Monday in a Picture – Reverence

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. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – The Weeds

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. 

Happy New Year! 
Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

2017 – A Photo Reflection

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.

This year began with me deciding that if I was going to teach people how to make permagardens, I need to know how to do one. 
I made it to my 27th country. Ethiopia! Ate delicious food. Did other stuff. Ate more delicious food.
All work and no play isn’t for me. Work hard, play hard, see Chakalaka perform at House on Fire.
The universe decided I should have a penpal. I’m thankful for the art, kind words, and visiting a mailbox that’s not empty.
Teaching a full academic year has brought out many feelings and emotions. These students (and the rest of them not pictured) make it worth everything!
I was fortunate to be a part of the media pool for the Umhlanga festivities this year. I’ve also been able to practice the craft of photography. This may be the picture I’m proudest of this year.
AfrikaBurn 2017. Yeah.
My mother always taught us that if you can help someone, you should. Even if it’s in the middle of a bike ride. Photo credit: Nozie N.
There’s a Latin dance community that’s full of amazing people who remind me to just dance.
I don’t know what this is. But the little creature decided to hang out during hammock time one day.
Shoutout to Angelo and this involtini!
It’s cool to witness progress. This year, the first monolingual siSwati dictionary was published. It’s a big deal!
My counterpart is amazing. Now she can be amazing faster with this Ethiopian coffee.
At Thanksgiving, we gather at our country director’s home for lunch. I’m forever thankful for that!
My students have a sense of humor. Smile.
Our dog gave birth again. Puppies need a lot of rest.
There is no Thanksgiving in Swaziland. But there is Black Friday. And Black Friday sales.
Sunsets. They happen everyday, yet they’re still pretty awesome.

Be kind to yourself. 
Be kind to others. 
Onward. 

Monday in a Picture – Swazi/Zulu Christmas

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. 

Merry Christmas! 
Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Monday in a Picture – We Painted! 

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. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Sweet Dreams – Cell Phones and Road Trips

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 vivid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

I was on a road trip with an indiscriminate number of friends. We may have been returning home. We ended up stopping by a cell phone super store. Think Wal-Mart, but only mobile phones. There was a section in the rear of the store that was dedicated to mobile phone repairs and servicing. I wandered back there and started chatting with the sales associate. She had a pleasant demeanor, but was not very helpful. 

I ended up browsing the store, including the latest mobile phones. I tried to buy a glass screen protector for my phone, but they were out of stock. We got back on the road. A few hours later, it was time to drop off one of our road tripping friends. She invited everyone in for family dinner. We started discussing mobile phones after dinner. My friend’s mother seemed to be shying away from the conversation. I asked the mother if she had a phone. She stated that she did not. She went on to say how complicated they are. My friend told me that she had tried to get her mother a phone to no avail. 

I took my friend’s iPhone and showed her mom the maps and how she could save her home location so that she could always navigate home. Her mom was excited and intrigued. I told her mom that she was less likely to get lost if she had navigation, and that if she did get lost, she could call for help. Her mother said that she would think about getting a cell phone. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Sweet Dreams – The Hair Stylist

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 vivid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

I was looking for a place to get my hair done. I don’t know what I was getting done to it. A friend of a friend recommended someone. I thought, “okay cool”. The hair stylist was a young lady who lived in my city. It was a fairly large city. 

For some reason, I didn’t have a cell phone. Also, no one knew where the hair stylist lived and she was supposed to do my hair at her home. The problem was that she didn’t have a cell phone either. For almost a week, I wondered around the city looking for this hair stylist. Finally, I found a woman who said she was the hair stylist’s mother. She was going to give me clear instructions on how to get to the hair stylist apartment. 

I get to the building. It’s strange. There are no elevators and the stairs appear to be missing giant sections. To go between floors, I had to use the stairs present, and parkour my way around to the next set of stairs. It was like rock climbing meets gladiator meets random YouTube stunt video. Another problem was that I didn’t know which apartment was hers. In one of the floors, there was a man selling quick, easy finger food on a table. Think human vending machine. He had tables set up around him with chairs for people to sit. While I had stopped to see what kind of food the man had, I saw the hair stylist’s mother. She was leaving the apartment. I asked if their was an actual assortment number for her daughter. She told me 303. I was at 310. I continued to ascend looking for this apartment. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Monday in a Picture – Girls Got Game

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. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward.