Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Extended Vacation

April 23-26th, 2012

I planned a one night get away to visit two PC friends who lived up in the northern part of the country.  It was suppose to be just a quick overnight but turned into a 3 night, 4-day vacation due to a transportation issue.  The eastbound transport operators coming from the Manzini bus rank decided they wanted to use a satellite bus rank.  There is a satellite rank already across town, however the transport operators didn’t want to use that one, so they created their own on a bit of private property.  It is the opposite end of town from the normal and the satellite bus ranks and is just in a giant field.  I’m an eastern volunteer so this move includes all of my transportation.  The situation was deemed possibly hostile so us volunteers were not allowed to move in and out of Manzini, thus my one night get-away turned into a mini stay-cation.

I wasn’t complaining it was a fun time.  The first two nights I stayed at my friend Emma’s homestead.  We made dinner with her Make every night and I hadn’t eaten that good in a while.  The first night we made individual pizzas – my first pizza since May of last year.  I tired making mine with gluten free flour - looks like a pizza, tasted like a pizza, but doesn’t stay together like pizza so it had to be eaten with a fork; the one and only fork that is usually in a Swazi kitchen (they use spoons if they use silverware at all).  We then made makeshift s’mores in the oven.  The next day Emma helped her Make slaughter a chicken and pluck it.  Her Make then made us chicken stew with rice and we made a tomato and fruit salad, and hot chocolate for dessert.  It was a feast.  The last night I spent at my friend Mia’s, who lives in the same community as Emma.

It is really fun to visit other volunteers.  We are all in the same situation yet our homesteads, projects, and communities are all so different.  It was great to get walking tours of their community, meet their host families, and see just how they make life work.  I always get great ideas of things I can do around my house when I see other volunteer’s homes; PCVs are really creative when it comes to hut living.  I am now inspired to revamp my hut!

Preventing HIV 27,000 Condoms at a Time

April 16th, 2012

I have been in Swaziland exactly 10 months and 7 days.  Today I feel I had my first “completed” success.  I am involved in many successful projects in my community, but most of them are in progress and will be for while.  Today Addie and I held our last HIV Prevention class at the Refugee Camp… officially completing our first project…  it feels good to be able to say I did this and it was a success!

Every Monday evening since the end of January we have taught this HIV Prevention class which also covers decision making and goal setting, all while learning English in the process.  We have had an average 35-40 students present at each class.  We teach outside, the students sit on a crumbling cement wall and we sticky tack flip chart paper onto the side of a building as our “chalkboard.”  Ironically the building whose wall we use is a large classroom that I have never seen open.  Only “proper facilitators” are aloud to use it; we have been assured we are not proper facilitators.  The levels of English speaking is everywhere from no English to conversationally fluent.  We teach in English and then have every step translated into Somalian, then into Swahili, then sometimes into French.  Thankfully we have willing students who translate for us, but it makes for some interesting lessons.

The student’s last piece of homework for the class was to create posters with messages of HIV prevention to display around the Refugee Camp.  We had never given group homework before so I was not sure it would be a success.  However, today they all surprised me.  We had five very well done posters.  Detailed drawings, great messages, and ALL of the information was correct.  I guess despite the language barriers the students proved that they had gained some knowledge.

To celebrate their hard work we made them each a certificate for completing the course and thanks to PSI (local NGO that promotes male circumcision and condom dispersion) we gave each student a box of 100 condoms.  The condom conversation was always a hot topic in class, but by the end of course each poster stated that using a condom was one of the best ways to prevent against HIV, STIs, and pregnancy.  Addy had contacted PSI and asked for a box of condoms and they delivered nine boxes totally 27,000 condoms.  We are passing them out like emaswedi (candy).  To really drill condom usage I even did a condom demonstration before giving them out to our students.  This got a lot of embarrassed giggles, as I am a young, single, female, showing a group of mostly men, mostly Islamic students how to use a condom.  However, I also saw a lot of nodding heads taking in my directions.  We had a little ceremony where they got their certificate, their box of condoms, and got to shake our hands and get their photo taken, and of course a round of applause.  I was so proud to see how happy they were to have participated and be acknowledged for their work.

After class we were treated like celebrities.  Everyone wanted a picture with us and they were so thankful.  It’s a bittersweet ending.  I am happy to see the successful end to a project but I am sad to say goodbye to Monday nights at the camp.  However, we are continuing our English lessons on Tuesday nights so I still get to hang out with all my new friends!

Presenting the Certificates

The whole group in front of the building we can't use!

One of the posters the students made