm is that they must stand before everyone and choose to open one of two doors that stand side by side.  Depending on which he chooses, decides his fate and his innocence.  One door has the loveliest lady in the realm whom he will marry if he opens her door, the other has a ferocious lion that will kill the soldier if he opens it’s door.  If he opens the Lady’s door he is innocent and lives, if he chooses the Lion he is guilty and will die.  Right before choosing a door he looks to the Princess and begs with his eyes for her to tell him which door to open.  She decides and tells him to open the right door.  The solider approaches slowly and opens the right door…

My students came up with really great endings.  They were very creative and every one had its own twist.  I was greatly amused, especially since I am currently deeply entrenched in the Seven Kingdoms of the Game of Thrones books.  My students could give George R.R. Martin a run for his money.  So here are the endings for your enjoyment.  I am writing them exactly as my students did so sorry for the broken English.

Group One:
He was surprised to find the loveliest women inside and he was happy to survive the Lion’s teeth.  As the crowd clapping hands for his innocence, his heart turns to the princess who he loved much.  Happiness of the crowd made the King go with the Princess to congratulate the soldier.  When they reach there the Princess throws herself where there was the Lion.  The Soldier saved her and killed the Lion.  As reward given to him by the King for saving his daughter, the young soldier married the princess immediately.  The Kind decided not to punish his people in that way.

Group Two:
And guess what happened next, there was a very beautiful young woman inside the room the soldier had opened.  The King was not happy for that.  This is because the King himself wanted the Soldier dead, due to the fact that the Soldier was in love with his daughter, who he treasured so much.  The King ordered his subjects to arrange the wedding of the young Soldier and the loveliest women.  The King had no other option because what had happened at the soldier’s trial.  And also the King thought that maybe by letting the Soldier marry this very beautiful lady in the whole community would made him forget about his daughter.  The young soldier did not stop loving the daughter of the King, this is because they loved each other very much.  The King’s daughter started meeting the young Soldier behind the door, as in secretly without the King’s knowledge.  Just imagine what happened next, the Soldier impregnated the King’s daughter and as a result the King come to know about it.  The King did not like at all what had happened, but he did not have another alternative apart from letting his daughter marry the Soldier, and then after she become the second wife of the young Soldier.

Group Three:
He opened the door, he peeped and saw the most beautiful woman.  They became husband and wife.  The Princess was disappointed, she cried and sobbed.  The King pledged to the young Soldier to marry his daughter.  The young Soldier agreed because polygamy was common and usual.  After not so long the King died.  People liked the young Soldier so they swore him to be a new King.

Group Four: (this one I don’t have a copy of so I am rephrasing what I remember)
The soldier opened the door to find the Lion.  The Lion chased him and attacked him.  The Soldier fell to the ground and tired to reach for a rock to hit the Lion with, but he couldn’t find one.  The Soldier was eventually killed and eaten by the Lion.  It continued on but I can't remember what happened next.


October 21st, 2012

Hey Everyone! 

The purpose of this blog post is to tell you about an exciting project that I am working on and to offer you an opportunity to help if you can.

The project is a gender empowerment effort known as Project GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). This will be the second year of GLOW’s existence in Swaziland and its premier activity will be a five day leadership camp for teenage girls scheduled for the April school vacation. Through a Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), partial funds are available to support the camp, however it is the role of those of us who will design and lead the camp to obtain matching funds from friends and family back home.

Camp GLOW’s purpose is to provide a safe and supportive environment for girls where they can receive information and training in the areas of leadership, female health issues, self-discovery and career planning. The camp will nurture exploration of personalities, individual talents and will fortify the resolve of young woman to break out of stereotypes and behaviors that hinder their success and happiness. Girls that attend Camp GLOW will be expected to return to their schools and communities and initiate GLOW Clubs and to share the information and skills that they have acquired.

Because the U.S. dollar goes a long way over here no donation is too small. Your contribution will go directly to Camp GLOW and will most likely be applied to providing meals for the campers and for providing transportation to and from the camp location. 

There are several ways you can donate but online is the easiest.  If you want to donate but by check rather then online please email me at and I can send you directions on how to donate and the form you need to do so!

Monetary Donations:

Online: this is the easiest way.
1. Go to the following website:
2. Find Swaziland Camp GLOW Project.  Click on project name “Camp GLOW”.
3. Add donation amount in the “donation” box provided on the right of the page.
4. Submit personal information.
5. Confirm information.

 In Kind Donations: this refers to the donation of items and supplies rather than money.  Some supplies that are needed are listed below. 
All in kind donations should be mailed to the following name and address:
Clerisse Lemke, PCV
P.O. Box 2797
Mbabane, H100
Swaziland, AFRICA
Please specify on a piece of paper inside the box that the items are for Camp GLOW.
*Feminine Sanitary    Products (See note below)

Arts and Crafts:
Colored Pencils
Necklace/bracelet how-to packets

Soccer ball
Jump rope
Air pump
Dodge ball


Card games
Board games
Educational Materials:
Teen easy-read books
Motivational/Goal Oriented reading materials

Light-weight blanket

Glow sticks
Lip stick/Nail polish

*Note: if sending tampons please send only light and regular size, not the super.

On behalf of all of the GLOW girls, campers and volunteers, I thank you in advance for anything that you can do to help us empower females and improve the lives of all who live in this small nation of Swaziland.

English Class at the Refugee Camp… I mean Reception Center

October 9th, 2012

The Camp has a new name I guess.  It’s no longer a refugee camp but now it’s a reception center for refugees.  Not sure what is the exact definition of a reception center or the purpose of a name change, but we will find out in the next 9 months.

Anyways, our third term teaching English at the… um… center has begun.  This makes it sound very formal calling it third term, as if some higher authority tells us when to start and stop.  Nope we just simply follow the Swazi school term schedule and its term three currently.  However I have to say our classes are feeling more and more formal and organized as time goes by. 

I am teaching the intermediate class again and have all the same students and guess what, I actually know all their names.  Most of my students are from Somalia and they all have the same 10 names in different combinations, so I was having a hard time remembering who was who.  For example I have a Hussan and a Hussein, as well as a several students named Mohamed or Muhamud and one with both those in his name.  However, I proved on day the first day of this term that I had learned.  I was able to call them each by name without a cheat sheet.  Last term I made them sit in a seating arrangement so I had a guide to use to remember their names and this term I am letting them sit where they want.  Its seems so small but its actually a very big accomplishment for me.

Term three started off great.  I lost a few students who decided to return to their home countries but gained a few who just came into Swaziland.  I got my first female student, which is great!  This term we are focusing on reading comprehension and using children’s stories to practice listening and understanding English and developing responses to what we hear.  So far the students are enjoying the stories.  The stories also introduce lots of new vocabulary for them to learn and they get to be active in their learning by choosing what vocabulary words we focus on.

It’s hard to access just how much their English is improving but we get feedback from our refugee counterparts who co-teach with us.  So far the feedback is that the students are really improving.  Some are learning and using more words, some are improving their grammar skills, and some have just developed the confidence to practice using what they know.  They say English is being heard a lot more around the camp and the students are happy to have the lessons.  I’m happy to have students who are so dedicated!  We have strict rules in our classrooms (or refugee hut which serves as our classroom) and my students obey them well, they do their homework, they participate, and they show up on time.  In America we take for granted that when we plan a meeting people generally show up and show up on time, when we volunteer our service to someone they are generally more than appreciative and don’t turn around and ask for more without a thank you, and we usually don’t slap the hand that is willing to help when what the giver has to offer isn’t exactly what we wanted.  These are all challenges I find as a volunteer in Swaziland.  Its just so nice to know that I have a successful project teaching English to people who not only work with me, but respect me, and respect themselves enough to make a difference in their own lives and don’t just expect me to hand them a free ticket to an easier life.

S & B Party

September 28th, 2012

Feeling the major lack of a normal social life that comes along with being a PCV, us girls decided we needed a girl’s night in.  We decided to have a Stitch and B*#@h Party.  About 15 of us crammed ourselves into one of the volunteer’s houses and we did just that, plus a whole lot of eating (pot luck never tasted so good).  A whole lot of b*#@^ing was done of course (got to vent to survive here) and we even managed to get a bit of stitching in as well.  I finally learned and hopefully will now forever remember how to start a knitting project and finish one, I made a tiny little cell phone case.  It felt like a major accomplishment. 

Yarn here is crap and expensive for the quality and of course I didn’t bring knitting supplies with me to Swaziland but have no fear we are Peace Corps Creative!  Another PCV came prepared with needles for everyone.  How did she get them you ask?  Well she simply bought them at the grocery store.  Turns out meat skewers make fantastic knitting needles!  I have since bought myself a nice package of these knitting needles and have become a cell phone case-knitting machine.  I’ve seriously made cases for almost every electronic item I own here, and in the process received two slivers – the prices we pay.  I look forward to the next S&B party to learn to make something more advanced – a hat maybe, or a some mitts to keep me extra toasty here in Africa.  Several of the other PCVs are excellent knitters, so I am eager to learn from them.  This was my first social event that included PCVs from the new Group 10.  It was nice to have some new faces!  They have been at their sites now for a month.  Listening to where they are at in their service makes me realize just how far I have come.  Their problems, that I also thought were earth shattering a year ago, seem so minor to me now that I’ve had a year to figure it out.  I have new problems of course, but I am glad I’ve conquered the problems that clouded my life a year ago. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

One More Animal on the Homestead

September 22nd, 2012

My homestead grew a little bit bigger this week.  We got a new puppy!!  One of Addy and Ryan’s dogs on their homestead had eight puppies two months ago and my Babe agreed to take one.  So this week Addy brought over a little brown and black male puppy that we have named King George.

Befitting his name King George has had quite a nice life so far getting car from Ryan and Addy.  He is having a rough time transitioning into being a Swazi dog.  He of course is smitten with me and want to be sleep in my hut on my rug at all times but the fact of the matter is he is not my dog, we are not in America and I can’t raise him like an American dog.  When I leave in year George needs to be fully self-sufficient.  Swazi dogs are not treated as part of the family.  They are rarely fed anything nutritious, rarely fed on a regular basis, always sleep outside or wherever they can find shelter, and are all very skittish toward people because people have beaten them since they were young.  It’s hard at first not to through a fit at the way dogs are treated here, since we are trained in America that this type of treatment would be abuse.  Swazi are so shocked when I tell them that in America they would be put in jail for the way they treat their animals and made to pay a fine.  However, sadly you do get used to seeing emaciated animals covered in ticks and fleas and that is the norm, sad but true. 

Anyways of course I will make sure King George gets fed daily and I give him some attention every day but its hard to not give him more when I know that once I leave he will get zero attention.  My family at least takes “good” care of their dogs compared to most.  My Babe actually buys them real dog food and I don’t see them beating the dogs, but still they are nothing like American dogs.

Anyway it is fun to having something new to wake up to now.  George has learned to escape his shed that he sleeps in and has become my watchdog.  I don’t let him in my hut (fleas are out of control here) so he sleeps on my steps all day.  The other two dogs could care less about him, but Bear (the cat) thinks he is a great new toy to play with.  He is bigger then George for now so Bear has fun practicing his pouncing at Georges expense.  George doesn’t seem to mind, he finds Bear interesting to.

What’s a puppy cost in Swaziland you may wonder?  With the amount of puppies born you would think free, but nope.  One puppy is worth one chicken, a quick exchange.  Addy had the privilege of bringing home the chicken to her Babe on public transport.  How do you do that you ask?  Well its simple.  Tie the chicken’s legs together.  Take a plastic bag and poke a hole in the side.  Stick the chicken’s head in the hole and the body in the bag.  Then tie the bag and carry.  Simple.

Our homestead now consists of 11 people, around 15 cows, around 25 goats, three dogs, one cat, two turkeys, an uncountable number of chickens, and a flock of 20 guinea fowl that seem to find our fields a better place to feed then wherever their homestead is.  I wish they would go home, the only sound worse then a rooster waking you at dawn is the sound of guinea fowl outside your window at dawn.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beauty Dvube: 1918-2012

September 16th, 2012

Beauty Dvube was my Gogo, or grandmother.  She was my Babe’s mother, which made her the matriarch of the giant Dube family (I don’t know why her name is spelled with a v and mine is not).  At the time of her death she left behind 4 living children, 41 grandchildren, 58 great-grand children, and 3 great great-grandchildren.  She was 94, amazing right!?!  Her homestead is in my community, but she would come and stay on my homestead every once in awhile when her health was troubling her.  She came to us about a month ago needing care.  In the end of August she suffered a small stroke leaving one side partially nonfunctional.  Complications of this eventually lead to her death about two weeks later.  She was in the hospital right after the stroke, but fortunately was released and was able to enjoy her last few days at her home.

I always liked this Gogo.  She was feisty.  The first time I met her she said to me in siSwati that she “liked to speak English, but knew very little.”  I gave her a smile and said “I like to speak siSwati, but also know very little.”  Our conversation never circum passed the basic greetings, except for once.  I was walking back from the pit latrine one day last summer and passed Gogo sitting on a grass mat outside.  We greeted each other as usual and then with such passion she proclaimed in English “It’s Hot!”  I just cracked up because I totally didn’t expect such a profound outburst and was overjoyed that this was the one response in siSwati I had totally mastered: I replied “Yebo Gogo, kuyashisa kakhulu!” (Yes gogo, it is very hot!”  We both just laughed together after.

As I’ve mentioned before a Swazi funeral is a multi-day affair.  My family spent the entire week preparing for the two-day event that included a church service, followed by an all night-vigil, then a morning burial procession.  A giant hand crafted stick and tarp tent had to be constructed, food had to be bought to feed around 200 people, arrangements for the burial and church services had to be made, and arranging just how everyone was getting to Gogo’s homestead for the event was a tricky process.  Finally the weekend came and everyone and everything was set into motion. 

I spent all of Saturday evening baking buns for the funeral guests with bosisi bami (my host sisters).  We baked from 5:00pm-10:30pm.  Then we got bundled up for the night.  It’s raining again, which is great for life in general, but bad when you have to spend the entire night outside.  It was bitter cold, I had on 2 complete outfits, plus two jackets, plus a blanket that I oh-so-fashionable wore tied around my body.  I still couldn’t feel my toes by the end of the night.

I arrived at the night vigil in style via the back of pick-up – a midnight ride through my community was quite peaceful from the back of a truck, unfortunately it was cloudy but I can imagine just how amazing the stars would have looked.  I immediately slipped into the cooking hut as to have as few people see me as possible.  Sadly a year plus here and my presence still creates a spectacle.  I walked into the cooking hut and was greeted by my eldest sisi who was hacking away with a machete at a hunk of fresh beef hanging from the thatched roof.  She stopped to greet me and as she stepped away I saw where the hunk of beef came from.  An entire cow carcass was on the floor, the skin was laid out as a protective barrier for the floor and the rest was being chopped apart by a bhuti (male) with an axe.  The only part not dissected yet was the head, which sat off to the side.  Bits of flesh and blood were splattering the wall and surrounding area so I swiftly walked to the other side of the room and found something to do.  I quickly got swept into the business of preparing a meal for the 200+ guests that were in attendance.  I have to admit I wasn’t much help and was too tired, wet, and cold to put much effort into making myself useful.  I eventually fell asleep on a table and woke to an almost empty hut, just the cow head, the heart, which was now hanging from the ceiling, and me.

It was the 3:00am teatime so everyone was out delivering tea and sandwiches to the guests.  I had no desire to participate and I have to admit that I feel very in the way at these events since I don’t really know what’s going on.  My family is good with trying to make sure I am ok but they were so busy at this vigil I didn’t want to bother them with helping me try and help them, if that makes sense, so I just went back to sleep.

I eventually opted to leave my safe haven for the procession to the gravesite.  It was raining so I donned my rain jacket and the only visible part of me was my face.  I managed to remain hidden until we got to the gravesite and everyone stopped moving.  The walk there was on a treacherous, muddy, flooded dirt path through the bush.  Turns out thorns can go through rain boots, got one right in my arch trying not to fall into a mud puddle.  I managed to loose all my family members in the procession so when the service at the gravesite started I just stood in the crowd and tried to watch.  I didn’t know anyone around me and they were giving me weird stares when they realized I wasn’t a Swazi.  I was feeling really alone and just wanted to cry for Gogo, for my family’s loss, for being wet and cold, for feeling like an outsider. 

Finally I saw Gogo’s Paster whom I met a few weeks ago and he smiled and waved at me through the crowd.  I smiled back and that gave me the strength to not break down right there.  I eventually decided to leave the crowd and see of I could find any of my family.  I didn’t, but I found so many people I did know; ladies from my family’s church, neighbors, and family friends.  I was trying to wedge my way underneath the single tarp that could fit maybe 1/8 of the people there to avoid the rain.  Here I found Gogo’s best friend Sara.  She is probably as old as Gogo and only has one eye but she remembered me and she waved and gave me a silent greeting.  I greeted her back with as much sympathy as one can express in a silent exchange and then I almost lost it.  I was so sad for her – she just lost her best friend.  When I met Sara my Make told me that she was Gogo’s best, best, best friend.  They lived almost their entire lives across the path from each other and held each other’s deepest darkest secrets.  I could feel the power of their friendship.  Life is hard here and the courage and strength to get through it may lie simply in the power of a best friend.  It made me miss my best friends.

I haphazardly made my way back to the homestead with the crowd.  The meal was already underway with people being served in take-away containers.  I didn’t really know what to do now so I just stood in the rain and watched, eventually making my way back to the cooking hut where I found my Make and one Sisi.  They got me food, which was much, much needed at this point.  I hadn’t eaten since 5pm the night before and was getting shaky.  After food I attempted to help clean but proved to be useless again.  My brain was not functioning and I just needed directions to be given to me, and no one was there to give them so I just stood in the rain that had turned to the slightest snow flurry I swear (or I was just delirious at this point).  I told myself I was just observing and that was an ok thing to do to.  I watched as dogs snuck into the cooking hut and stole scraps of food and fought each other for them.  I watched the men pull the giant tarp tent apart.  I watched as a truck got stuck way deep in the mud and a tractor plus the encouragement of all the men pulled it out.  I watched as the kids, despite being half dressed and barefoot, still managed to play games and laugh.  I just sat back and watched Swazi life happen.  Eventually I hitched a ride home where I had to de-thaw my feet in a bucket of hot water and then curled up in bed the rest of the day. 

Rain is Good Thing

September 6th, 2012

“Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes by baby feel a little frisky, back roads are bogging up, my buddies pile up in my truck, we hunt our honeys down, we take them into town, start washing all our worries away, rain is a good thing!” – lyrics by Luke Bryan

It hasn’t rained in Swaziland since April.  That’s four months where the already dry dirt has been getting dryer and dryer.  It’s been really windy here lately and the dust that gets blown around is so thick I can barely see past my homestead.  Well the strong winds have finally blown in some rain clouds. 

It rained non-stop for four days.  I have managed to collect 175 liters of water and now I’m out of buckets.  A mote has formed around my hut and I’m scared to eventually emerge and try and get anywhere on the flooded dirt paths, but rain is a good thing.  It really does make corn here.  Since the ground gets so dry during winter no one can plow their fields and plant their maize without rain.  No maize equals no food for some families, so rain is a really, really good thing.  Here the maize may not make whiskey, but it does make homebrew beer, a stable at any social gathering.  So here is a very happy welcome to the rainy season, may it be a long one!!

Mid Service Medical

August 21-23, 2012

The notorious mid-service medical is upon us Group 9 volunteers.  This three-day session with our medical officer is famed for its necessary stool provision.  We are required to provide three stool samples to be tested for everything.  Do you know how hard it is to do that on command? And then get it into a cup?  You don’t want to know if you’ve never had to do it.

Anyways we arrive at our officer in groups of 6-8.  Aside from the grueling medical exam that checks for anything and everything, its also a psychological exam to make sure our malaria medication hasn’t made as all fall off our rockers and be on the verge of life crises.  Its brutal, I can say nothing fun about it except for the fact that it was a great reason to be shut up in our office with some of my fellow PCVs with access to free WiFi!!!  Yet despite the total access to Google we instead entertained ourselves by over dramatizing passages from romance novels found in the PCV library and of course talked about our stool samples.  Know fact, PCVs love to talk about their bowel movements, what exactly their puke looked like, and why a pee bucket is better then a pit latrine.  We have all fully embraced our primitive selves. 

Good news, after three days of being poked and prodded, I’m fairly healthy.  A few minor issues, nothing two gigantic shots in my butt cheeks can’t fix (as if my butt wasn’t already embarrassed from the amount of pressure I was putting on it already).  Then it was back to site, where I was promptly sick for two days and actually wanted to talk to someone about how my stool was.  Such is life haha.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Been 15 Months Since I Left Home

August 26th, 2012

This is for all my country music loving friends.  I changed the words to the song “Great Day To Be Alive” by Travis Tritt exactly one year ago.  At that time I was in month three of living in Swaziland and never thought I would see month 15.  Well I made it, and this song sums it all up!

I got rice cooking on my gas stove,
I got dirty hair I don’t plan to comb,
And it’s a goofy thing but I just got to say hey I’m doing all right.
I think I’ll make me some homemade soup,
Feeling pretty good and that the truth,
Neither drink nor drug induced no I’m just doing all right.

And it’s a great day to be alive; I know the sun still shining when I close my eyes,
There some hard times in my community, by why can’t everyday have all this beauty!

It’s been 15 months since I left home,
Said good luck to ever seed I’d sewn,
Gived it my best and then I left it alone,
I hope their doing all right.
Now I look in the mirror and what do I see,
A different person then I use to be,
A wiser, tanner version of me,
Lord I guess I’m doing all right.

And it’s a great day to be alive; I know the sun still shining when I close my eyes,
There some hard times in my community, by why can’t everyday have all this beauty!

Sometimes it’s lonely,
Sometimes it’s only me and the shadows that fill this room.
Sometimes I’m falling, desperately calling, looking for something to do-o-o-o-oooo.

Well I might go get me a night out of site,
see some PCVs and chat about life,
might even go wild and stay out all night, Oh…

And it’s a great day to be alive; I know the sun still shining when I close my eyes,
There some hard times in my community, by why can’t everyday have all this beauty!

Malindza Cleaning Campaign

August 20th-24th, 2012

This past week I have helped my neighbor volunteer Addy put on a giant Cleaning Campaign for our community.  What a week – I don’t think I have logged that many work hours since leaving my last job in America.  The first two days were full of training of trainers in good hygiene practices, proper trash disposal, and recycling with speakers from local Swazi environmental agencies and fellow PCVs.  Addy had arranged for 40 RHMs (rural health motivators) from our community to attend the trainings so they could then go out into the community and train other in what they learned, as well as 20 members of the refugee camp.  We had the training at the refugee camp, finally getting approval to use the large meeting building.  The third day the 20 refugees who attended the first two days planned lessons and implemented them to all the other members of the refugee camp.  It was fun to watch them teach each other – at one point us PCVs were all just sitting and watching the knowledge that was learned being passed on  - it was a good feeling knowing the education was sustainable.

The last two days were physical clean up day.  Like adopt-a-hwy, except it was more like adopt-a-refugee camp and adopt-a-dirt road.  The refugee spent a whole day collecting 60 bags of garbage from around the camp, as well as constructing two trash pits, and cleaning the public bathrooms.  We had so many of the camp members there to help out and they were excited and eager to make their living environment better.  Its amazing that just a black garbage bag, plastic gloves and a little encouragement could easily motivate people to take pride in their homes.  The last day the RHMs joined us again and we all walked from the main tar road to the camp and picked up trash all along the way.  We collected about 20 bags worth, and could have done 20 more but it was tiring work.  However the road looks so much better.  There is no trash disposal service in these rural areas and people are responsible to burn their own, but there is a serious lack of responsibility in that.  Every day I see someone litter as if its no big deal and the wind and dogs haul trash everywhere even when it does get put into a trash pit.  I hope that we were all able to spark an interest in others to become leaders in keeping the community clean.

It was also great to see the refugees and the Swazis working together.  They all live in the same areas but tend to be divided so it was great to connect different parts of the community.  I am so proud of Addy who organized this project.  It took months and months of meetings and planning and trips to town to get everything in order and it went so well.  I am happy to have gotten a chance to help, while I didn’t mostly organizational stuff (check-in, room prep and take down) and helped doing whatever was needed it was fun to be involved.  I did get to do a condom demonstration, which is surprisingly starting to be what I’m know for, haha. 

I’m so tired from the week but it was great to so the outcome of a successful event.  To celebrate Addy and Ryan hosted a braai at the their homestead for those who helped.  We had more meat then I’ve had in months and over indulged but didn’t care one bit – we all earned it!!

Local News

So what been happening in Swaziland while I’ve been off gallivanting through Southern Africa?

Well for one the teachers strike come to an end just in time for the last week of the school term, but it defiantly did not end without its drama.

King Mswati III summoned everyone to the royal residence on Monday August 6th, for a speech.  He declared a Sibeya or a People’s Parliament to be opened the next day and last until Friday.  This allowed for anyone to come to the residence and tell their grievances to the King and offer their suggestions of how to solve the problems of the country.  The King was not present all these days, the people were recorded and he listened to them later.  After the parliament was closed he made his response.  I was never really told what he said in his response, but he did demand that all teachers return to work the next week.  This led to much confusion, as he did not specify if that was all teachers or just teachers who had not been fired during the Waya Waya.  The Kind’s Parliament then declared that it only included teachers whom were not fired, which didn’t settle with most people.  So as far as I can tell nothing has changed, nothing has been fixed, and people are more confused then before.  However, striking has stopped, students and teachers returned for the last week of the term and some have continued into the break to try and catch-up on the weeks missed.

Bethany and Mom’s Whirlwind Tour of Southern Africa Chapter Six: Swaziland

August 11th-15th, 2012

To finish up Mom’s time in Africa we visited the other three regions.  I live in the Lubombo region, so I took Mom down to the Shiselweni region were I had my pre-service training.  We stayed with my training host family for two nights and cooked them an American meal as well.  This time we made wild rice, chicken, and broccoli hot dish, a make shift meatloaf with rice crackers so I could eat it, and backed potatoes.  We cooked everything in a wood burning stove and the hot dish and meatloaf turned out well.  The potatoes took till next morning to actually cook all the way – they made for a good breakfast.  It was great to have my mom meet my other Swazi family and see where I had all my trainings.

We also spent a few hours in the Manzini region in the town of Manzini visiting the craft market and having lunch.  Then it was off to the Hho Hho region.  We spent a night in Milwane Game Park and visited some touristy craft places in the Ezlwini Valley.  Then for Mom’s last day we headed to Mbabane and stayed at the PCV’s home away from home: Bambaso backpackers.  We spent the afternoon at Ngwenya Glass Factory watching them make hand-blown glassware out of recycled glass bottles.  It was fun and the products are so beautiful.  Mom took an early shuttle to Jo-burg airport the next day.  It was sad to say goodbye for another year, but I am so glad that I got to share this experience with someone from home!  Thanks for an awesome 22 day adventure Mom!!

Bethany and Mom’s Whirlwind Tour of Southern Africa Chapter Five: Maputo, Mozambique

August 9th-10th, 2012

Every trip has to have a really suck moment; Mozambique was ours.  We wanted to go for two nights in Maputo, which is right across the border from Swaziland, but everything went wrong so we ended up spending one night and then coming home.  Public transport in Mozambique is a nightmare and it took us 4 hours to cross the border and actually arrive in Maputo, when it should have only taken 1.5 hours.  Imagine a 15-passenger junky van filled with 20 people plus luggage for two hours on a hot day – miserable.  We got there to find that our reservation for the guest house we booked had been canceled, it was near dark and we had to walk to a way more expensive hotel that thankfully had an open room and exceptional staff.  Hotel Monte Carlo, you may be only three stars and over priced but your customer service was phenomenal – kudos to you!

The next day Maputo earned back some points.  We had a private guided walking tour to all the top historical points in Maputo.  The weather was great and we learned a lot about the city.  We had lunch at the old train station – within the 22 hours we were in Maputo I managed to eat nothing but seafood – it was great!  Then we hired a taxi to take us straight to the border, we were not even going to attempt public transport again it was so awful.  Mom got to see the Indian Ocean at least and while it was a short and chaotic trip it made for a good story.  I was never happier to be back in my hut in Swaziland!

Bethany and Mom’s Whirlwind Tour of Southern Africa Chapter Four: Malindza, Swaziland

August 4th – 9th, 2012

I think I hit my record: Four countries in one day!  We left Botswana early on the 4th, crossed the border to Zambia and flew to South Africa.  Getting back into South Africa from Zambia was much less dramatic then getting in.  Apparently an emailed copy of your yellow card was proof enough and I was able to board the plane to problem.  A quick flight to Johannesburg, then an even quicker (35 min) flight from Jo’burg to Matsapha, Swaziland and I was “home”.  We arrived by nightfall so Mom couldn’t see Swaziland right away but we spent a fabulous evening with a fellow PCV who picked us up at the airport through a Swazi friend who has a car.  My last transport would have already left by the time we got into town so we couldn’t go to my place that night.

We finally made it to my homestead on Sunday, Aug 5th).  It was so fun to introduce my Mom to my host family, crazy to have my two worlds meet.  We spent the next three days around my community.  Mom came to work with me and we spent a lot of time just hanging out on the homestead so Mom could experience Peace Corps Life.  We had an American BBQ one night for my host family with Hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, sweet corn on the cob, and chips.  Addy and Ryan came over for that and we had a BBQ on a Swazi style grill!  The next night my host family cooked a traditional Swazi dinner for my mom.   My Make and I decided that this would be a good moment to slaughter Henny Penny.  I know a lot of you just gasped and think this is sad, but its not.  That’s life here and Henny Penny lived an exceptionally good life for a chicken.  Reality is Penny’s life wouldn’t have been that much longer anyways since she was actually a cock.  Once you have too many cocks together they fight to be the alpha one and it causes a problem on the homestead.

enjoying some American BBQ

Mom came with me to the Refugee Camp to teach my last English class of the term.  My students love, love, loved having her visit.  They made her sit on the “hot seat,” an exercise we do weekly to help them practice asking and answering questions.  I think she really enjoyed being there also, however the 30-minute walk to and from the camp wasn’t her favorite.

English class at the refugee camp.
We spent a day at Hlane Royal Game Park, which is literally right next to my community yet I had never been there.  It’s the only game park in Swaziland that has the Big Five, which means they have Lions.  To all my Phi Mu Sisters: I had my first official Lion Spotting in Africa here at Hlane.  We got fairly close to a male lion (Sir Fidel?), which was resting after a meal.  Two lionesses were also prowling in the bushes near by.  This game drive was actually my favorite drive even more so then the ones in Chobe!  Swaziland isn’t exactly people’s number one destination for safari so the drive wasn’t touristy.  We were the only people in the park, there were several moments we just turned off the truck and sat in silence as animals walked and grazed around us oblivious to our presence.  We saw everything: Lions, elephants, giraffe, white rhinos, impala, kudu, wildabeast, zebra, crocodiles, storks, warthogs, eagles, vultures, inyana (type of antelope).  And I live right next door – I live in the real ‘Animal Kingdom!’  I got to show Mom all my “hangout” spotw here in Swaziland, so nice to have someone from home know and experience exactly where I live and what I’m doing.

Lion Spotting!

Bethany and Mom’s Whirlwind Tour of Southern Africa Chapter Three: Chobe Game Park, Botswana

August 2nd- 4th, 2012

The third part of our adventure was by far my favorite!  We spent a quick day and a half in Chobe Game Park in Botswana.  This park is huge – 100 sq. meters – and is home to the largest population of elephants in Africa – 600,000 of them!

To get into Botswana we only had to drive an hour to the border with Zambia and then cross the Zambezi River into Botswana.  At this point in the river you actually are looking at four different countries at once: Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.  The River serves as the border between them all.  Chobe Park is close to the border crossing has the Chobe River running through it creating a border between Botswana and Namibia.  The Chobe River eventually combines with the Zambezi River that creates Victoria Falls.

We stayed in a lodge right along the Chobe River and in the 1.5 days we were there we went on three safaris: two game drives, and one boat safari.   The first night was the boat safari and we took a three-hour tour around Sidudu Island, which lies in the River.  Botswana and Namibia were fighting over custody of the Island and Botswana won after the case was brought to the international court, because it wanted to keep it part of the animal park and Namibia wanted it for agriculture purposes.  Since the river is a constant source of water there was a lot of animals congregated on the island.  We got so close to elephants it was unreal.  We also saw up close hippos, water buffalo, crocodiles, impala, water monitor lizards, and tons of birds (storks, garters, eagles).  It was really cool.

On our only full day in Botswana we went on two three-hour game drives in the park; one at Sunrise and one at Sunset.  I had a bit of reverse culture shock here in Botswana.  I came to Africa with all the best adventure equipment and quickly learned I needed very little of it to actually survive here.  My neutral colored, quick drying clothes were quickly replaced with the hippest African trends, and my sturdy footwear has been replaced with heels, boots, and flats.  However now that I’ve joined the tourists here in Africa I have found myself in the middle of an REI catalogue.  My new African wardrobe that blends my into my community in Swaziland has left me looking very flashy amongst the oh-so-prepared safari goers.  At times I just wanted to say “I bought this in Africa” just so people wouldn’t judge me on why my pants didn’t zip off at the knee.  Anyways, despite my bright colors we saw more animals then I ever imagined we could.  Probably 50 giraffes, half as many elephants (including babies – adorable), mongoose, antelope, guinea fowl, zebra, lions from a far distance, hornbills, warthogs, baboons, and kudu.  I could go on game drives all day.  You get tired from searching but when you see something it’s such a rush!!  This full day of drives also happened to be my birthday – most amazing way to turn another year older.  To celebrate myself I also took advantage of the hotel spa and got myself a message and then we had a nice candle-lit dinner with wine over looking the Chobe River.