Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming… as the Starks of Winterfell say. ; )

But it is true, with the February drawing to a close, we all start to remember the bitter cold of winter that starts to appear in March. I’m starting to bring to boots out from under my bed and dust off that North Face fleece! I’m sure this is all old news to all of you and you’re excited for the heat of summer to return, but it’s hard for us all to remember that winter does come in Africa!

And with this winter comes the close of my service! Isn’t it crazy how fast two years flies! I have started selling things from my hut, and planning what will stay and what will go. I look around and am shocked at how much crap I have and how little I’ll be able to bring with me on my trip up the continent this August. Just enough for a backpack…

I’m also very excited that I found out my site will be replaced! That means that after I leave in the beginning of August, a new volunteer will be here at the end of August! My community is very excited, as is my counterpart. I must have done something right then, if they want another crazy American who eats weird things and walks too fast!

Although I can almost see the end of my service, it doesn’t mean that I’m done yet, by any sense. My gardening project for our orphan care point has been approved (finally!!). I will have the money in a few weeks and we will start buying fencing and gutters to get it all going! March 26 we will have a workshop for the caregivers at the care point on basic gardening techniques and on March 27 my counterpart and I will lead them in a basic Early Childhood Education and Psychosocial Support workshop. Bet you didn’t know I knew about all that did you? Turns out I don’t! But if there’s one thing I’ve learned here, its that you know more than you think you do, and the rest you can just fake! With a manual and a translator, there’s nothing I don’t know about! ; )

We’re also in the middle of two libraries at the moment… yes two! Our High School, thanks to all your generous donations and positive thoughts, is in the middle of the Books for Swaziland project. The librarian will attend a Librarian Training on March 1 to learn the ins and outs of a library, how to run it, how to make a check out system, etc. She is very excited and the school is excited for the books to come!

And finally, after a year and a half, we *hopefully* have found someone to build our Primary School a library of their own!! I have searched high and low for someone to build the structure, as infrastructure projects are a big no no for Peace Corps Volunteers here. Managing those projects and the money is a huge responsibility, pain and stress. Plus it is generally the sort of thing we avoid, “yes I have the money to build big buildings” and many times these projects fail for various reasons. So for these reasons we are encouraged to look elsewhere, be the link between the community and the organizations that do build buildings, taking us out of the money part and the managing part so we can focus on how to make this building sustainable and continue functioning long after we are gone. So, that has been my struggle, helping the school with applications and letters to various organizations, begging for help building a library. Finally, last week on a site visit from my boss, the Peace Corps Country Director, and a member of the Embassy, the Deputy Ambassador basically from what I understand, I was informed of State Department community outreach grants and encouraged to apply. What they didn’t tell me is that I needed to have it submitted in less than a week. Needless to say it was a crazy week, trying to get quotations for the building, making sure it fit in the grant’s budget, fitting it all around my prior obligations and then of course the storms knock the power out. But today, a few hours before the deadline, I submitted our request and got an immediate reply. Having dropped the name of the Embassy Official and his visit, as well as the fact that they seem to be trying to give this money away, I think there is a very good chance this will be a success!

This now means that we’ll need books for this new structure, if it comes to fruition. I am looking into some options for that and may be calling for help from you all back home once again, but if it doesn’t work out, with a new volunteer coming, I know this school will be able to participate in the Books for Swaziland project next year.

So with the care point garden, the two libraries, life skills classes and a possible HIV Support Group garden, these last 5 months are shaping up to be my busiest. That’s what everyone said, but you never do believe it until it happens. My biggest hurdle in all these projects now is time. It’s times like these when you really realize that two years is just simply not enough time. But don’t worry guys, I will come home. ; )

But with all these projects, it means there’s not a lot of time for the trips to town, which is fine. The work load ebbs and flows during your service, so sometimes you’re in town a lot because there isn’t much to do at site, and sometimes you’re the site rat who no one ever sees. I was able to sneak away for a few days for Valentine’s Day and my Birthday (thanks for all the birthday wishes and cards!). I hung out with Eric, ate pizza and saw a movie. It was nice to just have some normalcy again, pretending Spur was Applebee’s and the 4 theatre cinema was Willow Creek. But now it’s back to work for a while, which is good as well.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. If anyone from the new group invitees (G10) is reading this, look forward to meeting you in a few months. Anyone remember when I got my invitation to Swaziland?? How long ago does that seem… and yet, not so long. Weird!

Love and miss you all!


PS: I tried to put some pictures up yesterday in town but Picasa was being slow and stupid. Maybe next time.