Monday in a Picture – Sibebe

Guest post note: As I don’t drink alcohol, I am not able to authentically speak about the beer culture here in Swaziland. In the interest of sharing as much Swazi culture as possible, fellow Peace Corps Swaziland volunteer and G14 brother Nick McDerrah wrote this guest post. Be sure to check out he and his wife’s blog here

Sibebe is the pride of the nation, and the only respectable beer to drink on a Swazi bus or khombi. Named after a large chunk of rock near Mbabane, Sibebe is the only widely available Swazi produced beer. People may drink Castle or Hansa (two South African beers) but if you want to show pride in the beautiful country of Swaziland, grab a Sibebe. The beer is available in a variety of formats, but the proper way to enjoy this lager is through a large 660ml bottle. One of these bottles will set you back about e15, which makes it a bargain to drink local and support a Swazi enterprise. The larger bottles are also recycled and reused. It’s the beer that keeps on giving!

After interviewing others about the exact taste of Sibebe, I received responses like “it’s better than nothing,” or “tastes like piss water.” Opinions differ and obviously one beer can’t make everyone happy, but with limited beer options in country, you take what you can get. With that being said, I do believe that Sibebe is a refreshing, smooth, light beer that tastes great on a hot Swazi day. Add in a fresh squeezed lemon and you have just entered flavortown!

The taste is similar to PBR or Coors, but I believe it improves on these American classics. It also has an alcohol level of 4.8%, which is similar to other beers in this category. The bottle is a piece of art, with a gold wrapping around the rim and a nice drawing of Sibebe Rock on the label.

The ideal pairing for a Sibebe is a lunch of ‘chicken dust’ or any other braiied meats and pap. Bring some to share for your next braii and you will be the man/woman of the hour!

Sibebe is a uniquely Swazi beer that embodies the relaxed, fun loving nature of the people that drink it. It may not differ from many other cheap beers around the world, but you will be glad you tried this Swazi masterpiece.

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S.- Sibebe is pronounced sih-bay-bay. 

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Sweet Dreams – Grocery Store Go To Guy

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

​I was in a small town. It was possibly a college town. I had previously worked at a grocery store. I didn’t work there now, but still frequented the place because I knew it. 

I also was somehow affiliated with the local marching band. There had recently been a big festival or competition. I had said that it was my last one. That I wouldn’t be doing anymore after that. I wanted to focus on something else. Several of the new people in town were interested in the marching band/festival/camp. In fact, at the store, my friend Anna was the manager. She would refer people to me about their interest in the life. I think we had been to a festival together. I ended up serving as a bagger in the store just as I talked to people. I stopped coming around for a while. 

Anna was asking where I was. People had questions and I was still the guy to talk to. After some pressure from various places, I became a de facto section leader of this marching band festival camping experience. I couldn’t believe that I should be entrusted with such an honor. I still didn’t know how to read music. Eventually, I had new recruits before me. I was giving them their first pep talk. I was telling them that even simple words can be used to give powerful speeches. That they need to master the simple if they want to be great at this life. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Imali 

It’s said that the best things in life are free. For the things that have cost attached, there’s some form of currency. In Swaziland, cash is king. While some people have bank accounts and access to credit cards, this is not super common especially in more rural parts of the country. 

Swaziland’s currency is known as the lilangeni (pronounced lee-lon-gay-knee) for a singular unit, while multiple units are called emalangeni (pronounced eh-mah-lon-gay-knee). Prices in emalangeni would be expressed as E10 for something costing ten emalangeni

Swaziland’s Central Bank has authorized two different currencies to be used in the country. In addition to the emalangeni, the South African rand is also used. While both currency’s notes are used indiscriminately, rand coins are rarely accepted outside of border communities. The emalangeni and rand both come in note denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. Both currencies also use different colors for the different denominations. While all South African rand notes feature a picture of former president, Nelson Mandela, Swaziland’s emalangeni notes feature King Mswati III. Prior to Mswati’s ascension to the throne, Swazi notes featured King Sobhuza. 

In the picture above, there are current notes (of 20 unit denomination) from Swaziland, South Africa, and United States. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – Imali (pronounced ee-mah-lee) means money. 

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Monday in a Picture – Half Dollar

Living in Swaziland has taught me many things, and reaffirmed others. One of the things that has been reaffirmed is the heavy influence of American culture on Swaziland. In particular, American hip hop culture influences many across the kingdom.

Some of my students want to know my personal familiarity and acquaintance with John Cena, Beyonce, and Rick Ross among others. I’ve helped friends in my community to get updated music from their favorite artists. 

Just outside of the Swazi metropolis known as Manzini, there is a town called Matsapha. While Matsapha is home to an array of businesses and restaurants, one business meshes American hip hop culture and Swazi cuisine. The eatery’s name is 50’s Kitchen. The restaurateur is definitely 50 Cents’ doppelganger. But he doesn’t rest on his resemblance to his famed American twin to garner business. The food is delicious and affordable. 

If you ever find yourself in Matsapha, or even Manzini, definitely stop by and enjoy the culinary delights. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Seasoned with Experience

​Last week, I was fortunate to co-facilitate a session during PST for G15. It was the second session I’ve co-facilitated for the new group. Shortly after the session, I came to the realization that I’m now a part of the seasoned group of volunteers in Peace Corps Swaziland. I’m a part of the group of volunteers with a year of experience. At times, training staff will ask volunteers to assist with sessions for trainees. 

To date, I have co-facilitated a session on Diversity and Inclusion, and another session on Being Black in Swaziland. Feedback has been generally positive. The above photo was taken by Karlene. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Sweet Dreams – From Grandma’s House to My Own Police Car

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

I was at my grandmother’s house. But the layout was completely different than what I remember. Her bedroom was in a room off of the kitchen. I had never been in her bedroom. There were some neighbors who only wanted to buy the bedroom (as opposed to the house). Grandmother agreed too this sale. 

Another family member and I are now helping grandmother to pack up everything in her bedroom. The bedroom is massive. There are all kinds of really cool artifacts. My brother ends up coming to the house with his laundry. 

Shortly after, I was leaving a gas station. It was mid afternoon. Across the street, I noticed a lot of people coming out of what looked like a storefront. Not sure if it was a church or what. Apparently, they were just giving away police officer jobs. Someone brought me a pair of police ski pants, a badge, a gun, and a car. I don’t know where the rest of the uniform was. I was given the option to start as a police officer right there, or wait until the next day. I thought, “eh, I’m not doing anything”. 

I started putting on the ski pants right beside my new police car. The pants were kind of snug on me, but still fit okay. I didn’t have any kind of police utility belt or anything. I was wondering where I was going to put my gun. 

As I was getting dressed, people were gathering around me. A relatively famous gospel singer was about to put on a show. She was locally famous. She only sang one song. “I sing because I’m happy/I sing because I’m free”. This other lady, who apparently was a new police officer as well, was there with her young son. It had started to drizzle. She was telling her son that they had to get home before the rain started. I realized that not everyone was given their own police car. I somehow managed to find some boots. 

As I’m putting on a boots, a fellow new police officer, who’s a man, asked me if I was going to take the Benz. I looked at him in a confused state, and asked for clarification. He told me about the police Mercedes Benz. I said that I didn’t know. He said that I should take it. He responded that the Philadelphia police were always showing of their Benz, and it was time to show off ours. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Yebo Thishela

I teach. My school and community have been very welcoming and receptive to my teaching. My students ask questions and engage in discussions. While some classes have lessons prescribed and guided by the Ministry of Education, I’ve been given much freedom to adjust to meet the needs of the students. 

Lessons have included drugs, love, and consent among other things. The phrase, yebo thishela (pronounced yay-bow tee-shay-la), is one that I hear often. It’s direct translation is “yes teacher”. This picture was taken during a lesson with Form 1 students. 

This week, my students will start taking their internal exams on various academic subjects to showcase what they’ve learned so far in the school year.

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Sweet Dreams – New Money in London

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

​I had landed in London. I was on vacation there. One of the first things that I noticed if that they had changed the money. It was still the sterling pound but it wasn’t paper. It was a thick matte plastic. And it was tablet size. The notes were different colors but all the same size. The denomination was only on the back of the note. One of the strangest things was that there was a 34 pound note and a 35 pound note. British people told me that this new system was a security measure. 

Anyway, I checked into my hotel. I paid with the tablet notes. The hotel room was nothing special. I started exploring London. I called a friend of mine who lives in London. She wasn’t there. 

I did some more exploring. Later in the week, it was time for me to go. It was a Friday. As I was walking around, I noticed a neon sign in the daylight. It said something about Friday being rib night and there being live nude girls. I tried to go there for lunch but the place wasn’t open yet. I thought about changing my plans to attend rib night at the strip club, but I went to the airport instead. 

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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Monday in a Picture – MTN

In Swaziland, we have one mobile phone service provider, MTN. Another provider is set to begin operations this month. For many years, if someone wanted to make a cell phone call, text, or use mobile data, they would have to purchase a Swazi MTN SIM card. 

While MTN mobile service is available in other southern Africa countries, the lack of competition means higher prices than in neighboring South Africa. MTN does occasionally offer bonuses and customer appreciation specials. During last summer, there was a customer appreciation week. There are some corporate MTN stores in major cities, but you can purchase airtime just about anywhere. The picture above is of the corporate store in Mbabane.

As far as coverage, it depends on where you are. In my homestead during pre service training, coverage was bad on a good day. Other days, it was nonexistent. At my current homestead, I’m rarely without coverage. For that, I’m thankful. We’ll see what changes the new mobile service provider brings to the landscape in the kingdom.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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