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!