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...