Saturday, January 28, 2012

Refugee Camp, Garden, Ryan's New Writing Gig

A lot has happened since we last posted so we will try to bring you up to speed. After a month of all the joys and occasional frustrations of having a precocious six year old on the homestead, Logan and Kanyeiso bayahamba eCanada. There is a hole left here at the homestead, a vacuum of sound that used to be filled with calls of, “Bongiwe! Can I play with the cat?”, “Bongiwe! What are you cooking? Can I have some?” “Ryan, who is your favorite rapper? Is it Lil’ Wayne? Drake? Rick Ross?”. We will miss Logan and Babe’s second oldest daughter.

Without Logan on the homestead and the arrival of Cyclone Dando it was a pretty quiet week. It rained sheets for three days straight. Rivers flooded, bridges collapsed and the Tsabedze homestead took a hit. The eastern wall of a mud hut on the homestead collapsed, our sunflowers were blown askew and our poor carrots drowned. Other than that the garden is going swimmingly (no pun intended) and we are eating from it just about every day. Squash and green beans have dominated so far but we are looking forward to tomatoes, lettuce and maize that we just planted. Yesterday we found a lone cucumber. It was delicious. 

School started for Ryan on Tuesday. He is excited for the prospects of starting afresh with a new schedule. 1:00-2:30 of every Wednesday of this semester is dedicated to “sports day” in which all the students are placed in different teams – called houses, just like in Harry Potter – to compete against each other in sporting competition. Ryan is the head of the Lion House.

Along with leading his team to victory he is starting an English Club in March, a Health Club and is introducing two 12 week courses on HIV for Grades 5,6,7 and Life Skills for Grades 1-4.

Addy rode out Cyclone Dando at Emafeni Lodge in Ezulweni attending a week long counterpart training workshop for Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) with her counterpart Zande who teaches pre-school at Mpaka Railway School. The training was an overwhelming success that benefited from the weeks of planning put into it. While there the volunteers and their counterparts were trained in skills such as active listening, effective communication, self-esteem building workshops, health related topics and dance parties in preparation for Camp GLOW later this year. 

Last week was our first English Class at the Refugee Camp. We cannot be more excited to be starting this endeavor. Close to 60 people showed up representing countries all over from Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The objective of our first class was to ascertain the English level of our students and place them in groups according to their comprehension. Ryan is teaching the advanced group, Bethany the mid group and Addy the basic English level group. We found that an overwhelming majority of the group barely grasped conversational English and many were illiterate in their own language. This caused us to reevaluate our original plan and decide that everyone could benefit from working from the ground up with the alphabet, phonetic sounds and simple sentence structure. We are grateful we took the time to assess their English level. We realize that we definitely have our work cut out for us, but we will see some big returns in the long run.

Working at the Refugee Camp we have met several people who have helped us out immensely. There are three Somalians who we have worked with to get this project off the ground. They have been key organizing and collecting signatures from the residents of the Camp who are interested in learning English and attending an HIV Class (next week). They are well educated and extremely helpful. It feels great to work with counterparts who are so dedicated.

In other news, Ryan is now a contributing writer for the Swazi Observer newspaper. He is writing music reviews of local Swazi artists. Don’t ask how this all happened it is a long, long story. His first review was published Saturday with an accompanying picture of him leading to lots of people stopping us and saying, 
"How! Bongomusa! I saw you in the papers!"
"Are you sure it wasn't another white person who just looked like me?"
"No, because you had the glasses on."


Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Please, Let us dilute!"

Marriage proposals are a daily occurrence here in Swaziland for all female volunteers. The above caption is maybe the best proposal I have gotten thus far in Swaziland.

I feel like 2012 is already speeding by. Some days do go by faster than others – true- but thinking that we have already finished 1/4th of our service, and the office has long forgotten about Swaziland Group 9 and is now focusing their efforts on preparing for Swaziland Group 10 to arrive makes me realize just how quickly our time here will end. I try to take snapshots in my mind of just how beautiful Swaziland is, the time I spend with friends and family, and the moments when I feel like I am serving a definite purpose here in Africa.  I am 100% positive that these good moments will overshadow the inevitable frustrations of living in a developing country and the days where I am uncertain of exactly what I am doing here.

Ryan and I had a fantastic Holiday break.  We were able to see Ryan’s brother and show him around this little country, and even went to the beach in Durban. In these past summer months I have been able to get the most killer tan I have ever had in my life, which no one here seems to appreciate. “Bongiwe, you look terrible! You will get cancer!” (Probably, but more likely from the  accidental ingestion of the “Doom” spray that I use to kill all the flies in my house than from the sun.)  Ryan and I have been having great success with our garden, and have more yellow squash, butternut squash and beans than we can eat.  Lettuce, beetroot, carrots and spinach are on its way! We also have mint -which turns out is delicious in lemonade - and a lot of basil - which is delicious in anything. 

Things that my parents shouldn’t read about:

In the past two months Ryan and I have had plenty of run-ins with deadly snakes.  On our homestead we have had 5 of the most dangerous snakes in the world on our homestead. We have had a python (in its tender ages), spitting cobra, green mamba, black mamba and puff adder.  Luckily, I have seen most of these snakes after my host father had already beaten them to death with his whip. However, just a few days ago we were visiting a nearby volunteer when a black mamba tried to slip in under her door, but luckily once it noticed the house was occupied it quickly slithered in the opposite direction.  Disclaimer: No volunteer in all of Swaziland has ever had a serious encounter with a snake, and I promise I will do my all to not be the first.

What Ryan and I miss most:

Movie Theaters
Dinner dates (Especially with the Potter’s when Erin is cooking)
High speed internet
Netflix (Especially The Cosby Show)
Long telephone conversations
and of course..

Spending quality time with friends and family, who now live all over the U S of A

DoNgLeE –

Ryan and I have purchased a dongle, which once connected, will allow us to skype from our hut! We will have access starting the 17th, so if anyone would like to chat, please facebook us a good date and time for you, and we will make it.  Even if it is 3am our time, we will wake up, because we love you that much.  My username is addystroup, which Ryan will use as well.  Let’s talk computerface to computerface!   

Some cool work developments:

Training for camp GLOW takes place next week with my awesome counterpart, Zande Dlamini! I will be in Mbabane next week planning out the details of the camp, which will be held in April. 

Peace Corps Swaziland’s Books for Africa project has been fully funded and our local high school will be receiving 1,000 books in April.  In the meantime, we will be preparing the room and attending ematrainings. 

Ryan, Bethany and I will be teaching emaHIV/AIDS classes at local schools, and an English Class for Malindza Refugee Camp.  We are also in the beginning stages of planning for the cleaning campaign at the camp, which will also probably take place in April.  Once April happens I’m going on vacation!