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.
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.
Ngikona, wena ke?
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