Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December in the Swaz

Here's what my community looks like 4 days before Christmas, how about yours? ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays, Y'all!

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas slash I hope you had a good Hanukkah and have a Happy New Year! I don’t think I’ll get another post up before Christmas and then we’re leaving for Mozambique a few days later so Seasons Greetings to you all now. :)

I’m writing this as I’m listening to Christmas music in shorts and a tank top. It’s weird. Sorry to those of you who got caught in Snowpocalypse 2010 in Minneapolis. Not that I’d rather be there in the snow, it just does not feel like December much less Christmastime when its so darn hot out. Also, I leave and you all break the Metrodome? I mean I didn’t like that place really either but was that really necessary? Ha. I still think it was a ploy by the Vikings to get a new stadium. ; )

Not a lot is going on here at the moment. Since IST I’ve basically been hanging out and doing diddley squat. Just reading, washing, reading, and running. Most government offices, and just about everyone else, close up shop for pretty much the whole month of December so there is nothing going on. Plus the Incwala ceremony is going on now so really nothing happens during that. I had one meeting with my counterpart and we put up some tentative plans to start a Health Project after I get back from Mozambique. Hopefully things will start going again around then. The Health Project I want to do is a pretty big project, especially for my first one, but some other volunteers did it in the community about a half hour north of mine and it was a huge success and hopefully I can get some of their curriculum and surveys so I won’t be reinventing the wheel on this project. The basic idea of it is to educate one person from each homestead on basic health topics, specifically HIV/AIDS and TB, with the idea that the information will diffuse to everyone else in the homestead, thereby educating the whole community. I’m really excited about it, and pretty nervous even though we haven’t even started yet, and my counterpart seems excited about it, so hopefully the community will be too! I’ve also got some ideas about building playgrounds and maybe gardens at the NCPs (neighborhood care points that educate and feed the OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) in the communities) around May. There’s an NGO that is looking into building playgrounds at the community next to mine so I’m hoping I can sway them into doing it here. We’ll see. I’ve got some ideas of things to do in this next year and a half, but I think the toughest part will be just getting started.

Well I think that’s about all I have for now. Like I said, not a lot is going on these days so there’s not a lot fun to report. Except that I’m going to the beach in a week and a half… Enjoy the snow! ; ) Merry Christmas everyone and have a Happy New Year! Can you believe its 2011 already?! It seems like just yesterday I was ringing in 2010 with the wolf pack in my apartment at the U, having no idea that in six months I would be moving to Swaziland. My how things change.

Love you all and Happy Holidays!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hut Pics!

Hey everyone!

Finally got some pics up of the INSIDE of my hut, all furnished and painted and CLEAN! ;) One of these days i'm going to get to the curtain situation, but the nice shiny piece of green fabric works well for now... I have two years to get to it.

I think that's all I have for now. Happy December, Happy belated birthdy to Lindley, Happy almost birthday to Deb Montilino and Susan, and keep looking for those sunflowers... they're everywhere, even two years later. :)

Good Luck at Porter to all my skaters!

Miss ya, Love ya!

Love Megan

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hey everyone! Sorry i haven't updated in a while, things were pretty crazy around IST and Thanksgiving. But i hope everyone had a great turkey day and ate lots of lefse for me! We had a great time at our Thanksgiving at the ambassador's... Lounging by the pool on the hot day. Actually, it was cloudy but i wanted you to be jealous. Ha. Happy December by the way as well. It is so hot here so i'm having a hard time believing my phone when it tells me its december. Today is also World AIDS Day. There is a huge, i don't want to call it a celebration... Event going on in the hhohho region today, a bit too far for me to get up to unfortunately. But i think just spending time in my community in the rural part of a country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world is a fine enough way to spend this day. I'm spending this week laying low, getting back into the groove of the slower life after a fast paced week with americans at IST then next week i think i'll try to get together with my counterpart and see what we can come up with in terms of projects. I've got a few ideas and i'll keep you all updated on them as they come to fruition. Well, i hope you are all enjoying winter. I for one am sweating. ;) i've spent just about six months here by the way, can you believe it?! Don't look now but i'll be home soon! Ha. Love you all! Megan

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's see if this works?

I'm writing this in an email on my phone and sending it to blogger. Yay technology! This is my hut. I hope this isn't too expensive. Ha. :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010



I have had a bunch of things that I have wanted to mention in my blog, but nothing substantial to write about them, so I have decided to write a list of a bunch of random things you may or may not want to know about my life here! Ha.

1. I just finished my second pack of malaria pills, meaning I’ve been here for 20 weeks! That’s 5 months! That’s a lot!
2. It rains a lot here, where I am. Like a lot. And it doesn’t just rain; it storms every time – lightening, thunder, downpour, the whole nine yards. It’s actually perfect because it starts storming around 5 or 6 pm and continues all night. Then it’s usually a little cloudy in the morning, perfect for running! Then clears up mid-morning before the thunder and storm clouds roll in again in the evening. It’s a nice thing to fall asleep to…
3. The only problem with the rain is that it knocks out the power, and usually until mid morning the next day. But now that I have a new phone that holds a charge, it’s not as big of a hassle. Bring on the rain!
4. It does not rain everywhere else in Swaziland, apparently. Its also significantly cooler here and there are less snakes here. I think I scored, despite the transport situation, or lack thereof.
5. Its funny how quickly you can get used to being called something else. For 21 years I’ve been Megan and the other day I was walking to the school and I swear a car rolled by and said “Sawubona Megan!” and I was so confused. Those 21 years are wiped away by 5 months of Sethabile now. Don’t worry Mom, I’m sure it will come back the minute I get home. ; ) (By the way its pronounced Set-ta-be-lay incase you were wondering) But now its turning into Thabile by my family, Setta by the community, and Thabilini and Thabi-Thabi by the little kids on my homestead. All of which I respond to if yelled, which happens often. Ha. I have also started responding to “auntie” which obviously I’ve never been called before, but now am as the little kids are technically my nieces and nephews.
6. The goats have stopped running into my hut, which is definitely a good thing. I think they have just grown and can’t fit through the burglar bars anymore. The chickens on the other hand, continue to hop right on through. I need one of those half door things… or a screen. Ha.
7. I have now partaken in the killing of various chickens and a cow… sorry ali…, which was cut apart with a machete right in front of my hut. Not a pleasant sound to hear for a few hours. I also watched a goat be skinned. All in the name of integration, right?
8. Despite being done with college and moving to Africa, I am currently working on a 15-20 page report. (Right?!) It is due next week at IST and is entirely about what I have learned about my community during my integration period. After this we have to write reports three times a year about what we’ve been up to. We also have to write articles every once in a while for our newsletter all the volunteers get, the Sojo.
9. Well, like I just mentioned, IST is next week! That means Integration is almost over and the real work can begin. I can’t decide if I’ll be more or less busy after it ends. Other volunteers make it seem like you get more busy after, but I feel like I had specific things to do during integration, maybe not everyday, but I had things to do, surveys to give, people to talk to. Now, we’ll see!
10. We’re going to the Ambassador’s house for Thanksgiving. Kinda cool, huh? And I hear he has a pool! Funny how Thanksgiving always means swimsuits, hot tub at Kimmy’s in Minnesota, cool pool at the Ambassador’s in Africa.
11. We’re going to Mozambique in a few months, have I mentioned that? Ha. I’m very excited. We’ve decided to go over New Year’s as our vacation days are limited and we had to pick Christmas or New Year’s. I’m very, very, very excited.
12. I have still gotten kute packages. Ha. So as much as I appreciate the thought, if you wanna save your $50 to ship it with the chance of it maybe getting here in 6 months, as the one sent in July may or may not do, I don’t mind. (If you want to give me the money though… talk to my G-Ma. She has access to my bank account. If you do, let me know though, send me a letter, so I can thank you sincerely as I’m using it to travel around Southern Africa. ; ) I hope that doesn’t sounds bad, but the idea did come up so I wanted you to know I would appreciate it just as much as a physical package. I steal (I mean share?) the contents of Eric’s packages anyway so I’m not entirely package deprived. Ha.)
13. Happy End of Daylight Savings Time. I’m now 8 hours ahead of you all in the Central Time Zone. : )
14. After my comment about killing animals, Ali will be happy to know I’ve become quite the vegan here, if only because meat is a hassle. My family has a refrigerator that I could use, but its just easier, and cheaper, not to. So beans have worked their way into everything as well as this Soya Mince stuff that I really like. And as with the meat, the lack of refrigeration makes dairy a struggle as well (I’m on calcium supplements before someone freaks about that ha) But the vegan-ness goes out the window when I go into town where there are burgers and pizza to be had. : )
15. Not only am I now an expert fat cake baker, I am an expert cabbage chopper as well. I have two beetroots now that I’ll be trying my luck with soon. No I don’t particularly like beets but they were a gift and I don’t turn down free food.
16. I have become the world’s biggest klutz here. I’m blaming it, and I think rightly so, on the gravel roads that I frankly did not frequent in the suburbs of Minneapolis. In the 5 months I’ve been here I don’t think I’ve been band-aid free for more than a few days at a time.
17. You know that song we sing in church, “We are marching in the light of God…” and the other African language in that song… “Siyahamba… something something” ha. Anyway, that’s the language we speak here. It rocked my world when I put that together.
18. Here’s a little snapshot of my community if you’re interested: 28% of the homesteads have electricity, 15% have a car, 89% have a latrine, 76% have a radio, 46% have a vegetable garden, 26% have their own water tap, and 75% have someone on the homestead who have gone for an HIV test! Also, about a third of the children are orphans, but more than half of all the children are vulnerable.
19. If you want a book to read about life here, the HIV/AIDS problem and how its affecting life here, I suggest you read The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis. We had to read it for IST. It’s about a 5th grade reading level and I read it in 3 hours, but I was struck by how true everything was… the scenery, the descriptions of towns and life, and the story. It takes place in Malawi, but that’s not that far from here, and still, it’s all very true here as well.

Well I think that’s enough randomness and procrastinating. This report won’t write itself! Hope everything is well at home! Miss ya, love ya and all that jazz!

Love, Megan

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PST Pics

Hey all!

I finally got to upload some pictures! it was a bit of a hassle and a little slow but here they are! these are some pictures that other volunteers took of PST. Hope you're doing well!

Love, Megan

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

First, Happy Halloween everyone! I hope everyone had a day full of candy and all kinds of spookiness! Halloween is not celebrated here, and some, but not most, Swazis have a faint idea of it. So after a few failed attempts at explaining Halloween (you go around to the neighbors and they just give you emasweets?? my favorite question i heard that was asked to another volunteer about it was "why don't you do that everyday?" ha.), I just explained it was an American holiday that all the volunteers were getting together to celebrate. And we did, some in costume, some not, but it was very very fun none the less. As it always is, getting a break from site for a night to see people I hadn't seen since August...

So anyway my attempts to upload pictures again this weekend failed. I think I need to give up on the wireless internet at the office, it just does not work to upload pictures. i think i'll have to make a special trip into town to upload pictures at the internet cafe that steals its internet connection from South Africa (so the rumor goes...), so it's very very high speed.

In the mean time, I have had some correspondence with a class in Sleepy Eye, MN the Peace Corps set me up with to be my "Pen Pals" while I'm here. Their teacher asked a great question about Swazi traditions and holidays and religions and such, and I thought I would pass this information on to my friends and fam at home. So you can know a little more about my fair country. : )

Swaziland is full of so many traditions that are so different than those of America and though they are now trying to find a balance between their traditions and western influence, traditional Swazi culture is still going strong, especially in the rural areas.
The Swazis live on homesteads, a plot of land with many houses on it. The typical Swazi homestead today consists of a main house/hut, usually Gogo’s (grandmother) house, a hut where cooking takes place on the fire, and then other houses that the children build on the homestead as they get older. The children do not build their own homesteads until their oldest child is at least 12 years old, but instead build homes on their parents’ homesteads. Then there is generally a chicken coop, a place for the goats and/or pigs, and a kraal for the cows (basically a place for the cows to be made of sticks, but as cows are a symbol of the family’s wealth, the kraal is also a place for special meetings and such in Swazi culture). Each Swazi homestead is like a mini farm like we are used to in Minnesota, with the animals and a small field that the family grows their maize for the year. The seasons here are opposite those in America, so the families have been busy plowing and planting their maize fields these last few months (all with cows, no tractors!).
The main food here is maize. As they will proudly tell you, it is their “staple food.” They make pap or lipalishi with it, and eat it at every meal. It is ground maize, made into something like stiff mashed potatoes. They eat pap with beans, or chicken, and cabbage. Swazis generally eat with just their hands as well, actually, just their right hand as the left hand is considered very rude to use, in shaking hands, eating, or giving and receiving. This is why they eat pap to use its stiffness to help in eating beans with their hand. There are many avocado, mango, banana and papaya trees here as well that families generally have on their homesteads to grow their own. Families here are mainly self sufficient, growing everything they eat from the maize in the fields, to the cabbage, tomato, and onions in the garden, to the chicken/goat/cow meat that they eat. It used to be that the men ate in a seperate and the women ate in the kitchen, and though this is still seen to some degree, families generally eat together in the kitchen or outside.
The activities that are done in their free time vary with gender and age. The men are generally gone working in town or South Africa and come home for one weekend at the end of the month. The women spend their days cooking, cleaning and sweeping the homestead, and washing the whole family’s clothes by hand. After school, boys and girls do very different things. The boys generally tend to the cattle, taking them to the mountains to graze before school and herding them to bring them home in the evening. Right after school though they have a little time to play soccer with their friends, or if their family has electricity, to watch TV or listen to the radio. Older girls (junior high and high school) cook dinner for the whole family, fetch water and care for their younger siblings. The girls play games like jump rope with each other while waiting in line to fetch water and may watch TV or listen to the radio at the end of the day if they have a TV or radio. Fourth percent of the community I live in has electricity and seventy-five percent have a radio.
Christianity is the main religion in Swaziland. One of the early kings had a dream that white people came to the country and offered him the choice between a scroll or book (representing the Bible) or a round piece of metal (or money). He advised his people to accept the book and try to avoid the money and to not harm the white people. Many years later, in 1844, King Mswati II invited missionaries from South Africa into Swaziland and Christianity has remained the top religion since, though there are some who still practice African Traditional Religion, most of the country is devoutly Christian. Most Swazis generally attend church on Sundays and one of the first questions they will ask you upon meeting you is if you have been saved, or if you go to church. Church is a very big part of Swazi culture.
Swaziland celebrates the main Christian Holidays (Easter Friday and Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) as well as some that are strictly Swazi. The most notable of these is the Umhlanga or Reed Dance. This annual ceremony takes place usually at the end of August, beginning of September, depending on the moon. The young, unmarried girls of Swaziland gather together to honor the Queen Mother and the monarchy, to renovate the enclosures of the Royal residence. During the week, the girls cut reeds to bring to the Queen, walking great distances across the country to collect them. The week ends with a dance before the royal household where the girls dress in traditional Swazi attire of short beaded skirts with fringe and buttons, anklets, bracelets, necklaces and sashes. Princesses wear red feathers in their hair and lead the song and dance. The ceremony promotes unity within the country. The boys have their own ceremony called Incwala or First Fruit Ceremony, taking place in late December or early January, again depending on the moon. This ceremony unites Swaziland in entering the New Year and giving thanksgiving for blessings and life. It begins when two groups travel to fetch water from the Indian Ocean and from the various rivers of Swaziland. The collecting of this water is a tribute to the origins of the Nation and is used by the King. The men walk to these places to fetch water wearing the traditional men’s attire of Swaziland including a skirt of fabric and an animal, usually monkey or goat, skin tied around their waist. As the men collect the water, young, unmarried men gather as the girls did, this time to cut sacred shrubs used to build a sacred enclosure where the first fruits of the season will be consumed by the King. On the third day of the ceremony, the young men kill a bull using no weapons, only their bare hands, as a sign of solidarity and bravery. On the fourth day and last, the King joins all the men, young and old in traditional dance, wearing traditional attire. Finally, there is the day that Swaziland got its Independence, September 6, 1968, from Britain. And the current King’s birthday, April 19.

Well I think that's about it for now... Happy November tomorrow. Can you believe it's November already? Don't forget to vote on Tuesday! I already did! ; ) Happy Halloween!

Miss and love you much!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cooking Lessons and Such...


First, sorry I didn’t get pictures of the hut up last Friday like originally anticipated. The internet at the Office worked, unfortunately my camera did not. I’m headed in there this Friday so hopefully all will go well and pictures will be up soon!

Things have been moving along here, only a few more weeks left of Integration. It’s crazy to think we’ve been at site for two months already and in the Swaz for four. In-Service Training is coming up in just three weeks, we’ll be getting some more training, hanging out with everyone and eating what seems like will be a very American Thanksgiving dinner at the Country Director’s house on Thanksgiving! Then just a few weeks left until the eagerly anticipated Christmas and New Year’s on the beach in Mozambique! Then it’s 2011 and where has time gone?? It’s all very exciting!

Things at site are going well, people are starting to know I’m here which is good, but as I am the only volunteer around this area (for quite a ways actually), it seems like everyone wants me to come help them. I would love to help everyone, but my community comes first! I’ve been to the school down the road a few times. The head teacher has worked with many Peace Corps volunteers before at various communities’ schools. He was the deputy head teacher when the volunteer who lived in my community (in my hut actually) was here. Which is good in that he knows what about the Peace Corps, but not good in that he wants a kitchen for his school just like the last volunteer built here. So, that’s awesome. But everyone wants a library, which is more do-able so hopefully I can get on that either this year or next.

Well apparently my cooking skills have not approved to the Swazi standards because as I write this, I am in the midst of a dry beans cooking lesson from my sisi. Okay, so the ones I made last time were not quite as done as I hoped, but they were definitely still edible! Delicious in fact. But they got me a ticket on the “we’re watching everything you cook now” bus and frankly it’s not my favorite ride. But I know they mean well and it’s always good to have some pointers. :) On the other hand, my fat cake making skills are superb! I’m not sure I have written about my fat cake making endeavors so let me explain. My sisis have started making fat cakes to sell around the community. Awesome for me because I get fresh fat cakes everyday and not awesome at the same time, but that’s why I’m training for a half marathon, right? Anyway, they have started letting me help make them, a dream come true for the fat cake lover like me! Let’s just say the first ones I made were laughable. Seriously, they didn’t stop laughing. They were all lumpy (which, hey I like the lumps!) but they were baked well (I thought) and tasted good, so really who cares? And I was allowed nowhere near the ones that were actually being sold, just the ones we would be eating for tea. But now my fat cakes have become nice and smooth, and starting last week the fat cakes I baked were being sold around the community! Yay! Now, everyday around 3 or 4 o’clock I pop on into the main house and bake some fat cakes with my sisis! And for all my work, I get two free… if I buy two. Yup, four fat cakes a day, good thing I run everyday, huh?

Otherwise, not a whole lot is going on. Just the same old, surveys of the homesteads, giving HIV/AIDS surveys at the schools, etc. I have to write a report by the end of November, a 10-15 page report describing everything my community (so now the real work begins, huh?). The rainy season has begun, bringing thunderstorms in full force! Seriously, the thunderstorms here are crazy, and I love it. Unfortunately, the electricity is not as big of a fan of the rainstorms as I am, so with the storms comes kute gas, as we say. It’s not so bad having the candle light dinners, and my stove is gas so that’s not a problem, its only a problem when my phone is dying and the electricity still hasn’t come on by midday the next day and my solar charger is dead because it has been cloudy and rainy the last week… But its rural Africa so what can you do?

Okay, time to finish up dinner. Rice and beans, if my sisis ever actually let me eat it… ; ) Hope all is well at home! Miss ya, love ya, and all that jazz.

Love, Megan

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy October!

Hello, Hello!

Well, I’m halfway through the Integration period. Time is just moving along isn’t it! It’s hard to believe its already October… October begins the rainy season here, and once the rain starts, its time to start plowing and planting the maize fields. We had our first thunderstorm last night, and boy was it a big one. Not so much a lot of rain, though it was more than I’ve seen while on this continent, but LOUD thunder. I loved it! The only problem with rain is that it and electricity seem to not be able to exist together at all. So after a few false alarms of the electricity going off and then back on again before I could light a candle, the electricity finally cut out at 7pm last night for good. As in at 6:30 this morning it’s still not back on. So I took that opportunity to go to bed, yup 7pm-a twins game wouldn’t have even started yet… ha ha. So lets all cross our fingers that it comes back soon.
Not too much new is going on here. I went to the Baylor Clinic in town on Tuesday with a few other volunteers and we helped play games with the kids while they waited to be tested. It was fun, but a semi-disaster in that being able to communicate in the same language is kind of key in explaining games and getting the kids into the games. But it was fun, then we went to lunch for Eric’s birthday. So it was a good day, getting away from site, but still “working,” seeing other volunteers and such.
This passed weekend I painted my hut. It was nice to have a project and to see it all finished. And let me tell you, painting a wall that is entirely curved, not so easy. But its finished and looks pretty good! I’ll take some pictures soon and upload them next time I go into town, probably next weekend when I go into town for Teen Club (a fun youth support group for HIV+ kids put on by the clinic) and to the office. Cross fingers the package sent in July has FINALLY arrived… We’ll see.
Speaking of packages, my mom has told me that people are wondering what kinds of things to send in a package. First of all, whatever you send will probably be amazing and I’ll love it. But I’ve compiled a list of a few things I can think of to get ya going: candy/gum/chocolate (Eric’s mom sent M&Ms which made it so don’t be afraid to send chocolate… I’ll probably still eat it even if its melted… ha. Otherwise, sour patch kids, etc are good too. Honestly anything (except licorice…) ), hand sanitizer, books and movies, instant coffee and powder drink mixes (water gets pretty old, pretty fast), granola or cliff bars, magazines, pictures (of you, of me, of you and me, of anything really), spices or cinnamon or anything to make things less bland. Like I said though, anything you send I will absolutely love. But a good thing to keep in mind is that I don’t really have a good trash disposal system here, everything goes out to the pit to be burned (yeah not really good) so obviously wrappers and things are unavoidable, but just something to keep in mind. ; )
Well I think that’s about it for now, nothing else is really new. Hope all is well at home. I’ll see you all in 98 weeks! ; )

Love, Megan

PS: Congrats to Chris and Allie on their engagement! Why all my cousins picked these two years I’m gone to get married I’ll never know…

Happy October!

Hello, Hello!

Well, I’m halfway through the Integration period. Time is just moving along isn’t it! It’s hard to believe its already October… October begins the rainy season here, and once the rain starts, its time to start plowing and planting the maize fields. We had our first thunderstorm last night, and boy was it a big one. Not so much a lot of rain, though it was more than I’ve seen while on this continent, but LOUD thunder. I loved it! The only problem with rain is that it and electricity seem to not be able to exist together at all. So after a few false alarms of the electricity going off and then back on again before I could light a candle, the electricity finally cut out at 7pm last night for good. As in at 6:30 this morning it’s still not back on. So I took that opportunity to go to bed, yup 7pm-a twins game wouldn’t have even started yet… ha ha. So lets all cross our fingers that it comes back soon.
Not too much new is going on here. I went to the Baylor Clinic in town on Tuesday with a few other volunteers and we helped play games with the kids while they waited to be tested. It was fun, but a semi-disaster in that being able to communicate in the same language is kind of key in explaining games and getting the kids into the games. But it was fun, then we went to lunch for Eric’s birthday. So it was a good day, getting away from site, but still “working,” seeing other volunteers and such.
This passed weekend I painted my hut. It was nice to have a project and to see it all finished. And let me tell you, painting a wall that is entirely curved, not so easy. But its finished and looks pretty good! I’ll take some pictures soon and upload them next time I go into town, probably next weekend when I go into town for Teen Club (a fun youth support group for HIV+ kids put on by the clinic) and to the office. Cross fingers the package sent in July has FINALLY arrived… We’ll see.
Speaking of packages, my mom has told me that people are wondering what kinds of things to send in a package. First of all, whatever you send will probably be amazing and I’ll love it. But I’ve compiled a list of a few things I can think of to get ya going: candy/gum/chocolate (Eric’s mom sent M&Ms which made it so don’t be afraid to send chocolate… I’ll probably still eat it even if its melted… ha. Otherwise, sour patch kids, etc are good too. Honestly anything (except licorice…) ), hand sanitizer, books and movies, instant coffee and powder drink mixes (water gets pretty old, pretty fast), granola or cliff bars, magazines, pictures (of you, of me, of you and me, of anything really), spices or cinnamon or anything to make things less bland. Like I said though, anything you send I will absolutely love. But a good thing to keep in mind is that I don’t really have a good trash disposal system here, everything goes out to the pit to be burned (yeah not really good) so obviously wrappers and things are unavoidable, but just something to keep in mind. ; )
Well I think that’s about it for now, nothing else is really new. Hope all is well at home. I’ll see you all in 98 weeks! ; )

Love, Megan

PS: Congrats to Chris and Allie on their engagement! Why all my cousins picked these two years I’m gone to get married I’ll never know…

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just a Quick Update from Manzini

Hello All!

I am in Manzini right now for my first trip here and away from my site for the night (yup! using my one night away a month tonight! very exciting) and I just wanted to write and say hey. Things are going very well here and life and my day to day activities are feeling very normal.

My hut is coming together very well. Eric and I built a fabulous table and bookshelf last weekend and I bought another table for my "kitchen" area. So all my things are officially off the floor and in their proper places! I have made great strides in fixing my wall which is falling apart as well. So once I get some more spackle to fix it, I can start to paint! Hopefully I'll get some pictures of it all up soon!

That's about all for now, not a whole lot new is going on here. Just surveying and meeting new people. Trying to anyway. :) Hope everything is going well at home. Go Twins, huh?

Love you all,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Um, I just ate a cow's head. : /

Hello, Hello!

I was going to wait until I got into town tomorrow to write an update, but the events of this afternoon were just too good to not share right away so here it is.

It has been a busy (yes I said busy!) week for me in the community this week! Like I said, Sunday was church, Monday was a few meetings and a trip to play with some kids at the NCP. Then Tuesday I visited the High School, Primary School and Pre-School in my community. I met the deputy headmaster and the career counselor at the High School. They were semi-excited to see me, and thought maybe I could pick up the Health Club that has fallen by the wayside. They also mentioned that an HIV anti-stigma workshop would benefit not just the students, but the teachers as well. Some ideas. Then I visited the headmaster at the Primary School who had requested I come at church on Sunday. She was SO thrilled I was there and is eager to give me a life skills class next year. : ) The Pre-School was a bit awkward because the kids just stared at me, wide eyed and open mouthed, and the teacher basically gave me a list of things that needed fixing or to be built for the school... And each school said they needed a library. Yeah we'll see. Each also mentioned the previous Peace Corps Volunteers that have been in this community and the "legacy" that they left behind. One build the Primary School kitchen, and the other renovated the Pre-School. Yeah so that's not a lot to live up to at all. Fabulous. Then Wednesday, literally the hottest day so far, we went out and did some homestead surveys up the mountain. We did about six and then called it a day, it was so blasted hot. I was not really looking forward to today for a few reasons, but it turned out okay. First I was going to the school committee meeting at 9, alone because at 10 was this thing at the kaGogo Center where the old men talk to the young boys about growing up and they eat a cow's head and my counterpart needed to set up for it, but wanted me to come after. So at 8:50 I got to the school for the 9 o'clock meeting. Of course the meeting didn't start until 11, but they let me go right after they introduced me. Then I headed over to the kaGogo Center, still not sure why I needed to go to this meeting for old men and young boys, but I went. And of course by 12 it still hadn't started yet. But it was actually interesting and they had a speaker from an NGO come and talk about HIV to both men and women for 2 hours, then everyone ate the cow's head. Including me. Yup. I was debating trying it, knowing its technically rude to not eat it, but I figured this is one of those things the color of my skin could get me out of. But they sprung it on my in the middle of a meeting of the inner council so I figured it would be doubley rude to refuse. Whatever part it was, or two parts actually, it looked like a sea urchin. I ate about half of it and then couldn't do it anymore. I was actually feeling pretty proud of myself, and focusing on not throwing up, when everyone noticed I stopped eating it and gave me crap for not even trying it. But they took it from me anyway and someone else finished it. THEN, they brought out the actual head in pieces. Skin and all. That I couldn't handle and I thought if they made me try that I would probably cry. But I think they saw my face and probably the shade of green I turned, so they laughed at me for a while but didn't make me eat it. THANK GOD. Then I rushed home and ate about 12 pieces of bread. BUT I survived and can now say I ate part of a cow's head, no matter what anyone else says...

Tomorrow I'm headed into town to meet up with Eric, Rob and Jessica, and hopefully get some furniture to get all my crap off my floor. Once I get it all set up, I'll try to get some pictures up for everyone to see! : )

Anyway, hope everyone is doing well! Miss you and love you!


Monday, September 13, 2010

It's Africa Hot!

Hello all!

Hope all is well with everyone and everyone is settling back into the groove of school and fall and everything that comes with it.
School has started here again and so I am starting to learn what “the groove” will be here. At least for the next few months. Most days, I do just about nothing, but a few days a week I sprinkle in a trip to the clinic or the schools or some homestead surveys. But most days consist of a morning run and lots of reading. I stocked up on some books last Friday when I went into the office, so at least I have some new material. I also got a nice handful of letters when I went into the office (still no package though : / ) and I hope to send out a few when I go into town this Friday.
I uploaded some pictures to Facebook when I was in the office, I wanted to put a few on here, but the Internet was not being very helpful so they are just on Facebook if you want to check them out. No, the first picture is not a kumbi (DAD) and of course I had to take a picture with the hippos (MOM). : )
The only other new thing that has happened is that last Sunday, yesterday I guess, I went to my first Swazi church service. I have been avoiding these like the plague because, A: These services are EXTREMELY long, 3-4 hours, and when we had the Gospel Service at Oak Knoll that went an hour and a half and I was complaining, I didn’t think I could handle a 4 hour church service, B: I don’t want people to think that I will be there every week and C: It’s all in a language I frankly do not understand. But after 3 months of avoiding it, I gave in, only after I learned it would only be 2 hours. Two hours I figured I could handle. And I did, it wasn’t too bad. There was a lot of singing, very beautiful and, well, loud. They had microphones and I don’t think they were necessary. I was actually pretty impressed with the technology the church had, a very nice computer, six microphones and a nice soundboard and a new looking drum set and keyboard. It was all of course in siSwati so though it was only two hours, I did find it hard to pay attention and was thinking about all sorts of different things. During the Pastor’s sermon I tried to imagine Pastor Paul, or Pastor Michele or even Pastor Floe giving a sermon like he was. But after the yelling, the jumping, and the kicking the air, I almost started laughing and had to stop envisioning any of the three of them in this situation. But unlike most other things I’ve seen here, church started and ended on time and was exactly 2 hours like I was praying it would be. Everyone seemed to be happy to see me there and I received more hugs that I think I’ve gotten since my going away party. Ha ha. But the worst part of it all was the ½ hour walk home in the midday African sun. I thought I was going to pass out on the side of the road, it was AFRICA HOT. Finally. After last week reminded me of Minnesota in November while absolutely FREEZING doing a marathon 18 homestead surveys, I was getting a bit confused as to the weather situation here. But summer seems to be coming, as weird as that is to say, but on the other side of the world, in the other hemisphere, summer is coming. And its gonna be a hot one.
I think that’s all for now. I want to save some battery life for some episodes of How I Met Your Mother tonight. Hope all is well with everyone. Miss you and love you!

Love, Megan

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lazy Sundays...


Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday and the long weekend! Make sure to have an extra hamburger at your Labor Day BBQ (or braai as they are called here) for me! : )

Not a whole lot is going on here for the next few days. I think I've figured out why Swazi church services are so long (3-4 hours at least). Because what else do you do on a Sunday if there's no football or baseball game to watch? ; ) Then tomorrow is another holiday, Swaziland's Independence Day! Then, just like in America, schools start again this week. Unlike in America where they've had a 3 month break, the Swazi school children have only had a 3 week break. Think about that when you say summer is too short!

My counterpart stopped by yesterday after another week of workshops. She says she's back for good now, and here's hoping! I am hoping to start the community assessment surveys this week and it turns out she needs to count the children for some funding from some NGO too. So hopefully we'll start that soon, as well as the clinic and school surveys. It'll be good to get started with these things and start working on my report!

I had a lovely day in town yesterday, hanging with Jessica, eating KFC and ice cream. We also found a great internet cafe, that looked not so great, but actually had the fastest internet I've seen in Swaziland. It was as fast as home, I dare say! It was so nice to check Facebook on real Facebook, check my email and tweet! It'll also be good when I want to upload some pictures, which I hope to do soon! I got a lot of shopping done too, which is good. What isn't good is that I filled my backpack plus 3 other bags full of groceries and such. Then had to fight (literally pushing and shoving) to get on a kumbi (once it finally came) to get home. Needless to say my things did not fit in my lap and were spilling over onto my neighbors' laps. I think I'm going to need to learn to limit myself to just filling my backpack on these trips to town. As I was struggling with holding my bags on my lap for the hour long ride home in the back of a 15 passenger van, being jostled around going way too fast on the dirt road, I decided the thing I most missed about home. More than family and friends (sorry but its true), more than Punch Pizza and Dairy Queen blizzards, more than hockey, and more than everything else, I miss getting in your car, driving to Target, picking up everything you need, pushing the cart out to your car, loading it into the trunk, then getting into the drivers seat and going home. Doing your shopping on your own time, in your own space. THAT is what I miss the most about home. So next time you jump in your car and head to Target, or Cub, or Byerly's or Rainbow... think of me in that kumbi. : ) But I think if that is the biggest thing I miss from home, then I'm doing pretty well here. It is annoying, but its obviously not going to kill me. Just something to get used to. And in 2 years when I come home and jump in my car and head to Target, I'll remember my time on the kumbi in Swaziland and be OH so thankful...

Anyway, a lot of you have been wondering if I got your letters/packages that were sent 3-4 weeks ago. I haven't. But now that I am at site, they don't bring us our mail anymore, we have to go into the office to get it. So I hope to go into the office later this week, but we'll see if that happens. If not then next week for sure. : ) Also, I sent out a few letters yesterday dated August 18th, obviously its a little passed that, so sorry for the delay in sending them, I just kept forgetting them! But they're out now and that's what counts I think. ; )

That's about it for now I think. As it is a lazy Sunday afternoon, I think I'm going to go take a nap. Oh also Eric has been asking for a shout out on my blog so here it is. He wants everyone to know he's a regular Forrest Gump when it comes to Ping Pong. Ha. Anyway love you all and miss you! And keep the updates from home coming, I really love hearing them. Send me a Facebook message if you have time, or letters are fun too! If you write me one, I'll write you one back! : )

Love, Megan

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Week Uno.

Hello, Hello!

Well I have officially been at my site for one week! (1 down of 104, but again, who’s counting?) The day they dropped us off last week was definitely that stereotypical vision you have when you think of the Peace Corps. They load all your stuff in a truck, drive you to the middle of nowhere Africa, unload it all and say, “Well, good luck!” and drive away. It was hard, and I think if my Make hadn’t been there and the kids weren’t constantly running in and out of the hut, I might have broken down. But there was water that needed to be fetched from the pump, my stove needed to be set up, etc so I kept busy and made it through.
Last Friday I went into town and bought my first bed. Who knew the first one I would buy would be in Africa?? For those concerned, no I did not sleep on the floor that first night, my family provided me a mattress, but I quickly went and bought one for myself. Actually, seven of us went to town and bought beds from an Indahli Store. Yes, we bought seven beds at once, so we made sure we got a discount. : ) Thanks, Jessica! The next day I went back and bought some baskets, a broom and some ski rope and made a little hanging basket contraption and a makeshift closet with the broom handle. So now most of my clothes and all of my food is off the floor, which has helped the ant problem, but not entirely solved it as I found out this morning…
But things are chugging along here. We are now in what they call the “Integration” period. We can’t start any projects, they haven’t even taught us how to apply for any grants yet so there wouldn’t be any money for the projects anyway, and we can’t really go anywhere. Thank goodness we do accumulate vacation days (already have one day in the bank from August!), but we can’t use them until after Inservice Training (IST) around Thanksgiving. And we only get to spend one night a month away from our site; as opposed to the two nights a week we get after Integration. So any traveling to the cities we do, we have to make sure we can get back before dark, not an easy feat. Which is why I stayed here last Tuesday when a bunch of people met up in Manzini. My transportation situation here is a bit frustrating but I think I am starting to figure it out. The problem with it is that it SEEMS like it should be easy and kumbis should come frequently, but they don’t and when they do, they’re full. Granted, I was trying to get to town at the end of the month and that is when everyone gets paid so everyone and their cousin was trying to get to town to get to the bank and the store. But I have a trip to Mbabane planned for next week (pending certain protests) so hopefully things will go more smoothly because it will be the 9th or 10th and not the 28th or 29th.
So during this time of Integration we are, well, integrating. We have a bunch of community assessment surveys to do and they encourage us to do daily activity schedules, seasonal calendars, focus groups and interviews. Basically these first three months are assessing what the community has and needs. Then we have to write up a report, not unlike a research paper for school, detailing our findings. I hope to meet up with my counterpart early next week so we can get the ball rolling on these assessments, also so I can have something to do. My counterpart has been at workshops for the past few weeks so I have been kind of moseying around the community on my own. On my way back from town late last week I met a guy from an NGO that was doing work at my clinic. Turns out they were doing free male circumcisions at my clinic for two weeks, and I was so excited, I invited myself to stop by on Tuesday (as Monday was a holiday-oh I’ll get to that in a second). I was really happy that this was happening not just in my community, but all over Swaziland. The NGO was targeting school aged boys during this two week campaign, as schools are closed for three weeks now. A recent study has shown that the foreskin has been shown to actually attract the HIV virus so obviously this is a very exciting prevention method. And the fact that they had already surpassed their goal of circumcising 5,000 boys and still had a week to go was great news. So anyway on Tuesday I went down to the clinic and accidentally walked into the operating room, where they quickly sucked me in and soon I was wearing scrubs and getting nurses anything they needed. (No snipping, I didn’t get anywhere near any medical equipment, no worries Eileen – incase you’re reading this…) But it was really fun and I was happy to have something to do! Plus they were so happy to have me, they asked me to come back the rest of the week, and as my counterpart was not around, I was practically begging for something to do, so I happily accepted. The doctor performing the surgeries (in Swaziland you have to be a surgeon to perform circumcisions) is actually from Salt Lake City, so we were both excited to hear another American accent, and I was able to serve as a Swazi English to American English translator, as the two are actually very different. And I am very excited to go back again tomorrow!
Back to the holiday that was on Monday. Monday was the Umhlanga ceremony, or the Reed Dance. If you haven’t heard of it or seen pictures of it, Google it, it is beautiful. Basically the king calls all the girls, virgins actually, in Swaziland to Lobamba on a certain day and the girls come by the truckloads a few days before. They then walk for a day or two to collect reeds (huge reeds) for the king’s fences, and then walk back. Yes, walk. Then, on the day of Umhlanga, they dance for him, about 70,000 girls dance together for the king. I went on Sunday with my family for the dress rehearsal, because Monday was a holiday and transportation was going to be even more of an issue. It was so great even that day and I’ve heard it’s even better on the actual day of Umhlanga. I am excited to go back next year.
Well I think that’s about it for now, I am exhausted from 2 ½ hours of hand washing my clothes this morning in the African sun. It’s definitely naptime! : ) Hope everyone is doing well at home and ready to go back to school! It is definitely weird not getting ready to go to school for the first time since I was like 4. I hope everyone is enjoying the Fair too and is eating lots and lots of Sweet Martha’s cookies for me, it may be a while till I get them so eat ‘em up! Miss you all and love you!

Love, Megan

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Megan Key, PCV (Officially)


First, the browser on my phone has stopped working so sorry for the lack of updates, but my phone has been less than cooperative these past few weeks. I am hoping to get that fixed tomorrow. But I figured out how to use my phone’s internet on my computer through Bluetooth, so that should make up for it. Much more expensive, but oh well.

Second, I am now officially a Peace Corps volunteer!! : ) We had our Swearing-In ceremony yesterday in Pigg’s Peak. It was very fun, most of us dressed in the traditional Swazi attire and the Ambassador to the United States and the Prime Minister himself came to our ceremony. We had to take an oath, raising our right hand and everything, swearing to protect and defend the constitution of the United States so help us God. Um, okay. Ha ha. We even got an article written about us in both the Swazi Times and the Swazi Observer, with pictures too! I bought the Observer today and I hope to send it home so everyone can see it and see the type of news that the great nation of Swaziland chooses to report on…

We are now in Mbabane for the next few days before heading to our permanent sites on Thursday! Today we just walked around the city and had lunch at an Applebee’s type restaurant with ice cream dessert at KFC and coffee at a café that served REAL coffee! One of the best mochas I’ve had in a long time. Then tomorrow we are walking around some more, heading to the Peace Corps office, the post office, and grocery store. I am going to try to go to an Internet Café tomorrow and maybe upload some pictures, but don’t get your hopes up because the way the internet works here, it probably won’t work.

That’s all I can think of for now, sorry it’s a short update but that’s all I’ve got. ; ) Hope everything is great at home! Miss you all and love you!

Love, Megan

Monday, August 9, 2010

PCTs Day Off

Hey friends! Hope everyone had a good weekend... We had our first day off in a few weeks today and it was so nice! I slept over at stephs hut next door with shauna and we had a nice gulash dinner. It was nice to be around other people after six and not in my hut eating alone! :) then, although it was our day off, we were all up by six. Oh well. We did fry up some fat cakes then and rolled them in cinnamon sugar. Oh my goodness. I didnt think fat cakes could get better... But they did!! Then at eight, eric and i headed to the hotel near us and walked down to the falls and spent the morning waking around and taking im the beautiful forest and falls. We then headed to the craft centre next door and had some delicious chicken nuggets and french fries. Then, after a stop at the store for groceries and a scrumptous doughnut, we went and made hamburgers, fries and guac at his hut. We shared half a burger with his gogo and she loved it! She also gave me all the credit for it as well as a head of lettuce from the garden! Sorry Eric. It was honestly one of the best food days ive ever had! After two months of maize, maize and more maize, chicken nuggets and a hamburger were heavenly. We only have language class in the morning tomorrow, so we are making chicken pot pies tomorrow and also bought things for s'mores so im pretty excited for that. The s'mores might be interesting because there are no graham crackers here so we are using Tennis biscuits (biscuits or emabiscuit in siswati = cookies) and the best chocolate we could find was mint chocolate (and by mint they mean there are flakes of peppermint candy within the chocolate bar and the marshmellows we found are pink. So this should be interesting. Weve also become emabiscuit connisuers and have found new flavors like cherry fizz, in a pick 'n pay near you! :) But the day off is over and i have language and technical homework to do tonight... I am excited for this week because we are learning about the life skills and hiv education classes to teach in the schools which i am very interested in doing, as well as epidemiology on thursday which i am also very interested in. Then this weekend we have host family appreciation party because two weeks from today is swearing in! In two weeks i will officially be a peace corps volunteer! Hopefully. I have to pass my final language exam first. But it seems like it is going to rain, meaning my electricity is probably going to go out soon. Meaning i should do my assignments while i still have light! Miss you all and hope youre doing well. Shoot of an fbook message if you get bored. Thats probably the best way to get a hold of me now. That and twitter. My email and viewing my blog and its comments are too expensive on my phone. But fbook, twitter, 4square and posting a blog entry have mobile views so it is less expensive. Keep of posted on life back home!! Love, Megan

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blogging from my hut. Pretty sweet.

I just wrote a pretty decent sized update on my phone with t9 on my abc keyboard and then proceeded to accidentally hit the close browser button. Needless to say i was a bit upset because this was not the first time it had happened... In the last half hour. Anyway, i finally discovered blogger has a mobile site so it wont be too expensive to open this browser on my phone and update. Just a bit of a pain cuz itll be like texting. So the updates will be shorter but hopefully more frequent now! But it is 815 now and past my bedtime so this will be all for this one. I have a longer update on my computer if we ever get power back and i figure out how to link my computer to my phones internet. I almost have it figured out so hopefully that will be soon. Hope all is well at home! Miss you all! Megan.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We're Going to the Casino... For the Internet. : )

First of all, thanks SO much to everyone for the cards!! All the other volunteers are super jealous because I’ve gotten a bunch letters so far… I tell them my family is awesome! : ) (And yes Gramma I got all 3 of yours.) Using my California math, I am figuring it takes the anticipated 2 ½ to 3 weeks for a letter to get here.

It’s hard to believe it July is almost over and I’ve been in Africa for a month (25 more to go for those keeping score at home)! But at the same time – home, Atlanta and the 16-hour plane ride seem like years ago. Africa continues to be amazing. Everyday when I look up at the roof of my hut or step outside and see the mountains or look out the window of the khumbi I think, I still can’t believe I’m in Africa! It is so surreal! I am writing this on my computer quickly before my battery dies because I don’t know when I’ll get to charge it again. It is raining for the first time since the day we got to Swaziland. And by raining I mean drizzling.< And apparently if there is any amount of precipitation the electricity goes out, hence the dead battery.< So I’ve got to type quickly and eat dinner by candlelight then put this on a flash drive for when we go to the near by hotel this weekend to use their HIGH SPEED Internet! : ) It’ll be the first time I’ll be able to have any reliable internet to check Facebook/email/Twitter in a month so I’m pretty excited. Things are moving quickly here. This week was evaluations and interviews with the CD and the APCDs for site placement questions! I think I did all right on my evaluations. SiSwati went okay and I was able to fumble through for 11 minutes, but everyone did either okay or badly so I am keeping up with everyone. I have never wanted to speak French so much in my life because if it isn’t English I am speaking then it has always been French so that is what wants to come out. And I certainly know a lot more French than siSwati. It’s hard! My technical training exam did not go very well, but talking to everyone else, I seem to have gotten all the tough questions that no one else would have been able to answer either. But I passed, and I got 100% on the cultural, medical, and skills tests like putting together my water filter and assembling a stove. In my site placement interview, I told them about who I would like to work with, where I would like to work, and in what environment. I told them I would love to work with pregnant women doing PMTCT education and/or with youth in a school or a youth HIV support group. I also told them I was from Minnesota so I would prefer a cooler site. Then they asked what we wanted most: to have electricity, be close to water, or be near transportation. I said I wanted to be near transportation, so we’ll see on Tuesday where I get placed Then next week we meet our counterpart that we will be working with for the next two years and head to “On the Job Training” the next week! In celebration of our evaluations being over, we are going on a field trip to a game reserve tomorrow! : ) We are very excited to see some African animals! I am told there are no lions though, but because of that we are able to hike around so I’ll try to get some good pics.

We picked out cell phones on Thursday and are picking them up in Mbabane on Monday so I’ll let you know the deal is with that when I know more. I got a Nokia 2700, if that means anything to anyone. I got it because Nokia has the most reliable Internet here, it has Bluetooth as well as a plug to plug into my computer for Internet, and it has more storage space. Also, it was all very overwhelming and everyone else was getting it, so I did too.< I don’t know exactly how the whole phone situation will work out but I do know that if someone calls me it is free for me and Skype calls are apparently cheaper than any long distance calling card or anything, so Skype me! : )< And apparently volunteers use Facebook as their main communication, to home and to each other, because using the internet on their phones requires less airtime than calling each other. Not sure how exactly that works, but like I said I’ll let you know more when I know.

It is a tough schedule they have us on here at PST, with class 8-4, Monday-Saturday and Sunday being laundry (it takes the whole morning, at least, when you have to wash everything by hand…) and shopping in town day. We usually have about 2 hours at the end of each day before the sun goes down and we have to be home; and when it takes a half hour to walk to other volunteer’s homesteads, there isn’t a lot of time to hang out with people after class, which is too bad.< Fortunately, I have 5 people within a 5 minute walk of my homestead and another 5-10 within a 20 minute walk of my place, so I can see them for a bit after class. The days are starting to get longer here, but the sun still sets at about 5:45 The rest of the night is spent making dinner, studying siSwati (sometimes…), and cleaning my hut and the dishes before bed at about 9 (though yesterday, I’m ashamed to say I was in bed at 7:45…). It is definitely a very different schedule than I had just a month ago. We’ve started cooking for ourselves as opposed to having our host families cook us our meals. I’ve eaten more eggs, peanut butter sandwiches and oranges these past few weeks than I think I’ve eaten in years. They’re nice because they don’t require water (which is a precious resource when it takes so long to prepare) and don’t need to be decontaminated. Rice and beans are also quickly becoming a favorite. I’m going to start digging into the cookbook that the Peace Corps gave us to find some more things to practice cooking. I think during Integration (our first 3 months at our permanent site) I will be doing a lot of experimental cooking, which will be fun. If anyone has some quick, easy and delicious recipes they would like to share, I would love to hear them! My Make does not trust that I am able to cook for myself and has begun sending my Sisi to check up on me at dinnertime, look at what I made and insist I make more. She’s pretty close to making me just come into the house for dinner because she doesn’t think I eat enough. I just don’t eat the obnoxious Swazi amount! The other day they came in with a whole plate full of lipalishi (Pap) for me to eat with my whole can of beans and whole can of mixed veggies they had me heat up. Fortunately, I bought Tupperware and was able to have dinner and put it into two Tupperware containers for lunch and dinner the next day. Too much food!! My sisi told me yesterday that they want to send me back to America big or “fit” as they call it here. Also, when we describing ourselves in our language class, our teacher said she was "mkuhlu " (big) and said “Don’t be offended Setta, but you are "uncama" (slim)” and we all giggled and told her we would never be offended if she said we were "uncama." Just another chance for some cross-cultural exchanges! I am also eager to try turning my stove into an oven and baking cookies or something. I learned the trick during our cooking class last Saturday and have been craving chocolate chip cookies ever since.< The hardest part about baking chocolate chip cookies here though is finding chocolate chips, so they may have to be some other kind of cookie…
We are half way done with Pre-Service Training. The weeks are full of Technical Training (like mapping the community), Language (as usual-but I’m still pretty bad), and Medical lectures (Infectious Diseases and How to Avoid Them, Malaria, and First Aid). We also had a lecture by doctors from the Baylor Clinic and a field trip to a Traditional Healer (who was thoroughly upset when he found out when that we weren’t giving them money-even though it was explained to them many times) and a modern Swazi clinic. It is interesting to hear the different ways that each is trying to combat HIV/AIDS in this country. For the most part, it seems that modern Traditional Healers are encouraging people to get tested and take their ARVs, but there are more in the rural areas that are against it. And the modern clinics and NGOs are so overwhelmed, with too many patients and not enough doctors. It is tough to see, but encouraging to see the doctors and nurses that are working tirelessly to fight this disease.
After a month, people in the community have finally gotten used to seeing us around. They don’t just stare back at us when we greet them with “Sawubona!” like they used to; now they counter with an “Ungubani ligama lakho?” (What is your name?) or “Uyaphi? Ubuyaphi?” (Where are you going? Where are you coming from?).Swaziland is like small town meets Minnesota Nice on steroids. Saying “Hello! How are you?” is a HUGE thing here, and everyone asks who you are and where you are going because they know everyone in the community and we definitely don’t look like we are from the community. The kids also love to practice the English they learn in school with us. It’s nice to actually have a conversation with them now, but it is definitely not helping me learn siSwati. The other day, on the way back from Eric’s house, a whole field of teenagers playing soccer stopped us. After asking if we knew Rihanna, R. Kelly and, upon hearing my real name, Alicia Keys, they asked us “Why are you here in Swaziland? Why are you not in South Africa?” assuming we are just tourists on vacation. Seizing the opportunity, we explained that we are learning siSwati and about their culture because we are going to be living here for two years and mentioned that we are here to teach people about HIV/AIDS (Ngifundza kuba livoluntiya. Ngitosebenta nge HIV/AIDS.) and we encountered a response that we had heard we might get. They all said, “Well, we already know everything about HIV.” Apparently a big problem volunteers are facing out in the field is over saturation, and we just got our first glimpse of it. Then you just have to wonder, what is the problem? If the youth here in Swaziland are so over saturated with information about HIV/AIDS, why do the rates of infection here continue to be the worst in the world? If they are being educated in schools then why is 26% of the country, 49% of the women in their 20s and 45% of men in their 30s, HIV+? They obviously know how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent it, but something is not getting through in terms of behavioral change.

We are starting to learn about methods to conduct community assessments to determine the needs of the community we are going to be living in, from questionnaires to interviews, maybe clues to needs will come through in those, in terms of gender empowerment and male engagement for behavioral change.
That’s all for now, ncesi this was a long one. Hope all is well at home, at RD, at the U, at the rink... I miss you all!! Love you all!

Love, Megan (or Setta as I’m known here – honestly if we didn’t have each other to call us by our real names I might not even answer to Megan anymore…)

PS: Happy 21st Birthdays to Mike and to Gina! I am sad I can’t be there to celebrate with my besties but have GREAT days guys!! I’ll be thinking about you! : ) I sent you birthday letters but they probably will be late – It’s hard to remember 3 weeks in advance!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flashdrives and Bucket Baths...

Hi All!!

I am sorry for the lack of updates I have been giving, I had no idea what to expect for the Internet situation when we came into town last week. And it turns out it was pretty bad. I spent 12 of my 15 minutes trying to load Facebook, then the last 3 frantically trying to update my blog. I finally figured it out for this week though… FLASH DRIVES! : ) I am writing this on my laptop and will upload it using my handy-dandy RTI flash drive! Problem: Solved!

I hope everything is going well with everyone! I miss you all, but I am having SUCH a great time! We are finishing week two of the nine week training session. We moved in with our host families last week. My family is great! I have a Make (mother), a Babe (father) who works in South Africa and I have yet to meet, two bosisi (sisters), and 5 bobhuti (brothers), plus a nephew, and some other cousins (I think) that float in and out during the week. Like I mentioned I have a hut! A big, round, yellow hut with a grass thatched roof. It has a huge bed and headboard, as well as a vanity and a table. I also have electricity!! We have a running joke in our group that between the limo that picked us up at the airport in ATL, the swanky hotel in the Joburg airport and now my luxurious hut, it’s more like Posh Corps than Peace Corps. We are only kidding though. We have no running water, so bucket baths and pit latrines it is! We have a long process we have to go through to get drinkable water (boil, filter, bleach!), and they provide us with a gas stove that we have to cook on. I never realized how much I relied on a microwave until I don’t have one!! Everything from frozen dinners to steaming vegetables I used to do in a microwave! My Make and Sisi are teaching me how to cook, but they think it is hilarious I don’t know how. Fortunately, no one else in the group knows how to either, so I am sure the boMake get together and talk about each of their Americans and how they don’t know how to cook…

Our whole group is living in a community called Mbasheni, between Pigg’s Peak, the town we go to for groceries and Internet, and Ngonini, where our Training Center is located. We generally take public transport, called a khumbi, to and from the center. My friend Steph and I are lucky enough to be neighbors. And thank goodness for that! All of us are spread out over about an hours walking distance, two hours from the training site. And yes, we walked it the other day. Yesterday, we finally made a very crude and hilarious map of where we all are staying and today we used it to meet up at Mike’s homestead for Sea Sea’s birthday party and learned he lives very close to Steph and me. We had “Fat Cakes” for Sea Sea’s birthday that Mike’s Make made. I don’t know what they are or how to make them, but they are delicious! I think they are just fried dough, almost like a funnel cake, but in a ball. They’re actually called Emmaphaties or something, but we call them “I’m a Fatty Cakes” because they may be the death of all of us here. My Make is teaching me how to make them tonight; right after she kills the pig that she is selling to our teacher Babe Malaza for our cooking class tomorrow. : / Good thing I didn’t name that pig… I wish they would kill the roosters instead of the pigs though. Every morning around 3am some rooster somewhere decides it is time to crow, which makes every rooster around crow. And there are a TON of roosters around. It is the most obnoxiously annoying thing ever and it wakes me up every night. A close second though is the chickens that run into our language class clucking, looking for a place to lay eggs. It is definitely a different atmosphere here in Africa!

On the topic of food, if anyone was concerned about me not eating enough here in Africa, you have NOTHING to worry about. I have honestly never eaten so much in my life! Today was the first day I actually finished what I was given, and I try my hardest to finish everyday, because it is considered rude not to. I thought at first that they just gave me a ton of food, because I was a guest or an American or whatever. But it turns out; Swazis eat a TON of food. I have tried to tell them not to give me so much, but they never listen, so I’ve stopped trying. They also eat with their hands. And by hands, I mean hand - just the right hand; doing anything with the left hand is rude. They have a dish called pap, which is like stiff mashed potatoes, that they eat with cabbage or chicken or squash or beans or anything and it’s all eaten with your right hand. It is SO hard. But I have become a pro.

I have also never gone to bed as early as I do here. I head to my hut at 7:30ish (after watching Rhythm City and Generations, South Africa soap operas, with my family) and am usually in bed by 9. The sun sets at 5:30 and we are not allowed to be out after dark, not just a Peace Corps rule, but a Swazi rule. No one goes out after dark. So when the sun sets early here in the winter, the day ends very early and 9pm feels like midnight. Plus there is a list of things you have to do in the morning before you are allowed to go to class so you have to get up early. My Make was going over it with me today at dinner: Wake up, Do dishes, Sweep kitchen, Cook breakfast, Sweep rest of house/hut, Bathe (Swazis bathe twice a day), Eat breakfast, Go to School. And we all know I don’t like getting up in the morning so since Make is making me get up early tomorrow to learn how to cook breakfast, it’s safe to assume it is 8pm and I am already in bed.

Anyway, hope everyone had a great 4th of July and celebrated my favorite holiday for me! I miss you all and love you!


Saturday, July 3, 2010


Hello All!

I have about 2 minutes left on my internet because it took 20 to load.
Just wanted to let you know I'm having a great time!! We moved in with our host families yesterday and are shopping in Pigg's Peak today.

I'll write more when I can.

Also, yes I do live in a hut. Google huts in Swaziland and you'll see mine.

Love you all!

Megan (aka Sethabile Khoza my Swazi name.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I'm in South Africa, trick!

I made it Joburg, our luggage and all! It was a big fiasco, but we made it here! For being 16 hours, the flight wasn't too bad, I watched Valentine's Day, When in Rome and Post-Grad. : ) Then we are staying in the airport so we were able to grab a burger at a bar and people watch the World Cup crowds. It's pretty easy to tell where everyone is from that is in the airport because they are all wearing their respective country's jerseys. I've seen (and heard) many vuvuzelas. They're very loud when blown in an airport, but I really want one. ahah We don't have our checked baggage, but it is supposed to head to Manzini with us tomorrow, so good thoughts that it will be there when we arrive.

Tomorrow we leave at 6:50am for Swaziland and after that I have no idea what we'll be doing! Training type stuff I would suspect...

There's not too much to update here. Just wanted to let you know we all arrived safely!

Hope all is well at home! Love you much!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Welcome to HOT-lanta

Hello all!

Well I'm officially on Day Two of my Peace Corps service!! SO surreal! I kept saying to everyone, "can you believe we're moving to AFRICA. . . TOMORROW?!" haha. I am so excited for the next two years!

Yesterday started out hard, not only did I have to say goodbye to my parents but I had to do it on just a few hours of sleep... : / needless to say I was a mess. The lady sitting next to me on the plane asked me if I was moving away from my family and I was so embarrassed because I couldn't even get the words out! But I did get out "But I'm really excited!" which was true. It was SO hard to leave, but I was very excited about what was ahead.

I got off the plane in Atlanta and it was hot! Like Africa hot! : ) Guess I should just shut up and get used to the heat... I got off the plane and trekked it to baggage claim and met up with a few other PC people at the train station to head to the hotel. I thought it would be difficult to find them, but we all had an obnoxious amount of luggage so we were actually pretty easy to find! So we jumped on the train and headed to the Buckhead Station and I called the hotels complimentary shuttle service there. And as we headed up to meet the shuttle, dripping sweat from carrying all of our luggage in the Georgia heat, a limo pulls around the corner. We all joke about "oh yeah guys! that limo is for us! we're going into the Peace Corps, but they sent us a limo!" but then the limo stops in front of us and we see it is from our hotel. No joke we rode in a limo from the station, to the hotel. HILARIOUS.

We got to the hotel and met some more people and started registration about 20 minutes after we got there, so it was perfect timing on the whole schedule, except I hadn't gotten anything to eat but those little Biscoff crackers on the plane so I was starving. We had a workshop the whole day about expectations, what to expect, our anxieties and aspirations and then logistics of the next leg of our travel. None of the staff is traveling with us to Swaziland so we were all split into groups and someone from each group volunteered to be a group leader. So he had everyone in a group stand up so we could see who was in our group, then we had to sit down if we didn't want to be the group leader. And each group had a few people who wanted to be the group leader and he made a comment about it right before my group's turn. And of course, when he asked us to sit down if we don't want to be the leader, we all sat down as fast as we could. So we had to do it again, and we sat down even faster. So I said FINE, fine I'll do it. So you're looking at the Group 3 Leader and Hotel Group Leader and I'm helping at the airport today as well. So I have to be in charge of my group's tips, and making sure everyone is checked out, and no one left anything behind, then helping the Airport GL get everyone checked in at the airport, then my big job is finding the hotel in the Johannesburg Airport and getting everyone checked in there! Fortunately there is one other Hotel GL. At least I'm not the Document GL in charge of everyone's passports and tickets. : /

After our seminars ended, at 7pm, none of us had eaten all day, save for the cookies the hotel brought in at about 5, so we went for an adventure. We ended up at some dive of a pizza place that I was sure would not fit the 25 of us that rolled in. But they did and since no one had eaten all day, we all had a lot of Pizza and Beer. Nothing like it for our last night in America!

Today, we have to check out and load onto a bus at 2 and head to the airport to watch the USA vs Ghana game, because I'm going to Africa I have to care now, and we head to South Africa at 7:25pm! We get to Jo'burg 16 hours later at 5:05pm local time, about 10am in Minnesota.

I think that's about it for now. I'll try to update in Johannesburg, and after that, who knows when the next update will be... Miss everyone TONS! Love you!!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Are You Doing This Weekend?

Hello Friends!

I can't believe I am leaving in just two days!! I'm not sure what you'll be doing this weekend but I've got a pretty full weekend of traveling ahead! eeek! It has been a busy week so far, trying to get the final goodbyes in, and will be finished off tonight at Cirque du Soleil - Alegria with RD! Then tomorrow is my last day in Minnesota, before beginning my adventure to Swaziland! If I missed saying goodbye to anyone, don't worry I'll be back soon! : )

I think I can now say that I am done packing!! I have closed both of my checked bags and, after ditching a few sets of clothes and finally resigning to shipping some things, I am under the 107" requirements! I haven't weighed them yet, so I hope they're under 80 lbs. : / After my interview with MPR yesterday, more on that in a second, I had to do some major packing reorganization. We got an email from the Peace Corps that said we will be spending the night in the hotel in the airport when we get to Johannesburg, meaning we will not be getting our luggage back. So the toiletries and the pjs and the next day's clothes need to be in my carry on. Also, when we get to Swaziland we will have to put one of our bags into storage for three months during our training. Needless to say, I had to reorganize everything, but I think I got it all figured out!

Okay about my interview at MPR! On Monday, my mom saw a tweet from a reporter at MPR that said he was looking for recent college graduates who are joining the Peace Corps to avoid searching for a job in this crummy job market. So I sent him and email and told him I was leaving Friday and had just graduated from the U! Although I hadn't joined the Peace Corps to avoid looking for a job, I am certainly VERY thankful that I do not have to look for a job having just graduated from college. So he came here yesterday to do the interview and take a few pictures of me packing! He said that his story is now kind of going along the lines of my story, people who have joined the Peace Corps/AmeriCorps and are very thrilled to not be looking for a job, because the application process is long and it is not something you can just decide to do because you can't find a job... So anyway, it should air late next week if you are an avid listener of MPR, and if you're not it will be online as well. I won't know when its up because, well, I'll be in the Swaz but if you see it, let me know and if I get a chance I'll see if I can look at it! :)

Finally, I'll just give you a quick overview of my schedule, incase you are interested to know where I'll be and when!

Friday, June 25: 6:45am flight from MSP to Atlanta to meet up with the rest of my group going to Swaziland with "What to Expect" seminars that day.
Saturday, June 26: 7:30pm flight from ATL to Johannesburg
Sunday, June 27: 5 pm arrive in Johannesburg (the time is about 7 hours ahead in Jo'burg and the Swaz. FYI) staying in the hotel in the airport
Monday, June 28: 6:50am flight from Jo'burg to Swaziland (50 min flight)
Tuesday, June 29-Friday, July 2: orientation sessions at the Ngonini Lutheran Farmer's Training Centre.
Friday, July 2: Move to Host Family for the rest of training (end of August)

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers everyone!
Love, Megan

Monday, June 14, 2010

Let the Packing Commence!

Well the goodbyes have begun... We just returned from a weekend trip to Texas for Danny's graduation and one last cousin hangout before I leave! Goodbyes are always hard, but it's hard to wrap my head around two years so I'm not really freaking out about the not seeing people for two years part yet.

Packing has been in an awkward state of limbo the past month. I've been acquiring things, but it has been way too early to pack. But with only a week and a half until the big day, I think it's time to begin putting things in compression bags and into the luggage! I pretty much bought a whole new wardrobe (thanks mom and dad!) so no need to worry about packing clothes I'll need to wear too early!

This coming weekend will be my last at RD (shout out to the Nation!) I'll miss you guys! Then the party on Sunday for even more goodbyes : (, before my last day on the ice for two years on Monday! No ice rinks in the Swaz I would bet. Now THAT may be one of the hardest things to get used to! I've never had a break longer than like two months without having my skates on, and my feet do begin to ache for my skates after some time so we'll have to see how that one goes!

I suppose this would also be a good time to mention how to talk/send things to me for the next two years...
Well, you've obviously found my blog (yay!) and this will probably be my main way of communication, I would suspect. I won't have any idea what the exact internet situation is until I get there (the training site as well as my eventual permanent site), but I am bringing my laptop so here's hoping! So until I know more about the internet situation, and I'll let you know when I know, lets all just stick with letters and the blogosphere. ; ) Here's some other ways to get a hold of me:

Blog: megekey.blogspot.com

Email: keyxx019@umn.edu

Skype and Twitter name: megekey (I don't know how often I'll be able to do these but just incase... gotta keep the Nation updated!!)

Below are my mailing addresses, one for letters and one for packages that need a physical place to send other than a PO Box:

Postal Service Address:

Megan Key, PCV

PO Box 2797

Mbabane H100, Swaziland


Courier Service Address:

Megan Key, PCV

Farm 188

Gate 256 Muzi Road

Dalriach West, Mbabane



Here are a few tips from current PCVs about mail:

It takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for packages to make the trip from America to Swaziland, and 3 weeks is average. Flat rate boxes are probably the cheapest option from the US post office, don't send things on expedited shipping, they do not come faster than regular 'air mail'.

Note the stressed importance of Africa on the bottom of the address, Swaziland shares a very similar postal code to Switzerland (SD) and it only takes one keystroke form a busy postal worker for a package to end up in Zurich instead of Mbabane. Adding Africa severely diminishes that possibility. Many people believe putting Christian symbols or phrases (i.e. “Jesus Saves”) on packages reduces the likelihood that things will be stolen in the process. In general, though, packages make it there intact.

Thanks to everyone for the support, good thoughts and well wishes for my journey! I hope to see you all on Sunday to say goodbye! : )

Love, Megan

Friday, May 21, 2010

one month and counting...

Hello World!

Well incase you don't know, I am leaving for Swaziland on June 22nd for 27 months with the Peace Corps! : D I will be a Community Health HIV/AIDS educator - perfect for my future careers in the Public Health realm. If you don't know where Swaziland is, Google it and learn all about my future home!

Creating a blog makes this feel so official now... "I'm leaving for Swaziland in a month, so let me tell you my interesting stories from across the world!" : ) Well I hope I don't disappoint! I hope I will be able to update as often as possible and I hope my posts are interesting enough to keep you reading.

I am very excited to go shopping with my mom tomorrow for solar chargers and backpacks and Chacos and such!! I've been Google-ing past and present Swaziland-Peace Corps blogs like a mad woman these past few weeks, so I hope I have a pretty good idea of what to bring, and what to just have shipped to me later.

Ta-Ta for now, and don't forget to come to my Going Away Party on June 20th!

Love, Megan

PS: I seem to be a big fan of smiley faces and exclamation points! ; )