June 10th, 2012
I have now been in Swaziland for exactly one year.
It’s hard to believe a year ago this morning I was waking up in a very different world. I was meeting Swaziland for the first time, seeing Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time, and feeling totally out of my element for the first time. Shocked, numb, only able to process moment by moment, not being able to see the whole picture, relying only on the faint recollection of really wanting to do this tour of service. Wondering if two years time would every pass by. That’s how I felt a year ago.
I can very happily say that is not how I am feeling right now. This year has flown by faster then I could have ever imagined last June. The transition to this new life in Swaziland was sure not easy and not without some very testing experiences. Learning to live without running water, erratic electricity, unreliable transport, draconian commitment to religion, and a repressive gender inequality are just a few thing I learned to deal with over the past year. In doing so I have also picked up some very handy life skills and learned a lot about myself and what I want and need out of life to be happy.
I have come to love Swaziland in many ways. I love the drastic change in landscape as you travel from west to east, providing excellent scenery for my reflective bus rides to and from town. I love the sunrises and sunsets, especially in winter – It really looks like the beginning scene in the Lion King. I love that just a 10 minute drive away from my house live lions, elephants, giraffes, rhino, zebra, warthogs, water buffalo, and antelope. While I don’t particularly love the small change of seasons here, I do appreciate that with each change of season comes new and exciting food at the market. Things just taste better when you can only get them at certain times of year. It gives you something to look forward to and something to moan about when its gone – something other then the fact that its 50°F out and you still have no other choice but to bucket bathe. I have learned to appreciate the beauty, fun, and fulfillment in growing your own food and the adventure of cooking and eating new foods custom to this part of the world. And most of all I love the relationships I have made.
I have made a whole community of acquaintances, a circle of friends, and a handful of people I have really special bonds with that I am thankful I have the next year to spend in the company of. Thanks to these people, particularly the last few, I have been able to “be free”* here in Swaziland. They have helped me make a home that feels comfortable and to develop a life here that I enjoy living.
Thinking back to day one, I still can’t believe it’s been a year. Feels like just last month I was feeling overwhelmed and unconfident in why I was doing this; asking myself “is it worth it?” It is! The struggles, the discoveries, the new experiences, they are everything I wanted and more from this adventure. I get why Peace Corps Service is two years, it takes a year to just learn how to live. As much as I still get twinges of homesickness and find jealousy creep in when I talk to volunteers who are completing service and returning home, I would be sad if I had to leave now. I’ve worked so hard and come so far to get here. I am excited that that first year is out of the way and I can just enjoy the next year. Bring it on Year Two!
* My Make uses this phrase to express anyone who is comfortable in his or her living situation and can do as they please, without fear.