Monday, October 20, 2008

Programming woes

I need credibility around here, because people are unlikely to listen to a stranger as well as they might listen to a friend. This goes double for a sensitive topic like HIV (it is called umbulalave here, which means "the nation-killer"). Ergo, I am going to try to get a post as a science or english teacher at the local high school.

Questions and answers:
Michelle - My host family goes through my trash pretty regular-like. People stare freely, but are shy about speaking. One can't ask about sex, of course, but it's common practice to ask about family and if one is going to marry in Swaziland. "I want to marry your sister" is a very common one, as well as old people and children asking for money, as it is a cultural assumption that all white people are wealthy (middle-aged people and youth almost never do this for some reason). Conversation about the weather is polite, but it is more appropriate to be dissatisfied than happy for some reason. There seems to be no happy medium whatsoever between "Kumakata" (It's cold) and "Lilanga liyashisa" (The sun is hot). See also the response to Greg's question on greetings.

It's worth observing that white women are the subjects of a lot of unwanted attention, may God have mercy on their souls.

Greg - It would certainly be rude not to greet someone in your town if you passed them on foot. I have been called out on one occasion and questioned as to why I was did not greet someone, actually. On the other hand, it is not too bad if you just wave and go by, and you are not obligated to greet people in the cities, only in the villages. There are usually not too many people outside, and homesteads are sometimes widely spaced, so it doesn't take too terribly long, especially if you don't speak enough siSwati to have a long conversation. It also helps to walk quickly, so that people realize you are in a hurry to get somewhere. It's really pretty okay unless you're already having a bad day, at which point it becomes rather irritating : )

Jalal - I'm getting in touch with the Baha'is, but I haven't been teaching much. Frankly, I feel like an ass whenever I try to teach by opening my mouth, so my usual impulse is to shut it. I'm eager to see how I can help the Baha'is of Swaziland, but I don't think much of my past efforts to speak about the Faith.

Other news:
We got some office supplies! Sticky-tack and a hole punch and a stapler.
Our new stapler nearly bit my hand off when I tried to load it, so we've christened it "Lambile" (Hungry). The hole punch is "Sutsi" (Full) because you have to make an effort to get it to bite.

A powerful wind blew my latrine over. The entire housing (basically a large metal box with an open bottom) fell on its side, leaving the seat exposed to the fury of the elements. The wind also drove grit under my door and through my window (which will not quite close, thanks to Peace Corps' security improvements). My family righted it the next day, but I can't help but worry if this is going to go on. My family is great and does a lot for me, like fetching water and fixing the pit latrine, and won't hear of taking money for it. I feel guilty, but I can't really do anything but give them food (because food is very difficult to politely refuse in Swaziland, one can only say "I am full, thank you").

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What I do when Not Working

Hi there, folks!

I think that we should have "Question Time" of sorts. If you are curious about anything related to Swaziland or my service here, write it in the comments to this post! I'll get back to you in my next post or privately if I can't talk about the subject in this forum.

I am still holding up okay. I have some tables now, so I am not breaking my back when I try to cook, which makes life a lot better.
EVERYONE is in the office today to vote, like half our group in Swaziland.

I read a fair amount here, but I spend more time walking, probably. My community is pretty far flung - 2 hours one way to the furthest school. The stories about volunteers sitting in their houses, doing jack shit for hours on end, are not entirely true. We have a fair amount of time to ourselves, but not quite as much as the stories tell.

I visit a large city (by which I mean town of 20,000 people) maybe every week-and-a-half or so, for internet access, research, and invisibility. This is an unbelievably small country, and everyone in my hometown either knows me or calls me "Bonkhosi" (the name of the volunteer in the next town over, because they hear about a white person in the area of that name and on seeing one, assume that they are that person). One is obliged to greet EVERYONE one encounters on the road, and to stop and talk if one is acquainted with them. It's not terribly uncomfortable most of the time, but it is slightly suffocating, and one does occasionally wish to walk around without talking to everyone, and for that, there is Manzini.

I would like to report that I have embarked on a lot of improving activities in my hut alone, but in truth, I haven't. I read occasionally, cook, and fret. I still hope to come back able to some useful stuff, but I dunno if it'll pan out; I'm hella lazy when it comes to self-improvement.

So I hope youse all are coming through the economic situation Stateside in decent form - I've been worried to hear that things are not going well. Take care of yourselves, be happy!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Prodigal Returns

Hey, gang!
Sorry about the long time between postings; everything has been crazy here (and continues to be).
In the time since I last posted, I have:
-passed a siSwati test
-been sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer
-started to teach a test class in one of the local schools
-continued investigating my community, with the help of the inimitable Mr.Dlamini. We have surveyed all but one of the NCPs (Neighborhood Care Point, a place where OVCs [Orphans and Vulnerable Children, people who have lost one or more parents to HIV or are otherwise in danger of being hungry] can go to get food and sometimes schooling)
-eaten more goat-meat, with the hair on.
-acquired furniture.
-squashed a near-infinite number of ants (hateful creatures, won't eat my cooking, only my sugar.)
-lamented that hand-washing is slowly wearing my t-shirts thin.
-learned some siSwati
-cursed my inability to learn siSwati