This title has a fun double meaning; not only has it been seven months since I last wrote (whoops) but I also have only seven months left in my two year service. It’s cliche to say time flies, but cliches exist for a reason. Time really does fly. These past few months have been the busiest of my service, and only promise to get busier. My projects have finally begun, I’ve spent a term in classrooms teaching life skills, and my girl’s empowerment club has really taken off. It’s been a trying time for me, but overall these months are probably some of my favorite to date.
Let’s see what I’ve been up to, shall we?
In late August, my dad and brother came over to visit. While the trip had its mishaps (unscheduled trip to Pretoria, anyone?) it was one of the most fun weeks of my life. The boys absolutely loved Swaziland and can’t wait to come back. Cape Town was a thing of dreams after a year of rare showers and subpar food. I’d forgotten that microbrews and mexican food existed until Cape Town! The guys, who are used to such luxuries, enjoyed it as well. Grey got some shopping in and Dad spent so little money on beer I’m pretty sure he thought it was a dream! But most importantly, the three of us got to spend 10 days of mostly uninterrupted time together, which was more than necessary.
Dad, Grey, and I in Cape Town
Grey and I with my host Make
My gogo (grandma)
After the guys left, I started really getting busy. I finally got onto the teaching schedule at both the High School and the Primary School, teaching once a week to four different grades, totaling four classes a week. Grades 5 and 6 explored issues of self esteem, role models, decision making, and values, while Forms 2 and 4 delved deeper into HIV education and sex ed than I think they were ready to. While often extremely exhausting, these classes also included some of my most fun memories. The five minutes of straight laughter when I first brought out the condom model (a lifesize rubber male sex organ) was music to my ears. And I’ll never forget the faces of my Grade 6 students when I demonstrated that girls were just as strong as boys by doing ten pushups in front of them.
Along with teaching life skills, I also started spending a few hours a week at the local preschool. These kids are just too dang cute! I taught them the itsy bitsy spider, but they don’t really follow it well. Their favorite part is the “WASH!” part, as they wave their arms and cry it all out together in unison. It’s too cute for words, I’ll just have to attach a video (if I can…). We also worked on colors and numbers, using Brown Bear, Brown Bear as a model. They didn’t have the book (or any books really, more on that later) so I taught them the rhyme and we acted it out. Later I printed and colored pictures for them, and now we have visual stimulation as well. We also worked on counting and adding. Their English is limited by the English abilities of their teachers (which isn’t much) so I’ve been trying to work on that with them. It will definitely give them a head start next year when they move onto Grade 1.
Adorable Preschool girls!
Itsy bitsy spider
The project I’ve wanted to start since I arrived, a garden, has finally begun. I’m beginning one at my Neighborhood Care Point (NCP), which provides a daily meal to 30 preschool aged orphans and vulnerable children in the area. The women who run it get mealie meal, oil, and beans every month from the World Food Programme and are expected to provide anything else out of their own pockets. For these women, that is often too much. With a garden on the property, they’ll be able to feed the children nutritious meals every day and have a backup if the WFP delivery doesn’t make it when it should. We have a grant from Peace Corps for fencing, tools, and seedlings to start the garden, but have been stuck in weather and development hell. It’s been raining almost non stop since summer began in November, which has made the ground mud and severely limited my travel time (the NCP is over an hour walk away, through muddy trails). I’ve also personally been incredibly busy, so making the trip with my friend work with our schedules is difficult. We have a plan this weekend to purchase fencing, and hopefully will have it set up by the New Year. I want to plant our first seedlings by mid January. This is Africa, however, so I’m not holding my breath on that timeline.
The site of my future NCP Garden!
GLOW is also thriving. We are on school break right now, but we had some wonderful sessions right before the end of the year. The girls had fun acting out scenarios that forced them to be assertive and really enjoyed a teamwork exercise involving a rope tunnel. I’m really enjoying my Friday afternoons with them. We’ve also gotten started planning for next year’s Camp GLOW, with our Training of Trainers to be in early January. Camp will be in April and should be a ton of fun!
Girls from GLOW helping each other between the string.
GLOW girls leading each other blindfolded through an obstacle course.
The most recent project I’ve started is called Books For Africa. BFA provides a much needed service to local schools; libraries. Every school accepted by the program gets 1,500 book donated from America. My two schools are really indicative of the types of schools in Swaziland. One, the high school, has a library filled to the brim with donated college text books that are gathering dust as the students routinely ignore them. The other, the primary school, doesn’t even have a room to house a library. Through BFA, I am hoping to bring novels and more age appropriate books to the high school and a brand new library filled with books for the primary school. In order to do so, I need some help. We have to fundraise half of the grant amount in order to ship the books from America. We are about half way there. If you are interested in contributing to charity this holiday season, I have to recommend this program. It is tax deductible, and will really make a difference in the lives of so many kids in Swaziland who other wise would not be able to enjoy books. We take them for granted in America, but they really are a privilege in most of the world. The link to donate is below. Please think about it, and spread the word! https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-645-001
On another note, anyone who has spoken with my parent’s recently has probably heard about my most recent exciting opportunity. I’ve been offered a third year position working with the World Food Programme in the capital, Mbabane. What this would mean for me is that I would stay a third year in the Peace Corps as a volunteer and work with the WFP in their offices. I wouldn’t be an intern, but I wouldn’t be paid by WFP, I would still be on PC’s dime. I’d live in an apartment in the capital and have a 9-5 office job. My task for the WFP would be to help them make their Food by Prescription project sustainable. This project provides food bundles and fortified maize meal to severely malnourished people who are on ARVs, or AIDS treatment drugs. Once they are deemed healthy again, these people graduate and stop receiving help from the WFP. They want to stop relapses from happing, or prevent people from getting malnourished again. I’d help them design new programs to prevent relapse, things like community gardens, income generating project training, nutrition classes, and other things. I’m really excited about this opportunity, as it encompasses a lot of things that I am passionate about; food security, sustainability, public health, and gardening. It’s really amazing, as I would develop numerous contacts in the development world and would have the UN on my resume (WFP is part of that). Its a once in a lifetime thing for me. The bonus part is that Peace Corps would send me back stateside for a month, on their dime, in the summer. So I’d get to be home for a month!
This is in no way finalized. I have a lot of time to figure it out. I’m also applying to some graduate programs and am taking the Foreign Service Test next month, just to have my options open. I’ll fill everyone in as it all progresses. But what do you think? Should I do it?
For now, I’ll end here. Its been a long post, and thank you everyone for reading it. If you’ve gotten this far, I congratulate you! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season (or had it, if you were lucky to celebrate thanksgivukah!) and I’ll be thinking of you all this Christmas and New Years.
Happy Holidays, and all my love.