Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Candy Beans

It’s hot. I’ve been sick now for four days. Puppies are everywhere and my phone will not stop “buzzing”.  I pack up with Ryan and decide it is time for a nice relaxing trip to town.  After some scuffling around and a mentally draining phone call from the camp, Ryan and I fetch a ride with our host family to the bus station.  We board the bus after only 5 minutes of waiting.  We take a seat. Ryan gets comfortable with The Economist and I with my book.  All of the sudden screams come out of the television set on the bus; they have decided to turn on “The Punisher.” Anyone familiar with this movie would be surprised that a conductor with a bus full of school children would decide to play such a movie, as I am under the opinion that people should have consent before having to watch such a terrible film.  Pouring salt into the wound, Ryan and I are right below the speakers. After listening to the screams of a man getting his teeth pulled out and a woman getting thrown off a building, I have had enough.  Enough of the constant noise.  Enough of the chickens.  Enough of the poverty and lack of efficiency and poor quality of every single item I have ever bought in the last 14 months. Enough of being so far away from home.  Enough, enough, enough…

Ladies and Gentlemen, I had hit my one-year-mark-what-in-the-hell-am-I-doing-here blues.  

Peace Corps has this chart called the “Peace Corps Volunteer Re-adjustment Chart”. It maps the highs and lows of most volunteers and when to expect the rough spots and how to deal with them.  I would call it ridiculous if it wasn’t so spot on.  I am sure anyone ever involved in development work, whether in or out of the States, has reached these re-adjustment points, and as our PCMO says, you either adjust or you go home. 

After getting off the bus from Mpaka to Manzini, we boarded a sprinter bus (what Swazi’s call a khumbi) and headed off to Mbabane.  We were jammed in the back but I was relatively happy because the window was open. Sitting next to Ryan was an 8-year- old girl.  She was eating jellybeans and I will be frank, I was staring watching her eat them.  I see her catch my eye, we smile at each other, and I look away.  A couple of minutes later, she turns to Ryan and says, “I saw your wife looking at me, she smiled and I thought it was cute, can you please give her these sweets for me?” My. Heart. Melted. Maybe it was the sugar high, maybe it was the adorable little girl showing me what I considered a very real act of kindness, but all the tension and frustration left me.  We sat together eating candy beans and talking about our lives here in Swaziland.  She lives in Manzini and is going with her brother to visit her family.  She asks about America and sees our big bags and asks us about camping.  “I think camping would be scary because of all the sharks, snakes and alligators.  Do snakes ever get you when you are camping?” I show her American money and give her some coins to show her friends.  She seems excited and gives me a “haibo!” when I show her a U.S. quarter, although she does exclaim, “No, it’s ok. I have real money. (Pointing to her emalengeni coins).  She gets off the bus and we waive goodbye and my “enough of this” attitude vanishes and I am left thinking that maybe we could just stay here forever. Maybe J

Malindza Community Cleaning Campaign 2012

For those of you keeping up on our blog, you know that Ryan and I embarked on a big project this last week.  Planning since October, the Malindza Community Cleaning Campaign went off without (too many) hitches! I had been preparing for weeks on getting speakers organized and making sure participants were willing to come, despite that they were not getting paid to come, something that NGO’s here for reasons I will never understand do to encourage participation.  (When I told the Rural Health Motivators that they were not getting paid to come but rather should be grateful for free education and the willingness of speakers to come teach for free, they looked at me like *I* was the crazy person.) Despite these small hiccups, Monday August 20th came and we sat hoping that people would at least show up. 

They did not disappoint!  On the first day we had 90% participation and throughout the rest of the week we had 95% participation – I could not have asked for more. As the refugee camp has serious concerns about hygiene and sanitation, we spent the first couple of days covering workshops about hygiene, HIV/Malaria, sanitation, local resources, and how to make money through trash.  Several other Peace Corps volunteers came out to help as well as Swaziland Environment Authority and Siteki Health Inspector’s Office.  Furthermore, UNHCR flew in all the way from Pretoria to see what the community was involved in.  Throughout the week the participants collected around 100 trash bags, put up a newly fenced trash pit for the camp, and even managed through grit and guile to get the plumbing up and working again at the camp, literally staring in the face of broken sewage pipes and an open septic tank.  (Gross.)


It was fantastic to see the camp residents and the community of Mpaka working together, as this was really the first time they have ever come together to solve a community problem.  They all worked extremely hard and have a new zeal for keeping their area safe and clean for their children, which was the entire point of the project.  I am sure the best tool for making this a sustainable project is peer pressure, because after everyone worked so hard to clean up Mpaka, these participants won’t appreciate people throwing their trash on the ground.

(This is me saying some pretty important stuff about the harm of open defecation.)

(This is “Bingo” contemplating the information given about why he should never defecate out in the open.)

After a long week we wrapped up the campaign and went home to relax.  Our entire family came together and celebrated true Swazi style with a delicious braai.  I even got to work on my Swazi cooking skills, which made my boSisi very happy. 

Now that some days have passed I am extremely happy to have some time to relax.  Ryan’s Play Soccer/Learn HIV project will be coming next month, so we have that to look forward to.  Until then, we are enjoying our school break, reading a lot and of course studying for the GRE.  We will be visiting the States come October and cannot wait to be with family and friends to celebrate my brother Matthew’s wedding.  I am currently in town shopping for the craziest/highest high heels I can possibly find to make my mother’s mouth drop! Swazi’s know shoe fashion.

Check out facebook for more pictures of the cleaning campaign week! Thanks for your love and support, we send our love from this side –



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It has been a little while since our last post so we thought we would treat you with an all photo edition abrakadafrica blog post.

This is one of my favorites of all time. Our headmaster dancing to Lil Wayne on the bus back from the countrywide music tournament. Mpaka Railway School came in fourth place.

Addy has been hard at work setting up a library at Malindza High School. It is a lot of sorting, organizing, taping, binding, etc.. All of which Addy is a pro at.

Some of the resourceful members of the camp built parallel bars in order to “gym” during the day. We are making a punching bag out of all repurposed materials. Be on the look out for that. This dude from the D.R.C is an acrobat.

This was my attempt.

Last weekend was the culminating soccer tournament at the Malalleni Soccer Tournament for all of the teams in the area playing in the Malindza Football League. I support the Mpaka Seven Stars. Obviously.

All of the fans of teams met in Mpaka and marched (with a full marching band, drumettes, traditional singers, motorcade and police escort) to the stadium. My day was 8-6 of all soccer related activities. I don’t even like soccer that much. It was fun to spend time with the community though.

Monday, August 13, 2012

There is a Catch...There is Always a Catch

Hello Friends and Readers of this Blog -

As you know you are reading a Peace Corps Blog. Peace Corps does development work. Sometimes development work in Africa. Like other NGO's and Development Agencies Peace Corps doesn't come in for a few months, drive Range Rovers out to a rural community, do some slap-dash assessment and hang our name on something that the community doesn't need or will break after we leave. At least, that's not how I see it. As some of you know I (Ryan) have been trying to put together an HIV soccer workshop with local teams in our community for some time now. The good news is we are zeroing in on our target. All of the necessary meetings have taken place, we know how many we are going to reach, the shareholders are into it, the coaches are on board,  kids are interested, grant has been sent in, yadda yadda. It has only taken a year. 

A component of this workshop is that every team participating will receive jerseys and a ball. Our close family friend Babe Watts from Texas has graciously collected over 150 jerseys. The problem is shipping 150 jerseys to Africa is expensive. Really expensive.Who knew?  

So far she has been able to raise 80$ out of the 220$ she needs to ship the jerseys to Swaziland. We are asking, not as the PR face of some vaguely intentioned NGO or Development Agency, but as friends of yours that if you could help us reach the goal of helping Babe send out the jerseys, we would be really grateful. Maybe even send you some nice African thing or give you a high-five when we get back. If you could spare anything. 5$, 10$, 20$, it would help a lot to get these jerseys out here. It would also play a crucial role in this workshop designed to educate youth (many of whom are not in school or orphaned) about HIV. So, whatever you can help with please get in touch with me and we will discuss how to donate money into Babe's pay-pal account. 

Contact me at: dontsignanythingyet@gmail.com

Kindest Regards,