Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Post From Africa!!

Sawubona bobuthi en bosisi –

This being our first post since we arrived in the Kingdom of Swaziland, I thought I would bring you all up to speed on what has been an unbelievably exciting, tiring and long two weeks. I understand some of you may have burning questions, all of these will be answered in time, trust me.

First: Staging. Philadelphia. We spent two days in Philly with the rest of our Peace Corps Trainees (PCT) for session after session of icebreakers, shots and seminars of what to expect during the course of our Peace Corps Training. As excitement was building for our eventual departure from the United States, these two days flew by. We spent our “last meal” of Whole Foods’ Salad Bar with our three beautiful friends Stephanie Vickery, Tim Manzo and Theo Wheeland in a park. It was the perfect way to momentarily close a chapter in our lives. Or at least place a bookmark there until we return.

Second: Pre-Service Training (PST). Ngwane College. Swaziland, Africa. After an incredibly long 16 hour flight into Johannesberg followed by a seven hour bus ride into the Kingdom of Swaziland replete with border stops, checks, passport clearances, Visas, etc… We finally arrived to Ngwane College to begin our PST. Tired does not begin to describe what we felt. Luckily, considering the fact that we were experiencing the intense jetlag of basically traveling forward in time, the instructors allowed us to eat and pass out.

Our five days at Ngwane were nice. We were pared with our Language Cultural Facilitator (LCF) Calile (not as simple as it sounds in English. The C makes a sound similar to putting the tongue on the roof of your mouth and making a “tut-tut” sound) and the rest of the in-country administrators. During this time we began our language and cultural training, along with endless talks on security, medical safety, how to boil, filter and bleach water (a tedious, never-ending process) and how to treat fruits and vegetables.

Third: Makhonza. Swaziland, Africa. After five days we met our Host Family and traveled to our host-community to begin our three months of Pre-Service Training (PST, keep track of these acronyms). Right now we are a week into our PST in the village of Makhonza. I am writing on my laptop so immediately this answers a few questions. Yes, we have electricity (TV even! S. African soaps every night!). Our hut is a tin-roofed, two bedroom, cement building on the Khamalu homestead (more on this in a second). We do not have running water, however, we leave feet away from a 5,000 gallon cistern known as a JO-JO, a luxury that not many people have. We are in language and cultural class from 8-4 everyday and every once and awhile are able to sneak off to town to buy essentials and send e-mails.
What is Swaziland like?: Swaziland is a beautiful country. The rolling brown hills bear a striking resemblance to the high desert of the Western slope of Colorado or Southern Utah. Swaziland is a country full of red-dirt roads, speeding ikhombis, curious and inquisitive people. I will use my host-family as a microcosm of Swazi culture. We live with Make (mother, a title of affection) Kahmalu. She is a recent widow with children who have grown and moved to various parts of S. Africa with whom Swaziland is surrounded on almost all sides by. Swazi’s live on about 1$, but you would never know it with our Make. She is extremely bright, educated and fluent in English. She raised four children with her husband, built a gorgeous homestead (a collection of independent homes in a single living space), raises a garden where we eat from every day, chickens, cows and two dogs named Cibi and Zulu-Boy. Her adult son mDududzu lives with her as well. We are fortunate to live with someone who is so inviting, genuinely sweet and willing to help us learn SiSwati. Our accommodations are more than adequate and we feel blessed to be part of  such an interesting and rich culture.

Addy and I received SiSwati names when we arrived to the homestead. Addy is Bongiwe and my name is Bongomusa. It means “a gift”.

Swazi’s are very polite and very formal. Swaziland is extremely religious (90 % practicing Christian), teetotalering and extremely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over 50 % of the population over the age of 23 is infected. We certainly have our work cut out for us here as we begin our real PC service in August. Until then, we are simply learners. Our classroom is our village, our homestead and the instruction we receive from our LCF. Addy and I are happy, healthy and stare at each other with renewed amazement every time we realize that we are really in Africa.

Helpful SiSwati phrases and customs:

When Swazis pass each other or meet each other it is customary to greet each other every time. This is generally how this works.


Yebo (bhuti|sisi|make|babe|gogo)


Ngikona, wena ke?

Ngikona nami.

What just happened was. Hello. How are you? I am good, you? I am good as well.

To not use this greeting is considered impolite. Considering how many times a day I am greeting people I am starting to miss the anonymity of the big city.

The African sun is unreal. Even though it is winter here and chilly at night and in the mornings, five minutes in the sun is enough to warm you from the inside out.

Swazi’s dietary staple is corn. Maize meal. It is milled and turned into this paste that is the consistency of mashed potatoes put has the taste of a corn tortilla. It is called Lipalishi and they have it with everything. It is delicious. Really. For another dish called emasi, they ferment mille mill  (milled rice) with milk and call it “sour milk”. If you are asking, “why would anyone want to eat that?” You are on the right track.

We eat a lot of chicken that used to be running around the yard a day before. Also, a lot of squash (“pumpkin”), cabbage and tomatoes. Also, oranges grow on the tree here.

KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is huuuuge here. They are official corporate sponsor of everything.

Favorite SiSwati word: Sidududu – motorcyle Try saying it and you will see how they got this word.

We will try and update as our PST progresses. Until then. Hamba Kahle (go well)!

Ryan and Adelyn

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Goodbye USA

Tomorrow morning Ryan and I are off on our new adventure.  The goodbye and packing has been painful, but we are definitely excited and ready to start our new life in Swaziland.  Contact is going to be sparse for the next few weeks, but if you would like to write you can e-mail us, facebook us, or send an old fashion letter to: Peace Corps Swaziland, Ryan and Adelyn Hall, Box 2792, Mbabane H100 Swaziland, AFRICA.  We look forward to hearing from you and hope that communication will not be too difficult. Thank you for all the love and support, and God Bless!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Four Days..

Holy cow, we are really doing it.  We have packed our life for the next two years into four bags and two carry-ons.  Surprisingly, our bags are much under the anticipated weight, and I still am having a hard time carrying them around.  There was some slight bickering during the packing, but we kept it to a minimum :) We cannot say how excited we are, and a little overwhelmed.  We have had goodbye parties, gone hiking, participated in a surprise baby-shower, and have gone "cruising" with my sister many times (Which I love! Turns out cruising and driving - two different things!) and I am happy to say that we are only four days from departing to Philadelphia for orientation, and six days from leaving for Africa.  If anyone should be prepared, we should be, considering we had seven months to plan for this departure, but even with the time, it still feels like it is coming on fast.  Wish us luck, and please send letters!