"It's not what you are that holds you back, it's what you think you are not."
Monday, July 27th: First, happy birthday Grandma Jane! We sure do love you. Today was a fairly relaxed day. It was a village day, and contrary to our recent trend, the weather was actually nice for a village day. It seems that 90% of rainy days here are village days. Not today however! We started, per usual, with language before heading to our village training site for a culture session on death and mourning. It was a little somber as could be expected, but the mourning process here is important and could effect our lives as volunteers should somebody on our homestead or apart of our family pass away. After the cultural session we went for our final permagardening practicuum. Having already laid out the berms and retention holes, all that was left was to dig (kughuba) the beds for planting. Due to the amount of volunteers willing to help the beds naturally didn't turn out as expected, ours were a little skinnier than the one meter mark. After the beds were formed and the soil amended with manure, ash, and charcoal, we were ready to plant our seeds and seedlings. First, we learned about crop rotation and companion planting, which can get quite complicated, and then we planted. Finally, with a finished garden, we broke for the day. We also received our LPI scores at the end of the day with neither Grace nor I doing well. We were frustrated and have a plan for the next LPI to ensure we are tested fairly, but for now we are pushing it out of our minds. We returned home and went on a chore accomplishing spree, burning trash, doing laundry, and cleaning our floor. We then ventured up the road to buy some tomatoes and cabbage (20 tomatoes and a cabbage for $1.50, not bad). We made some wonderful veggie burgers for dinner and we are settling in for a movie, so I’ll end here for the evening!
Tuesday, July 28th: We ate bean burgers again tonight, because well, Sean made them so excellently last night that I wanted them again tonight. A girl could get use to all this wonderful cooking you know? Anyways, that was the end of our night. So as for today, we were taught how to teach. A long story, about a day worth of not so interesting stories, short, we are now expected to teach a class at the high school on Thursday. With an entire day of planning tomorrow it will be interesting what our group decides to teach about, I guess you will know soon enough! When we arrived home Sean collected all of our dry laundry and I found myself in a political conversation with Simiso about Democrats and Republicans. She watched Obama’s speech in Ethiopia this afternoon. Walking back inside I told Sean that I need to be better versed in order to speak with Simiso again. We spent some time studying and I will remind you again how much I enjoyed my dinner. That is honestly all that I have, pretty weak huh? End note: Ryan, happy 28th birthday to you! Hope it was wonderful!
Wednesday, July 29th: Life never stops here in rural Africa, although it usually slows down for you. There's always, always, always something to be doing that needs done. It’s usually something involving water, fetching water, refilling filters, dumping waste water, etc., and those three somethings are in fact daily necessities for Grace and I. Then there's the dishes that must be hand-washed after every meal, laundry day (more specifically underwear day done inside and clothing day done outside), cleaning day, grocery day, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes there are obscure somethings that need done, such as dumping the pee bucket or disposing of alcohol containers, these somethings require a little extra care and subtle execution. With all of this to be done though, life here will occasionally throw you a curveball. Like today. Today we caught a curveball. Today, for one of the first times since we arrived in Sihhohhweni, we had nothing to do for about 2 hours. It was slightly disorienting. You see due to a rather lax day of language and presentation preparation (tomorrow we will teach 30ish 12-20yr olds about self-esteem at the local high school), we were able to get laundry and other water tasks accomplished during lunch, before finishing training elsewhere in the village. Typically, we must rush home after training to accomplish what needs done before dark at around 5:30. Today, however, due to the previously mentioned circumstances, we had about 2 hours of free time from 3:30 to 5:30. Unsure of what to do with ourselves we simply returned home. After talking with babe and make for awhile about babe’s health, babe has been quite sick lately with what we assume are ulcers, we still had an hour and a half to kill before dinner. Bosisi betfu (our sisters) were napping, so we settled in to our couches and contemplated what to do with this curveball we just caught. We settled on baking chocolate cookies in the frying pan, yes, Grace fielded this curveball perfectly. It was interesting to me though, that “free-time” was a little disorienting. There is no TV to relax by, no cold beverage for out on the porch, no walk to go get milkshakes, and no bike path to cruise along. I suppose it just makes me thankful all over again for the opportunities I had in the U.S. and the friend and partner I have here now. In conclusion, when you're surprised by unplanned downtime just remember to field that curveball gracefully, let life come to you, and don't turn down baking chocolate cookies, because that something is probably the exact something you were supposed to do. How’s that for a disorienting conclusion? Time to eat our cookies.
Thursday, July 30th: I was able to talk with my mom today on her 49th birthday! If you haven't met my mother all you need to know is that she is the most amazing woman I know. If you do know her, and see or talk to her, tell her again how much I love her for me! Today we taught approximately 40 high schoolers about self esteem, self value, and confidence. With a short lecture and a game our group felt energized by the experience. A fellow volunteer group followed our presentation with a presentation on verbal and nonverbal communication. They did an amazing job as well. On the bus ride to SIMPA we discussed our surprise at how much fun we had teaching the class. Our desire here is not exactly to be working directly in a school, but the experience was most certainly more enjoyable than we had previously anticipated. At SIMPA training site we had a short debrief about the morning followed by an extra long lunch break. We took our normal 1 mile stroll down to the imakethe to purchase some vegetables. We bought around 6 onions, 8 potatoes, 6 green peppers, and 10 tangerines for 40 emalangeni or 4 U.S. dollars. Back at SIMPA we had time to study, talk with friends, and sign up for a half marathon at the end of September. We are in it for the shirt, just like many other volunteers are. The next section focused on orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs). We now understand that OVCs are defined by poverty level and not specifically lack of parents or guardians. An child can be an OVC if his/her parents or adult has AIDS or lives with a grandparent. The definition is very vague and the government response is now truly just being established to combat the growing problem. 15% of households are child headed households. Free healthcare is available for OVCs but someone has to advocate for the child to be recognized as an OVC. The unemployment rate is above 40% and while primary school is “free”, high school is not. So all of this information that makes your heart feel heavy leads me to my next point. Where we fit in. The lecturer pointed out the need for trade/technical skills. Deemed “lower class” people tend to shy away from these jobs but for OVCs in our community I know a pretty smart guy who has a masters in trade skills. Neighborhood Care Centers are available for OVCs in communities to receive free meals, however, they lack the funds to maintain supplies to feed the children. A community permagarden would provide supplies for no cost. While there is profound need in this specific population, there is also profound work to be done. And isn’t that why we came? Our plan for tonight is to teach our bosisi banana-grams. Sean will play in SiSwati while they play in English. I'm cheering for our bosisi, Sean always wins…