Monday in a Picture – Mother Bear

There are numerous organizations that offer aid to people around Swaziland. Some of these organizations are based here in the kingdom. Some organizations offer financial support while others inkind support and supplies. 

One such organization is The Mother Bear Project. Based in Minnesota, the organization sends hand knit (or crocheted) bears to young children in developing nations affected by HIV. Volunteer knitters are asked to either hand knit or crochet a bear from a given pattern. The knitted bears are a labor of love project seeks to comfort affected children. 

Last week, I completed a distribution of Mother Bears at one of the primary schools in my community. The students were very excited with big smiles as they received the bears. The above picture is a selfie of me with some of the children after receiving the bears. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Monday In A Picture – For Colored Girls Who Reply “Pilot” When Asked, “What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?” 

Yesterday, it happened again. For the second time in my life, I met a Black woman pilot. I had left the plane and was walking up the jet bridge when I saw her. I noticed the bars on her shoulders, so I walked up to the young lady and asked if she was a first officer. She confirmed that she was. 

Nandi is a South African woman who currently flies as a first officer with Mango Airlines, based in South Africa. She stopped to chat with me for brief moment. I told her how excited I was to meet her, and the hope and promise that she gives me for the future. This is especially true now in my role as a teacher at my community’s high school. 

As a American man serving in the kingdom of Swaziland, I am increasingly aware of the privileges that I have through no merit of my own. One of the privileges benefiting me, as a man, is the fact that I get to see men in all kinds of positions throughout society. As a result, it’s rarely a question of whether I can attain a certain achievement. I have countless examples surrounding me as a man. As a Black man, I have fewer, but still numerous, examples around me. 

All of this brings me back to Nandi and my role as a teacher. I see teachers (myself included) as not only being responsible for teaching, but for inspiring their students. I want all of my students to truly believe that they can do anything. I believe that seeing examples who are relatable to our identities is important.

A Black woman gave birth to me. Black women, from various sectors in society, have been instrumental in my life. I noticed some years ago that Black women weren’t just underrepresented in the cockpit. They were non-existent. In more than 20 years of flying, I had never encountered a Black woman pilot in real life. So, I made it a travel goal of mine to meet one Black woman pilot. This task grew more daunting as I spoke with my uncle who retired from Delta Airlines after more than twenty-five years of service. He informed me that he had only met one Black woman pilot in years of extensive work and leisure travel around the world. 

In September 2014, I met Gabrielle in San Francisco. Gabrielle is a first officer with United Airlines. Yesterday, I met Nandi in Johannesburg. During this month celebrating women’s history, I want to make sure that Black and brown girls around Swaziland, Africa, and the world know that there are amazing women like Gabrielle and Nandi shattering glass ceilings and blazing trails for you. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Uyatsandza kugijima

Happy Halloween! 

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I would have considered myself a fairly active person. I maneuvered the streets of DC on bike. Twice a week, I would join the greatest November Project tribe in the world for an early morning (running-oriented) workout. Although I ran with those wonderful folks, I never really considered myself a runner. A cyclist? Sure. But a runner? Not I. 

There is major opportunity here to be sedentary, which is tempting with many movies and television shows on my hard drive that I haven’t seen yet. There have been glimmers of hope as I have seen others riding bikes in my community. The thing is that I currently don’t have a bike. While I’m hoping that this changes soon, I have a desire and the energy to be active now.

Enter community runs. I’m not particularly fast or good at it, but I try to go out at least once a week for a run. I’ve found that this does a few things. First, it gets out all of that built up energy. Strangely, the more that I run, the more that want to run. Second, it allows me to explore new parts of my community and make maps of it (with my GPS watch). It helps that the watch tells me to move and posts my efforts to Strava. Lastly, it gives me the opportunity to meet and see various community members while they meet and see me. Some people have even commented when they see me, “Uyatsandza kugijima!“, or “you like to run!” I smile and laugh. I don’t know if I would classify running as something that I like, but I don’t hate anymore. I’ve even thought about signing up for one of those races. A 10K or half marathon, maybe? Because why not? 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – I just want to say #GoBlue and #HowBoutThemCowboys! It was a sweet rivalry weekend.

Photo Post: June 2016

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This is a group of almost all most of group 14 from Peace Corps Swaziland. This was the day that we met our training host families and moved in. Things were running on Swazi time, which meant that it was time to capture the perfect selfie.

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After our khombi broke down and we walked to the village, we came upon a soccer game/practice. These young boys were fascinated by Nate’s camera. I think Rachael and Meaghan were intrigued as well.

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Nevermind Clarin’s face in the background. The foreground features me and my teacher. She’s hard on us, but she’s kind and makes sure that we know what we need to know.

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These pictures are from my homestead. The above is a picture from the latrine in the morning. The bottom is a picture of that latrine. This is home.

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Sometimes, after you meet the village chief, you stop for a selfie break with a fellow trainee’s host family. So much beauty in this photo.

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This probably should have been first. When we first arrived from Johannesburg at the training site in Swaziland, all of the Peace Corps training staff came out to greet us. We were happy, if you can’t tell. Photo credit – Nellie

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Nellie captures all the perfect pictures in all of the right moments. We were headed to school/the training site in this one.

That’s all for now. Hopefully, I’m able to share pictures often.

Onward.