About a month ago, I moved to my permanent site, which will be my home for approximately the next 21 months. My house is actually a house, not a hut as I expected, and it’s pink. have three rooms, which I use as a bedroom, kitchen and a “bathroom” (where I have my solar shower/bucket bath set up). It’s pretty nice and homey now that I’ve gotten settled in and it’s taken on a nice little sense of organized chaos. I do need to sweep, come to think of it. Regardless, I have electricity, which is great! My house is on the Magagula homestead. There are several houses and huts with thatched roofs on the property. We all share a latrine and there are lots of fruit trees as well. Right now is papaya season but I’m really looking forward to December, when the mango tree right outside of my house will give me glorious mangos whenever I want. Avocado season is also pretty great, but that’s not until next June and July. I share the property with a mother, father, their adult daughters and adult son and his wife and child. Although we still are working on communicating, they seem like lovely people.
My homestead is about a 15 minute walk on a dirt path from the tar road. Some volunteers aren’t so lucky! I’m across the street from a primary school and near several churches and even a sangoma, which is what the traditional healers or witch doctors are called here. There’s a small shop across the street from my homestead, which has small essentials like rice, beans and bread.
My community, where I’ll be working, is much bigger than my little homestead. It encompasses numerous homesteads as well as a small town called Mandlampisi (spelling?) with a market, hardware stores, butcher and general dealers, where you can buy basically anything you need. In the area, there are three primary schools, a high school, and a clinic, all of which have opportunities for great projects. I’ve also met some interesting women starting a business cooperative that I hope to work with in the future. When I went for my site placement interview, I requested a site with a lot going on, and I am spoiled for options. There’s so much I can do here with so many different people.
What kind of work will I be doing? It’s too early to know specifics, but Peace Corps Swaziland has two main goals: girls’ and women’s empowerment and HIV Prevention. My projects could involve starting a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) club at the schools or working with the HIV+ youth support group at the clinic. It might involve helping the business cooperative obtain an industrial sewing machine or teaching sex education at the high school. Actually, it’s definitely going to involve sex education in some way. Swaziland teaches abstinence only sex education to all its young people, something that is unacceptable in a country with astronomical teen pregnancy rates and an HIV rate approaching one-third of the entire
population. I’m already practicing keeping a straight face in front of a room full of giggling teenagers!