Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mozambique 2.0

In the United States, on average, workers get 12 vacation days a year. In the Peace Corps we accumulate 2 a month, totaling 48 vacation days in two years.  While it may seem arbitrary to give volunteers vacation days, we (usually) work very hard and deserve every day of the 48. Ryan and I have visited only 2 other African countries while we have been here, mostly due to lack of funds, but also because the majority of our time was spent back at home visiting friends and family for my brothers wedding. Although we have only visited 2 other countries, I believe we have found the Mecca in Mozambique.

Mozambique is every part beautiful as it is ugly, calm as it is chaotic, full of color as it contrasts dark; I appreciated the obvious contradictions as compared to false illusions, or so I thought a few hours across the border. Maputo is challenging – residents speak Portuguese and very few speak English. Unlike Swaziland, where the start of a conversation in SiSwati goes along way, and then eventually most people revert to English, the people of Mozambique only speak Portuguese.  While sometimes this works in your favor (the police have a hard time fining you if you don’t understand each other) the majority of the time you just feel lost and confused.  Ryan and I quickly procured a few key phrases, and when we were really stuck reverted to SiZulu, which some people understood. We were fortunate to travel with other volunteers with a car, which we thought at the time would work in our favor. Even though we ended up spending a small fortune in fines and bribes, it was still nice to be with friends in the confinement of air conditioning and good music.

On May 22nd we were off and on our way to Tofo, a beautiful beach up north on the peninsula of Mozambique. (Well, we were off after the border post held us for 2 hours dealing with car issues.) After another 2 hour detour of getting lost down the wrong road, seeing a very unfortunate car accident and stopping at numerous police check points, we realized we wouldn’t be able to relax until we were out of the car. After 12 hours in the car, we finally made it safe and sound to Paradise Dunes Lodge in Tofo. It was paradise.  We each had our own private rooms, a huge kitchen, a deck overlooking the beach, and because it wasn’t tourist season, we were one of only a couple of groups on the beach. Everyday started with a run on the beach, and every night ended with a late night beach swim watching the red moon rise. Although we tried to snorkel with whale sharks, they were nowhere to be found, however we did see jellyfish, octopus and dolphins.

There was only one casualty, when Ryan got bit by a crab. 

We went on a lot of adventures, my favorite being the all-day island tour where we went out on a rustic boat with a local guide and toured the island off of Tofo called Survivor Island, named after being untouched after the Mozambiquan civil war.  We met the chief, played with the kids and ate great seafood with the village elders. The island has no electricity, they boat fresh water in from the nearest town of Inhambane, and they prize pigs. It felt very isolated and very African. 

While being in Tofo was paradise, again we had to venture out onto the road through Maputo to get back to Swaziland, and that proved to be hell. We got stopped by too many police to count, got fined an enormous amount once, and ended with a cop car side swiping our rental and then, naturally, making us pay for the (slight) damage on their truck. In the meantime, the rest of our group was also being hassled by police. I think it is safe to conclude that I did not enjoy the police force in Mozambique. By the time we crossed the border all 5 of us traveling in the car heaved a huge sigh of relief, and spent the night praising Swaziland for her honesty and kindness, which is truly a trait special to Swaziland. Ryan and I concluded that, for the first time in our African experience, we decided that public transport trumped private.

While Mozambique is a little more raw than Swaziland, it is my favorite African country that I have visited, and the most likely for me to come back and work in again. It is challenging and beautiful and I am so glad that we were neighbors.

Unfortunately, our camera finally bit the dust, but luckily our fellow travelers took some good photos.

Kelly, Ryan, Addy, Ashton and Peter

Close of Service Conference

The dogs are barking. The rooster is crowing his ritual death rattle. Batman is scratching at the door and has succeeded, yet again, in knocking down my perfectly placed mosquito net to keep out the unwanted – bugs, snakes, mice, spiders, and whatever else my imagination can conjure up. It is 5 in the morning, and Ryan and I have 30 minutes to pack up and be on our way to Mbabane. Today is May 6th, the first day of our Close of Service Conference. We rush out the door with our backpacks stuffed to the brim of every electronic we own because with the promise of free wifi, you bring it all. We say goodbye to our family and are on our way. The chaos of the homestead behind us, we take a deep breath and for the first time think about what leaving really means to us.

We have thought quite a bit (albeit superficially) about this moment since arriving exactly 24 months ago today. It has always been inevitable to me that we wouldn’t stay here forever (not always the case for all volunteers) and yet it is very hard for me to believe that the time to leave is now.  I am very ready and at the same time not ready at all.  How do you say goodbye to people who have become your closest friends and family? Am I going to adjust well to working 8 hour days and going to school full time, as compared to teaching a class of 8 for an hour in a “classroom” that is actually the outside of a clinic and then reading the rest of the day?

I am going to miss the beautiful people and strong friendships I have made, the blood red sunset over the banana trees, the laughter of bomake (even when it is at my expense because of my poor SiSwati), the children asking me, “How are yooouuu” from across the field, singing gospel songs with my host family, and obvious, my homestead dogs. During our COS conference, that was where my mind was; How much I am going to miss this place, and how it will always be a part of me and how I will carry what I have learned from this little country for the rest of my life. I have learned more about life and happiness and sadness here than in all of my 24 years of living in America. Granted I still hope to have plenty of more time to learn, I am grateful for the insight that Swaziland has given me. And even in a place with more trial, grief and loss than any I have ever seen, Swaziland also has the most hope and perseverance of any country, the kind of hope that makes you want to be a better person. 

Yes, Ryan and I were thinking all of these things during our COS conference. We were also thinking about hot showers, automatic laundry machines, delicious ice water, our favorite foods, and of course, seeing our family and friends again State side.

Just maybe Ryan and I will have to do Peace Corps again…you know… when we are much older. :) 

Group 9 Peace Corps Volunteers, Swaziland, Africa

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


While last year I was able to attend GLOW with my faithful counterpart, Zandi, this year we were entrusted with four young women from Mpaka and a second counterpart, Xoliswa.  So much preparation and planning was put into this years Camp GLOW and now I am finally basking in the glow of its success. The Mpaka team taught me so much about patience, persistence and how to overcome adversity as a young woman here in Swaziland, and I taught them how to make Smores, so, I think we are even. This year we had 50 girls, 20 counselors and 17 Peace Corps Volunteers participate, and even made it into the Swazi Observer!  My favorite day was Art Day, where Yebo Art from Mbabane came in with local artists and gave the girls the very rare opportunity to express themselves in forms of writing, portraits and screen printing.  While American youth come together frequently to learn and have fun at camp functions, Swazi youth rarely have the time to get together and learn outside of school, and it was endearing how much they prized the opportunity to come.  Not one girl called home crying asking to go home – which I have done to my poor mother more than once while attending girls camp. (Sorry, Mom!)

Now our job is to recruit more young women to form a Mpaka GLOW Club, but first, I am off to Mozambique to swim in the ocean and eat clams!!

Here are some great pictures from GLOW 2013. We also performed a dance that will be posted as a video on Facebook shortly, however, I refuse to watch it because I feel like it will bring me down to the reality that it wasn’t that cool, but it felt really cool at the time! I hope you enjoy.  


Emma and her 2 campers living on the edge!

Self portraits created by the campers.

Bring Your Fire!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Food, Food and More Food

Ryan and I have embarked on some pretty fantastic projects in the past two months. (It turns out it takes 2 years to navigate development in Swaziland to have great ideas turn into great outcomes, or really any outcome.) I have great relationships with the women at the camp, however, because they spend most of their time in their home cleaning, cooking and taking care of children, I never was able to successfully get a project started with them – I just couldn’t get them out of their houses.  (They are very dedicated homemakers.) While talking to my friend Yvonne who is from Burundi about what the women might be interested in, we decided to ask Peace Corps for some money and have a week-long food preservation workshop. (Aren’t you glad that for once I wasn’t asking you for money? :D ) The idea behind the workshop was that these women could gain some new skills and maybe even create an income from those skills at some point. While we had them captivated, we also threw in a nutrition lesson, an HIV lesson, and a condom demonstration lesson, which is always fun.

We were able to hire a trainer from Rural Development Areas in Siteki to teach the class, which allowed me to sit back and learn myself. The outcome was delicious - Guava juice, marmalade, apple and banana jam, guava fruit rolls, atcha (canned peppers with chilies), dried apples, dried bananas, dried spinach, onions and carrots! Cakes, swazi buns, and more cakes, and peanut butter!
While we did learn how to create a lot of delicious things, the women in attendance took it a step further and are now currently working with Umphakatsi (the Chief) to raise funds to buy their very own industrial sized peanut butter grinder to start their own business! On their own! Without me! I am not involved at all! I am very proud of them and happy that they have found something they are passionate about. I wish them the best of luck.  Maybe someday Mpaka will have its very own peanut butter brand, like Bulembu does with honey!

Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the event:

This little boy joined us for the entire week! He was brave enough to be one of the two males who attended.

Peanut Butter!!

Me with RDA's Make Simalene (left) and Yvonne (right).

Swazi Buns!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Another Day...Another Project...that needs your help

Another project!? That's right. As our Peace Corps service comes to an end we are tying up loose ends over here. One project that we are trying to get off the ground is a poultry raising income generation project over at the Malindza Refugee Camp. The poultry raising project is under the helm of the Malindza Refugee Camp Development Committee, a development committee comprised of refugees from the four different countries represented at the camp: Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Congo. I have been meeting with this group for about six months in an advisory capacity. I sit in on the meetings and have helped them design a constitution and business proposal (which will be presented below). This a dedicated and SMART group of guys who want to start income generation projects for the benefit of the camp. The profits from this project will go to paying school fees of refugee families who cannot afford it as well helping other refugees set up other income generation projects to help the camp be self-sustaining and self-reliant.

Below is a detailed business proposal that details where your money is going to be spent as well as a link to an indiegogo site with directions on how to donate. Thanks for your time. Any help is appreciated.

Business Proposal:

My name is Ryan Hall. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Swaziland, Africa. I am working with a group of refugees who have formed a development committee to start and promote income generation projects at the Malindza Refugee Camp. The focus of this project is to lift refugees out of poverty and reliance on the Swazi government by creating a project that will generate income. Their initial project is to renovate a poultry house in order to raise chickens to sell on the market in Swaziland.The generation income will go on to address social needs at the camp such as paying school fees for residents. The profits will be used as seed money for other income generation projects for refugees. A number of these project ideas will come from women in the camp. A big component of this project is the training of the Development Commitee itself so as to assure the sustainability of this project. Below is a summary of their business proposal. You can help by donating money and telling your friends about this great cause.

The Malindza Refugee Development Committee is an association comprised of refugees whose aim is to help the residents of the Malindza Refugee Reception Center. It aims to establish a variety of sustainable income generation projects to assist refugees in Swaziland to become self-sustainable. Our first project aims to raise chickens to sell on the market in Swaziland.
Refugees seeking asylum in Swaziland come from hardships including war, genocide, economic catastrophe and xenophobia. When they arrive in Swaziland they have little to no earthly possessions or means for employment. Many go hungry or rely on outside charitable organizations for food and assistance. The community is full of young parents who are not employed.
The Malindza Refugee Development Committee is a pioneer group working to change this paradigm by starting income generation projects that provide gainful work as well as emergency assistance to those in need. The profits from these income generation projects will go to a variety of ends including: assisting other residents to start income generation projects and paying school fees. This project has the potential to improve the general standard of living at the Malindza Refugee Reception Center. Our long term vision is to be a leading chicken producer in Swaziland to expand our operation to renovate other poultry houses on the premises as our business grows.

The Malindza Refugee Development Committee hopes to:
            (a) raise 2,000 chickens per month to be sold on the open market with an emphasis on butcheries and restaurants that sell Halal meat products. A total of 500 chicks per week can be reared in our deep litter house.

The residents at the Malindza Refugee Reception Center will benefit from this project. Unemployed refugees will benefit by working as casual laborers. We hope to employ 12 people for the initial project. When this project is fully operational we will employ more refugees. After the project has shown to make a profit the Development Committee will hear and attend to the development ideas of other refugees in the camp. This project will address the camp concerns of idleness, food security and lack of gainful employment.

Input (in Emalengeni 1E = 9USD)

Starter Feed
Grower Feed
Finisher Feed
Fosbas (vaccination)
Casota (vaccination)
Gumbora (vaccination)
Feed Tray
4Liter Fount
10 Liter Fount
Tube Feeder
2 x 100 m
Lamp holders
Gum Poles
Corrugated Iron
Bag of Cement
1 bag
Cleaning Supplies
Lulote Business Management Training
1 course

Grand Total Input:                                             30,000 (3,333 USD)


Total Cost: 30,000 (3,333 USD)
Total Revenue after first five week rotation: 87,500 (9,722 USD)
Total Return: 57,500 (6,388 USD)

Every week through the production the project can manage to sell 500 broiler chickens (five weeks old) for the amount of E35 per chick. The total amount will reach E70,000 per month.
With this income after five weeks of our rotation the company will be able to raise 87,500 (9,722 USD) amount with 57,500 (6,388 USD)  profit. This will allow the company to pay its employees E350 per week and to establish a base of customers before expanding to meet the needs of an expanding market after the first harvest.

Community Group Contribution

The Malindza Refugee Development Committee is committed to a sustainable structure that will give long-term employment to Malindza refugees to ensure financial independence and nutritional improvement. To this end the residents of the Malindza Refugee Reception Center have contributed.


1,000 per month
King’s Trust
1,000 L
1,500 per week
Labor for Rennovation
1,500 per month

A previous poultry project has afforded the Malindza Refugee Reception Center with a poultry house. In order for this to be operational it needs to be renovated to raise the chickens to sell. Otherwise, all other contributions have come from members’ private resources and outside private donors.


April: Submission of proposal                      
June: Receive Money. Renovate and complete structure for chicken raising. Start raising chickens
July: First five week period. Sell first batch.
August: Second five weeks period. Sell second batch.
September: Third five week period. Sell third batch.
October: Fourth five week period. Sell fourth batch.
November: Fifth five week period. Sell fifth batch.
December: Clean poultry house. Start first batch for 2014.

We are asking for donations to fund the start up costs of this project. After careful market research we are certain that after selling 2,500 chickens this will be a self-sustaining project and all incurring costs will be paid directly from the group’s profits.
Part of the start up costs include business management training by Lulote BMEP, a business management training organization that will provide training to the Development Committee and will oversee and monitor the project. This will ensure transparency, sustainability and wise management of resources.
The secretary, in liaison with the donor agents, will ensure proper project development by delivering a six month and annual report, as well as any reports the donor may require as the group’s constitution stipulates.
The Malindza Refugee Development Committee hopes to receive any assistance possible to ensure the livelihood of this project. This includes both cash and in-kind donations. We believe that implementing a successful income generation project we will change the paradigm at the Malindza Refugee Reception Center from one of helplessness and victimhood to hope and entrepreneurship.

Malindza Refugee Development Committee

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bushfire Music Festival Refugee Project - We Need Your Help!

-->Family and Friends –

Greetings from Swaziland! Once a year at the end of May the world descends on Swaziland. I am not taking about the Umhlanga ceremony (which if you google Swaziland will probably be the first image you see…try it), the Incwala Ceremony or the ever popular Marula festival, I am talking about the MTN Bushfire Music Festival which has the distinction of being one of the biggest music festivals in Southern Africa. About 5-6,000 people attend from all of over the world to see great international musical acts. This year we have a very special opportunity to make an impact in the lives of refugee women during the Bushfire festival.

As you know Addy and I do most of our work at a refugee camp. These refugees come mostly from Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. These refugees live in destitute conditions at the camp, often not getting enough food to feed themselves. This multiplies if they have children, with many mothers skipping meals so that their children can eat. We are announcing a project that can help women put food on the table in a sustainable way.

If you have never been to Africa, it is massive. Each country has its own distinct culture, language and cuisine. Bushfire celebrates music, culture and cuisine from all over Africa and the world by renting stalls to vendors to sell their unique food. Last year there was Italian, Indian, American, German food being sold as well as stalls from Mauritius, Mozambique and South Africa. With my help, camp residents applied for and were accepted to sell food at one of these stalls provided by the festival. The stall will feature a unique dish from each of the major countries represented (Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo). This is an extremely exciting project. This project piggy-backs on a week-long income generation workshop that Addy is doing with the women at the camp to learn canning, baking and peanut butter making. The stall will be run and the food will be cooked 100% by refugee women and all of the profits will go back to refugee women themselves and to help them start a co-op to implement these income generation projects.

With that said selling at a festival of this size is a bit daunting. We want to make this funded 100% independently by outside donors or investors. This is where you come in. These women are refugees and we as Peace Corps Volunteers do not have the kind of capitol to raise this amount of money. We are looking to you to help cover the cost of the ingredients, serving trays, transport and decoration of the stall. We know this is going to be quite expensive. If you can donate anything, a little bit (thanks to a generous 1:9 exchange rate) goes a long way here. For example if you donate twelve dollars you have donated 108E this side. 100 dollars is close to 1,000 E.

The best way to donate is through my paypal account. It is easy. Click on the send money tab and type in my e mail address:

I know you are probably sick of getting hit for money from your Volunteer friends but without your support there is no way we can pull this off. If you have any questions on donating or how to use paypal to send donations please let me know.

Ngiyabonga Kakhulu (thank you tooooo much)

Ryan and Addy

Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 – You are very welcomed.

The New Year came and went and 2013 has brought with it a jubilant ease and change of attitude that the last couple of months of 2012 was holding back.  This year has so much possibility, inside of Peace Corps and now the chance of looking onto what is after Peace Corps. I have been given way more than I could ever give from this experience and I need to thank the other Peace Corps Volunteers, my host-family, my ever-patient husband and my amazing and close counterparts from the refugee camp and else-where for these great experiences.  While not every project (or any project) was a decisive success, I came out of each one of them stronger, smarter, and ultimately a better future-volunteer.  I hope in 2013 I can navigate the ever-tricky waters of development work and contribute to projects in a more sustainable way.  While I am not sure how much success I have had in the last 20 months in building the capacity of others, I can say that my capacity has been built, and although sometimes I wish I could see even a sliver of change in my community from my presence, the change I see in myself is the best gift Peace Corps could give me.

How to wrap up 2012? My husband loves best-of lists.  I love making to-do lists.  This seemed obvious.

2012 Swaziland Favorites & Bests

Favorite Quote from a Swazi Child
“This one, he is poofing all the time!! Help me!” – Adelyn
“This white family is so smart with technology” (spoken while watching Mission Impossible) - Ryan

Favorite Memory
Swimming in the river with the Dlamini family

Worst Memory
The diarrhea that ensued from swimming in the river with the Dlamini family.

Favorite Restaurant
Fancy = Swazi Candles
Not Fancy = Tutsi’s Swazi Kudla in Manzini

Favorite Vacation Spot
Inhaca Island – Maputo, Mozambique

Best Food in 2012
Fish Market – Maputo

Favorite PC Memory
Christmas in June with G8/G9

Favorite Project 2012

Favorite Swazi
My host-babe, obvious.

Favorite South African Saying
Is it? (An exclamation of surprise, shock, or question)

Favorite Swazi Holiday
Umhlanga (Reed Dance)

Favorite Place to Chill
Our hammock on our homestead

Favorite Swazi Animal
Senator John McCain

Favorite Vacation Spot in Swaziland
Hlane National Park

Favorite Albums I listened to in 2012 (Some are not from 2012)
Bon Iver - Perth
Iron and Wine – The Shepherds Dog
The Weeknd – House of Balloons
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Okkervil River – The Stage Names
Hammock – Departure Songs
Jay Z and Kayne West – Watch the Throne
Johann Johannsson – Fordlandia

Best TV Show in 2012
Boardwalk Empire

Best Books in 2012
The Mole People
The Pyschopath Test

What I Will Miss the Most
Host family, Camp family, and the wild lightning storms

Favorite Swazi Children
Our homestead neighbor bo-bhutis, Miso and Titsetso

Favorite Scary Creature
Flying termites that burst open from the ground after the rain, and only live through the night

Favorite object on the homestead
Babe’s Whip (Goodbye snakes!)

Best Moments from America in 2012
My brothers wedding
When Dan presented himself to the unexpected Potter’s out of the trunk of our car and Atlas screamed with fright/delight
When Dallin was forced to spend an extra 2 days with us thanks to Hurricane Sandy
Pizza from Roco’s with Corey and Katie in Brooklyn
Skyping with Wendy after the birth of her first baby boy, Conrad