Monday in a Picture – Ummiso and Sabaca (NSFW)

Last week, I was fortunate to attend a school dance competition. Schools from all over the Manzini region gathered to showcase their skills. 

Ummiso (pronounced oo-me-see) is a Swazi traditional dance performed by young unmarried girls. This tradition is rooted in the grand Swazi tradition of Umhlanga (pronounced oom-shlan-ga).

Sabaca (pronounced sah-bah-click c-ah) is a Swazi traditional warrior dance performed by boys and men. In each ummiso or sabaca performance, there is singing. Occasionally, there are drums. A fellow teacher explained that Swazis communicate and tell stories through songs. The songs sung during the competition are no different. 

I’m very proud of our students, and all of the hard work that they did to prepare for the event. They represented the school and the community very well.

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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For him

What were you wearing
when this happened to you? 
Where were you going? 
You know it ain’t safe
to walk around here 
at night. 
Did you provoke him? 
Give him reason to believe
that you wanted what you got. 
Did you speak
when you should have
remained silent? 
Give him too much lip? 
Were you walking too fast? 
Not fast enough? 
If you had only slowed down
to allow him to catch up, 
the conversation 
could have been had. 
But now, 
the situation is out of control. 
What were you wearing? 
And did you put it on
knowing that people
who dress like that
get treated like this? 
And yet, 
you still put it on. 
So you accepted the risk
of what was to come. 
You can’t hold him
responsible for what he’s done. 
We do not put heroes in jail. 
If they didn’t want to get shot, 
they shouldn’t have been born
Black and male. 
You can’t wear a dark hoodie
on a dark night
and have dark skin. 
Let’s lay fault 
at the victim’s feet
as we lay him to rest. 
Being born. 
Listed as the cause of death. 

© 12 June 2017

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Monday in a Picture – She’s GLOWing

Gender inequality is a major concern around the world. Swaziland is no exception. In 2010, PCVs decided to team up with Swazi counterparts to form girl’s empowerment clubs. The initiative was called GLOW, which stands for Girls Leading Our World.  The new clubs were modeled after other GLOW clubs started by PCVs and host country counterparts in various Peace Corps countries. 

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend a gala celebrating GLOW counselors from around Swaziland. GLOW counselors are typically Swazi women who are passionate about girl’s and women’s empowerment, gender equality, and related issues. They lead groups of girls through a curriculum covering lessons on sexual reproductive health, gender based violence, and financial literacy among other things. The gala honored all of the GLOW counselors in appreciation of the work that they have done. Some women told stories of how they came to be associated with GLOW, and their passion for the initiative. It was a truly remarkable experience. 

The amazing women pictured above are the leadership of GLOW in Swaziland. They include senior counselors and GLOW directors. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Sweet Dreams – John Legend’s band

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). 

We were all in a house. I was playing in a band. John Legend’s band. We were playing new material and it was really good. Crowds of people would gather at the house to watch us practice and vibe with us. I was so happy to be playing with John. We finally had a real show somewhere. We went and killed it. Women were throwing themselves at us. 

Fast forward some weeks later, we’re in the same house and it now has a recording studio. We’re going over some of our latest songs. We’re about to release an album. It’s going to be amazing. We’re so excited. We’re still relatively obscure. One of our guys ends up on the phone with one of Jay Z’s people trying to talk him out of releasing a double album before we release our album. It’s a double album with Wu Tang Clan, but it’s more than 2 CDs. It looks like an entire season of a tv show. Jay Z says that he’s releasing it anyway. I start talking to Jay Z and tell him that the new songs aren’t new and that we’ve heard it all before. I try telling him that he shouldn’t release the album because it’s not fresh. It falls on deaf ears. 

We leave the house to go do another show. Possibly an album release party. We agree not to sleep with any drunk women. As we’re walking to the car, we get lost at a campus that looks like Hogwarts. I try stopping a guy to ask for directions, but he points to his shirt. The shirt says, “Another dumb ass school that looks like Hogwarts”. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward.

​Monday in a Picture – Beards of Peace Corps 

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I saw many creative takes on Peace Corps service through memes and pictures on various social media pages. There’s Hey PCV Girl and Hey PCV Boy. There’s RPCV Meme and Peace Cats. The list goes on. All of these social media outlets were started by members of the Peace Corps community. They gave inspiration. 

On one January afternoon while waiting for my bus, the idea engine was firing on all cylinders. There were many social media accounts dedicated to showcasing beards. A quick search showed that there was no account to showcase beards in Peace Corps. I had to rectify this oversight. On 11 January 2017, Beards of Peace Corps was born. I started working on a logo, and soliciting for beards to feature. Naturally, many of the first beards to be featured were from Peace Corps Swaziland. Slowly, beards from other posts started coming in. To date, PCVs and RPCVs from 20 different posts have been featured on @BeardsofPeaceCorps. 

One of the most amazing things to come from this project is another PCV initiative called Peaceful Curls of Peace Corps. Shortly after starting Beards of Peace Corps, a fellow PCV in Swaziland was sharing how inspired she was. She wanted to showcase PCV’s natural hair coupled with maintenance tips. Following that conversation, Peaceful Curls of Peace Corps was created. Be sure to follow @PeacefulCurlsofPeaceCorps on Instagram to share and see natural hair care tips. 

If you are a, or know of any, bearded PCVs or RPCVs, please submit pictures and service details (where you serve(d) and when) to be featured on the Instagram page. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Ever wonder what is Kirby doing? Follow the blog!

Monday in a Picture – Amazingness in Action

Sometimes, amazing things happen. This past weekend saw Swaziland host one of its most famous events, Bush Fire. Bush Fire is an annual music festival that encourages attendees to bring their fire. The suggested interpretation of “bring your fire” is a call to action and to make a difference in your area(s) of passion. The festival benefits women in rural communities and orphaned youth.  But, that isn’t the amazing part. 

A month ago, I met a wonderful young lady from Sweden at AfrikaBurn. We had good times and great conversations. She contacted me before the Bush Fire festival to let me know that she would be here for the festivities. We talked about meeting up during her time in Swaziland. Anyone who knows me knows me knows that I’m always game to talk to burners, and about Burning Man and related events. 

On Saturday morning, the young lady from Sweden messaged me to say that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the festival and didn’t want her ticket to go to waste. She asked if I knew of any Swazis who wanted to attend the festival, but didn’t have the means to go. I messaged a PCV who lives close to the festival grounds to ask if she had a host sibling who might want to attend. The PCV responded that she had a host sisi (pronounced see-see), or sister, who would love to come. She really wanted to see the Swaziland sensation, Sands, who would be performing. The plan was set. A teenage girl from rural Swaziland would be able to experience her country in a new way. Tickets to the festival are cost prohibitive to many Swazis. 

On Sunday morning, I was able to check in with the PCV and meet her host sisi, who was all smiles. She was extremely grateful for the experience.

From Swaziland to Sweden, thank you. Thank you for bringing your fire even when you can’t come. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Sweet Dreams – Christmas Bacon

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 a college during the  season. I was helping to run the mess hall with some other people. Things had been going okay. I was eating well. I knew several of the students. Maybe I was a student here as well. The normal kitchen staff was there and it was time for breakfast on Christmas morning.

We were up really early making sure that breakfast would be ready in time. At 7am, no one was there. By 0701, it seemed like everyone was there. I didn’t want to open the serving line just yet for some reason. I wanted to get the students excited about Christmas breakfast. There was a ton of bacon. As the line opens up, we start to have an attack from some helicopters. They’re shooting. Now I’m responsible for getting everyone inside and under safe cover. Once I think I have everyone inside, we lock everyone in. 

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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Monday in a Picture – But first, we dance! 

As I was coming into a backpacker lodge one evening in December, another PCV was headed out. We had briefly exchanged hellos when she told me that she was heading to a salsa dance social. She invited me to join. My interest was piqued. Where is this social? When does it happen? How much does it cost? I was in luck because the social was walking distance from the lodge and it was free. I decided that I must be in attendance. 

The social was magical. The people were warm and welcoming. Everyone danced with such grace and poise. I tried to imitate and do what little I remembered from salsa lessons in DC. There was also salsa’s sexy cousin, bachata, and the sensual sensation known as kizomba. I told other PCVs about this majestic biweekly outing, and suggested that they come out. 

The young lady who initially invited me has since organized private group lessons for PCVs who want to learn the various dances, but can’t attend weekly classes. These classes and socials have been amazing mental health breaks during my service in Swaziland. It’s as if I’m transformed to another world. I never thought that I’d be refining my salsa skills in southern Africa, but such is life. The above picture was taken during one of our private group lessons. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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