Monday in a Picture – Fresh

Swaziland has a huge agricultural society. In the rural community, almost every family has a field or two for the purpose of growing food. If you happen to live in a more urban setting and/or lack agricultural savvy but still want fresh fruits and veggies, you’re in luck. 

At bus ranks and other places where many people congregate, there’s likely many bomake (pronounced bo-mah-gay), or women who have set up temporary stalls with an abundance of whatever fruits and vegetables are in season. The prices are typically very reasonable and it presents the opportunity to support small business projects. The above photo was taken outside of the Mbabane bus rank last week. As you may see, mangos are now in season! This is reason to celebrate. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – ​Grow Your Own Food: The Harvest 

Last week, the farm-to-table experience took on new meaning. I was watering my garden when I noticed that some of the crops were ready to harvest. Some crops, namely the cauliflower, had been sacrificed to garden pests. However, there were eggplants and okra that were ripe and ready. I should mention that I had completely forgotten that I even planted eggplant. I’m thankful that the eggplant didn’t forget it had been planted (like my tomatoes did). 

I harvested three beautiful eggplants and some okra. Now, I was faced with a new challenge. What do I do with this produce? I had never cooked fresh okra. I had never cooked (or eaten) eggplant, in any state. Thankfully, there were friends and Google to help me make culinary sense of the harvest. 

I decided to make an eggplant and okra stir-fry. It was delicious! It was hard to believe that I was eating a meal that had been grown by my own hands. In reality, it’s difficult for me to take full credit for the meal. While I planted the crops and watered them (when I remembered), the Earth did most of the work. The garden was much kinder to me than I was to it. For that, I’m thankful. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Water from Jojo

Some weeks ago, we experienced the effects of Cyclone Dineo. It brought high winds and an abundance of rain. For a week, rain muddied the roads while rain clouds hid the sun. As a rookie gardener, I have learned to appreciate the rain for what it does to my garden. Swaziland, as a whole, appreciates the rain as southern Africa recovers from a severe drought. 

Water is necessary regardless of where you live. Across the kingdom, different families get water in different ways. Some families have indoor plumbing with running water. Some families take water cans to the river, and fill them before returning home. In some communities, there is a community tap which typically pulls water from a rain caching reservoir. On some homesteads, you find a borehole which extracts water from the ground. I have also seen families divert streams or rivers to deliver water to the homestead. 

On my homestead, we are fortunate to have a jojo tank. The jojo tank sits on a large concrete slab, and has one tap at the bottom. The jojo tank is connected to rain gutters leading into to the jojo tank. Our jojo tank has a capacity of about 5000 liters. When the rains come, the jojo tank fills with water and all is well. When the rains don’t come, there are services that can come out and fill your jojo tank. Our jojo tank provides all of the water used for drinking, cooking, gardening, cleaning, and bathing. I also use the jojo tank to wash my hands after using the pit latrine. 

To get water in my house, I fill a 25 liter water can (as seen in the picture above) to bring inside. Because water access isn’t as simple as turning on a faucet in the kitchen or bathroom, I’m more cognizant of my water usage. I try to conserve water. Now, I can happily add “showering with 5 liters of water” to my skill set. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Everyone has a part of the story 

During our first three months in Swaziland, we had all kinds of training. There was technical training and language training. There was training about the history and culture of Swaziland. There was probably more training that I have since forgotten. 
One of the things that I haven’t forgotten is a session in which we watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk about the danger of a single story

My story is, indeed, a single story. It is one of many. A single, personal view of a complex world. During this session, our training manager advised us not to perpetuate the single story of Africa being a singular, homogenous experience, culture, and people. After all, Swaziland is only a piece of Africa. And even in the kingdom of Swaziland, there are varied cultures and experiences among 1.2 million Swazis. In the spirit of promoting multiple varied stories and viewpoints, I would like to share some of my favorite blog posts from PCVs around the globe. 

This post was inspired by Nicole, also in Swaziland, who also wrote about the danger of a single story. I have been inspired by Alexa discussing the gifts from the garden in Uganda. Alison captured the magic and mystery of Swazi greetings and praise names. There is Abbie’s insightful look into things that are uniquely Moroccan. Ally listed common phrases that are heard throughout Swaziland, but would be unusual in America. I read about April’s language challenges in Kosovo, and was comforted by a shared struggle. Recently, Nate explored what the first day of school looks like in Swaziland. Nathalie shared the things that she’s learned in her first six months as a PCV in Swaziland. Faith, in Tanzania, compiled many memes about serving as a volunteer of color

Feel free to link to some of your favorite PCV blog posts in the comments.

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Monday in a Picture – Grow Your Own Food: the Garden

Last week, I finished my garden. I used the techniques that we learned in a training session last month. Read about that training here. Building this garden was a great way to test my own knowledge and skill before leading trainings in my community. I’m still planning the community demonstration gardens with community leadership.

Double digging to depths of 30+ centimeters is hard, tedious work. The Swazi sun made the task even more unappealing. I hyped myself up by watching Ron Finley’s TED talk about guerrilla gardening. While the entire video is extremely motivational and inspiring, one quote stuck out to me.

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” – Ron Finley

I like money. I like food. Challenge accepted! It took four days to complete. I’m happy to announce that it’s done. Some of my neighbors came over to learn and help. It felt great to actually understand permagardening well enough to explain it to others. 

I’m sure that I didn’t do everything perfectly. There were measurements that I forgot to take. My idea (and practice) of companion planting is definitely not what we learned. I didn’t add ash or charcoal to the soil because we didn’t have any available. 

For those who may be wondering what I am hoping to grow, I planted seedlings of lettuce, red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, butternut squash, onions, okra, basil, something called rocket (which the sales associate told me is like spinach), broccoli, cauliflower, and eggplant. I planted seeds of chamomile, flowers, tomatoes, and spinach. Now, I’m just hoping that the seeds and seedlings turn into food.

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – This is what the space looked like before it became a garden. 

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​Monday in a Picture – Grow Your Own Food: The Training

Last week, Peace Corps Swaziland hosted Peter Jensen, a permagardening specialist based out of Peace Corps Ethiopia, to facilitate two workshops on his specialty. Volunteers were invited to participate in the workshop with a counterpart (community-based colleague), with the expectation that the volunteer and counterpart would take what they learned to train others in the local community. 

For those wondering what exactly permagardening is, allow me to share my understanding. Permagardening is a permanent garden that focuses on strict natural water management, double digging, and using locally accessible materials to keep the garden and soil healthy and productive.

I attended one of the workshops with a counselor from my community. She’s an agriculture friendly person who grows various things on her homestead. In contrast, the only plant I’ve managed to grow with any success is ivy, which is extremely difficult to kill. Peter presented permagardens in a way that was accessible and interesting to novices, like myself, and experienced folk, like my counterpart. He made me believe that even I can build a fruitful garden using the permagardening techniques and principles. The workshop inspired a conversation between me and my counterpart about how to take these techniques back to the community. Currently, we are planning on building three demonstration gardens around the community. 

When I returned to my home, I talked with my host mom about the possibility of me building a garden. She excitedly pointed me to a fenced area on the homestead and told me that I could use that space. Now, I have the space, some tools, and the training to practice before co-facilitating a community training. The only thing left to do is the work of actually building the garden. Wish me luck! 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

​Monday in a Picture – Plowing and Planting 

Everything in life has seasons. Election season in the US is over. American football season is in its prime, while basketball season is just starting. Right now, Swaziland is heading into summer, which is the rainy season. Warm temperatures and rain mean that it’s time to plow and plant. 
The staple crop in Swaziland is umbila (pronounced om-bee-la), or maize. The staple food is liphaleshi (pronounced lee-pa-lee-she), or porridge, which is made from ground maize meal. In my community, all homesteads have some land set aside for crop farming. Many of these families will grow substantial portions of their needed maize during the summer months. Some families may even have extra to sell. But before any growing can be done, the fields have to be readied. This includes plowing the field(s), which is sometimes done by hand with a hoe, shovel, or pick. It can also be done with a tractor pulled plow (as seen in the picture above). 

I spoke with these guys for a bit. They told me that this was a prime season to make money for their respective families. You can hire these guys to plow your field (assuming you live close by). I learned that they work all day, literally. They start working around 4:00 a.m., and work until 7 or 8:00 p.m. That’s a laborious workday that starts before the sun rises, and ends after it sets. They told me not to worry because they had a light on the tractor for working in the dark.  The conversation was brief because there were fields to be plowed and money to be made. Before they left, the driver asked if I could take his picture. Wish granted. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Photo Post: July 2016

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Three out of my four young bobhuti in my training host family. They wanted a picture. Wish granted.

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Half of our language class, with our thishela. It’s always the right time for a selfie.

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That’s me cutting the chicken’s neck while a thishela holds the chicken’s body. It’s a real farm to table experience. Photo credit – Timmya D.

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During a school visit, we were waiting on the teacher to show up. I entertained questions about life in America. Photo credit – Timmya D.

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Meet Deborah, right, and Lakia. These young ladies are in my cohort (G14). They graciously agreed to be subjects as I work on my photog skills.

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As a part of our training, we visited the sangoma, or traditional healer. He calls on the ancestors to heal folks of various ailments.

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We were privileged to journey to Milwane Game Reserve. A walk through the game park revealed stupendous sights.

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During our visit to the Matenga Cultural Village, Darah was invited up to join the dance. The cultural village educates people on Swazi culture and traditions.

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If you know me, you know I love bicycles. These bobhuti allowed me to ride their bike for a bit. No tires. No chain. No cog. No seat. No problem. Photo credit – Timmya D.

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Each one, teach one. Meaghan and Darah talk to some local children about gardening after our permagardening session.

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This is Letty. Her shirt caught my attention. I find out that a local guy makes them. I’m excited to buy local and support small business.

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At the end of a long day of a practicum, this permagarden is the result. Team work makes the dream work.

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After playing catch, they stopped for a picture. Lots of love captured here.

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I’m not sure who took this photo, but here are almost all of the currently serving volunteers (and trainees) at the Fourth of July celebration hosted by our country director. Peace Corps Swaziland!

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.