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