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.