Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Wheels!

New Wheels!

March 7th, 2012

Peace Corps has approved about 10 of us volunteers to purchase a bike.  Based on our need, the terrain of our site and our desire we were each allotted money for a bike and a helmet.  So I am now the proud owner of a bike… and its pink.  It’s a bit hot for biking at the moment but once it gets cooler I hope to bike from my homestead to Mpaka where the clinic and the refugee camp are.  Right now I take local transport because it would be about a two hour walk from Malindza Highway where I live.  It only cost 4 rand each way but after several times a week it adds up.  However that being said, biking here is not as easy as it sounds.  Sure I have no hills to encounter but the only option to bike on is dirt path.  A packed down dirt path no problem, but a loose dirt path, kind of hard.  And then you have the attention factor.  Seeing a white person is cause for commotion enough.  Seeing a white person riding a bike creates a lot of excitement.  I think I will finally discover the back paths through my community as to avoid as many people as possible when biking.  Its just some days you cant take everyone laughing at you when your tired and hot and just want to get to where your going.  Besides the embarrassment of riding, and the rough terrain, there are also the thorns.  Almost every plant here in the low veld has vicious thorns.  Roll over one of those and it’s a guaranteed popped tire.  We will see how long my tires last until I’m walking again due to a flat tire.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Can Bake a Cake and Eat it to!

March 6th, 2012

So many volunteers decided to invest in a mini oven with a stovetop.  I haven’t as I’m not much of a baker to begin with and with the whole gluten free issue there aren’t many options of things to bake.  However, I was sent some g-free all-purpose flour and my Make (host mom) just so happened to borrow our neighbors oven that a past volunteer left them.  Two days ago I went into the house and said “Make I want to bake something sweet.”  She just looked at me and held up her dessert cookbook, we were on the same page evidently.   So we decided to try out one of my recipes from my PC cookbook.  We baked a coffee cake, and get this friends, it actually turned out looking and tasting like a cake.  Can you believe I baked a cake made from scratch?  Not only did I bake a cake from starch but I also made frosting from scratch to go with it!  Granted my Make, who worked at the one coffee shop/bakery in Manzini (my shopping town), helped me, but still this is a miracle.  Many of you know of my past baking struggles and failures.  I always would resort to boxed cake and frozen cookies.

So g-free flour works fairly well.  The cake is crumbly as is to be expected but tastes like real cake and after not having cake for 9 months it was heavenly.  It wasn’t intentional but this cake could have been baked in celebration of having been in Peace Corps for exactly 9 months now!  We actually had really cool weather today also, around 27C, so it felt good to heat up the oven and get the whole kitchen smelling delicious.  The cake was cooled, frosted, and ready to eat just in time for everyone to come into the house to watch Generations.  Nothing makes a day great like dessert!

February 29th, 2012

Lion King reference:
“Hey kid why you look so blue?” – Timon
“I’d say he is more of a goldish brown.” – Pumba

While my skin may be turning a very nice shade of golden brown, I am feeling really blue lately.  It the natural emotional cycle of a PCV to go in waves of extreme highs and extreme lows.  I’m in a low and not entirely sure how I got here.

One reason is the heat.  I think I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but because of too much sunlight, rather then the typical not enough.  I just need winter, and I need it to come now now (in Swaziland ‘now’ means sometimes in the future, ‘now now’ means at this very moment).  We have had a week of extreme heat with no breaks and its tearing me down.  Today I had to walk to the High school to teach the Health Club.  I was already grumpy and after the 30 min trek I was miserable.  I was dripping sweat, I couldn’t see from the sweat in my eyes, my clothes were stuck to me; my legs from the knees down were a shade darker from the combo of sweat and dirt.  My hut had been sprayed with indoor pesticide (that I was told it more poisonous then DDT – great) to prevent Malaria and I was having a not so good reaction to it.  My nose would not stop running and I felt like I had a mid-winter MN cold, but it’s the middle of summer.  I felt so out of control of everything. 

Once I got to school Addy and I found a shaded step to rest on in the back out of sight.  It seemed like the perfect place until I heard the whack of the punishment stick coming from the library.  Seeing the tear stained faces of the students emerge was enough to send me over the emotional edge I was teetering on.  I looked at Addy and said “I’m loosing it,” and tried with all the effort I had left to stop the tears from running down my face.

Addy, being the awesome person she is did help me by reading a blog post of a PCV in Ethiopia.  I have attached it below and want you all to read it.  He expresses what needs to be said.  Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is amazing, but it’s also the hardest thing I have ever done, its not all frolicking baby goats and rainbows (but frolicking baby goats are seriously one of the greatest things ever).

Goodnight Moon

February 28th, 2012

One of my favorite parts of my community is being able to look at the night sky.

My community is in a very flat part of Swaziland, in the Lowveld.  We can see hills in the distance in every direction but its flat for miles all around.  Makes you feel like you’re at the bottom of a bowl, always looking up.  Since the maize is almost ready to harvest when walking through the fields, which are everywhere, you literally get swallowed up in the scenery.

Being “below” everything has its advantages.  The sky seems very broad with nothing to break it up.  At night it makes you feel like you are at the Omni Theater at the MN Science Museum, completely surrounded.  That first moment when the screen opens and the first image appears, that feeling of complete awe at such an engulfing sight.  Often I also feel like I’m in a snow-globe, however it’s more of like a summer globe at the moment. 

Since there are no city lights to pollute the night sky the stars are phenomenal.  The moon, in its various stages of weaning and waxing, is extremely noticeable.  When it’s full it lights the entire community in a silver glow, but when new, it unbelievable dark out.  When its new is when you get the best star show.  At this time I can see the Milky Way, which runs right over my hut.  I sit on my steps, turn out my outside light and just take it all in.