Optimistic Outlooks

I am aware that I have a problem ‘romanticizing’ my experiences here… I don’t know… maybe it’s a coping mechanism. Besides, my mom always told me if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it all.

I realized I’ve done a disservice to my readership. I haven’t always painted a picture that is accurate. 

I’m two months short of my two year anniversary in Swaziland and I have more stories than the average person. I have laughed, prayed, cried, and rolled my eyes here more than I can count since entering this world 28 years ago. 😂

My life has fundamentally changed through my experiences with the Peace Corps. It has tested my strength over and over and over again but I will never ever trade it for anything. This has no doubt been one of the HARDEST jobs I’ve had.

After integration I had expectations that projects would start to unfold and community members would be motivated to work. But instead I’ve had to deal with:

  • Miscommunication with community members. 
  • Not finding solid counterparts for projects. (PC requires us to work with a people in the community so that any development that occurs comes directly from community motivation and is therefore sustainable well after I leave).
  • Making friends in the community -but friends slowly transitioning to jobs or schools elsewhere -perpetuating my loneliness. 
  • Being stood up for meetings and/or people not returning messages.

For months these little annoyances manifested itself into a black cloud that left me feeling shattered, complacent, stressed, and depressed. It affected my service in so many ways – I had trouble sleeping, eating, my relationships were tested, and the most problematic I was lying to myself.

During PST (Pre Service Training) the PCMO’s (PC Medical Officers) gave us a peek inside the emotional journey (highs and lows) we’d be taking over the next 27 months of service (Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment: shown below).

As you can see ⬆️ Month 10, I’m dipping off into the “vulnerability” stage.

Another chart (not pictured), “Stages of a Life of a PCV” months 7-10 marks PCVS having issues with slow work progress, cross cultural frustration, and language plateaus. 

And some reactions/behaviors: comparison with others, homesickness, overzealousness, uncertainty about adaptation and abilities, and intolerance with host culture. 

I am living proof that this cycle is accurate. **Disclaimer** This chart is not to imply that every Volunteer will experience difficult and unhappy emotions.

Nevertheless, I was feeling a bit “off” and needed to be stitched back together. As a solution I felt I needed some time away from Swaziland, so my friends and I planned a get-a-way trip to Durban, SA to catch a break. It was an enjoyable vacation – I ate some of my favorite foods, did some retail therapy, saw the movie ‘Get Out’, went to Marine World and Water Park, and so much more! One of my favorite things was spending some time at the Beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. I used the sights and sounds to relax, to lay things to rest, to re-evaluate my purpose, to get free. It was such a gift, the vacation was exactly what I needed.
When I came home I decided that I would open up the letter I wrote to myself months before departing. In the letter I wrote some knowledge that a RPCV shared with me, she said, “Peace Corps Volunteers are here to plant seeds that will eventually grow into a large tree that will provide shade for many coming behind us even though we won’t see the tree grow.” This quote put everything in perspective for me. I was doing it all wrong! I was so focused on ‘project this project that’ that I forgot the most important thing: building and fostering relationships. Why has it taken me so long to realize this? My attitude in the past couple of months has deterred me from seeing this truth. 

I’m slowly learning to let go of the fact that I probably won’t get one single project done. That’s okay. I’m the first volunteer in my community and some people are still trying to understand my role and what I do. I’m gonna focus on my relationships with people and setting my community up for the next volunteer that will take my place. 

“People don’t always remember what you do, but they will remember how you make them feel.”

❤ Thanks for reading. 😊

Top 10 must haves 

Before departing for Swaziland I spent countless months searching the internet for the “perfect” packing list. The lists were completely overwhelming. I didn’t know how I would fit 27 months in 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons.

Here is a top ten list of my favorite things!

*This list is in no particular order.*

1) Bed Canopy


This protects me from all kinds of critters – lizards, spiders, bats, mosquitos, ear wigs, snakes, you name it!

2) Solar shower

It spent 9 months in my luggage going unused. I’m not sure why it took me so long. Game changer! Hands down one of my favorite things!

3) Chacos

These shoes are so comfy and easy to wash!

4) Hydroflask 


The temperature on the inside remains inside.

5) Diva Cup

Ladies you won’t regret bringing one of these!

6) Headlamps/flashlights/rechargable batteries

I use these items alllll the time. I didn’t have electricity for the first two months and the rainy season always knocks my power out. 

7) External harddrive/flashdrives

To store your media!

8) Sweaters/hats/wool socks

How wrong of me to stereotype Africa and believe it doesn’t get cold. It feels like 0 degrees in the winter in Swaziland especially when there’s no heat and insulation.

8) iPhone

This is how I keep in touch with my friends + family back home.

9) Natural hair care products – Shea butter, coconut oil, essential oils, castor oil. 

10) Quick dry towels

Gardening from the ground up. ðŸŒ±

In December, PC Swaziland volunteers along with counterparts from our community, received a three day hands-on training from Peter Jensen, permagarden specialist. Peter helped us create climate-smart, nutrition focused permanent gardens!

What is it permagardening? To put it simply, it’s permanent gardening. It uses local resources to build and sustain the garden.

Patti, aka Permagarden Goddess, aka PC Volunteer, came out to my site to help me! She is so lovely! 


We double dug the berms and garden beds 50 cm to allow for greater water storage and deep roots. We then added amendments such as ash (minerals), brown material – soil, dead leaves, sticks, cow manure (carbon) and green material – (nitrogen) to help improve the soil. By adding these amendments, you add more air, water, and minerals essential for plant growth and deep roots.


I love the permagarden approach. I can’t wait to grow healthy, nutritious, food year round and teach this to members in my community! 

I am currently growing butternut squash, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach. I will keep you updated on the fruits of my labor. 

Akirah and I at Vickerys Seedlings!

Useful vocabulary:

Berms: boundaries around your garden. It also helps slow the water.

Swales: space between large holes (holes are also used to collect water).

Beds: where crops are planted.

Double digging: beds are dug to a depth of 40-50 cm. Amendments are spread and mixed in soil (ash, charcoal, manure, dried eggs sheels, green and brown material).
Plant spacing: use triangular spacing (using sticks are fine) to maximize bed usage.

Mulch: retains moisture for the garden bed.

Compost: is a conditioner and adds air and water to the soil. It also feeds the soil.

Life thru Photos: Part 3

My beautiful friend Nomvula is a beast! She took 1st place for women’s 21k (half marathon) finishing after a hour and 36 minutes! 🏃🏾‍♀️


5k with another Volunteer Akirah! She pushed me to finish without stopping…and guess what? I did! Watch out, I’ll be running a half marathon in 2018.


There are 4 seasons in Swaziland: winter, summer, mango, and avocado season. My sisi picking fresh mangoes from our homestead.

The Youth Development group along with counterparts from our communities came together for a training on project management and grant writing. 


I spent Christmas with my training host family. Baby is getting so big (she was born a week before I arrived in Swaziland).


The rugrats! 😜

Permagarden training with permagarden specialist Peter Jensen and our counterparts. (Pictures from my garden will be up soon)!

The Danger of a Single Story

During PST (Pre Service Training), we watched a very powerful Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi titled, “Danger of a Single Story.” Watch here Ted Talk. One of the main highlights she focused on is that everyones life contains a compilation of stories. If we reduce people to a single story, we risk misunderstanding. Also the ‘single story’ creates sterotypes that are more often than not untrue and incomplete. Immediately after watching this it made me think about some of the responses I got from some folks when I told them I would be living in Swaziland for 2 years.

“Are you sure you want to go there, it’s poor,” “do they have housing,” “how will you get around,” “the HIV rate is high, be careful…” and a host of other things. 

Were these comments a product of media or simple ignorance? The truth of the matter is, we all have biases, lack knowledge and carry misconceptions about people.

Peace Corps third goal is to “promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the Americans.” My hope as you journey with me in the Kingdom of Swaziland is to do just that. 

I’ve said this before but Swaziland has lots of eye opening natural beauty – for goodness sake I get to see the most beautiful birds (my favorite is the black bird with a long tail – I wish I knew the name), I’m surrounded by beautiful landscapes and mountains, the locals are so hospitable and generous, the country is rich in culture, I get to gaze into the beautiful night sky, there are so many cool places to venture off to here, I can go on and on…

Don’t let the single story dictate how you act, treat people, or think. If you believed the single story, you might miss out on a lot of things.

Warning: the stories I write on my blog are single stories. Take them with a grain of salt. I encourage you to make your own and travel if you can.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

6.

It’s been 6 months since I packed up my worldly possessions, said my tearful goodbyes, and moved to the opposite side of the world. As a celebration, I sat down and reflected on some of my experiences and “lessons learned” thus far. I have changed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically in such a short amount of time. 

I continue to be marveled by the life God has given me. Thank you for coming with me on this adventure I hope you are enjoying the view outside of my window. 

1. Patience is a virtue:

Patience is not my greatest strength. Impatience is deeply rooted in me especially coming from a society where no one has time to wait.

Living in Swaziland has taught me the essence of patience. I wait for the storms to pass and power to return, wait at the bus rink for transport, wait for meetings to start, wait for my water to warm so I can bathe, talk slowly so I can be understood…the list goes on and on.

I’ve had to learn a different pace of life here and it’s a lesson my heart has so desperately needed. God is simultaneously humbling me out and nudging me to slow done and make the most of every opportunity. Life seems to expand during these moments and I’ve never felt more at peace. 

2. Bargaining:

I love negotiating with Swazi locals.

It has come in handy so many times – when I bought my furniture, taken transportation, and at shops in town. 

I bought a painting a couple months ago at the Manzini Market, the original price was E150…I sweet talked my way to bring the price down to E90 (equivalent to $7) …Score!

3: I am not my hair:

Going natural has been a gift and a curse (a year and a half ago I decided to ditch the processing agents and start afresh). There are days I want to go back to the dark side and get a relaxer again and then there are days I want to shave it all off.

Many of the women and girls resort to relaxers, braids, and short cuts here in Swaziland. In some schools staff prohibit girls from wearing their natural hair – they deem it “unkempt,” “unmanageable,” and “ugly.” There are many social pressures to straighten our hair. To say this makes me angry and disheartened is an understatement. 

For a very long time I’ve hidden my hair under hats, extensions, and braids. I never felt comfortable wearing my natural hair for reasons listed above and the negative messages I’ve received from society. Swaziland has helped me embrace my natural beauty. I’ve grown more comfortable wearing my hair out in two strand twists, bantu knots, Afros, and I’ve even experimented with head wraps (the heat here is a bit much). Our hair is so versatile! As I continue to learn about my hair and grow more confident, I hope to empower some of the young girls and women to revamp their perspective on “beauty,” self love and teach them they don’t need to alter their appearances.

4: SiSwati:

If I had to do an honest self reflection of my language skills I would say I have improved but I am no where near where I need to be. Learning siSwati has been so challenging but essential to my service. I received some good news a couple weeks back – I met the language benchmark and passed my siSwati oral exam during In-Service Training! 🎉 Please pray for me as I continue to push through subject concords, nouns, interrogatives, etc. 

5: Love yours:

When I first moved to my permanent site I became cynical about the volunteers that lived closer to the city, those whom houses had flush toilets, electricity, and running water. During integration I become cynical about the volunteers that told me about all the great things they were doing in their community, clubs they’ve started, projects they’ve worked on…it was a never ending cycle! 

A couple months back a light bulb went off in my head when I was listening to “Love Yours” by J Cole. 

“Always gon’ be a whip that’s better than the the one you got. // Always gon’ be some clothes that’s fresher than the ones you rock. // But you ain’t never gon’ be happy till you love yours.”

The lyrics in the song really resonated with me and I concluded that: everyone has their own experiences so don’t compare. Take people stories for what they are and make the most of yours.

6: It takes a village:

The generosity of my community and host family continues to amaze me. I have been the recipient of an astonishing level of kindness, encouragement, and hospitality. These wonderful people give me the strength to push through the tough times. I’m so lucky that God has allowed me to experience life here and be surrounded by love. 

World AIDS Day â¤ï¸

We celebrated World AIDS Day a day early in my community. This event would have not been possible without the countless community members and organizations that so graciously helped out – my counterpart Fezile, the High School-provided entertainment- singing, drama, play, poems and tables + chairs, PSI- HIV testing and counseling, the Sandleni inkhundla (local leadership), the MC, the Info Center – providing pamphlets, brochures, bandanas, and candles, the Ministry of Health, Swanepha, ADRA, the women in the Support Group – whom cooked and the number of community members who came (about 200 were in attendance!!)

Vigil – remembering and reflecting on loved ones that passed away from AIDS.

HIV testing and counseling 

Information table


We made a commitment to show our support and solidarity for those infected and affected by HIV.

Food!


My community assessment revealed that HIV-related stigma and discrimination is a huge issue in the community. The numbers indicate that there are still new infections of HIV (Swaziland is most devastated by HIV – 1 in 4 people are infected). Breaking down the walls of shame can lead people to access information, support, prevention, and treatment…the goal for the event was to do just that.

It was exciting to see the community so engaged, inspired, and empowered. My hope is that they walked away with at least one piece of new information. 

*If you don’t know your HIV status I’d encourage you to get tested tomorrow – knowledge is power ✊🏾

Sahle kahle (stay well)!