Monday in a Picture – Superlatives

Every year, in Peace Corps eSwatini, the junior cohort plans a see-you-later party for the senior, outgoing cohort. In years past, it’s been referred to as Christmas in June. This year, the theme changed to Vikings. It’s typical for superlatives to be given to the senior, outgoing cohort.

After voting and deliberation, superlatives were announced and distributed. The above picture is me with my superlative. The members of G14 (my cohort) voted me….most likely to never return to the U.S. I don’t know how this happened, but never is a strong word. The above picture is of me with my superlative. Someone even drew my red shorts and beard, while I chill on a beach lounger.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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Monday in a Picture – What’s in a Name?

Last week, His Majesty King Mswati III celebrated his 50th birthday with Swazis and others. The national celebration, called the 50/50 celebration, also commemorated 50 years of independence from British rule. Thousands of Swazis and guests gathered in Manzini for dancing, singing and merriment. While His Majesty’s speech touched on several topics, one of the biggest was his changing of the country’s name.

What was formerly the Kingdom of Swaziland is now the Kingdom of eSwatini. The king stated during this declaration that a big part of this decision was because of what they called themselves before British rule. Fifty years ago, British rule became a thing of the past. Last Thursday, the British name for the country became a thing of the past. I was with a small group of PCVs and friends in Mavuso stadium when the king made this declaration. There was an eruption of applause and cheering upon the declaration.

Some friends have asked me what I think about the name change. While I don’t have strong opinions, I think it’s a beautiful thing to be true to your identity and to reclaim any identity you may have lost. There’s beauty in the realization that you haven’t been true to yourself; for it’s a starting point of redemption. For that, I am happy.

The above picture was taken during the 50/50 celebration while His Majesty was giving his speech.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

Monday in a Picture – 33

Later this week, I’ll get to celebrate 33 years on this planet. In November, I started perusing the internet for possible vacations to gift to myself. I noticed Victoria Falls was reasonably priced. I had heard wonderful things about falls, so I decided to book it. 

Last week, I journeyed to Livingstone in Zambia. (As a side note, Livingstone is named for David Livingstone, who noticed the falls almost 200 years ago. My alma mater, Livingstone College, is named after the same man.) The falls are quite magnificent. The sheer power and size of falls leaves me in awe of nature and its power. The picture above was taken after a day of cycling around the town of Livingstone as I look forward to a wonderful 33. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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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Monday in a Picture – Marula and Buganu

This past weekend, Swazis and friends in the northern region of the country celebrated the marula festival. The festival celebrates the harvest of the marula fruit, its resiliency, and the resiliency that it symbolizes for all of Swaziland. The tree produces delicious fruit, even in drought stricken summers. The festival happens at one of the royal residences, and the king and queen mother attend along with hundreds of Swazis. 

Swazis celebrate the marula fruit by home brewing buganu (pronounced boo-ga-new), which is a beer made from the fruit. One PCV, who lives in northern Swaziland, agreed (with his host family) to host a number of PCVs so that we could experience the fruit, the beer, and the festival. He and his host family spent considerable time brewing many liters of buganu for this weekend. The inner council of the community leadership came to his homestead to sit and share buganu with the volunteers. They talked about the fruit and beer before explaining how the beer is made. Then, there was a live, hands-on tutorial of home brewing buganu. The picture above is of the hosting host mom preparing to start the buganu brewing process. 

The fruit is removed from its skin, and placed in clean water. After three days, the seeds are removed from the fruit. Then, the mixture sits for another day. At this point, the beer is ready to be enjoyed. We learned that women typically brew the buganu for her husband and the family. Some women also sell buganu. A 25 liter container sells for between 50 and 100 emalangeni (pronounced emma-lan-gay-knee), which is the currency of Swaziland (on par with the South African rand). 

There will be another marula festival in a few weeks in a different region of the country. This is due to the marula fruit ripening at different times in different parts of the country. We learned that the fruit is not to be picked from the tree, as it is not yet ripe. The fruit should be picked up from the ground once it has fallen. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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