Friday, December 21, 2012

Seasons Greetings!

It is safe to say that Ryan and I (unintentionally) dropped off the blogosphere for an indefinite period of time -  but we are back! In the last three (!) months of not updating, a lot has happened. We went to America and celebrated the union of my brother and his beautiful wife Caitrin in NY, we saw our nephew Noam for the first time, Ryan shot a few birds with my sister’s boyfriend Kyle, and we caught up with family and friends  while huddled together trying to stay safe from Hurricane Sandy.  After clearing the Atlantic without incident, Ryan and I spent a few days is eJozi taking the GRE and trying to re-acclimate to life in Africa.  By the time we strolled up to the Tsabedze homestead with kakhulu presents and emasnacks from America, Ryan and I were definitely grateful to be back on Swazi soil. 

While it took me about a week of sleep to get back in the Swaziland time zone, Ryan and I hit the ground running once we got back to site. We were each approved for our Books for Africa applications, which means we will receive 1,000 books each for the camp and the school.  I have been organizing a GLOW counterpart training which will take place in January, and Ryan has been doing manly things like painting and mortaring the library and preschool at the camp to get it ready for our book delivery in May.  While the last few weeks of school term were extremely busy for us, school term ended this week, which means I see hiking, reading, and lots of mango eating in our future. 

My goal for Christmas break is to teach our homestead pup, Senator John McCain, how to run with me on a leash.  The first attempt ended with me in a mud puddle and Senator free from leash and collar down the road, along with 3 of our other homestead dogs following enroute, but I am determined to have a running partner if it kills me! (Which it might.)

I cannot overstate how nice it is to have free time – to take in the sun rise and sun set, to swing in the hammock while listening to the oncoming thunder rumbling through the valley of Mpaka, to sit outside with the family and read while BoMake shuck maize and discuss matters in SiSwati that still go past me; this is time that I cherish and will miss while immersed in the chaos of American culture. 

As Ryan and I apply to graduate schools and plan ahead for the future it is definitely clear to us that our time in Swaziland is coming to an end faster than we anticipated.  While 7 months is still some time, it is nothing compared to the 27 months that we signed on for, and our Swazi bucket list is creeping up on us and making us both a little anxious.  We have gorges to see! Waterfalls to swim in! Mountains to hike! Wonders of the world to visit! Thank goodness Swaziland doesn’t move in December or January so we can relax and enjoy its beauty in the next couple of months. 

I can’t help shake the feeling that while I miss my family and friends greatly back at home, there is a constant inward struggle thinking that going home to them means leaving my home here.  I know I am not leaving tomorrow, but I have a great appreciation for the family and friends we have made here that has made Swaziland a 2nd home.  I couldn’t get time to speed up our first year in Swaziland, and now I can’t get it to slow down. I guess that is part of Peace Corps charm – it isn’t always pleasant, but it opens your eyes to see a world bigger than you and leaves you with a dual appreciation for your own culture and the culture of others. It’s pretty cool.

Oh, and in the past 3 months Obama won office – that was win. (Ncesi to my entire family who voted otherwise. Except (I’m assuming) Dallin.  Good for us!)

Until next time,

Happy Holidays from the Hall’s! 

SiSwati to English Translator

Kakhulu – a lot
Emasnacks – Snacks
BoMake – Mothers
Ncesi - Sorry

Sweating and Swearing

Addy’s last blog post brought you up to speed with some of the projects and trips we have been on. We haven’t updated this blog in a criminally long time. Ncesi. One of the things she mentioned was that I was working on some pretty manly stuff like renovating a library. Truth.

Manly is one way to describe it. But the project, in fact, only has little to do with men. Most of it involves women, children and a couple of dudes doing most of the grunt work. Sweating and swearing a lot. Most of it in languages I don’t understand, but with a few choice expletives that cut across any language barrier.

 To bring you up to speed in the camp lies a derelict building that contains three rooms. Two small ones designated for a pre-school and nursery and a larger one designated for a library. UNICEF has promised to fund the running and operation of the pre-school pending renovation of the buildings. They have partnered with Swaziland’s acting partners Department of Home Affairs and their acting counterparts CARITAS. A E6,000 grant was approved to purchase some of the supplies to renovate the buildings. Jenny Hammond, a local businesswoman and former refugee agreed to kick in any additional funds.

Here is where Peace Corps comes in. Due to our extensive time and relationship investments at the camp we are pretty good at mobilizing the community to do the hard work. Replacing broken windows, painting, mortaring cracks, constructing a fence, replacing doors and building shelving (to come). This has been a unique and ultimately rewarding experience for us. The other day while installing the fence around the perimeter I looked around at the guys working. Somalians, Rwandans, Burundians, Congolese, two Swazi professional builders who are working only for in-kind food donations and the ubiquitous American twenty-something working together to construct a fence that, due to the refugees transient stay at the camp, may not be of any direct benefit to them in the present. Instead, for nothing but a scant meal of samp and beans they were working in the dead heat of a lowveld December afternoon.

This is, I think, where the Peace Corps shines. We are able to mobilize communities by integrating into them. I was sweating and swearing along with the refugees instead of sitting behind a desk trying to raise “awareness” about literacy or early childhood education.

I asked one of the residents early in the morning if people would come and work. He said, “if they see you, they will come”. That was cool.

After we finished I sat under a tree and played Scrabble with some Rwandans. It was a lively game although I killed with Kuwait on a triple letter space.

Merry Christmas!