Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I have taken a little bit of a break from writing on our blog – but
luckily for me I have Ryan to pick up my slack! A lot has happened in
the last few weeks, and I am happy to say that I have adjusted well.
I really like our new family and placement in Mpaka.  There is a lot
going on in this little “town”, and it seems like my fear of being
bored out of my mind with nothing to do was useless, as worrying
always is.  There is plenty to do here!  Just this week I have spent
time at the Kagogo Center meeting with my counterpart, I have met with
the Malindza headmaster where, if all pans out well, I will be
teaching life skills and computer skills, and I have a meeting this
morning with the local pastors of Mpaka, hopefully trying to get an in
on some youth group activities. People seem very perceptive to us
being here, and although they are a little unclear of our roles,
(which is okay – so was I) people are ready and willing to accept us
as part of their community.

We are also spending a lot of our time doing Homestead Visits, which
is basically a meet and greet of neighbors, and that is going very
well.  Although we don’t always have a SiSwati translator to go with
us, we just kind of wing it, and it is working!

The only downside to living in Mpaka is actually an upside as well.
We live about a 15 minute walk to the main road for transport (awesome
– a lot of other volunteers have to walk 2 hours to the main road),
however, living this close to the main road with shops means that
there is A LOT of trash thrown everywhere. What is an absolutely
breathtaking landscape is ruined with black plastic bags, cocoa-cola
bottles and candy wrappers sprinkled everywhere. When I was living in
SLC I took our neighbor boy, Maxime, to Scouts every Wednesday.
Maxime just moved to SLC from Guinea with his family.  After Scouts he
would always ask me to buy him a hamburger, so I would take him to
different local joints and then we would drive home.  I remember one
time he just rolled down the window and threw the paper bag and his
fountain drink out the window! I was concerned A – because I did not
want to get slapped with a 300.00 littering fine, and B – because he
thought it was appropriate to do so.  Now living in Swaziland I
understand a little more of Maxime’s mindset.  There are no good
receptacles for trash here in Mpaka, and as Swaziland becomes more
modernized with Western products, you have a lovely display of this
modernization on all of the roads.

Although our main road is littered with trash, the back roads are
absolutely breathtaking, and although I have never been one to bird
watch, I think it is a hobby I might have to pick up here.  The birds
here are AWESOME.  Watch Planet Earth and you will get a glimpse of
what I get to experience every day.  Also this week we are going to
attend the traditional “Reed Dance”.  Expect pictures - My homestead
sister is going to be dressing me up in original Swazi attire!

I have to give a shout out to my Mother who sent us the best package
ever this week.  I am so grateful to her and everyone who takes time
out of their day to write us and send us packages.  It is really
comforting and makes me feel like I can survive here in Africa for two
years – especially if I have Reese’s for desert at night :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mpaka! (2), Swearing in, Leaving Makhonza

A post is long, long overdue as so much has happened in the past couple of weeks. To bring everyone up to speed we are writing from Mpaka, our home for the next two years. Here is how we got here.

        ­Leaving Makhonza and our host Make was difficult. Those first couple of weeks we exerted a more emotional energy than we ever knew we had trying to cope with the inevitable shocks of plunging head first into a new culture, struggling with SiSwati and making connections with Host Country Nationals that became our bedrock for the small strides in integration we achieved. As we left Sidududu followed us out past the gate until turning back forlorn. We miss that little pup most of all.
        The logistical nightmare of moving all of our things from Makhonza to Ngwane to mBabane to Mpaka was something I hope I never have to go through again. If anyone has seen the table legs to our stove please holler.
        After staying a few days in a mBabane with running water, flushing toilet and a hot shower IN OUR ROOM!! We were sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers by Ambassador Steve Irwing at the Mountain Inn overlooking the entire valley and city of mBabane. If you are asking, “swear to what?” you are a couple steps ahead of me. I guess I missed the memo that I would be swearing allegiance to anything, but as Peace Corps is an official Government Program we swore (or affirmed, I affirmed) that we protect the Constitution from all enemies domestic and foreign. This is the same oath that the president takes when he takes office. Luckily Ambassador Irwing didn’t flub the oath like a certain Chief Justice during the 2008 Inauguration.
        That brings us to here and now. I am writing this on top of a beautiful, spacious table that Addy and I built with our bare hands. More on that later.
        We couldn’t be more thrilled with our site placement. Mpaka is amazing. Located in the low (see: hot) veldt, Mpaka is equidistance from Siteki (a hop-skip-jump from Mozambique) and the bustling, maddening industrial capitol of Swaziland, Manzini. We live about 1k from the tar road which makes transport a breeze. The town of Mpaka has way more than meets the eye. In the little cluster of sitolos we have a fully stocked grocery store, pharmacy, Internet cafĂ©, butchery, hardware store, beauty salon and a whole grip of bomake stands selling produce and emasnacks.
        In Mpaka there are seemingly endless things for Addy and I to work on. My assignment is working in the Mpaka Railway Primary School. As school isn’t in session right now there isn’t a whole lot I can do. The school itself is amazing. It is located in a tiny village about 2k from our homestead. The village was built by a Mozambique Railway company a while back for its employees. After the Mozambiquians pulled out and turned the railway over to Swazi’s the school became public. The village where the workers live is unreal. It has paved streets with names, front yards, street lamps. It is the closest to a Western/American suburb you will find in Swaziland. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, not far from our house is a refugee camp and clinic where Addy has the option of working. Our babe took us on a tour the day we arrived. If the Mpaka Railway village is the equivalent of a gated community in America, then the refugee camp is the projects. There is so much work to be done. There is also a High School, Vocational School, another primary school all within walking distance. Addy’s main assignment is at the KaGogo center about 6k from our house. Her counterpart gave us a tour on Saturday when we attended the Umpakatsi Meeting. A KaGogo Center is a resource center for HIV/AIDS patients. It also functions as a meeting hall. She will be spending most of her time there. She even has an office! It is being used as storage right now, but will be up and running in no time.
        We couldn’t have asked for a better host family. The family consists a Makhulu who is the head of the house and a pastor, his wife the Gogo, a sisi in her 20’s Gcebile, a bhuti in his 20’s named Patrick and a bhuti in high school named ThembaKosi. There are other relatives who come and go on a semi regular basis. Our SiSwati is improving immensely as both Makhulu and Gogo speak only limited English. We feel so blessed to be in such a great position.
        This brings us to our house. We live in a spacious, two bedroom hut on the homestead. When we came it was completely unfurnished which gave us the chance to totally start from the ground up. We bought a nice bed in Manzini, constructed a bath area and a sink of sorts. Our biggest accomplishment thus far in Swaziland has been constructing a table and two benches with our bare hands. In Makhonza we built Sidududu a doghouse (out of 100% salvaged materials, thank you very much). But with that rudimentary carpentry behind us we were ready to tackle something bigger. Building a doghouse is like making your mom an ashtray in ceramics 101, well, we just graduated to intermediate carpentry folks! It actually functions and the project didn’t end in divorce. Great success!

That is all the news for now. We will keep everyone posted as we start our projects and all of the successes and observations we will have during the next two years. Until then,

We out.

Ryan and Adelyn Hall, PCVs.