I’ve been in Swaziland for three months. In some ways it feels like three days, and in others it feels like three years. It’s been a whirlwind few months of training and moving to my permanent site. I should have slightly more internet access now that I’m at my permanent site and can occasionally travel into Manzini to find an internet café, so you should expect more blog updates. During training I had no internet access (nor any freedom of movement, for that matter) so I wasn’t able to update. My new blogs will hopefully show a more detailed view of what I’m up to here. For now though, I’ll provide a brief summary of what went on over the past three months.
-Pre-Service Training (PST). For 11 weeks, I lived with a family in a rural community with other members of my cohort (G13). We would come together each day for training while using our evenings to learn about the culture of Swaziland from our host families. Training was 6 days a week, 7 AM – 5 PM. I don’t think I’ve ever been so exhausted in my life. We spent two hours a day studying SiSwati and the rest of the time in various other trainings. Perhaps the most difficulty came from the fact that we were tightly scheduled and not allowed to freely move around. I think I had more freedom in high school. Still, the time was valuable as I was able to build strong friendships with my fellow volunteers.
-Learning about the Swazi culture. This is clearly an ongoing process that will be the subject of many future blog posts. For now, suffice it to say that I can tell I will have real struggles adjusting to the widely accepted patriarchal society as well as the tradition of engaging in a four sentence greeting with everyone you pass on the street.
-Swearing in. This was fun! After PST, we were finally sworn in as real Peace Corps Volunteers at a big event at the Royal Swazi Hotel. Speeches were made and food was eaten (lots and lots of food) followed by a fun night at a western-style bar. The next day, we all went off to our permanent sites.
-Moving to permanent site and the beginning of integration. My permanent site is a rural community in the Hohhoh region. I have a 3-room house on a family homestead. The community feels very rural, but I’m a short walk away from the tar road, which makes it only a 45-minute drive to Manzini. There’s also a lot going on here, including primary schools, a high school and a clinic. For now though, my only job is to become a member of the community. Until December, all I am supposed to do is meet the people who live here and the students who attend the schools and see what their needs are. I basically just go places and hang out and talk to people. It’s pretty great! After this period (deemed “integration”) is over, I can finally start projects. I’m also not able to leave my site for more than one night a month during integration. This isn’t a huge problem for me because it’s very easy for me to go to Manzini for a few hours and meet up with fellow volunteers there, but some people are more than three hours away from a major city. Once integration is over, I hear Peace Corps gets a lot more fun. Right now I’m trying to solve the problem of bats flying in my house at night. I don’t THINK they’re vampire bats…
People at home have asked me if I’m having fun. And to be honest, not really. There are moments of fun (visiting a traditional healer, cooking with my friends during training) but it’s been a challenging few months, filled with ups and down. But Peace Corps isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be difficult. It’s also supposed to be an adventure, and a deeply rewarding one at that. So far, it’s succeeding on that account.
OH AND DID I MENTION I KILLED A CHICKEN??? It was terrifying although oddly empowering. It wasn’t wanton violence against a chicken or anything—it was for dinner!