Monday, February 25, 2013

I am a Real Swazi Woman Now

February 13th, 2013

I crossed one more thing off my Swazi bucket list today and in doing so earned my place as a real makoti (bride, but what they call you when you do something well befitting a wife).

I killed my first chicken.  I really did it and it wasn’t a bad experience.  I remember my first encounter with the beheading of a chicken and it smelled bad, and was gross, and made me queasy.  I have put off being involved since then, but decided I needed to kill one for myself at least once while I was here.

My sisi Nosipho helped me.  Babe picked out a young cock and Nosipho caught it and held it for me as I wielded the knife.  It went fast, but it is still a bit freaky that the body continues to move after the head is separated.  I then helped Nosipho pluck it, cut it apart, and cook it in a pot over the open fire.  Ekhaya Inkhukhu (Home chicken) never tasted so good.  I am really going to miss fresh homegrown chicken. 

Biff and Tiff Take Africa

February 8th – 19th, 2013

For the past ten days I have had the awesome company of one of my best friends Tiffany.  She braved the 48 hours of travel and met me here in the Kingdom, where Swaziland really pulled out all the stops to give her one unique experience.

To commemorate the epic adventure we went on, I will give you all a virtual scrapbook of photos to explain the shenanigans we got into.

Reunion at the shuttle drop off in Swaziland!
We hiked Sibebe, which is the largest granite rock face in the world and visited a glass factory in Mbabane that uses all recycled glass bottles to make hand blown items.

Sitting on what we thought might be the top of Sibebe with our friend Mia,
its questionable if we made it all the way or not.
I made her try every weird thing Swaziland has to offer:

Iron Brew, Emahewu (maize drink), Amarula (marula liquor), and Ginger Beer
Bottoms up!

Maganu (marula brew), emafethi (fat cake), and chicken dust (chicken BBQ on the side of the road)
How to eat a hot fat cake

And all the local beers and ciders, and take away food (chicken stew, liphalishi, and salad)
A Sibebe beer to commemorate the hike and
take away food to reward the calories burned!

 She even had a hand in making some traditional food.  She helped my Make make Sinkhwa Sembili (mealie bread), while I helped my sisi make some emaganu (marula brew).  After we had a great traditional meal with my host family of fresh home chicken and mealie bread.

Make and Tiff making mealie bread
Me making marula beer
Swazi meal

We braced the public transportation system here and Tiff got the full experience that is a Swaziland bus rank.   We rode in khumbis, buses, back of trucks, and hitched several rides to save money.  We survived our bus getting hit by a car and on two separate occasions the vehicle we were in running out of gas and having to find alternative transport.

The Manzini Bus Rank

One of your buses that forgot to fill up before we left town

We spent several days roughing it at my homestead, where Tiff fetched water, washed her clothes in a basin, that she then later learned to bucket bathe in, cooked over an open fire, watched Generations (local soap opera), and she got a Swazi name from my host family.  She is now and forever called Nomsa, meaning it is God’s grace that she was brought to us here in Africa.
washing clothes

Tiff came to work with me two days.  We went to the refugee camp to teach my English class, where we got caught in a rainstorm and she experience what its like to walk home on a very muddy path.  My students and counterparts loved meeting here however, so it was all worth it.

with one of my counterparts Mudu at the camp
She also came to the High School with me to help in the library.  She taped bookbindings all morning like a pro, and then walked home in the opposite of a rain shower.  It was hotter then a pistol that day, and she finally understood what I meant by saying that my site was way hotter then Mbabane, where we started our adventure.
Tiff at the school's gate
working in the library
For Valentines Day we visited Hlane Royal Game Park here in Swaziland.  We went on a sunset game drive and saw giraffes, rhinos, elephants, lions, impala, warthogs, hippos, and tons of birds.  We camped at the game park and fell asleep to lions roaring.
Tiff viewing a giraffe from the game drive truck

Tiff came at just the right time and got to attend one of Swaziland’s national festivals.  We went up north to the Marula Festival and we watched all of the boMake dance in celebration of harvesting their marula and making emaganu.  We saw the King and Queen Mother from a distance and even got dressed in traditional wear for the occasion.  We made a stop at the Manzini market before we went and picked Tiff up some traditional jewelry and a lihiya to wear.

In our traditional wear
Buying fabric at the Manzini market
The ladies from my community represented with their flashy outfits!
Our adventure ended with a day of shopping the large traditional craft markets here, a pitcher of sangria, and a long hot shower (well deserved for Tiff after a week at my site).

All in all it was an amazing ten days!  I am so glad Tiff was able to make this trip of a lifetime and experience a new place by discovering its heart, not just the tourist fa├žade it puts on.  For me it was so great to have a familiar face to share my world with.  Her presence helped me see Swaziland in a new light and made me realize just how fantastic this place can be, just how adapted I am to living here, and what I will miss most.

I was sad to see Tiff leave, but am happy to know that in just 5 short months we can meet again and reminisce.  It will be nice to have another person who will “get” my Swazi stories when I get back.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Superbowl Blackout 2013

February 3rd, 2013

In true American style, most of the Swaziland PCVs assembled to watch the Superbowl, conveniently streaming live at 1:30am.  We all met at a Sundowners Backpackers and escaped the heat lounging by their pool.  We have befriended the owners of the place and basically rented it out again for the game.  The owners rigged up a big screen TV with DSTV so we could watch the game, helped us put on a BBQ dinner for everyone, and allowed us poor PCVs to pitch our tents in their yard, rather than pay for beds.

It was a great day until about 12:30am.  I was napping on the floor prepping for the 1:30am start time, when I huge thunderstorm broke.  Intense lighting, which provided awesome storm watching, also blew out the power.  Being flexible and embracing times of hardship, are two key features of a PCV so we partied on anyways.  At 1:30am we broke out the football snacks and all ate around one lit candle, as those who have iphones begged people from America to update us on the game.  We had made a squares board and all bought squares hoping our numbers would be the score at the end of each quarter, so it was very important that we at least got updates on the score.

Around 2:30am, at the end of the 2nd quarter our power came back on.  Never have a heard a cheer so loud that erupted in that room.  We happily finished the first half the game, thoroughly rocked out to Beyonce (so amazing), and witnessed that awesome 109-yard touchdown!  As all of you know, that’s when your power outage happened.  At this point it was 3:30am for us and we had seen approximately 5 minutes of play.  By 4:00am, finally all the lights were back on (both here and in America) and we finished out the game, the final points being scored as we watched a beautiful post thunderstorm sunrise over Swaziland.  Just FYI I didn’t win any of the squares L.  Extremely sleep deprived, we cleaned-up, packed-up and went and ate lunch at 9:00am.  Then we tiredly got ourselves back to our sites, where I slept for 13 hours. 

I have to say, despite the electrical difficulties on both ends, the Superbowl was very fun to watch this year.  Maybe its because I just really miss America, but I think I might start liking football when I get back.  Skol Vikings?!? (is that what Vikings fans say?)

Sisi wami uphisa emaganu (my sister brews marula beer)

January 29th, 2013

Its marula season again!  Marula is a small green fruit that grows on a fabulously big “African” looking tree here in Swaziland.  The fruit is traditionally used to brew marula beer, a staple at any Swazi function held during these summer months.  Swaziland even has two marula festivals in honor of this fruit, one up in the north and one in my area.  Anyone who wants to go and participate has to bring an offering of their marula beer to the King.  Then a daylong dance celebration is held in honor of this plentiful fruit.

My host sister Nosipho is brewing some this year.  It’s actually a really great investment to make.  We have two marula trees on my homestead so the product is free.  She collects the fruit when it falls and lets them get very ripe in the sun.  Then she plucks out the nutty seed and squeezes all the juice from the fruit.  She breaks up the bits of fruity flesh that has fallen in and then adds some sugar and lets it sit for 5 days in the warm cooking hut.  Once finished she can sell a 25 liter bucket for 100 Rand, not a bad profit when all you have to buy is a 20 Rand bag of sugar.

Other uses of marula are in a delicious liqueur called Amarula, and at the local factory Swazi Secrets.  This factory collects the local marula seeds and uses them to make spa products.  The seed is extracted, warmed, and then crushed.  The oil from the seed is used to produce marula essential oil, as wells as lotions and soaps.  The left over seed extract is used to make a marula scrub.  They are really great products and produced locally, by locals, and with local product.  My family sold their marula fruit to the factory last year.  Check it out here and look for it at specialty stores in America.

So many uses for 25 liter buket here in Swaziland

Where the magic happens.  Five days later we got ourselves 100 liters emaganu.

GLOW TOT (Training of Trainers)

January 15th-19th, 2013

GLOW Swaziland is in full swing.  For the past few months the GLOW team(made up of PCVs) has been planning, organizing, and coordinating a five day TOT (Training of Trainers) for Swazi woman who have shown interest in helping us get GLOW clubs started in the rural parts of Swaziland.

It took a lot of work, but we managed to successfully gather 27 Swazi women between the ages of 18-30 and trained them in topics surrounding reproductive health, goal setting, volunteerism, body image, and leadership.  We met for five days at a backpackers that we rented out the entire facility.  Everyday the PCV GLOW team led these educational sessions that the Swazi women participated in.  The sessions that I taught were condom demonstrations and contraceptives, and leadership.  For contraceptives I organized two HIV counselors who work at my local clinic to come and give a presentation to the ladies on the variety of contraceptives available in Swaziland.  Surprisingly there is a large range of contraceptive options (male and female condoms, birth control pills, patches, injections, and implants), however thanks to a high stigma and a culture that doesn’t favor talking about sex or safe sex to students leaves many women without knowledge about their options.  We really tried to focus not only on educating our Swazi counterparts but training them to be open-minded, approachable, and non-judgmental so girls in their communities feel comfortable coming to them to ask about contraceptive options.

Almost ever photo I have of TOT also has this big black penis in it

Clinic Counselors as work!
Overall the week went off without a hitch.  The Swazi women are fabulous!  It was awesome to spend so much time with women outside of a traditional setting.  They really open up and show their true colors, which is a spectrum of awesomeness.  Hopefully by working together we can bring some of the color out in rural Swaziland, and help women break the cultural barrier they hide behind.  My favorite part of the whole week was an impulsive late night pool party.  Most Swazis do not know how to swim and fear it, however on the last night of TOT a pool party spontaneously started when the counterparts decided to jump in with their clothes on.  Us PCVS quickly followed and we spent on hour teaching these women how to swim.  They trusted us to the max, loved learning a new skill, and really overcame something that is typically thought of as something Swazi’s can’t do.  At one point my counterpart came up to me with the biggest smile and said “Nomsa [a fellow PCV] took me to the deep end.”  She was so happy you would have thought she just won a gold medal. It was defiantly a moment when you remember just why you became a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I had two counterparts with me at TOT.  One was my host sister Nosipho here in Malindza.  She has suffered from many stigmas and hardships many rural Swazi girls face and she wants to help others overcome the same reality and learn that girls can be in control over what happens to them, even after mistakes have been made.  My second counterpart was Linidwe, my host sister from my training host family in Khiza.  I approached her to be involved because she has been asking me of ways she can volunteer in her community, and because in several conversations she has emphasized how important it is to her that she is almost 23 years old, has a high school degree, and does not have a baby – not the reality for most girls in her community.  She hopes she is a role model for other girls and through GLOW I think she can, as well as Nosipho can, make a big difference.

Nosipho, Me, and Lindiwe
Next step is that all our Swazi counterparts and us PCVs will work together over the next 4 months to establish GLOW clubs in our communities.  From these clubs we will eventually select a few girls from each club to attend a week long GLOW CAMP in April.  At the camp out counterparts will be co-teaching along side the PCVs, expanding the knowledge and girl power!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

NYE 2012

December 31st, 2012 – January 1st, 2013

It’s 2013!!!!  It’s a bittersweet as I start my last 6 months in Swaziland, weird that it now its crunch time for getting things done and the realization that I am have to say goodbye, yet very excited that I will be seeing America this year!

The few days before NYE, brought a very special moment for me.  ALL of my host brothers and sisters were on my homestead!  This was the first time this has ever happened since I’ve been here.  I love my host family and it was so fun to have everyone together.  The entire family consists of Make and Babe, 5 bosisi, and 1 bhuti, and 5 (soon to be six) grandchildren, one cousin (who lives with us) and me.  We just hung out all day talking, painting nails, playing with the grandsons and eating.  Simply perfect!

The Dube Clan!
back row LtoR: Me, Winnile holding Andzile,
Nosipho holding Mukelo, Buyile, Lungile,
Sifiso holding Vu
Front: Zandile sitting with Piyo and Lunga.
(Zandile is preganant in this photo
with the first soon to be born granddaughter Nomvula)
For New Years Eve this year I decided to ring it in, in a more “western” way, via a dance party.  House on Fire, Swaziland premier dance venue hosted a NYE party with the seaworthy theme of “Nautical or Nice.”  I have to admit I missed the boat on the cruise-wear inspired outfit, but I’m a budget conscious volunteer so you can’t blame me.  However we did have glow sticks, and those complete any outfit, no matter what the theme.

NYE started at Sondzelas, a backpackers near House on Fire, where we spent the evening relaxing by the hippo hideaway, where sadly all the hippos were hiding away, and pre-gaming for the night (again a PCV’s budget doesn’t really cover to many drink purchases at an overpriced bar).  We then donned our glow stick bracelets and joined the House on Fire party.  We danced in the New Year, and apparently counted it in for every time zone (we had like 5 count downs).  Finally 2013 arrived with a 30 second count down, and then confetti and a lot of cheering and dancing.  It’s the middle of summer here, and we are going through a heat wave and it was incredibly hot on the dance floor.  I stepped outside for some air just in time to see people send paper lanterns with their new year’s wishes on them into the sky.  A very magical scene until you realize those trying to get their lantern lit were far to drunk to be playing with fire… no longer magical, but amusing.

Eventually, in true African style, the electricity went out as the night neared 2am.  It was off and on after that so we called it a night and hit our tents, happy to meet 2013.

Dancing!  I look a bit scary becasue
I was falling backwards while trying to take the photo.