Saturday, November 28, 2015 very thankful.

"It is not what we have, but who we have in our lives that counts."

Siyajabula libuya ekhaya! (We are happy to return home!) after what has been a great close of integration and a wonderful international Thanksgiving! This past week has been both fruitful and rewarding in many different aspects and we are so very thankful for all that we have been blessed with here in Swaziland! Earlier this week on Monday, we had our first project/projects presentation to 27 caregivers at SOS. The caregivers work with SOS’s Family-Strengthening Program in three local communities taking care of vulnerable children. Our presentation was about sustainability and income-generating projects including permagardening and making your own aloe lotion. The presentation took almost two and a half hours because the caregivers were very involved and asked great questions throughout. At the end, we had dedicated sign-up sheets for each of the six topics we had given an overview of and all of the caregivers signed up for one or more practicum-based training programs for each of the subjects! We were amazed and thrilled by the response and are very happy/thankful that we will soon be very busy with community training efforts! 

On Tuesday we left for All-Volunteer Training in Matsapha. Basically the Peace Corps brings all the volunteers together and we listen to programming, medical, administrative, and other updates. The best part of it all was Thursday, Thanksgiving, morning we had a mini TedTalks session where 18 volunteers gave short presentations on project successes and other helpful topics. From there we left for our county director’s house in Mbabane for a Thanksgiving feast, and what a feast it was! There were over a hundred people there and we actually had leftovers of nearly everything. It was a very impressive spread. Everyone ate and drank and shared in the merriment of our Peace Corps family. Afterwards, we had a chance to thank and wish our country director luck as he leaves us to be the country director of Morocco on December 14th. Our new director arrives in early December. Once all the goodbyes were said Grace and I and several other G13 PCVs celebrated the end of integration by spending a couple nights at Lidwala's Lodge in the Ezulwini Valley. For those of you who don't know, during integration we aren't allowed to spend more than one night away from site a month, so at the end of integration it's a bit like the leash coming off…everyone is ready to explore more of the country! 

Anyways, we had a great night Thursday calling home and and enjoying more time with friends. Friday morning we got up early and a large group of us went for a hike up Sheba’s Breast, a mountain that happens to be in Lidwala's backyard. The hike was incredibly steep and a bit sketchy at times but the view from the top was incredible! It was cloudy and a bit wet out which reminded us of the mountains and hills in Ireland and Scotland. We had a blast at the top enjoying some snacks and playing around on the boulders that dot the ridge line. We got a bit cold at the top though (yea crazy huh?) and descended quickly for hot showers and a short walk to The Gables shopping complex where Mugg&Bean has free refills on coffee! We had a group lunch and then returned to Lidwala's to hang out and enjoy our celebratory 2nd night out!

All in all it’s been a great week and a great holiday. We want everyone, family and friends alike, to know how thankful we are for your support. We love and miss you all dearly! We’re also extraordinarily thankful to have landed in such a beautiful country and to have found welcoming, new family and friends here. We’re just starting to realize how blessed we are to have a network of love and support on two different sides of the world, siyabonga bonkhe kakhulu! Thank you all very much!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

...pulls a 9 to 5.

"We pretend to work because they pretend to pay us." -Unknown

I feel better with a plan. I always have and I probably always will. My husband is a nice man. He always has been and he probably always will be. It was easy to convince him to attempt a "9 to 5" work week because well, like I said he is nice and I feel better with a plan. The idea behind "9 to 5" was heavily due to the lack of structure in our days, easily leading to boredom, annoyance, and more sleeping and movies than should be allowed. We decided to make a todo list per day. Now the list was pretty open to most any activity, but things such as laundry, working out, cleaning, and watering the garden were personal time items. In the real "9 to 5" world you can't do those things - and this was a real "9 to 5" effort! We did include grocery shopping, tutoring, and crafts... We had to fluff our activities some to get through the day! So now that you get the idea, here is our weekly review.

Sunday: While Sunday doesn't count towards our work week, it was eventful. Sean killed a spitting cobra in the garden. It was a baby (Sean says juvenile) but nonetheless it was the first snake encounter in Swaziland. Church took a great amount of our time (fist pump!) lasting three hours instead of the usual two. That's Sunday for you. 

Monday: "9 to 5" began with working on a presentation for SOS regarding the summer (summer being December - I confusing) program we aim to lead with the community youth. The program focuses on life skills, specifically HIV/AIDS, risky behaviors, healthy relationships, and gender equality. Sounds pretty school-like until you add the twist of basketball! All of the subjects will be taught while teaching the sport of basketball. Grocery shopping happened here too along with redoing our waste water buckets, researching NGOs and an hour of language with our sisi. At 5:00 we even had items to roll over to Tuesday, successful 9 to 5 completed!

Tuesday: If we count walking to SOS as work, we really started our workday earlier than 9:00. The presentation at SOS was very well received and we now have December booked for a summer program! I know you want to ask, what's the schedule like? How many children? What ages?... Well don't. I have no idea and I'm very positive I will have no idea until the very first day of the program. When is the first day you ask? Again, no idea. But we are happy with the yes! We also were able to schedule a presentation on Monday. We are hoping to train community members on permagardening, grey water recycling, compost and incoming generating projects. We plan to give the introduction to these things this Monday. After our meeting we went home and finished the presentation that will be given next week, created some educational charts for the NCPs (community pre-school type facilities) and made a todo list for Wednesday. Two "9 to 5s" down, way to many to go!

Wednesday: I had my programming site visit today. It was supposed to be at 2:00 but it was switched to 9:00. My program manager actually showed up at 8:30 so my day started early. We spoke about the report I turned in a few weeks ago, she complimented our couch, and we went to SOS to speak with the ladies I have been working with over the past two months. I will add my personal thought really fast before returning to the synopsis of our week. As a community health volunteer I have a great programming staff. They are capable and competent. At SOS instead of drilling my counterpart about the do's and don'ts, and the what you likes and what you don't likes that the assessment paper requires, she simply thanked them. She thanked them for welcoming us, being willing to work with us, and for the work they do. I have a great deal of respect for the choice made. Anyways, Sean was at the umphakatsi, primary school and high school checking in during my site visit. Reconvening at 11:00 we decided that "9 to 5" was pretty hard. So we took a nap. We rallied around 3:00 and made some charts and materials for December. You can't win them all.

Thursday: Today is the last requires "9 to 5" this week. I forgot to mention we aim for a 4 day work week. What? We aren't in America anymore! I spent the majority of the morning taking charts to the NCPs while Sean worked on his presidency responsibilities. I got offered a baby when I was out. Despite the cuteness I politely declined. I told her I was too young to have a baby. She told me I was too old not to have one. We agreed to disagree. Or at least I did. At home we worked on flyers and permission slips for our program. 
Now, I am writing this blog (which counts) and it is currently 5:00. My work week is over! 

In all seriousness, boredom is a daily concern. But this week proved that the work is about to begin and we cannot wait to start! Remind me of this post when I begin to complain about not having time to watch New Girl.

Friday, November 13, 2015

...requires great people good work, and lots of prayers.

"The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyways." -Mother Teresa 

As I write this post I am sitting in a cafe (trying to stop sweating) waiting on Sean to come meet me so we can go back home. The reason that Sean is not by my side at this moment is because he was elected to our Peer Support Identity Network (PSIN) and had 2 days of training. PSIN is a group of 8 volunteers that are tasked with supporting the needs of our group and the new group coming in June. Within the group of 8 Sean was then elected president. So basically I am married to the most popular guy in Peace Corps Swaziland! In all seriousness, he is perfect for the job and all staff and volunteers are thrilled with his new title. 

I truly believe we are about to get busier. I can feel it in the air. The past two weeks have been spent at a Peace Corps training, mostly consisting of follow up on subjects that were covered in the June to August training. I would be frustrated with the repetition of information given however, the weeks proved to be an amazing opportunity to learn about fellow PCVs' project ideas. Not only does our group share ideas they encourage participation from others. Talking with volunteers really amped us up to begin thinking outside the box of what projects we could do within our community. I will keep those project ideas a secret for now, just trying to keep you on your toes. We hope to share in the next few weeks about a few projects we have planned for December! 

I am not sure if everyone is aware, but there is a severe drought throughout the country currently. It is actually affecting a good portion of lower Africa and much conversation revolves around the issue everyday. This is rainy season for Swaziland, but there is no rain. We have mentioned in previous blog posts about the dryness of our area and the large amount of cattle dying due to lack of water and greenery. After a conversation on a khumbi with a well informed government official the crisis will get worse before it gets better. Quote, "the cows will die, the goats will die, the chickens will die and then the people will start dying". I tell you this with a few requests in mind. First, pray for rain. Second, pray for the elderly, young, and sick who will be the most affected population. Third, pray that we are able to do good work despite our lack of ability to change the situation.