- Not every bad day is a profound lesson in gratitude. Acknowledge what you are feeling, experience it, and know it will pass.
- I no longer view hand washing my clothes as a ‘chore’ I deeply despise, it’s actually relaxing.
- I started a permagarden and learned I can grow my own food! Unfortunately cows destroyed and ate my garden. Rest In Peace broccoli, spinach, butternut, and tomatoes. 😭
- Impromptu dance parties with my host family are the best. My host mom periodically joins in. And at 80 something she can get down. Ayyyye. 💃🏾
- “I’m coming sisi” can mean anything from ‘I’m still in the bed’ to coming past sun down to sometimes not showing up at all. 🙄
- Some days my greatest accomplishments are chasing after pigs and chickens!
- The crazy days, frustration, and tears are a distant memory. I have a feeling year 2 is going to be amazing!
- Don’t focus on what you can’t control.
- Always carry soap, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer with you. These things aren’t always available.
- Don’t look at the speedometer when you’re in the front seat of a kombi. Swaziland takes speeding to a new level.
- Being black in Swaziland has its advantages and disadvantages (I will post a more thorough blog on this subject soon).
- Getting out of the village from time to time is a must! My favorite spots in Swaziland are: the Gables, Malandela’s, Manzini, window shopping at clicks, Sundowners, and Pizza Vesuvio.
- The views in Swaziland are breathtaking. 🗻
- Roosters, chickens, dogs, cows, birds, and goats will be your personal alarm clock.
- Laugh at yourself sometimes!
- Learning the local language is essential. Greetings go a long way here.
- I love the fresh fruit trees! Mango season is my favorite.
- There is no such thing as waste. If you don’t eat it someone will (especially animals).
- Be open to trying new things.
- Soak in what’s happening around you. Live in the moment.
I don’t live with tigers, lions, elephants, or even zebras but rather these beautiful animals! 🐂🐖🐐🐓🦃🐶🐱
Each animal serves a purpose here in Swaziland.
- Dogs: guards and protects home and homeowners.
- Cats: chases the rodents away. (Both dogs and cats are not allowed inside the home).
- Chicken, Pigs, and Goats: Meat! 🍴
- Cows: = $$$, the more cows you have, the wealthier you are perceived to be. Cows are also used if a man wants to marry. He must pay lobola (bride price in cows) to the brides family. Also dairy and meat 🍴
Passing out Mother Bears 🐻 to the preschoolers!
Mother Bear is a nonprofit organization that sends hand-knit and crochet bears to children in African countries affected by HIV/AIDS. Check out their website at motherbearproject.org
Hanging out with the disciples in Johannesburg, South Africa!
It’s harvesting season. 🌽
🎤 “This club sing / this club sings / this club sings /
Waking into the light / oooooooh / waking into the light / waking into the light / ooooooh / waking into the light /
Its easy / it soooooooo oooooh oooooh ohhhh easyyyy yeah yeah yeah / its easy / its sooooo oooh ooh ohhh easy yeah yeah yeah…” 🎼
This past week, PCV’s, GLOW Counselors, and 54 girls ages 13-19 came together for GLOW Camp!
What is GLOW?
Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) is an international Peace Corps initiative that came to Swaziland in 2011. GLOW aims to create a safe environment where young girls can be empowered in accessing health facilities, enforcing the right to education, and making informed decisions politically, socially, and economically.
GLOW clubs are scattered all throughout the 4 regions of Swaziland. It utilizes a life skills curriculum that includes topics about sexual and reproductive health, career planning, decision-making skills, and self-esteem building. Clubs are usually held after school in a safe environment for girls to engage in sometimes uncomfortable but necessary topics.
The week of camp was dedicated to girls stepping out of their comfort zones!
There were sessions about personal hygiene, mental health, menstruation, STIs, conflict resolution, condom demonstrations, nutrition, healthy relationships, and so much more. The sessions were designed to foster a sense of unity and empowerment.
We also had guest speakers from SWAGAA (The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse) and Women in Law.
When each girl was seen doing something positive, encouraging, actively participating in sessions, being helpful, and/or brave they were crowned with a ‘tiara’ for being exemplary! 👸🏾
We also held movie night and we watched ‘Hidden Figures’ a movie about the first African-American women mathematicians who played a vital role in the NASA. The girls also participated in art therapy, theatre, aerobics, making s’mores by the camp fire, a career fair, and they showcased their talent in a talent show!
The camp was incredible! Empowering these girls and seeing them transform was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. GLOW Camp has probably been one of the most impactful things I’ve been a part of in my service.
I’ve had trouble starting a GLOW club in my own community but I’m hopeful it will start during term 2. Stay tuned!
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 one 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 sounds and sights to relax, to lay things to rest, to re-evaluate my purpose, and 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. 😊
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
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!
These shoes are so comfy and easy to wash!
5) Diva Cup
Ladies you won’t regret bringing one of these!
6) Headlamps/flashlights/rechargable batteries/solar lights
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.
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
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 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!
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.