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. 

Ever wonder what is Kirby doing? Follow the blog!

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. 

Ever wonder what is Kirby doing? Follow the blog!

​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 – 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. 

Ever wonder what is Kirby doing? Follow the blog!

Monday in a Picture – Another Day, Another Training 

If Peace Corps believes in anything, it’s capacity building through training. Many months of a PCV’s service will be spent attending trainings, planning trainings, and/or leading trainings. There’s Pre-Service Training (PST) and In Service Training (IST). There’s Mid Service Training (MST) and Project Design and Management training (PDM). There are also other trainings sprinkled throughout. 

My cohort (G14) just finished our MST. Over two weeks, there were seven distinct trainings for PCVs and Swazi counterparts to attend. The trainings covered topics like water and sanitation, rural libraries, and financial literacy. The above picture was taken during a training on “Teach Like a Champion” techniques. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Ever wonder what is Kirby doing? Follow the blog!

Monday in a Picture – Condoms in the kingdom

Swaziland is home to highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Approximately 26% of 15-49 year olds in Swaziland are living with HIV. This high prevalence was a major factor in the king asking Peace Corps to return to Swaziland in 2003.

While various factors contribute to the high prevalence of HIV, access to condoms has been made easier (and cheaper) to prevent the spread of the virus. Free condoms are available at health clinics and hospitals. Through the “Get It? Got It.” campaign, free condoms are available at merchant shops, restaurants, border posts, and other places. Everyone is free to take however many condoms s/he needs. 

This campaign has presented another issue. Some people don’t trust the free condoms. Some people believe that free condoms (as opposed to condoms paid for by the end user) are not effective at preventing unplanned pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some people have expressed concern that the free condoms are actually coated with and promote the spread of STIs. These beliefs about the free condoms have bore new campaigns aimed at dispelling those beliefs. The result is a number of billboards, like the one pictured, that remind people that STIs and unplanned pregnancy don’t know nor care if the condom was purchased by the end user or not. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Ever wonder what is Kirby doing? Follow the blog!