From now on you can call me Melokuhle!
*It has definitely been a while since my last post. Forget about wifi – it’s a thing of the past here. Hehe, in all seriousness please know that I miss you all SO much! I am appreciative of your prayers. God always comes through especially in my moments of loneliness, vulnerability, and overall exhaustion. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!*
Anecdotes, words, and photographs can not describe my experiences thus far! Swaziland is absolutely beautiful and I’m SO delighted I get to call this place home for the next 27 months. I’ve been exposed to new this’ and new that’s every single day and I’m taking it all in! I also have been blessed by beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and I get to gaze into the Milky Way every. single. night! Landscapes, people, and culture all make Swaziland my new home away from home and I couldn’t be more thankful to God for placing me here. 🙂
To catch you all up a bit – I’m half way done wrapping up week 5 (out of 10) of Pre Service Training. PST is an intense period of training designed to equip me with the tools necessary to live independently and effective for the next two years. So far we’ve had safety and security sessions which included: bystander intervention, coping with unwanted attention, risk reduction, sexual assault, etc. We’ve also discussed cross cultural/intercultural behaviors, technical training: where we dug into HIV/AIDS, permagardening, PACA: community mapping, needs assessment, seasonal calendars, and daily activity schedules, possible projects we can work on in our community, adjustment, mental health, and so much more. Woof I feel out of breathe just naming all of that!
PST is Monday-Saturday from 7:30-4:00, with each day being different. Every morning we always start off with SiSwati lessons (the native tongue). I’ve faced many difficulties in learning the language because it’s quite different from anything that I’ve ever heard before. The language includes a dental click (this is where the tip of the tongue touches the front teeth), some sounds are hard to pronounce – for example try saying ng, and also the language is tonal which means I might say one word and it can mean two totally different things by the way that I say it, crazy huh??? BUT I will not feel defeated or discouraged, I’m taking advantage of all my learning opportunities. My language and cultural facilitator (LCF) Nontobeko is one in a million and one of the best LCF’s! She even makes time after a long day or Sunday’s (our day off) to work with myself and the three others in my class to provide that extra support.
Last week all of the trainees had round robin sessions. I should back up a bit and tell you about one of the goals of PST – which is to demonstrate to myself and the PC staff my ability to live and work within Swazi culture as an effective PCV. This includes- showing high levels of competency in many areas one of which is demonstrating progress in speaking SiSwati at the minimum proficiency level of Intermediate Low. The round robins were a series of tests of everything we learned thus far. One of the tests included a ‘mock’ Language Proficiency Exam. To set the scene the language exam is an one-on-one conversation with an instructor on how much we can have a conversation about different topics which included our family, recreation, education, travel, and occupation. The test wouldn’t last any longer than 30 minutes.
On the day of the exam I really didn’t know what to expect. My instructor was really pleasant. Before the exam she asked me if I had any questions for her, if there were any words in siSwati I wanted to learn beforehand, and to ease my nerves a bit she told me a story about her dog.
I don’t want to replay the exam in my head or write about it lets just say I walked out of the room with tears running down my check. I was so frustrated with myself, there were so many times I knew what the instructor was asking but didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say in siSwati. The purpose of the mock exam was to see where we were at. I scored a novice mid. The tester wrote that I show great potential in the language, but I should overcome my anxiety and inject fun into my learning process. I know I definitely need to loosen up and start laughing at myself more. My LCF always challenges me to be more confident and tells me I need to stop second guessing myself and she’s absolutely right! The next few weeks I’m going to work my butt off to get there!
I moved in with my host family the first week I arrived in country. So many insecurities ran through my head before I met my family. None turned out to be true by the way! My family are some of the most generous and giving people I have ever met. Babe (Bah- bae/dad) attended Ohio State in the early 90s to receive his Doctorate degree. He is currently a professor at the University of Swaziland and the Dean of students. Babe is a very busy man, most days I don’t get to see him. On days when I do, he always has a stack of papers or his computer in front of him but he also makes time to chat with me. Right off the bat I noticed that he never complains or grumbles about the amount of work he has to do. I truly admire his attitude and work ethic! Make (Mah-gue/mom) is also a professor but at a different university than babe. I enjoy the times I get to cook with her. Everyday something new about the family is revealed to me and I feel I’m slowly peeling back the layers on every one of my family members. I’m so sad that I have to leave them next month. The family also includes Bosisi and Bhuti. One of my sisters got married two weeks ago. Unfortunately I couldn’t go because of training. My brother attends the university, is studying humanities, and wants to follow in mom and dad’s footsteps to become a teacher. My oldest sisi just had a baby a month ago and my younger one helps the family with household chores and cooking during the day. My siblings have been my gateway into navigating into my new environment. Everyone has been so helpful to me as I integrate into Swaziland.
My family also owns chickens, roosters, and a dog. Don’t get me started on the roosters here – there is no sort of noise ordinance for them here. They can rooster at all hours of the night interrupting my sleep. Grrr. We also have a large garden that is growing lettuce, spinach, cabbage, peppers, and broccoli. My homestead also includes a mango, avocado, banana, lemon tree and grape vine! Fruits and veggies are plentiful here!
As I said before I’ll be with my host family until August then I will move to my permanent site. This Saturday is our site announcements and I’m feeling extremely nervous!!! Those insecurities that I had about the family I’m staying with now are creeping back into my thoughts.
Last week as part of ’round robins’ I got to talk to my technical trainer Amelita about my preferences for my permanent site. I told her about my desires being close to the Swaziland Church of Christ, having electricity, size of my family, 3 possible projects I want to work on, etc.
I plan to keep you guys as updated as possible. If you so wish – the best way to get in touch with me is through an app called: whatsapp. It’s totally free to download and uses very minimal data each time you use it. We can talk, send messages, pictures, voice recordings, etc. Please message me your number once you download.
Until next time ~
Sala kahle (stay well)