Around August 2017, I was trying to decide how I was going to bring in the new year. At first, I was pretty set on going to the Vic Falls Fest at Victoria Falls. In case you don’t know, it’s a multi-day music festival. When I started looking at logistics and pricing, I decided that it wasn’t for me. Back to the drawing board.
I decided that I wanted three things. Amazing, delicious food; beautiful beaches; and a country that I hadn’t been to before. Some folks suggested that I check out Zanzibar in Tanzania. I did, and decided that I wanted to ring in 2018 there.
My initial plans were foiled by an Airbnb snafu, but I resolved that and ended up staying on a different part of the island (Pajé) than I initially intended (Nungwi). It was pretty great. Many days were spent reading and resting on the beach. I was able to finish Kevin Hart’s book. I was able to eat several delectable delights. I met some friendly PCVs currently serving in Zambia. The new year was celebrated at a party on the beach complete with fireworks.
If you ever have the chance, I’d highly recommend getting to Zanzibar. The above pictures are (top) the walkway to the beach, (bottom right) red curry prawns with a mango smoothie-and a view, and (bottom left) me eating a traditional Zanzibari soup.
Prior to Peace Corps, I wasn’t well acquainted with organized affinity groups. I was member to various groups focusing on shared interests, but they weren’t organized as affinity groups. Enter Peace Corps. There are affinity groups focusing on different identities and interests. One such affinity group here in Peace Corps Swaziland is known as Embrace. It’s an affinity group organized around the Black American PCV identity.
This weekend, Embrace members gathered for a retreat. There were wonderful opportunities for team building, enhancing self-care practices, and fellowship. The above photo was taken during one of the sessions on self care.
As you may know, Swaziland is a kingdom with an absolute monarchy. King Mswati III is a symbol of all things Swazi. As such, pictures of the king are all around Swaziland. Photos of the king aren’t limited to government offices and organizations. It’s typical of businesses and offices in the private sector to show reverence by displaying three photos. The highest photo is of the king. The next photo is of the queen mother. The last photo is of the prime minister. The above picture was taken at a restaurant in Mbabane.
I’ve learned that inspiration comes from all kinds of places. My knowledge of flowers, plants and other greenery is rather limited. I know what grass is. I can identify a tree as a tree. If it has mangos growing from it, I can be a pseudo-botanist for the moment.
On different walks around my community, I’ve noticed what I would consider flowers. They are beautiful and abundant with vibrant colors. After seeing a beautiful deep purple flower repeatedly, I decided to ask a local friend what kind of flower it was. He replied, “oh, that’s a weed”. I clarified what he meant. Weeds are invasive, unsightly and detract from the beauty of the landscape. Therefore, they must be removed. I’ve learned that beauty is all around us. It’s even in the seemingly unsightly and mundane things that we see everyday.
The above picture is of one of those weeds as seen on a walk around my community.
I thought about trying to select twelve pictures to represent this year, but it isn’t happening. Also, the months tend to run together after a while. I’ve tried to select things that represent the journey this year. I’ve also tried to select photos that haven’t been previously shared here. If you see repeats, it’s because my mind is forgetful and my eyes liked the photo very much.
Thank you for sharing in this experience with me. I don’t take it lightly that you take time to journey with me. I look forward to continuing to share my life in Peace Corps Swaziland in 2018.
I’m writing this on the Saturday before Christmas. There are two times every year when people return to their respective family’s homestead. Good Friday/Easter is one of those times. Christmas is the other. Several extended family members from my host family have returned to my gogo’s (pronounced go-go), or grandmother’s homestead to celebrate Christmas.
Two days ago, my family slaughtered a cow and sent it to the butcher. My host make (pronounced mah-gay), or mother, told me that I should be a gogo’s homestead on Saturday for a family gathering. My host bhuti (pronounced boo-tee), or brother, asked me to help him braai the meat. I was honored to be asked to assist.
This morning, my bhuti knocked on my door to let me know that it was time to start the festivities. We went to the store to pick up some spices and beer. When we returned to gogo’s homestead (down the road from my homestead), some people had already arrived. Some of our cousins had started the fire in the braai stand already. I grabbed my apron while my bhuti seasoned the meat. There was at least 10 kilograms of beef to be grilled. It had been a while since I’d been at the helm of a grill, and it was my first time using a braai stand. Luckily, the concept and function is the same.
As grilling commenced, people slowly gathered around. I spent most of the afternoon on the braai stand, and I was extremely happy. My bhuti made sure that I took breaks so that I could enjoy the food as well. There’s a certain magic that occurs when good people gather for a good time with good food. Imagine a block party meeting a family reunion mixed with Christmas dinner. That was today. The speakers blasted tunes as folks danced after they ate. Home brewed beer flowed freely. Community members, friends of the family, and friends of friends came over for food and fellowship. Today was a good day. It’s one of those days that makes me happy to be a part of this human experience. I’m thankful that I have been welcomed and embraced into my family, community, and all of Swaziland.
The above picture of me and my bhuti doing/discussing braai things.
My host bhuti (pronounced boo-tee), or brother, loves to stay busy. He’s always building something, tinkering with something, or otherwise keeping his hands occupied. Last week, he invited me to join him in one of his tasks. He had decided that it was time to paint our make’s (pronounced mah-gay), or mother’s kitchen. He wasn’t sure if I actually knew how to paint. As I’m free most days now that school has ended, I decided to join him.
As we were painting, we had progressively fascinating conversations. My bhuti now asks how things are on “that Reddit”. The morning flew by. Many hands make light work. Make made us a delicious lunch and was extremely thankful. The pictures above were taken from the south facing window of the kitchen.
This past weekend, a fellow PCV, Deacon, hosted a camp to introduce computer programming to girls from twenty communities around Swaziland. The camp began with a basic overview of what a computer is and various related TED Talks. Each community, represented by two girl students and one adult mentor, received one laptop computer with a variety of programs. Many of the students admitted that it was their first time touching a computer.
The students learned programming through an interactive graphic language program known as Scratch. They followed tutorials to create games while learning what various commands did. It was amazing to see the students try different variables attempting to achieve desired results. In one instance, a pair of students and mentor asked for assistance with a variable that wasn’t working. I directed the students to the help section of the tutorial. Before I could go through it with them, they were searching for the solution to their variable problem. I watched as they found the solution, and adjusted their program accordingly. It was impossible to contain my excitement as students with limited computer knowledge in the morning were developing and troubleshooting interactive games by late afternoon.
The next step for the students is to return to their respective communities where they will design unique games that tackle a social issue in Swaziland. In early 2018, the students and mentors will reconvene to showcase their games in a competition.
The above picture was taken as pairs and small groups worked together to develop their games.