Thursday, July 12, 2012

Surprising Safety Measure

July 10th, 2012

So life is Swaziland isn’t the safest of existences; there are some days I am surprised I made it through alive.  Between faulty electric everything, non-existent driving regularities, and of course the basic sanitation of the food and water consumed, there is a chance that any or all encounters could be potentially dangerous. 

Today I was standing waiting for transport home and reflecting on my possibly detrimental experiences I had just that day.  Experiences that included one very fast (130km/hr = 80mi/hr), over capacity, khumbie ride without seat belts and with the usual illegal passing while going up-hill around a bend, a free ride through my community courtesy of the local ambulance while it was en route bringing a patient to the hospital (who knows what I picked up in there), and just maneuvering in the bus rank (bus depot) where I think I almost got hit like three times.  So as I stepped out from under the electrical wires at my stesh (bus stop), just in case they fall (with good reason – I’ve seen it happen), I watch as a lorry approaches overflowing with wood poles.  The crew of five who I’m sure spent hours gathering the poles where insecurely seated and standing atop the pile in the back of the truck.  I’m very desensitized to the lack safety precautions here but I couldn’t help but think “man that’s not really safe.”  The lorry slowed and turned down the dirt road.  As I watched it turn expecting a pole or a person to perhaps roll off I see that amongst the poles sticking out the back end there is a red baseball camp tied to one of them.  I just giggled.  Of all the safety precautions to take it was the “large load” red flag that made the cut.  Someone paid attention during Driver’s ed.!!!  Now if only they had been on time, they could have learned about these great things called seatbelts!

Fourth of July

July 4th, 2012

Best Fourth of July In Swaziland Ever!!!

We had a real BBQ at our Country Director’s house.  There was great food: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, beans, coleslaw, and deserts galore.  It was awesome and felt so American!  All the PCVs were there, which now include Group 7 extenders, Group 8, Group 9, and the fresh off the boat Group 10.  They have been here now for 6 days and look so clean!  It was fun to meet them, but a bit overwhelming.  When you’ve had the same 40 friends for a year and then you get 40 new ones in a single moment it was too much.  Makes you realize just how far from being ‘American’ I have come.  The speed of their conversations was enough to make me need a nap.

Anyways we spent the afternoon chatting, playing volleyball, and eating.  Then group 10 went back to their training site and the rest of us went to Bombasos for the night.  We had another meal of hot dogs and s’mores cooked over a barrel bucket fire, had a dance party on the patio, and tried to light off fireworks we found at the Chinese store.  They didn’t really work but the sparklers did and we lit up the night while singing songs of Americana.  Good food, good friends, and a place where we could celebrate the greatness that is America and the freedoms that I now truly appreciate.

The fourth of July has also sparked some really great conversations with people in my community.  Most people don’t know that America gained independence from England just as Swaziland did.  Every time I have this conversation I can see the gears start turning.  This little fact that connects America and Swaziland just may be the inspiration or the hope a Swazi needs to see that Swaziland has the ability to become better then it is.  America was once a new country independent from England and look where we have come, and the good news is it won’t take Swaziland 200+ years to improve their situation.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Christmas In June

June 23rd, 2012

In honor of winter, Jesus’ half birthday, and of course just a reason to come together and eat food, Swaziland PCVs converged to celebrate Christmas in June. 

We booked out our home away from home, Bambasoes Backpackers in Mbabane, and made a gigantic Christmas meal for 60 using one oven and two half functional stovetops.  Well I didn’t personally make any of the food because the electricity to the kitchen had been blown out by the time I arrived.  Thankfully my fellow volunteers had been hard at work all day so my uncooked mashed potatoes weren’t a huge loss.

I arrived with just enough time to change into my holiday outfit, complete with elf hat (Thanks Kathy Bosse), for the white elephant gift exchange.  Since we are all poor, but really creative, we decided anyone could either bring a gift of something in their hut they didn’t want, something that was homemade, or spend no more then E20 on a gift (that is about $2.50).  We played the number game where you get a number and go in numeric order to pick a wrapped gift out of the pile; any player down the line can then steal a gift rather then pick from the pile.  Each gift can only be stolen twice however, and if your gift is stolen you get to pick another out.  I put in a homemade painting of an elephant (thanks to the art supplies Mariah sent me), and at first got the ever so popular “I Love Jesus” ball cap that is very fashionable here in Swaziland.  Unfortunately that gift was quickly stolen as it instantly ups your cool factor in the Swazi community.  I ended up with a magic set and had a lot of fun participating.  People got really creative with gifts.  We had a hand-knitted hat, a homemade candle, vouchers for airtime (cell phone minutes), a large pumpkin, even a box of not so fresh take-away food, which I think was never claimed lol.

The feast we had was amazing, with lots of traditional holiday dishes from home.  Mmmm comfort food!  Plus gluten free chocolate cake for dessert and a spiked holiday punch that made everyone’s cheeks glow rosy red.  Picnic tables were pulled out onto the patio and Christmas lights, garland, stockings, mistletoe, and fake snow (contributed by yours truly) gave the place lots of Christmas cheer.  Holiday music serenaded the festivities and it oddly felt just like Christmas.  Only downside was waking up the next morning and realizing that it’s actually June and there is no upcoming New Years Eve Party to keep your spirits high.  But… there is Fourth of July.  God Bless America for having so many reasons to celebrate life!  Word in the Kingdom is this year we are getting hot dogs!!!!

Its The Small Things

June 22nd, 2012

I finally got to leave my community today!!!  It’s been 23 days and I am fairly certain my patience couldn’t have handled another day.  I love my community, but as all PCVs know, when in your community you’re on the job 100% of the time and it’s exhausting and really tests your patience.

Unfortunately it is Friday of month end, meaning its payday for every single person in Swaziland.  Everyone is trying to get to town to withdraw money from the banks.  After waiting 1.5 hours for transport that wasn’t standing room only, rejecting two marriage proposals, and bracing extreme winds that leave you choking on dust, I had had it.  I just wanted to sit in peace with my ipod and ignore Swaziland for a while.  I finally got on a bus and the ride was great until we stopped at a school and picked up the entire student body of the primary and high school.  I had a seat open in my row so I moved in and thee smallest primary school girl ended up sitting next to me.  I saw that she was trying to greet me so I pulled out a headphone and greeted her back.  She then grabbed my headphone and put it in her ear.  This normally would have caused me to blow a gasket but for some reason I just went with it and let her listen.  Thankfully I was listening to Justin Beiber (shame I know) so at least it was something appropriate.  The next song to come on was Shakira’s Waka Waka.  For those none World Cup Soccer fans, this was one of the theme songs for the World Cup held in South Africa in 2010.  Its really popular here and this little girl started dancing in her seat.  She was the envy of every other student around us because she got to listen to the white person’s music player.  I couldn’t do anything but smile and join her.  Any resentment I had at that moment for Swaziland was gone.  Oh the power of music, my attitude and outlook on the weekend was much sunnier from then on.