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. 

Author: Nicole

I've decided to uproot my life and dedicate it to serving in the Peace Corps for 27 months. Yuuuuup, you read that right. God has helped me redefine limitations. A dear friend once told me that, "boxes are for shoes, you never know how great you are until you break out of the box and see what you are really made of!" This blog will chronicle my adventures as a Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer in the Kingdom of Swaziland! You'll read about my highest of highs compounded with the lowest of lows - raw and unfiltered. Please enjoy the view. :) *The contents of this blog are mine and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.*

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