All around Swaziland this week, schools are closing for the year. The academic year here is divided into three terms. The school day is typically divided into different lessons with two breaks. The first break is mid-morning, and lasts approximately 30 minutes. The second break is a lunch break, and lasts approximately 50 minutes.
During these breaks, 2-4 bomake (pronounced bow-mah-gay), or women set up a snack market on the school grounds. The schools don’t have vending machines. In fact, I haven’t seen any vending machines in the kingdom, that I can remember. The bomake sell all kinds of goodies. These goodies include naks (a maize based snack similar to Cheetos that comes in different flavors), lollipops, popcorn, rolls (called buns here), and fatcakes. On really hot days, there are even ice blocks (a flavored, sweetened frozen slushy solid).
I’ve noticed that the prices for snacks at the bomake market are pretty standardized. For instance, the going rate for a fatcake or an ice block is one lilangeni, pronounced lee-lan-gay-knee (the currency of Swaziland). The prices remain the same at most, if not all, of the school bomake markets in Swaziland. The homemade snacks (i.e., fatcakes) taste very similar all around the country as well.
Be kind to yourself.
While preparing for Peace Corps service can be hectic among other more colorful adjectives, it’s an exercise in restraint. It was tempting to pack up my entire apartment in Washington, DC and bring all of that stuff with me to Swaziland. I’m very thankful that I didn’t. After searching other volunteer blogs and Reddit to decide what to bring, I narrowed my list down. This is my contribution to that pool of knowledge. There are some things that I’m very happy I packed (outside of the typical – clothes, phone, computer, etc), as they have proved most useful.
- Headlamp – I brought two. I have electricity on my homestead. I had electricity at my training site during my first three months in country. However, a headlamp is useful, especially on those 2AM runs to the latrine or when the power goes out while cooking dinner.
- Hydroflask – This could be considered a water bottle, but it’s so much more. To be able to have an ice cold (or steaming hot) beverage after working all day is pure magic.
- Duct tape – It’s multipurposed, and magical.
- Rechargeable batteries – These save me money and trips into town. I use them for my headlamps, camera, and other lights.
- Power bank – There are instances when the electricity goes out, due to heavy rains. There are also times when I’m not at home, and my phone, watch, or some other gadget is about to run out of battery. I can at least ensure that I have enough battery power to last until the next time I can plug in.
- Bluetooth headphones/speaker – I really enjoy music and podcasts. While walking. While running. While on a long bus ride. The speaker is especially great for music while cooking/washing doing laundry. The headphones are great for being able to hear the movie I’m watching over the pounding rain on my tin roof.
- Comfort items – This is going to mean something different to everyone. For me, it included pictures from my apartment in DC and various gadgets. I’ll throw snacks into this category, as well. Go overboard with your favorite snacks. Add in your second and third favorite snacks as well. If you have to choose between a few more clothing items and snacks, go for the snacks.
- External hard drive – We were told that there would be plenty of time to share media. This was correct. We were also warned that we would have a substantial amount of down time. This was also correct. Load up your favorite movies, music, tv shows, podcasts, porn, documentaries, etc. Having an external hard drive is also helpful when it comes to storing backups of your system. Your future self will thank you!
- Big, blue IKEA bags – I didn’t pack this. A friend was kind enough to send some to me. These things are an invaluable resource when navigating public transit after grocery shopping for two to three weeks. And it’s good for the Earth.
- Pillow – This could go under comfort items, but it deserves its own bullet. While there can be too many pillows, that threshold is pretty high. I opted for a firm king size pillow. It’s delightful to fall asleep on it every night.
Feel free to add your own favorite things in comments. Also, if any future volunteers have questions, feel free to ask them here.
Be kind to yourself.