Monday, October 24, 2011


We have promised, tacitly, to post more pictures. Well, you asked for it. A slew of pictures coming your way. But first, some news. Progress. Integration is going swimmingly. Ryan continues to work at Mpaka Railway School. The students are in the middle of testing for the next few weeks. Ryan has been facilitating tests, helping with compositions and teaching life skills lessons in Grades 5, 6, 7. The beginning of the term in January is when he will start rolling out PC related projects. Internet capable computer lab here we come!

With it being testing time for Mpaka High School we have been put to good use editing Form 3,5 Design and Technology Students final project proposals. What started with helping our bhuti with his homework blossomed into a meeting with the D & T teacher, the Headmaster and a new partnership with the High School. Addy is planning on starting a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Chapter there next term. Addy continues to work at the Manyaveni clinic as an official unofficial staff member, mostly hanging out in the lobby and dispensing all the HIV/Health related advice she can. Her work at the KaGogo Center and Malindza High School Health Club is well documented in pictures below.

The big news is that we finally got cleared to work at the Refugee Camp! We faced several hurdles early on due to the sensitivity and security of the camp and the baffling bureaucracy behind getting approval to volunteer there. Turns out all we needed to do was call our awesome Safety and Security Coordinator Babe Mavanivuti to cut through the red tape and get stuff done. One meeting with him, our Country Director Steve Drihaus and the camp directors and we were in and touring the facility fast-fast. If we got a cool reception by the leadership of the camp, the Refugees (ranging from all over: Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Mozambique, DNC, etc…) that we have talked to seem pretty thrilled. We are planning on teaching an English class and a Health/Sanitation/Life Skills/HIV class next term (year).

That’s pretty much it this side. In other news: Ryan is listening to every album on his i-pod. He just finished the A’s: Dalek’s “Abandoned Language” to Kyle Bobby Dunn’s “A Young Person’s Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn”. He is also writing a monthly music column for the Peace Corps Swaziland newspaper (SOJO) called FILE UNDER: So far he has written up the albums: Rodriquez – “Cold Fact”, Boris – “Pink”, William Basinski – “The Disintegration Loops”, The Cancer Conspiracy – “The Audio Medium.

On to the pictures – we promise.

Sharp-Sharp, bhuti!

Community Crime Prevention Campaign! 6 hours of awesomeness. 

Some of Ryan's students from Mpaka Railway. They will be Toyi-Toyi'ing in no time! Shem!

Six hours of dancing and lectures in SiSwati where the only English words I heard were "America" and "Dinosaur".

I made a bookshelf out of 100 % salvaged scrap wood.

Pretty typical Mpaka landscape. Hot, flat and oddly pretty.

Addy's Health Club hard at work on Community Mapping!

Addy's Helath Club at Malindza High School.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


September 30, 2011

The month of September has had a lot of ups and downs.  It seems with development work that every good day is followed by a frustrating day, and then that frustrating day is followed by an amazing cross-cultural exchange of hope and ideas that reminds me of why I wanted to join the Peace Corps in the first place. 

This Monday Bethany and I stumbled on an amazing cross-cultural opportunity.  We have been spending some time each week at our communities Kagogo Center, trying to make it the HIV/AIDS resource center that it was built to be. (Currently it is being used to hold community meetings, none of which have anything to do with HIV, but it is being used, which is more than what others can say about their centers.) We have had some great discussions there with a few people, and thus far our efforts have paid off.

Monday was an extremely slow day, and no one came in to talk to us.  Although no one came in to our office, there was a group of BoMake (women) outside, and we thought maybe we could spice up our day by seeing what they are all doing outside the Chief’s homestead on a Monday morning.  I am so glad that we did! It turns out that the women had been asked to go to a nearby community and cut down reeds to decorate the Chief’s Royal Crawl, something that only happens once a year.  Because Swazi’s are extremely gracious they invited us along, and we thought this would be a great time to get our name in with the ladies of the community.

We spent a good hour waiting around for transport, and finally we took off, Bethany and I sitting in the front with the driver, and about 15 women crammed in the bed of the truck. We knew today was going to be magical because as we passed through our neighboring game park we actually saw a family of giraffes chomping away at a tree on the side of the road.  It was definitely a “Wow, I’m in Africa” moment.  When we arrived to our destination some people could not believe their eyes – What are these bomulungu doing cutting down reeds?! It was so much fun, and we even picked up on some more SiSwati.  After learning the art of cutting reeds, to celebrate we went to the most beautiful homestead full of mango trees and were fed goats meat! The best part is that the whole town got word that we went along with the women to help and now everyone in town makes reference to how now I am a real Swazi woman because I know how to cut reeds.  It was awesome. Then on Tuesday we also had a successful visit to a nearby clinic where we hope to do some work in the future. 

Wednesday was another eventful day at Malindza High School with the newly formed Health Club. We have anywhere from 15-20 members, and the students seem to be receptive and even have some great ideas of their own about community outreach.  We ended the day perfectly, with a little game of kick ball. 

But, every good day must come to an end..

The past couple of days have been a looming storm cloud over my very productive start of the week.  I am at a stalemate with the nearby refugee camp, as Peace Corps currently deems me working there a health risk and is looking into it further. Thursday morning I woke up to a stream of urgent text messages and emails, saying that a very good friend I have made here must go home. I knew coming with a group of 39 volunteers that I would probably lose good friends a long the way for one reason or another, but this news certainly came as a shock to all of us.  Furthermore, just today we found out that another volunteer who was on leave for a family emergency is not returning to Swaziland.  We see the pool of volunteers shrinking, and our insecurity about being so far away from home is heightened.

Although the news of these two people leaving left me feeling to say the least bummed, I can honestly say that I am so glad that Ryan and I made the decision to come here to Swaziland.  The people are so kind, and I am even getting use to the slower pace of life, and starting to be able to enjoy the disarray of development work.  I am even getting use to killing the huge spiders in my latrine every morning! Life here certainly is different, and the adjustment wasn’t as easy as I expected, but I am happy to be here and to have the opportunity to work with such amazing people, and especially to work side by side with Ryan. PS – He is way better at all of this than I am.

On another note, we also have the best friends and family ever.  I got a call from my best friend from college, Wendy Adams, which always makes my day.  We also received the most awesome packages from Ryan’s family and Katie Jackson, a good friend of ours from SLC, AND we received a hilarious and heart felt letter from the Potter’s.  It felt good to be showered with love and support, and it came at a time when we both really needed it. I did not need distance to show me how awesome all of our friends and family are, but seriously, you guys are awesome.

Our first lightning storm of the summer is beginning! Everyone enjoy a cup of hot chocolate for me while I tramp around in this miserable summer heat! But whatever, because I get to see giraffes!

PS – The newest member of the Stroup family is expected to arrive any day now!!