Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top Ten: Hey It’s Ok… in Swaziland (spoof off of Glamour mags “Hey It’s OK” list)

… to use a dirty pan because you are just going to make it dirtier
… to eat only popcorn for dinner because the day was just too hard already
… to wear whatever is clean or at least doesn’t smell, even if it is a striped shirt with a floral skirt
… to only wash your hair once a week to save money on shampoo, only to spend it on a weekly E20 cup of coffee
… to not leave your homestead for 5 days because you are perfectly happy there
… to dream about America and curse Swaziland some days
… to become an airtime dealer at the end of the month because you spent all your money already
… to skip the parts of your workout DVD that you don’t like (cough, cough… the dreya roll)
… to watch more TV series here then you ever did in America
… to plan what you want to do after COS even if you still have 8 months or 20 months left
... to sleep for 10 hours in a row, night after night
... to spend an extra 26 rand on a taxi just so you don't have to walk an extra 40 feet
... to replace your social life with a pet cat
... to feel no remorse when a rooster gets its head cut off
... to be s self proclaimed sommelier on PnP No name Box wine
... to say you are camping at Bombasos backpackers but never actually sleep outside
... to use your pee bucket in the middle of the day just because its 3 feet away and not across the yard
... to start excepting marriage proposals if the labola prices get high enough
... to think you are dying every day because 'Where There Is No Doctor' told you so
... to walk around with your lahiya or blanket tied around you and call it an outfit

"Africa is an addiction.  Life here is so challenging that you feel you've done something really fine - really rewarding - just by surviving from one day to the next.  There is so much that is new, exotic, and exciting, you feel like you are discovering unknown secrets to a lost world.  But the last few weeks have just been a glorified adventure holiday.  It is what you extract from all that raw material and make your own - that's what matters, that's your contribution."
- from "Into Africa" by Craig Packer

The End of Health Club

November 14th, 2012

The Health Club at the local High School that I was co-leading with Addy is finally finished.  We started this Health Club a year ago and we had the simple goal to complete a 10-week life skills/HIV knowledge course with them.  It’s now been 44 weeks and we only just finished.  That is the reality of working as a PCV.  Things never go as planned and even the most thoroughly thought out schedule never works out in the end.

Granted there was a 10-week teachers strike.  Then this past term all of our students were completing their Form 5 exams (exams they take in 12th grade to complete High School), so they couldn’t meet with us, but still this Health club has been dragged out way to long.  I was ready to call the class a wash in terms of finished, but the students really wanted to complete it.  You may say oh that’s so great that they care about their education, but no they just wanted the certificate we promised them if they finished.  Even though, we agreed that if the students wanted to come back after their exams were done, we could do the last four lessons and complete the course.  Organizing this seemed easy at first but ended up being a nightmare. 

Eight students agreed to come back on the Thursday and Friday of this week, however when this week rolled around we were informed that the students made an executive decision without consulting us that they wanted to meet on Monday and Tuesday.  Addy and I of course go the refugee camp on Monday and Tuesday so we reinforced that the plan had always been to meet on Thur. and Fri.  Despite our argument the students decided that  Wednesday would actually work better for them.  So Addy and I showed up at the school at 8am on Wednesday with the prepared lessons and a “bucket of verbal shame” we were ready to pour all over our students for being disrespectful to us.  By 9:15am only three students had arrived so we just started anyways.  No one else showed up, but we completed the course with the three we had and the lessons went well.  We played a game at the end to see how much information they actually pick-up and they did really well!

In the end it feels good to know we imparted some knowledge on a few kids, but it also feels really good to rid my life of leading this Health Club.  I guess I will count it as a success in the end, but overall organizing this was way more stressful the rewarding and not for my lack of trying, it just the nature of how things work here.

Oh Holy Weekend

November 10th, 2012

Shopping, hanging out with bosisi bami (host sisters) and Swazi friends, and a Benjamin Dube concert, equaled a very holy weekend.  I have officially been healed and probably been saved.

A Swazi girlfriend of mine talked me into spending the weekend in town with her and four of my host sisters.  The great South African gospel singer Benjamin Dube was holding a once in a lifetime Healing concert in Manzini and we had VIP tickets.  I was very skeptical that this weekend would be fun.  I had to surrender my days to the plans of my friends and sisters and that I had never done before.  I had no idea was to expect and I didn’t have the refugee of my hut to escape if everything became too much to handle.  However, I sucked it up and went.  Surprise… it was such a good time!!!

The weekend started with coffee with Addy (who I haven’t seen in a month, since she was on leave in America) and my Swazi friend Nosipho.  Then Nosipho and I took over the town.  We spent hours window shopping and having dressing room fashion shows to find the perfect outfits for the concert that night.  Then it was off to my host sister’s salon for nails and hair.  Then to my host sister’s apartment to get all dolled up.  I had on my new skinny jeans (thank you P90X, the last two months of grueling workouts was totally worth it) and a shiny new top that Nosipho insisted I needed to wear to stand out.  I was the only white person at the event, so I thought I already had that covered but no I needed to sparkle. 

I’m not really into the huge gospel scene here, but the concert was actually a lot of fun.  The who’s who of Manzini was represented (I sat 10 rows behind a Swazi Prince), and they were sporting their most fashionable outfits.  I was thankful at that moment for the new clothes I was wearing as my wardrobe is defiantly showing battered signs of rural living.  Benjamin Dube is apparently a really big deal and I soon realized that people didn’t really come to the concert to listen as much as they came to form a gigantic church choir.  His band consisted of two guitarist, a drummer, three keyboardists, a saxophone player, and nine back-up singers.  His songs are full of praise and energy.  The whole crowd was on their feet dancing the night away.  I even got swept up in the rhythm and was dancing.  His gig is a family act.  If South Africa had a Branson MO, the Dube family would be headliners.  Benjamin’s Mother came onstage and sang a song (actually my favorite song of the night), and his three sons also performed.  Appropriately named The Dube Brothers, these boys are the African, gospel version of The Jonas Brothers and the crowd just about died when they came onstage.

My friend Nosipho and I

My Bosisi (host sisters) and I
LtoR: Lungile, Zandile, Winnile, and Tengetile(Me)

The Dube Brothers
The concert ended well after midnight so I spent the night at my sisi’s apartment and then went to church with them on Sunday.  Social crowds defiantly develop around churches here.  Four of my host sisters and all their friends all go to the same church in Manzini and now I am officially in their crowd.  Church was three hours long, and it was really hot inside the cinder block building, but the service was full of energetic singing so I managed to stay awake after the short night.

Overall the weekend totally exceeded my expectations.  I increased my social circle, I discovered the social gospel scene in Manzini, and I had much needed modern girly time.  For PCVs in Africa, a social nightlife basically does not exist.  You get used to going to bed at 8:30pm because there is A. nothing to do, and B. the few after dark social options are not safe.  However, when the very rare occasion comes around where you get to get dressed up and go out after dark and have fun, you realize just how great it is.  I can’t wait to regain my social life in America.