Friday, December 16, 2011

Books for Swaziland

Hello Hello everyone!

The time has come and I need your help!

My school, and 29 others around the country, are looking to start libraries at the schools for the children. We are trying to get 1,000 books for each school and need your help to make this possible! The schools contribute half the amount of the project, our country post contributes a portion, but we still need your help to contribute the rest!!

Here is a description of the project:

Books for Swaziland is a project designed to establish new libraries or enhance existing school library facilities in rural Swazi communities. Each location will receive roughly 1,000 books, donated by Books for Africa, a US-based organization. The $9,800 raised by American donors will be used to cover the cost of shipping the books from America to the local community. Each location receiving books will raise funds (about $200 per location, totaling about $6,000 community monetary contribution) to cover the cost of transporting these materials from one community to the other. The money will also be used to organize a workshop in coordination with the National Library Service to properly train the counterparts who will be working in the libraries. This community monetary contribution represents 37 percent of the project cost.

Participating locations have agreed to provide a clean, secure room containing book shelves, a teacher to manage the library, and a written plan explaining how they will use the library to promote literacy. These contributions in conjunction with the funds raised in each location represent nearly 50 percent of the project cost.

Through this project, the libraries will help educate and empower the next generation of Swazi students. Each newly established library in this project will remain open for an estimated 10 years, reaching over 60,000 students during this time. This figure represents more than six percent of the country's total population. Through this project, Volunteers and their communities will be providing tangible benefits for the next generation of Swazi children.

Please, please, please help us! Pass it along, let everyone know!!

The link is:

Thank you so much!!


Monday, November 28, 2011


Finally, Finally, Finally!

Pics from Cape Town!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ngwempisi Gorge Camping

Hey all,

Sorry for the long absence! Hopefully I'll get a real update up here soon...

In the mean time, here are some pictures from a recent camping trip in the Swaz!



Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer Time, Braai Time

Hello Hello!

Hope everyone is doing well back home, getting back in the swing of things at school and work after a wonderful summer!
I just want to let everyone know, I just came back from my Mid-Service Medical exams and I am healthy as can be! No HIV, no parasites, just the same Megan who left America over a year ago… No cavities either, Kimmie! : )
We’re getting back into the swing of things here as well. We’re just finishing a school break here, only a month, but still long enough for everyone to be excited to get back into the groove of school again. Schools will be opening tomorrow, supposedly anyway. There’s lots of tension involving schools and the government and I don’t want to say too much, but if you haven’t been keeping up, it’s fairly interesting stuff that I would recommend Googling. But the opening of schools tomorrow is up in the air, so here’s hoping I have something to do tomorrow!
The situation here is getting a little more international press with each time the people march toward the government offices with their petitions and with each IMF visit. But for those worried about my safety, no need to lose sleep. The Peace Corps does a great job of telling us not to move an inch from our sites during times of tension. So I hang with my community and it’s business as usual. Its interesting how you can read the articles of what happens in the city during these marches and hear the Peace Corps telling us to stay put incase they turn violent (they haven’t really…) and looking around my community and seeing nothing out of the ordinary. It’s interesting and its definitely a good thing. And with the Peace Corps always erring on the side of caution in these situations, the few times I’ve been in town when a situation arises, it’s definitely worked out to my advantage: get out of the country now (aka start your vacation early) and stay at the hostel and do not go anywhere (aka stay by the pool). So no need to worry about me. ; )
The school break is generally a quite time around the homestead and the community in general. Kids go visit their parents living somewhere else, parents come visit their kids and every just hangs out for a month. That is until there’s a party. School is out and everyone is home so weddings, braais and cultural festivals are in full swings. We had one “white wedding” in our community this month, as opposed to the traditional wedding. Swaziland is a country with one foot in the past and one in the present and it can be seen in their governmental system, their cultural events, and most especially their weddings. Most people have two weddings, traditional (umtsimba) and white. The traditional wedding is recognized by families, government and is generally the first. It has many parts including the teka (“welcoming” the bride into the grooms family), paying lobola (bride price, usually in cows), and the wedding. It can take many, many years. The white wedding is recognized by the church and is second and not always done. It is very expensive, as they are in America, but these people generally don’t have lots of money but want the wedding to be extravagant, and they invite everyone, EVERYONE in the community. But they are a big deal and a big party.
We’ve also had a few braais in the past month (BBQs for those of you not familiar with South African slang). The neighbors killed a cow a few days ago and invited everyone in the community to come by and have some beef and emahewu (traditional maize drink), for what I think was simply out of the goodness of their heart. Cows are a symbol of wealth here, an investment. They’re like the rural bank. And they’re worth a lot of money. So for someone to just kill a cow and cook it up for anyone to come and eat was an incredibly kind gesture. And delicious. I thanked my lucky stars though that I was not encouraged to eat any of the head again. I’ve decided it is a tribute to my integration in a way. No one thinks of me as the white person anymore, I’m Sethabile Shabalala, a girl, and I am not allowed to do the things men do. Sort of a backhanded compliment in a way.
Then we had our own Peace Corps braai. I now have 2 neighbors in the community next to me, and another in my closest town. The one in town lives at a teacher resource center in a (small) two bedroom house with running water, flush toilet, electricity, a fridge and a huge yard. So those of us in this area went up to her place and hung out for the afternoon, cooked hot dogs, drank beer and enjoyed the beautiful Swazi summer day. She is putting two bunk beds in her spare room so the four of us in the area have a place to stay. I LOVE HAVING NEIGHBORS! ; )
And finally, the Reed Dance once again rounded out the school break. I decided to skip it this year, as seeing 60,000 topless girls dance for the King was something I only needed to see once, as cool as it was. The Peace Corps boys are interested in forming a regiment to do the warrior dance at the men’s version in December, but us Peace Corps girls usually try to stay away from the topless dancing. I’m not THAT integrated.
But like I said, it’ll be good to get back to the schools and get things going again. My health project is wrapping up, but not with a few more hang ups, of course. Then we’re working on building our library this last term and the application for getting books donated. Around December I’ll be posting a link to where you can donate money to our Library Project. Through Books for Africa (based in St Paul!) we are donating 30,000 books to schools around the country, and hopefully two will by my community’s schools! So keep your eyes peeled, we’ll be needing your help!
Well that’s all for now. Enjoy that beautiful fall weather state-side. Things are heating up here, and fast. Summer is here!

Lots of love!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One Down, One to Go...

Well July came and went, and with it went my first year in the Swaz. We came last June and will leave next August, making this the mid way mark. So many things are happening to remind us that our time here is dwindling. Our new group of volunteers has finished their training and will be sworn in on Tuesday. It is so weird, thinking about this time last year, how long ago and yet not so long ago it all seems. Most of the group that came the year before us has left already too. Peace Corps Swaziland is us and Group 7, and it is so hard to see them all go. But I am very excited to get to know the new volunteers as well as we knew our old ones, and can't wait to meet up with G7 state side. We're also beginning our Mid-Service Medical exams, and all that entails. Basically, three days in town paid for with my friends. And also, my first dental appointment in over a year. Should be a treat.

The year mark also brings lots of work at site, as people finally realize that you're here to stay and want to help. I am looking forward to getting back to my hut and back into my community after running around at training with the new group and getting stuff going again. I am in the middle of a large project with our primary school. They are trying to build a library for the students and are trying to do it by the end of the school year, aka December 3rd. We are not allowed to use Peace Corps funds to build buildings, with good reason, so my school found alternative places for funding and I have been helping them with the writing of the application. The organization has come out to do site surveying and taking pictures, so fingers crossed we get it up and going soon! And with the thrid term comes the Peace Corps Swaziland Books for Africa Library Project, bringing 30,000 books to schools in Swaziland, helping as well to set up these libraries and library systems, training librarians, etc. I hope to get my High School and Primary School involved, and if they are accepted, I will be needing some of your help. Many of you asked how you can help with my projects and soon you will have your chance... stay tuned! ; )

But for now, I have all this time and free internet in town and lots to do, including kindle book shopping, facebook stalking and online shopping.

Hope everyone is doing well at home!!


Saturday, July 16, 2011


Hey Hey!

Well its been a busy few months in the Swaz. May and June were full of work and not a lot of play, but we all need a health dose of that every once in a while… especially those of us who don’t do so much of the work part anymore. ; )

Well my big health project is mostly over. It went decently well and I am happy with everything. Of course, it wasn’t without its challenges, but we got through! Our first community workshops happened to coincide with wind, rain and cold cold cold weather. It was unfortunate, but we had about 40-50 people show up despite the conditions so I would call it a success. The next week’s trainings had to be postponed as our RHMs who were leading the trainings were called to a meeting at inkhundla (like city hall). So we pushed the trainings back a week, which meant that they would have to do a session without me because I would be on vacation with my Mom and Dad that week, which, in the effort of being sustainable, worked out just as well that I wasn’t there. So we had our second set of community trainings just before Mom and Dad arrived. It was perfect timing in the end.

And on that note, MOM AND DAD CAME!! : ) It was awesome! So great to see them, hug them, and show them my life. It was so nice to have someone back home see and understand what my life is like here. It seems so natural and normal to me now; its weird that no one back in America knows, really, what I am seeing and doing. But now at least two people have! Ha. After some difficulties at the car rental place and encountering kakhulu road construction, they finally arrived in the Swaz as dusk was approaching. But thanks to one of my awesome sisis, Samu, who was pumping water and saw their car and confused faces, they were guided safely to my homestead where I was huddled around the wood burning stove, eagerly awaiting their arrival. After lots of hugs, some tears, and introductions of my American family to my Swazi family, it was surprising to realize that it really didn’t seem like it had been almost exactly one year to the day that I had seen them. But it had! Due to the impending darkness, and the long, dark, gravel road to Nhlangano where their hotel was, we decided it best to stay the night in my hut and attempt the trek in the morning. So Mom and Dad were able to experience the #hutlife. We spent the next day around my community, doing various things in preparation for the last community training the next week. We ground maize, carted chairs to the other side of the mountain, and Mom and Dad were quite the thing to see for the school children on their way home from school – I definitely don’t get that many waves on my way home anymore. We also made a pit stop at the home of the indvuna (headman) of our community, to introduce them. Unfortunately, he was not home, but fortunately his wife was. After, semi preparing them for the event (men have to take off their hats at the gate of umphakatsi – his homestead), they proceeded to pull out a grass mat and a stool – the grass mat for me, my mom and my counterpart, Khosi, the stool for my dad. Just a bit of African culture for the Americans. Make Indvuna then began to fawn over Mom, saying she was so beautiful and “ngitsandza wena” – I like you! We spent the next few days touring the Swaz, meeting my friends, and buying fun things before heading for a much needed vacation in St. Lucia, South Africa. We had a great 5 days there, seeing many, many hippos (much to Mom’s chagrin), including a hippo and croc boat tour in the Lake St. Lucia Estuary, and then, obviously, a safari in the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve (when in Africa, right?) where we got entirely too close to some lions right off the bat. Like I mean ENTIRELY too close. And when he wouldn’t stop growling and looking our way and other safari trucks pulled up and blocked us in, and closest to the lion, I was a little more than nervous… and I was three people in! He would eat Dad first. But we made it out alive and saw four of the big five (quick! Can you name them??) so it was a success. We then headed up to Cape Vidal for our last day and enjoyed more time on the Indian Ocean, before we headed back up to the Swaz. But not before I drove, obviously! We aren’t allowed to drive in Swaziland or Moçambique because of their lack of public ambulances and roadside assistance. But South Africa has those, so driving was a go! After having been in Africa for a year, driving on the left side of the road and on the right side of the car was not the part that worried me… but the driving in general did. But after a year, it comes back like riding a bike, except, you know, on the other side of the road. It was, however, incredibly stressful as the roads were one lane each way, with an 80 mph speed limit, lots of trucks and very aggressive passers. After a few hours, I handed over the keys to Dad and took my seat back as navigator. We then spent one last day in the Swaz together at an awesome lodge in the Mlilwane Game Reserve, walking around the park, feeding bush babies at dusk, and enjoying a much needed Swazi meal by the fire. At the end of my vacations, I always find myself craving the rice, stew, chicken, cole slaw, beetroot, and chakalaka meal that I have come to know and love as the Swazi Take-Away, so I savored every bit of it and enjoyed the last of my days with my parents for a year and a half.

As sad as I was to see them go, yes there were more tears – though not as many as the first goodbyes a year ago, I was ready to get back to my friends, meet the new group of volunteers, and eventually, get back to my hut. I spent the next few days with a friend in town before our annual Fourth of July/meet the new volunteers party. It was incredibly fun to see all my friends again; I had been so busy at site the last few months, I hadn’t seen any of them since the end of April when I got back from Cape Town. This was also my first time to meet our new volunteers, including THREE Minnesotans! : ) I’m happy our Minnesota constituency is increasing, or as Eric says, Canada is taking over. We now have people from St. Cloud, Shoreview, Eden Prairie, and of course Tonka Town. I am excited to spend a few days over the next few weeks helping with the education/life skills portion of their training, and of course getting to know them as the year progresses!

But with the new group arriving, that means its time to say goodbye to half our friends as well. The Group 7s who arrived the year before us and helped us through our first year in the Swaz have finished their service have begun their departure. It’s a sad time for sure, but we wish them safe travels and good luck in the future!! It is crazy to think that this time next year, it will be our time to leave. And as fast as this year has gone, this next one will go by even faster, to be sure.

On a completely unrelated to anything note, I saw the King yesterday! He was in Mankayane which is near to me to officially launch the national campaign for male circumcision, Soka Uncobe (Circumcision Conquers). It’s a huge campaign, largely sponsored by the US Government through PEPFAR. So there were a lot of white people at the event. Though, I thought it was a very striking example of the Peace Corps vs our other ex-pat friends, as they all sat in the tent in the VIP section and Mike, Hannah and I sat in the crowd with our Swazi friends, sticking out like a sore thumb I’m sure. But there was a lot of hyping America in everyone’s speeches and our ambassador sat next to the King and Queen, which by association (having met him and been to his house) I felt special. Ha. But with the King officially endorsing the Soka Uncobe campaign and rocking an orange bracelet, I really hope that it helps this campaign. Their goal is to have 80% of males circumcised by the end of next year, which is a HUGE goal, but would significantly help this country. Less people would contract HIV and less money would have to be spent on their ARVs. Here’s hoping.

So, anyway, what’s lined up for the next year then? Well my counterpart Khosi who I have been working on this Community Health Project with, was hired by World Vision as I returned from my vacation, which is bittersweet. I am extremely happy for her, but sad that I have lost my community counterpart. But I have lots of things to work on at the schools in the community while I wait for them to find her replacement. I am continuing with my teaching at the Primary School, moving on to HIV/AIDS, which should be interesting. The curriculum that we are given is not made for 5th and 6th Grade classes, so there is always some surprise in each lesson, having no real idea what they’ve learned and what is too advanced. Last Friday, I taught a lesson on the immune system to my 5th Graders, beginning our discussion on HIV. I started with the basic question, “What is HIV?” having no idea what exactly they knew about this disease that was running rampant in their country. I was shocked when a boy raised his hand and said “A virus that destroys your immune system.” Thinking he was just reciting the words without knowing what they meant, I then followed with “So what is the immune system?” and was again surprised when another boy said “The soldiers in your body that fight germs.” Keeping in mind that all of this was communicated and understood in their second language, I was extremely impressed. I asked where they had learned this, to which they all promptly responded: Religious Education! Of course? Well at least they’re learning it somewhere. I then proceeded to fumble through a lesson on the immune system, learning that, although the curriculum has cute little drawings of the different parts of your immune system, doesn’t mean it is understandable to young kids. But I saved it with an activity about adult elephants (immune system!) protecting a baby elephant (you!) from lions (germs!) and what happened when I (HIV!) came through and killed all the adult elephants, hoping the idea that HIV doesn’t kill people, it kills your immune system so it can’t protect you from germs, like umsheko (diarrhea!). I’m hoping to collect all my lesson plans and all the things that worked into a Life Skills curriculum for Primary School students so others don’t have to struggle through like I have. Most volunteers teach at the High School level so I think that’s why there isn’t as much material available for the younger students.

Well, I hope everyone is surviving the heat wave that I hear is parading around the States these days. Its hard to believe, but I’m sitting here writing this in my hut, wearing almost every piece of clothing I own. It is so gosh darn cold here, its unbelievable. My hut is constantly between 40˚ and 50˚, making it warm-ish (40˚) at night and freezing during the day (50˚). It probably reaches a high of 70˚ for an hour or so around 1pm, but quickly drops and is slow to rise again the next day. Today, my computer wouldn’t turn on until I set it out in the sun for an hour, and my closest volunteer got pneumonia. Welcome to Africa.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I can get some pictures up soon from St. Lucia and Cape Town, but there are lots of pictures of both on Dad and Eric/Rob’s Facebook pages, if you’re dying to see them. Otherwise, they’ll hopefully be up here soon!

Lots of love!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Kute Gas

Hey everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates lately and sorry this one won't be longer. We're out of electricity on the homestead so the update I planned to write upon return from vaca with Mom and Dad cannot be done. But as soon as I get to some stable electricity and internet expect a long update on life in the Swaz, including my project completion and the visit from Mom and Dad, sneak peek - lots of hippos! ;) hopefully i'll get pictures of Cape Town and St Lucia vacations up soon too. But that's all for now. Stay tuned! Lots of love, Megan

Sunday, May 29, 2011

And Here.. We.. Go!

Well it’s been a busy few weeks in rural Swaziland. Tomorrow starts the project I have been working on since January! I can’t believe that it’s already time for it to happen. Monday through Wednesday, our RHMs who are the community health volunteers (like informal nurses) are having their trainings on HIV/AIDS one day, TB the next, then basic care and hygiene, family planning and circumcision the next day. Then next weeks starts our three weeks of community training sessions that the RHMs will teach. The past few weeks, the RHMs have been conducting surveys of the community to see what their knowledge of these topics was before the training, then we’ll do it again in September and hopefully there will be an increase in knowledge of these topics.
This past weekend was extremely busy preparing for the next few weeks of trainings. On Thursday, my counterpart and I had a marathon afternoon in town buying and printing and photocopying everything we need for the next four weeks. From 400 notebooks and pens to two thousand rand of food, we bought it all. It was crazy. On Friday afternoon we went on a chicken scouting adventure (Ali, you might want to skip this part). We picked out five chickens for the RHM training lunches and told the Make we would come back tomorrow to buy them before a few of the RHMs came to kill and clean them the next afternoon. As we were leaving, my counterpart said there was a good chance she would have to go into town tomorrow and could I handle the buying and carrying and oversee the killing and cleaning tomorrow by myself? Um, excuse me? I hesitantly agreed, because there was really no other option, and prayed she wouldn’t have to go. That whole night I kept thinking that if it were at all possible, I would call my mom and she would come down to pick me up and we’d go and buy some already killed and cut pieces of chicken from the store, and then go get a Caribou of course. But I guess there’s a time in everyone’s life where they realize they can’t just call their mom to fix the things they don’t want to do, and boy did I learn that one the hard way. Fortunately, my counterpart did not have to go to town the next day. Unfortunately, she called me at 8:30am to tell me this, as well as ask if I could buy the chickens and bring them to our kaGogo Center (across the community) by 10? Um, excuse me? Again? I mean at least I don’t have to worry about killing them, but I still couldn’t buy them from a lady whose language I don’t speak, and certainly can’t carry five chickens. So I grabbed two of my sisis and we ventured off to buy the chickens. It was awful. I’m not sure exactly how many of you have ever carried a chicken before, (Ali, you REALLY won’t want to read this), but you grab its wings and hold them behind its back together in one of your hands. So my sisis grabbed one chicken in each hand and I grabbed one, thinking, “Okay, I can do this.” Well, a few minutes down the road, I look down and see that my chicken is clearly suffocating. I don’t think they’re supposed to be carried like that for long distances. And we weren’t anywhere near where we were dropping them off. So I ask my sisis for help, who reply with “Oh yes, he’s dying.” And then a “Hey you! Why are you dying on Sethabile?” and knock another chicken against him to wake him up. Well of course its one of those things you cant stop watching and I tried to help him but there really wasn’t anything I could do. I kept shifting him from one hand to another, wondering why MINE had to die and not anyone else’s, and he’s not getting any better. And at this point I REALLY just wanted to hand him off to someone (mom?) who would fix it and so I wouldn’t have to deal with it, but my sisis were already holding two chickens. I HAD to carry this guy the rest of the way. I’ll save you the more gruesome details of his wing breaking and blood all over my hands, but lets just say I practically ran the rest of the way and dropped him as quickly as possible. He lived, just barely, until obviously he was killed. After we finally got there, I met up with my counterpart, said thank you to my sisis and headed off to the community garden for some vegetables. After a pit stop at a homestead to play with a baby and some incwancwa for breakfast (you know you’ve been here too long when you actually kind of like the sour, fermented, maize porridge breakfast), we then picked bunches of green peppers, dug out a ton of carrots and beet root, and chopped some cabbage, and hauled our hundred rand of groceries back across the fields, to our dying chickens. I was dreading this part of the day for a while and almost got sucked in to the killing when the bomake didn’t show up at first. But they came eventually, and they killed, cleaned and cut the chickens, and I bought them all fat cakes and sat around the corner. Then I grabbed my bags of cleaned chickens to throw in my family’s fridge and left as quickly as the five heavy chickens would let me.
Needless to say, I did nothing today, resting from my horrifying day yesterday, and gearing up for three weeks of trainings! Here’s hoping it all goes well! And on that note, its bedtime because tomorrow is an early day – just wanted to give you all a quick update on life. Hope you all have a great Memorial Day and eat lots of hamburgers and potato salad!

Love you all and miss you tons,


Monday, May 9, 2011

Cape Town Live

Hey all!

First and foremost, a Happy Belated Mother’s Day to the best Mom in the world! : ) Miss you lots Mom and can’t wait to see you in six weeks!

Well, we obviously survived Cape Town. We have all decided that Cape Town is one of the coolest cities on Earth and I highly recommend everyone go there if you ever get a chance. Though, one of the reasons I think it is so cool is because its so far removed from other large cities like it, as opposed to large cities in Europe and the US which are not too far, even Joburg pales in comparison to Cape Town, I think anyway.

We arrived in Joburg to a trash collector’s strike. Yeah. It was gross. Trash everywhere, piled on every street corner and overflowing into the street. It was such a busy city, with the same sort of dirty old buildings we saw in Maputo, just more. You could tell what had been put in or redone specifically for the World Cup and what had obviously not been touched since at least 1960. Interesting fact about Johannesburg, it is the largest city in the world, not on a body of water. Or so I heard from someone and don’t have the internet access to check it for accuracy, so just roll with it. We made it to our hostel and promptly asked for the nearest McDonald’s. We took a cab to the mall with a young man from England who was traveling also, and when we got there we quickly parted way when he said he wanted to shop around and we said we were going to McDonald’s, yeah we’re not obviously American or anything. The mall is apparently the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, though I don’t think it was bigger than the Mall of America, and I proceeded to inform everyone of that fact. ; ) But we found McDonalds on the rooftop food court and proceeded to devour our first McDonald’s meal in ten months. After which I immediately felt sick and it only got worse over the rest of our time at the mall. But did that deter me from getting Micky D’s for the rest of the trip? Not even at all. The next day we packed up and headed out to see Johannesburg before catching our bus to Cape Town that evening. We walked to Museum Africa, which was pretty much a museum about everything and anything that had gone on in South Africa, ever. From the geology of the continent and platetechtonics to fashion and obviously the apartheid. Then, after asking some lovely large policewomen where the best place to eat was (coincidence I swear) they promptly lead us to a place that served only fried chicken, but in every way possible. (I could not make this up.) And it was delicious. We then proceeded to the South African Brewing Company brewery where we were taken on the oddest tour ever, full of mummies, movies with just pictures of water and fire, and something that looked like a scene in the Log Chute at Camp Snoopy. But the free beer at the end was obviously worth it and we got a cool glass too. We then went to our bus, which was great. It was an overnight sleepliner bus so the seats reclined and you could put your feet up and pretty soon 17 hours later we were in Cape Town!

We got there at about 2 and after finding and settling into our hostel; we promptly headed to happy hour. And I’m not even going to lie; we pretty much spent the rest of the day and night in bars drinking real drinks and beers other than Sibebe and watched soccer… that part was unavoidable.

The next day we explored the city and spent a considerable amount of time at both the bank (mine was the only one of all of us Swazis whose bank card worked) and the V & A Waterfront. I would have to say the Waterfront was probably my favorite place in Cape Town, with its boardwalk atmosphere and huge mall and all kinds of different places to eat and drink. I even had potato skins. What’s not to love??

The next day was Good Friday, aka Race Day! We got up early (though not as early as our friend running the half marathon the next day… suckers) and headed to the race. It started and ended at the University, which is at the base of Devil’s Peak, the other end of Table Mountain, aka gorgeous views. The race was so fun, though I’d call it more of a hike you had to do as fast as you could. There were parts I literally could not run because of rocks along a river or a steep steep dirt incline or tree roots all around, and parts where the trail was so narrow, only one person could go through at a time so if the person in front of you was walking, so were you, which sometimes I didn’t mind so much. But I finished feeling great, pretty much sprinting the last 4K or so, so I was pretty happy. After showers and a change of clothes, we promptly headed back to our favorite spot, the Waterfront, and celebrated our race being over.

The next day we got up early again, this time to watch a race. We had a few friends who were running the Half, some volunteers from Lesotho and one of our fellow Swazi volunteers, and we saw them all that morning so it was great. We then decided to take advantage of the good weather we were having and hike Table Mountain. It was a good thing we did because that was the last of the sunny days for the rest of our trip. We, being very smart people, decided to head up there around 2. We took the cable car up to the top and got up there around 3:30. It was so extremely beautiful and we walked all around just taking in the view. After about an hour, we realized we better get going if we wanted to hike down. The map said it would take an hour and fifteen minutes, which would get us down to the bottom just before sunset so we could get a cab and get home. Well, no. If you’ve seen Table Mountain, it is literally a cliff. The path we took was a gorge that ran down the cliff, but it was still pretty steep and ended up taking us a good two and a half hours. I’ll spare the details, but it was way passed dark when we reached the road and called a cab. And having run a race the day before and just climbed down a mountain, my dogs were barking. So we headed back to our hostel, by way of a grocery store, and laid down and fell asleep, much to the chagrin of our friends who had just run the race and were now free to go out and celebrate.

The next day was Easter and we decided to take a trip to Cape Point. Good idea if you have a car. Bad idea because we didn’t, but how could we have known? We took the train to Simon’s Town, which I was extremely happy about because the penguins were there. Well turns out the others only had us stop there because that’s as far down that the train would take us. But I was determined to see the penguins. The train was eventful to say the least. When we were buying our tickets, the lady asked me if I wanted first class and I was so tempted to say “Lady, just because I’m white doesn’t mean I have money!” (that’s what being in the Peace Corps does to you I guess) so we bought third class tickets (apparently there is no second class?) and jumped on our train. The train looked pretty rugged, with the cracked vinyl seats and graffiti EVERYWHERE – but nice graffiti that said things like “be positive!” When they came around for our tickets, the conductor said “You should be in third class.” We said uh yup. And he said “this is first class.” I laughed pretty hard before I realized he was serious. So we got up to move to third before we were quickly informed they do not let tourists go to third class because “you WILL be robbed.” That was all I needed to hear and quickly upgraded our tickets to stay in our current “first class” seats. But we got to Simon’s Town with all of our possessions, thankfully. Unfortunately, as I said, we had no more sunny days, and not only was it not a sunny day, it was raining pretty hard, and we had no rain jackets. And it was Easter, so nothing was open. Except churches I guess, but we were more in the bar mood at this point, never mind it was 10am. We saw a sign for the tourism office, which turned out, obviously, to be closed and tried to ask how to get to the point at the Naval Museum, but got guilted into staying a while because the woman was so happy to have people there. When we finally escaped, we asked directions at a park, where we got the unfortunate news that there was no transport that day because, well, it was Easter. So we stopped at a café to mull over our options, where I made my plea for the penguins and after warming up with some coffee, we headed down to Boulder Beach! The penguins were so cute! It was one of my favorite things we did. We walked out onto a boardwalk where you could get close to many of them, we then walked down to Boulder Beach, which was sweet in and of itself because you could climb all over these HUGE boulders and swim (if it hadn’t been freezing cold and rainy). But the best part of the beach was that the wild penguins were there too! So we were literally walking on the beach with the penguins. It was amazing. Here’s some interesting facts about these cute little guys: two pairs of penguins colonized the beach and now there are a few thousand of them, they were originally called “jackass” penguins because they sound like donkeys (its true!), and they bite. We were crawling through some boulders on the beach to get back out of the park as this was the only way, and what of course is in the small passage but a penguin. Well they’re so darn cute in a zoo, but once one is a foot from you and you know they bite with their sharp beaks, all of a sudden not so cute anymore. And these guys aren’t afraid of humans, obviously, so I had a stand off with this penguin for a minute or so before he quickly lost interest and waddled back out the other side. On our way out to grab something to eat and figure out our next move, we ran into our friends from Lesotho who were headed to the point after a quick stop to see the penguins and who had cars! So we squeezed in with them and headed south. Well, unfortunately we didn’t get to the point, we got to the gate, realized it was R80 per person to enter and the 10 Peace Corps Volunteers decided “no way” and turned around. We did stop at a different beach that was breath taking and it had a peninsula, so I say we say the point. A point anyway. We did see some baboons on our way as well on the side of the road. Here are some baboon safety tips from our visitor’s guide: slow down and stay in your car, keep doors locked and windows closed, if baboons get into your car, get out, open all doors and don’t block their exit, if your bag is taken, remain calm and don’t confront the animal, wait until it leaves and then retrieve your bag, watch out for baboons when you picnic – if they arrive, move, when hiking and carrying a backpack, be aware that baboons might rip it off, place the backpack on the ground beside you – be vigilant and try to guard the bag. Who knew?

The next day we spent the whole day eating and drinking our way around the city, enjoying our last day of good food and real drinks. After dinner we headed to our favorite bar where the boys had beer to go with their Cuban cigars and I obviously had a few Cosmos. It was great. We stayed out with our favorite Lesotho-ans until it was too late to go to bed, as we all had an early exit the next day and obviously had not packed. So we stayed up all night, packed quickly and headed to the train station. As I stood on the platform waiting for the train, I almost fell over twice from falling asleep, vowing never to stay up all night again. We jumped on the train, sat down (as there were no sleeper cars available to upgrade to) and promptly passed out. Two hours later I woke up and for the first time, was not happy to see the Cape Town skyline and beautiful Table Mountain. We had pulled out of the train station and stopped just outside (so we could have a nice view while we sat there??) and had not moved in two hours. It only got worse after that, after having vowed not to stay up all night again, we did again that night as the car was too cold and uncomfortable and bright to sleep. I have honestly never been so cold, I thought we were driving through Antarctica, because definitely couldn’t be Africa. Finally, 30 hours later (five hours late) we stopped in Joburg, jumped on a khumbi, ate the take away dinner of rice, cole slaw, chacolaka, spinach and beef that we have come to know and love/hate, that day it was love, and headed back to Swaziland. I’ll spare you (mom) the racing the border gate closing story and how fast we were actually going as well as what time we finally got to our hostel. But we did, and slept like the dead that night, only waking up to Burke calling unknowingly at 10am. If it wasn’t for that, we probably would have slept past noon for the first time on this continent. We had a nice relaxing Thursday and a great goodbye party for our Country Director Eileen on Friday, before I finally got back to my good ole hut on Saturday and slept and slept and slept all weekend.

All in all it was a fantastic trip, with great friends in a great city. We are all already planning our return trips and I can’t wait to get there again soon (Sue and John??). There is so much we didn’t get to do (the point obviously, the winelands, the seals, robben island) and all we did do, I would love to do again a million times over. Minus the train in the sitter car without blankets. That was just dumb. I also cannot wait to do another trail run, or run in general. I’m planning on the Swazi Half Marathon in September and maybe the 20K Trail Run next year in Cape Town, who knows!

But now that I’m home, that means its project time! We had a meeting with our RHMs on Thursday, handed out our surveys and t-shirts from our MP (Member of Parliament). It was so exciting to get stuff going, but now there is so much that needs to be done in the next three weeks, and we still haven’t gotten our money yet, so there’s a lot of angst along with the excitement. But I’ve decided to roll with it and whatever happens happens because it never happens how you plan it to and, let’s face it, this is Africa. Things won’t happen on time, much less go how you want it to.

I’ve also gotten involved with World Food Programme and their initiative to monitor food distribution to malnourished patients at the local hospitals. I have yet to get to our local hospital so this will be a good chance to help out and to get involved. They also have a program monitoring the NCPs (care points for orphans) that they deliver food to. Unfortunately they aren’t the ones who give food to my NCPs so that isn’t something I am involved in with them, but it gave me some ideas and after June when this project is over, I hope to see where our NCP monitoring is at and see what we can improve on that. Another volunteer has set up a system of taking measurements of the children at the NCPs each month to monitor them for malnutrition, which seems easy enough and can be linked up with NCP monitoring. So lots of activities and ideas in the pot, we’ll see what actually comes to fruition. Right now though, the Health Project has full control of my thoughts.

Whew, ncesini, this was a long one. But its nice to finally have something to update on, I feel like I’ve been slacking a bit lately, but things were a bit boring for a while when we were just waiting of funding to get things going. But its picking up now which is good. And we’re already into May, which means next month will be a year! Can you believe it?? Neither can I.

Well I think that’s all I have, but not before it’s time for my Happy Birthday section…

mkay I think just about all of my family has a birthday in May, so at the risk of leaving anyone out I’m just going to say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY and you all know who you are. ; )

Also a big CONGRATS to ALLLLLL my friends and family graduating!!! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you all, high school or college, I am most definitely at your grad party in spirit. Most specifically to my little bro, I know you technically finished a few months ago, but congrats bud, and good luck in college this week!!

Miss you all and love you tons!

Love, Megan

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cape Town Bound!

Goodness it’s hard to believe April is already half over! Where has the time gone? And not only that, but race day is almost here! The day I’ve been looking at and training for that has been off in the distant future for so long, the race we’ve been talking about since we landed in Joburg (literally) is on Friday! Crazy!

And we’re off to Cape Town! We’re in town today before we head to Joburg tomorrow and catch our bus to Cape Town on Tuesday. We’ll arrive in Cape Town Wednesday afternoon. We’re heading out a bit early to avoid any of the potential residual protests hanging over from last week. But I mean, I’m all for starting vaca early, so here we go! The Peace Corps is always talking about sustainable development, well we’re talking about sustainable vacation this week. ; ) Here’s hoping we get extended on the other end of our trip too!

Not a lot has been going on lately. Mid Service Conference was fun, as every time is when our whole group gets together again. We started off with a workshop with our counterparts, talking about designing and implementing projects. A lot of it was review for us, but it was important for our counterparts to hear, so a lot of the workshop was in siSwati. As important as it was for us to be there with our counterparts, it was pretty boring. We had a few days of a Grief and Loss workshop as well, which I was indifferent about a first (mostly I just wanted to stay the extra days for cooked meals and showers), then I was kind of dreading it the first night because it seemed a little hokey, but after the first day it was actually pretty good. We all have a lot of baggage, significant or insignificant, we carry around and when you come here and sit in your hut, by yourself, it all tends to come up. And that compounded with the loss we see here everyday, it can be a bit much. So it was good, a little long because we all love to talk about ourselves, but good none the less. We also had a day of administrative stuff, talking about new medical policies, that state of the country, practicing our plan incase of natural disasters or civil unrest (which every country does at mid service, but we’ve just had extra practice), taking a look at where we’re at now and how we want the next year to go, and talking about third year extension options and Peace Corps Fellows opportunities. That’s right, time to start thinking about life after Peace Corps! Though it’s still a little far away, it’s coming up quickly! This time next year will be our Close of Service Conference. eek.

I’ve been doing a little “Life After Peace Corps” research of my own too. I’ve been watching “Long Way Down” with Ewan McGregor, where he and some friends ride motorcycles from London to Cape Town. It’s the second one, after “Long Way Round,” but obviously this one is a little more exciting at the moment, as they travel from Cairo to Cape Town, which I hope to do, in reverse, at the end of service. We’ll see if it happens, but watching this makes me extremely excited. I was hoping to finish and watch them get to Cape Town before I left for Cape Town, but unfortunately I didn’t get all of the episodes and they only got to Tanzania. Hopefully I can get the rest at some point.

Things with my Health Project are moving along. I finally got approval from everyone that needed to see it. Unfortunately this Cape Town trip came at a bad time, so once I get back I’ll have someone from the office come talk to my counterpart about what this money means, what needs to happen with it, that I am personally responsible for it, etc, etc. Then, two weeks after that I’ll get the money. Which is unfortunate because we wanted to start the surveys to gather the community’s baseline knowledge on HIV the week I got back. Hopefully NERCHA will come through with printing the surveys for us and we can continue on without the money at this point. Then we’ll get the money a few weeks before the trainings begin to buy 400+ notebooks and pens and 150+ boxes of cookies among many other smaller tasks. So it’s Go time when I get back from Cape Town! Which is fairly exciting actually, I feel like this project has been stuck not going anywhere for three months, but in just a few weeks, we’ll be started and it’ll be over in June and I’ll have to think of the next project to start! But not before I see my parents at the end of June! : )

Well, that’s all for now… South Africa awaits.

Love and Miss Everyone!


PS: Go Hawks and Pens! :) :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Not Too Exciting Update...

Hey Hey Everyone!

Whoops, sorry it’s been a while since I last updated. I really don’t even have an excuse; I haven’t been doing anything really and don't really have too much to report, just wanted to check in so you all know I'm still alive and kickin'. Ha. I’ve settled into a nice groove lately, teaching two days a week, having a meeting or two a week, with the other days just spent doing the wash, cleaning the hut, and recuperating from the week’s activities.

Teaching is going well, we are starting the Decision Making Skills unit in both grades, talking about role models (the only ones they could come up with were “my mother” and Torres) and goals (the only definition they could think of was “putting the ball in the net.” I can’t make this stuff up…). It is still a bit of a struggle sometimes. The small group work I have them do usually doesn’t work out well and I have to just tell them what I wanted them to get out of it, which isn’t engaging for anyone, but hopefully the message is going through, at least to someone. But I hope when we start talking more in depth about having goals in life, that it will be more interesting to them and hopefully they’ll think more about finishing school, going to university and making good choices to get them there. I would be willing to bet about 90% of the girls have children before they are 22 and certainly before they are married. The other day, a grade 4 teacher came in and said a girl had been absent from her class all week and came to find out she dropped out because she was pregnant. Grade 4. More astonishing was when I found out this was not the first time a Grade 4 girl has become pregnant. So hopefully getting them thinking about what they want to do with their life will help at least a few to break the mold. I’ve come to realize the idea of goals and the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is something we obviously take for granted in our culture that isn’t here so much. Maybe, just maybe they learn about goals in a religious education class, which it seems is the place where they throw everything else that doesn’t fit in the math, science, agriculture classes, but it is definitely not more than breezed over. When I asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up it was either a soldier or a nurse. Not a lot of variety from it, so maybe with goal setting and an introduction to other job forces, they can see a world outside of what they know. Or a few can anyway, that’s all you can really hope for. There is a girl in my grade 6 class who said she wanted to be a vet. I almost fell off my chair. There is another boy in grade 5 who speaks almost perfect English, writes notes religiously and volunteers answers for everything; a teacher’s pet I guess you’d call him, but you love those kids when you’re teaching a class of 12 year olds who don’t speak your language and know you won’t beat them. He also told the teacher he loved Ms. Shabalala’s class and proceeded to list off everything we had talked about and all the big words I had written on the board like communication and assertive and peer pressure. I was so happy and proud!

But other than teaching, I’ve just been hanging out the past few weeks, waiting for my grant to be approved, not that I could do anything yet even if I got the money tomorrow with the project not starting until May. So March has been full of nothing but hanging out at site, hanging out with Eric and Dan’s parents when they visited, and eagerly anticipating Cape Town in a month and my own parents visiting in 3 months! It has been kick my butt in gear time in terms of this race. Only a few weeks left till race day! And next week is our Mid Service Conference in town. More like 9 month service but oh well. It will be great to have a week of cooked food, showers, and a bed that isn’t caving in. I don’t know what the deal is, but the beds we bought in town suck. If I have any advice to the new group coming in it is: bring earplugs and eyeshades and don’t skimp when buying a bed. That and it does get cold here in some places, aka my site, which is near where you are training, is. Like cold cold. Bring warm clothes. And I’m from Minnesota.

Lets see what else is going on? Not much. It is hot here now, but it gets cooler at night so winter is coming, as evidenced by the 6:30pm sunset and getting later every day. The kids on my homestead are growing up fast. The almost 2 year old can say just as much English as he can siSwati and I’m taking full credit for that. Though his “I’m fine” sounds more like “I’m dying” which I find hilarious. The preschooler comes home with his English chants they teach in school that I love hearing. The latest concept is “How many days are in a week?” to which he replies “Saturday and Sunday we do not go to school!” Close bud, close.

Well, I’ve tried to stretch this out to give you more of an update on my life. But really nothing is happening. Ha. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. As far as I can tell, Saint Patrick hasn’t made it to the Swaz like his fellow Saint, Valentine, but I haven’t been to town all week so maybe I just missed him. Well I hope everyone is enjoying their Spring Breaks and getting ready for spring! Miss you all!

Love, Megan

Monday, February 28, 2011


Thanks for the Oprah magazines Aunt Rebecca! My sisi's said they were "muhle kakhulu!" very beautiful!

They insisted...

And who am i to argue? ;)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hello to the New Group Invitees!! (Already?? Really??)

Hello Everyone!

Hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day! I had a great Vday and Bday in town, just hanging out those two days. It was nice and low key and a good break from site.

I heard exciting news the other day over Chinese food at the new restaurant that just opened up in town (it was a VERY exciting day). Rumor has it that the new Group 9s are coming to the Swaz on June 9. Though its still February, I’m assuming lots of them have already gotten their invitations and are Googling the Swaz like mad trying to find out as much as they can. Though if they’re like me, they won’t get their invitation until 4 weeks before they come. But I noticed on the stats of my blog (which by the way has had THREE THOUSAND views. Wow) that the traffic from the Peace Corps Journals site has increased dramatically so I’m guessing some have already started searching for blogs from Swaziland to see what their next two years will be like, I know I did. So if you are one of those people, Congrats!, can’t wait to meet you, and if you have any questions I’d be happy to help! :) But it’s weird to hear that the new group coming in 3 months. I feel like we just got here! Ha. It’s like when you become the seniors in High School, suddenly you’re the old ones and everyone looks to you for advice and asks you questions. It’ll be weird when they get here and the Group 7s who came before us start leaving. What’s even weirder is that this time next year, we’ll be the ones leaving. Crap, I better get going on my projects, I need to start packing! Don’t look now guys, but I’ll be home soon! Well I’ve got about 16 or 17 months left, but when I’ve been here 8 already, and the last three I’m not allowed to do anything but wrap things up, pack and say goodbye, time is a tickin’!

Anyway, things are still going well here. I finally started teaching Life Skills. It is going to be a bit of a struggle because they’re so young, but its fun and I enjoy it. I have a teacher helping me with the 5th graders which is good but I’m going to have to come up with some new stuff to teach them because our Life Skills curriculum is a little above them so we’ll have to see how that goes. The 6th graders are fine; one class is great, nice and well behaved (so far anyway) the other class is a bunch of punks. Usually when I’ve been in front of a class they are all so in awe or scared of me that they don’t utter a word, even when I ask a question. But this class had no problem goofing off and chatting while I was trying to teach. They’re a little older than the other class so they must have figured out I’m not going to beat them and since I don’t give out grades in this class, we’re going to have to figure something out there too… It’s a bit annoying because I was given classes at pretty awkward times. I spend all of Friday at the school, with one class in the morning and one in the afternoon. With the half hour walk to the school and the heat of the African sun, I just hang out with the secretary typing up things for them. They’re amazed at my typing skills, thank you Tanglen Elementary! And I have one half hour long class midday on Tuesdays. That is the most annoying because when people don’t start their day until 10 and finish at 2, I can’t schedule a meeting that day because of the class and it’s a half hour walk down to the school, just for a half hour class. But try to go and make use of my time there, I’m working with the schools to fill out some grants to get their libraries up and running so we can get some books donated and a librarian trained starting in November. And the English teachers and guidance counselors and science teachers (once they found out my degree) like asking me for help. The Practical Arts teachers ask for lots of help because they have a few lessons on technology. How do you explain the Internet to someone who has never used a computer? (It’s a series of tubes?) Or a fax machine? Or how does satellite TV work? Its hard enough for me to try to explain it to these teachers, but then they are expected to turn around and teach it to some 5th graders who don’t go into town, have never used a computer, seen a fax machine or Xerox machine. It’s a different set of problems you don’t usually think about.

The classes here are interesting. Failing a grade is not as uncommon as it is in the US, and most students do it many times. We went around the classroom and had everyone say their name, age and what they wanted to be when they grow up. Most of the 5th graders are around 11 or 12 and the 6th graders are between 13 and 15. It obviously gets more spread out as you get to the High School levels where people in Form 5, Grade 12, are between 17 and 24. Though lots of the kids that have to repeat multiple grades probably won’t end up reaching Form 5 and will drop out (or in some cases be told not to come back) somewhere around Grade 7. The kids have to pay for their schooling here, so it can get expensive if you have a child who keeps repeating. But the government pays for University, if you can get in, and have started paying for primary school. This year is Grade 1-3, adding a year more each year so next year Grade 4 will be free too. The government also pays for the OVCs school fees as well. In theory, it works. Get your child through high school and we’ll get them through college. But, you know.

Anyway, between Life Skills, my project, laundry and random people who want help with grants or applications or business plans of some sort, I usually have something to do every day. Which is nice. I am busy, but not exactly. I have something to do every day, which is a little tiring after the last 5 months of doing nothing at least 3 days a week. But I’m usually home by 1 at the latest every day, so naps and general lounging around are still not in short order. Today, I baked muffin/cookies in my makeshift stove oven with empty tuna cans as the tin. But after I made my first one I realized the batter was more delicious than it was when it was baked (I take after my mother I guess…) so I made about four then just ate the batter. And now I am about to turn on some West Wing, so obviously, with things picking up, life is still pretty tough for me here. ;)

Well I think that’s all I have for now, just a quick update on life. There are a few sets of parents visiting this week, which is making me VERY excited for my parents to come in three months! Can’t wait to see them again, considering the last time I saw them it was from the other side of security at the airport and they were a little fuzzy from the obnoxious amount of tears I was crying. Ha. So it’ll be good to see them again, halfway through!

But I think that is all for now, but I want to say a quick GOOD LUCK to my UMN Synchro Team at Nationals next week and a big CONGRATS to Scott and Pamela on their wedding next week as well!! Wish I could be there for both of those, but have a great time everyone!

Miss and Love you all!

Love, Megan

Friday, February 18, 2011

The World According to Megan

Yes i majored in Science not Art. So i can tell you where the continents are and how they were in Pangea and about platetechtonics, but i cannot draw them. No i cannot. It did however serve the purpose of showing the kids where the US was and that there were actually two Americas, North and South. Blew their minds. Glad i could help.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The End of Self Site-Imprisonment: Hostel Takeover and the Super Bowl

Happy almost my birthday everyone! ; )

Also, happy almost 18th birthday to my little bro and a Congrats on finishing High School as well! Another congrats to my UMN Synchro team and their amazing skate at Mids this year!! Good luck at Nationals girls, I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you!!

I am very happy to say things are continuing to move along here! My project is going very well so far, and life is moving along here in the Swaz.

Things are actually ahead of schedule for my project which is fabulous. I intended to submit the proposal for the funding for our project to the Peace Corps at the end of February. It is a large VAST as they’re called (Volunteer Activities Support and Training) so it needed to be submitted at least 3 months before the project, due to start May 30. But my counterpart and I finished it three weeks ahead of schedule and I submitted it on Friday! It was very exciting and I was very proud of myself so needless to say I was feeling pretty good this weekend. Even a packer win couldn’t bring me down! I’ve got a meeting next week with the PC office staff to discuss the project, and keep going down the path toward getting the funding. We’ve also talked with people from the various NGOs we are asking to come for our project and with the director at the clinic to lend us a nurse for the day, and everyone is very willing to help out so far so I am feeling pretty good about everything! We’re heading into town on Thursday for more meetings, so its just busy busy getting this stuff done!

I am also starting to teach Life Skills at the Primary School tomorrow! I hope. I thought I would teach last week, but it kept getting pushed back. But I finally got my schedule last Thursday and I now teach Grades 5 and 6 on Wednesdays and Fridays. It’ll be nice to have a little more of a schedule, while still having a lot of time to organize short notice meetings and impulsive trips to town. I’m a little nervous about the young age, both for material comprehension and English comprehension as well, but so far I have been impressed with the kids’ English here, so here’s hoping.

This last weekend ended a long continuous time at site for me, my own self induced site imprisonment. ;) Being in a small country like Swaziland with relatively good transport (meaning you don’t have to wait days…) makes it easy to get into town fairly often, which can be a blessing and a curse. I didn’t really plan it, but I went into town just once for a few hours since I returned from Mozambique a little over a month ago. It was good to just be at site, hang out in the community, and be productive! But with that being said, I welcomed this past weekend of Hostel Takeover and the Super Bowl with open arms. Hostel Takeover was a blast. One volunteer had the idea in November that since our All-Volunteer Conference was so fun and we all don’t usually get to see each other, we should all get together once every three or four months at a backpackers in town, just to catch up. So that was this weekend. So fun. We had a little over half the volunteers there, so it was a pretty good turn out. Then of course there was the Super Bowl. I was very excited to finally see a football game, heck anything besides soccer and cricket, for the first time in a year. But why the only football game I got to see had to be a packer game, I’ll never know. So there were about 8 of us, 7 people cheering for the packers and me, who stayed up literally ALL NIGHT watching the game, 1:30am to 5:15am. Well Steph fell asleep in the first quarter and I took my usual third quarter nap, but other than that ALL NIGHT! Ha. It was fun, but we didn’t get to see any cool commercials, just the same three ESPN commercials, as it was broadcast on ESPN International. We did however get to see Christina mess up the National Anthem and the Black Eyed Peas, Slash, and Usher at half time. But that will probably be our only American sporting event this year. At least until next Super Bowl. Unless of course the Wild/Blackhawks/Penguins go to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that is broadcast on ESPN International… Then I just might have to camp out at the backpackers for the series, sleeping during the day and watching the games all night. ; )

On another note, our trip to Cape Town is coming together quite nicely. We are meeting up with our friends from PC Lesotho that we met in Mozambique for this trip so it should be even more fun. Frankly, I am mostly just ecstatic about hitting up McDonald’s. But of course we’ll make sure to get to other places too. ; ) Trips to Table Mountain, Robben Island, and Simon’s Town for penguins are definitely on the agenda.

But before its time for Cape Town, we have our Mid Service Conference in March (Mid Service? Already?) then after Cape Town it will be time to get my health project underway before my parents come to visit in June! How exciting will that be?? Lots of stuff to look forward to coming up, which is very exciting.

Well I hope everyone is enjoying their February and the snow. At least Phil the groundhog says your winter will end early. We have translated that into an early end of summer here, which those in Lubombo are quite pleased about as well. Though me in the mountains? Not quite sure I’m ready for an early transition into winter. Though it won’t be even close to the Minnesota winter I’m used to, I hear there is frost sometimes and frankly, when inside your hut is the same temperature as it is outside, anything under 70 is pretty darn cold.

Anyway, love and miss you all! Thanks for all the birthday cards and the package(s) that I’m not sure who its from yet till I get into town next week, but whoever you are thanks!

Love, Megan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Busy as a Bee, as the Swazis Say

Hey Hey,

Hope everyone’s January is winding down well. It’s almost February, meaning it’s almost my birthday! My first in Africa, and I’ll finally be a big kid Peace Corps volunteer! ;) Except once I finally hit 22, everyone else will be 23+, and I will never catch up! Oh well.

Well things are just moving along so well here! I have had a few meetings with my counterpart about our Health Project and we’ve settled on some dates for the trainings, the topics of the trainings and who will be the presenters. Then we met with the RHMs (Rural Health Motivators – bogcugcuteli in siSwati) who will be trained by nurses and NGOs and then teach to the community. My counterpart said she was concerned that they would not want to partake in this project because they would think it was too much work. I was nervous too because, frankly, it is a lot of work for them, doing surveys, attending the training, teaching three two-day sessions to the community. And it is a lot of work for my counterpart, as I am hoping that we do the planning together and/or she does it, so she can do this when I’m gone. But during the meeting I was so impressed with everything and everyone. My counterpart conducted the whole thing without any prompts from me (which was nice but at the same time I had to struggle to follow along as it was all in siSwati… story of my life here) and the RHMs were so engaged and discussed the topics they thought would be most beneficial to the community and even suggested that their training be three days instead of two. Then before the meeting closed, they said they wanted to thank me for involving them in my project about 200 times and that it was clear to them how much I loved them and wanted to work with them. I was so touched, especially because I was the one who should have been thanking them a million times! They said the two previous volunteers in the community came and went and never worked with them or invited them to help with projects so they were ecstatic when they heard I wanted to meet them. And I was ecstatic when they wanted to participate in my project so it is a definite win-win. : ) So February will be busy writing the grant for this project to submit by the end of February so that the project can start at the end of May!

I also had a meeting at the Primary School today. Schools started almost two weeks ago now and I hadn’t heard anything from the head teacher about teaching Life Skills so I assumed it had fallen by the way side as the schools were already in session, and I was alright with that as my Health Project was going so well. But as soon as I sit down in her office today she says she is giving me three periods (1/2 hour each) a week for Life Skills. Apparently they still haven’t made a new timetable for this year, two weeks into the year. But she says it should be finished by Monday and I will begin teaching next week! So things are really starting to pick up here, which I am very thrilled about. Seven months in, it’s about time huh? Ha.

Also, an update on my half marathon adventures (for those of you not on Facebook and Twitter who haven’t seen my rantings), the TwoOceans Half Marathon filled up in record time this year, all 13,500 spots. And we weren’t registered! : ( But we signed up for a 10K Trail Run instead, which should be equally fun. So we’ll still be running in Capte Town over Easter weekend. Maybe we’ll hit up the actual half marathon next year; pending COS (Close of Service) Conference dates.

Well that’s about all for now. It’s almost 9, way passed my bedtime! I don’t know if I’ll get another update up before the Super Bowl so everyone make sure they cheer hard against those pesky Packers for me! Especially those of you going! ; )

Love you and miss you all!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Mozambique Pics

Hello, Hello!

Here are some pics from our trip to Moz.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back to School!

Children from a local orphanage distributing school supplies to some orphans and vulnerable children in the community today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Hello Hello!

Well I am back from a wonderful 9 day trip to Mozambique. It’s nice to be back in my own bed for sure, but the trip made me very excited about traveling more and I am already looking forward to our trip to Cape Town in April!!

We started off our trip with a pit stop to spend the night at our fellow volunteers’ homestead in a community closer to the border. They have a very nice, big, two room plus bathroom area house with a little patio that we were all very jealous of, but grateful for as it could comfortably fit the 6 of us traveling through. We went on a nice hike around their area and Brooke cooked us a delicious Indian meal and Reid made some fabulous French Toast for dessert/breakfast.

Then we headed out early the next morning for Mozambique. We were quite the site in the kumbi with all our bags and lets just say the local bomake were not quite pleased with us taking up so much of their morning kumbi. : / But we made it to and through the border with no problems, thankfully. Then we had to catch a kumbi (chapa in Portuguese) to Maputo. Our friends on PSN told us in their manual that you just had to walk through the border post and down the hill to the bus rank. Well 45 min - an hour later, and only thanks to a few friendly locals, we finally got to the bus rank and into the smallest kumbi I’ve even been in. And it was in this small kumbi we learned that they like to cram their kumbis even more full than those in the Swaz. In Swaziland, once you have 15 passengers in a 15-passenger van, they will leave, cramming in some more along the way. In Moz, they won’t leave till there are at least 4 people in each row, bringing it total to at least 18 before departure. Awesome. Plus the back seat was raised a little off the ground so those of us in the back seat spent the whole hour and 45 min ride to Maputo with kinked necks. I was uncomfortable, I have no idea how Eric who is a foot taller than me, handled it. But we made it and were instantly in awe of Maputo. Swaziland is a small country with small cities. Though Mbabane is pretty developed, its not too terribly big, and Manzini is about a 4x4 block radius, despite the amount of people and crowded bus rank. Brooke said the best way to describe Maputo is like 17 Manzinis put together, which probably means nothing to you because you’ve never seen Manzini, but its true. Maputo is a large city that looks very African, with ruined buildings and virtually no traffic signs. We were all in awe of the 4 way stops with no signals whatsoever. How people drive in these cities I have no idea.

We made it to our backpackers around noon and spent the rest of the day wandering around the city taking in the sites and hunting for the ocean. You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard as Maputo is bordered by the Indian Ocean on two sides, but I was so turned around, I thought it was on the other two sides, even despite the map. Fortunately Eric and Jessica were more directionally aware than I was. That night we met two girls from Peace Corps Lesotho who were headed up to the Inhambane area the next day like we were so we got to know them and were very excited to spend our week with more Peace Corps people (PS: one was from Apple Valley! Small world huh?) Also just another little tidbit about our trip, we decided to camp the whole time. Good idea; saves money and such. Yeah not such a good idea in the city as we were camping on the cement. We’d probably still do it again, we’d just continue to complain, or I would at least. ; )

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn to catch our 6am bus up to the beaches of Tofo, 8 hours away. And so, in true African-ness, we wait, and wait, and 6am comes and goes, as do 7, 8, 9, and 10 am. All the while the receptionist is telling us it is coming, just another half hour. But what else could we do but wait? Finally it rolls in at 10:30, with obviously not enough spots for everyone and their bags. But long story short, we crammed everyone and all their bags and surfboards and tents into the bus and were on our way by 11. I’ll spare you the agonizing 10 hour bus ride of cramped quarters, obnoxious South Africans, too many stops, spilled milk (literally) and skip to 9pm when we finally made it to Tofo. Once we finally got off the bus, checked in (oh surprise there’s this festival going on here we didn’t tell you about and you have to pay 500 Meticais or we’ll kick you out at 11… what?!), and dinner in our stomachs (the only thing besides pastries and NikNaks we’d eaten all day), everyone was in much better spirits and a walk to the ocean just down the stairs helped us all forget the bad travel day.

The next day was New Year’s Eve and we headed into the nearest town for food for our meals and, obviously, champagne. It was quite the adventure, including people getting lost in a town maybe the size of Benson (which has also happened…), but we all got our food and drinks and made it back to the backpackers… eventually, meeting some crazy cool people along the way. The rest of the day was spent lounging on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and checking out the local market – delicious bread and hot dogesque things. The New Years Party was pretty sweet, much more than I had anticipated, including fireworks on the beach (what could be better?!) and popping our champagne corks into the ocean at midnight. Truly a great New Years. A bunch of us tried to stay up to watch the sunrise over the ocean, but decided to go to bed when Eric said a sentence and I said “What I was asleep and woke up in the middle of that sentence.” and he responded with “I have no idea what I said, I did the same thing.” So we all packed up our stuff and called it a night, and never did see the sunrise. Oh well.

The next 3 days were spent lounging on the beach and in the chairs over looking the ocean when we were too burned to go back in the sun. We met so many other Peace Corps people it was great, from Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Malawi. We also met people from Grassroots Soccer living in Cape Town, it was really nice being around more Americans for a little while again. We ate some good food, though we usually had to wait 2 hours after ordering to get it, and we all know how pleasant I am when I’m hungry, well now everyone here knows too. : / There was lots of seafood and peri-peri to be had, by others… But all in all it was a great trip.

We decided to head back to Maputo a day early to get a full day in the city. After another transport debacle (oh yeah even though our signs say it leaves at 6am, the shuttle left at 4am this morning. Yeah there’s nothing we can do, you’re SOL, go get public transport), we took public transport and actually made it back to the city in half the time it took us to get there. We then spent a nice day and a half in the city, checking out the local markets (including the fish market, which everyone hyped and was frankly more like a smelly shack but everyone else loved it so… yay!) and on the way back got caught in what I swear was a hurricane but I’m from Minnesota so who knows so we had to wait it out in a local bar drinking $1 beers. Bummer. The next day we headed back to the Land of the Swaz in the pouring rain, but despite the few downs we had, the beach was beautiful, the city was amazing and of course the company was great! : ) It was a great trip indeed. I have a few pictures that I hope to get up at some point, but obviously who knows when that will be.

So now its back to reality got to start things going here in the community. I’ve got something going this week, someone wants to give school supplies to the kids in the community before school starts next week (its Back to School time here), then hopefully getting this Health Project going and maybe teaching Life Skills, we’ll see if that comes together. Other than that, just 15 weeks until the Half Marathon in Cape Town, gotta get running! More like gotta get something going here before I go on vacation again! ; )

That’s all for now, I need to get to the store for some bread. I’m going to make some hummus today and finish my book. I’m reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something to read.

Happy New Year to you all, hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season!

Love, Megan

PS: Happy 21st Birthday to my sister Ali!!! Have a wonderful time in DC. And Congratulations to my cousin Chris and his new wife Allie! Wish I could have been there to celebrate with you, it looked like a beautiful wedding.

PPS: I want to give a shout out to Shelley Brand from your sister Jessica! ; ) Can’t wait to meet you if/when you come visit us!

Friday, January 7, 2011


The kids on my homestead reading about snow. Thanks G for the book, now they can all say the word "snow" though they still have no idea what it means...