November 4, 2008- So how about them Americans?!: Here’s to everyone who voted for Barack Obama. Cheers to you! And here’s to Barack Obama. What an historical event! The first (half) Africa-American President! Record numbers turn-out to vote—first-timers, those who haven’t voted in years, and young people in droves. May he bring some welcome change to America. My teacher friends and nurse friends are very excited. They feel his presidency will benefit not only America but the world, especially Africa. I hope his presidency will benefit everyone. I hope he can. If nothing else he’s inspired a generation of young people to do more, to try hard, to vote and to dream.
November 6, 2008- I have friends. For reals!: My exercise group gave me a gift today. A few weeks ago they had planned a trip to Durban, and wanted me to join them. Very sweet! Unfortunately I was low on cash, and not to mention, wasn’t allowed to travel out of country yet. Since I couldn’t join them, they bought me something from their trip—a wide silver bracelet, large brown, red and white hoop earrings and some hard candy. I am touched. It was enough for them to invite me along but a present….I’m veclempt (sp?)! Now I have Swazi friends! I have friends in my community. I feel like the anthropologists I used to read about, when they reminisced their first moment of acceptance into the community they were observing. We’re also talking about planning rotating tea parties because they want me to teach them to bake. We’ll bake something, then make tea and eat our baked creations. Cute! And hells yah!
November 7, 2008- Today I am rich: I went to town today. I wanted to mail some letters, check my mail and buy some necessities. My highlight of the day was my visit to the post office. I had 5 letters in my mail box and 2 slips indicating I had packages waiting for me! One package from my parents, containing spices (woo hoo!), fiber bars, a few articles of clothing I left behind, duct tape (woo hoo!), envelopes, writing pads, soup mixes, and drink mixes. The other package from a dear friend contained chocolate, Black Hills coffee, gum and a beautiful picture from her daughter. I am definitely rich with lovely and wonderful family and friends. How could you need anything else?!
I’m finally pimping out my hut. It needed some lovin’. I bought 2 blue stackable bins for my kitchen so I could use the wood planks I was using as my countertop for a book shelf. The energy in my hut feels much better—less cluttered, more organized, an upgraded dorm room! Hoot! And my walls are beginning to pop with color. I’ve decided to decorate with things I get in the mail. Every card and picture I receive gets stuck to my walls. I have a map of the US on my wall, marked with places I’ve visited and places I want to visit. I put up a political postcard, from a friend in South Dakota, soliciting a Senator I use to give my vote to. I have pictures drawn by a nephew and friend’s kids; they make me smile. I have siSwati words and phrases written on note cards, my way to study while I brush my teeth in the morning. I’m also posting quotes I receive from people’s letters and quotes I brought with me; I’d like to paint some on the top of each wall. I need to buy some paint and brushes; perhaps next month. By the end of 2 years my walls will be loaded with love from home and plenty of soul quotes.
I have yet to buy a table or chairs; I’m still using a chair Make let me borrow. I’m not in a hurry. I’m waiting for the right thing to jump out at me…and something cheap! Right now, I use the small space on top of my refrigerator to mix, knead bread or cut vegetables. It works for now. I’m beginning to realize I can survive on less, and that’s okay with me.
November 9, 2008- Things I’m learning during isolation: -My sister sent me this quote recently: The soul gravitates to the lessons it needs to learn and it never makes mistakes. So true. So true. I wrote it above my door so I can read it every day and remember I am on a spiritual journey. I am learning life lessons every day; lessons I need to learn. -“Get over it cry baby!” Something my boss at USD used to say all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever get over being homesick, so I might as well get over it already! Be homesick when I am, and when I’m not, be thankful. -I will find clarity as long as I remain open to receive. -I love writing letters and getting mail. Email has nothing on stationary, envelopes and nice writing pens! -I’m not a slow reader after all! I always thought I was a slow reader. But I think it’s really that I never devoted a large chunk of time to reading. A few Saturdays ago I read an entire book in one day. It was glorious—first of all because the book was that good I devoured it, page by page; and secondly, because I read the whole day! Pure decadence! -I love writing my blog! I love writing! And I think I’m pretty good at it; not perfect writing but its honest writing. I’m considering writing a book about my experiences when I return to the states, and I think some people might actually read it. -I thoroughly enjoy leading my exercise group. It’s sparked my interest in fitness. I’ve thought, very seriously, about getting my teacher certification in hatha yoga for some time now. I think this exercise group experience cements the notion. And it ties really well into my passion for total body wellness and healing. -I’m contemplating medical school again. Do I have it in me? Is it a true passion or a momentary fancy? -I like making popcorn in a sauce pan on the stove. I think it’s the best tasting popcorn I’ve ever eaten. Melt a little butter, add some salt. Yummy! -There is nothing like a bathtub for soaking. Water is a form of therapy, and one I’m dearly missing…the hot water, my body fully submerged, adding essentials oils, salts or herbs, soaking for an hour, adding more hot water when it begins to cool….fantastic! A luxury I plan to indulge when I return to the states. -Going to the movie theater is another luxury I will not give up when I get back to America. I’m fond of getting lost in the characters, the story line, and the buttered popcorn. -I am, possibly, addicted to popcorn. A thought, maybe way outta left field, yet something I need to sit with, to contemplate…perhaps with a bowl of popcorn, drizzled with melted butter and a bit of salt. This is sounding vaguely familiar….(hee hee. I’m –mostly- kidding). -I’m beginning to see the brilliance and genius of insulation. My regards to the inventor of insulation in houses. I applaud you! I wish they used insulation here. -I’m fond of season changes. I like seeing a distinct change from one season to the next. I’m still not crazy about mounds and mounds of snow, but I do enjoy the white stuff from December to February and sometimes in March if it gets you a day off from work or school. -I’m enthralled with the news. I can’t seem to get enough. Local. National. International. Finance. Business. Sports. Entertainment. It’s all good, and worth a listen. You just never know what you might learn. -I’m addicted to crossword puzzles. My brother-in-law let me download a crossword game he had before I left. It has over 900 crossword puzzles. Hollar! I’ve been doing one almost every night during integration. I’m currently on number 41. Thanks Andy! -I might be half introvert, half extravert. I always thought I was completely, 100% introvert. But I’m finding myself on the fence between the two. It’s possible that being here has caused me to crave interaction with other volunteers because I can’t seem to get enough time with other Americans. Being lonely here is very different than being lonely in America. And being alone holds a different context here, as well.
Okay…not every realization is profound. I don’t think a revelation has to be deep in order for it to resonant within. I’m guessing there will be more revelations as time passes, and I welcome them. I want to understand what I am made of, to know who I am, and why I am here. What is my purpose?
November 11, 2008- It really is a small world: I weighed a child today wearing an American t-shirt…from my alma mater! Yep! This 2 year old was wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt from South Dakota. It read:SOUTH DAKOTA69FootballAthletix Apparel I can only assume the company who printed the shirts made a mistake with a batch, spelling athletics with an ‘x.’ Many rejected, outdated or flawed apparel makes its way to Africa, either as resale items at discount shops or free through charity organizations. I had to look twice while weighing him, just to make sure I read it correctly. I thought at first it read South Africa; that my eyes were playing a trick on me because I just wanted to see the name South Dakota. But it really did say South Dakota, and it made me smile. I wish I had my camera to take a picture of his shirt. But considering he seemed terrified being weighed by a white girl, a picture might have been pushing my luck.
I made a home visit with a nurse and ward from the clinic. We visited a relative of the ward’s husband’s family. An elderly gogo is taking care of a woman, a year younger than me, who suffers from complications of epilepsy. The woman has refused taking her epilepsy medication for years; she has frequent episodes and each one makes her muscles more rigid. We found her with several pressure sores, lying on several urine-soaked grass mats and blankets, and covered with flies. She was not able to un-bend her legs or arms. According to Gogo there is no one on the homestead willing to help her care for this woman. The woman was alert, speaking when spoken to and following us with her eyes. She just needs basic hygiene care. Gogo is tired, but also doesn’t know how to implement basic healthcare measures. I helped the nurse reposition her on a clean grass mat, fitted her w/ an adult diaper, and draped a clean blanket over her. The nurse cleaned her pressure sores with chlorine water but we didn’t come prepared enough to dress the wounds or give her much needed oral care. Her seven year old son came home from school while we were there. He seemed completely un-phased by her condition. For him, that was normal. The nurse devised an action plan, to include putting together a basic medical kit for the family to use, as well as planning weekly visits to check the woman’s sores and to ensure she’s receiving basic hygiene. The nurses at the clinic would eventually like to set aside one day a week for home visits, taking turns each week. They would like me to accompany the nurse on that day to provide basic hygiene care and instruction to families. I have agreed to help once the head nurse is able to organize a home visit day. In order to do this, the clinic would need more staff. I also believe those who do home visits should wear scrubs, changing out of them once they return to the clinic, and immediately washing them at the clinic. I’m trying to think of ways to procure scrubs. I asked the clinic staff why Rural Health Motivators (RHM’s) weren’t visiting bed-ridden people. I was told most RHM’s in this area are not motivated, claiming they are given little supplies or money to do their job effectively.
November 14, 2008- Susie Homemaker:
Fill my basins with river water.One for washing. One for rinsing.Wash clothes by hand with green bar soap.Rinse and repeat.Two hours pass.I think about my mom.Channel my grandmothers’ spirits.Hang clothes to dry.Two hours pass.Collect dry clothes.Iron because it kills bug eggs.Inside out, both sides.Right side out, both sides.Three hours pass.I think about my mom.Channel my grandmothers’ spirits.Considering time taken.Understanding care for family.Contemplating their lives, their choices.Hard working hands.Enduring spirits.Strong women.I follow their example.
November 22, 2008- IST aka Integration is OVER!: Highlights from the week-long workshop in Manzini we attended to discuss problems, concerns and ideas we gathered during integration… -A day and ½ with the doctors from Baylor Institute. They have a clinic in Mbabane, specializing in Pediatric HIV/AIDS. They also visit outreach clinics. One clinic happens to be in Nhlangano, and a doctor visits every Tuesday. They invited me to help them after I expressed interest in bringing clients I identify in my community who might need their expertise. YAH! I am going to learn so much. These doctors are the leaders in the world on pediatric HIV and AIDS prevention, care, education and research. I’m very excited! -A group called Swazi Market teaches bomake groups, community based organizations and youth incoming generating groups to make Swazi handicrafts. Then they buy the crafts directly from crafters, shouldering the selling legwork. The group sells in Swaziland, various places in southern Africa, and to fair trade organizations. They also started sending crafters to the International Folk Art Market held every 2 years in Sante Fe, NM; this event was started by a returned Peace Corps volunteer several years ago. Anne and I went a few summers ago. Amazing! And worth the time. -Simon and Chad (2 PC staff) were impressed with my report, especially the part about my home-based visit. They asked permission to share it with NERCHA. WHOA! -Entrepreneurial NGO’s who target out-of-school youth; they’re interesting in helping train promising youth to start businesses in their community. -Showering every day -Toilets you can flush that aren’t outside -Three meals a day that I didn’t have to cook or clean up after. -Tea and biscuit breaks morning and afternoon -A haircut! My friend Jaclyn is brilliant- never trained as a hairdresser but her sister cuts hair so she gets the concept. I thought I was going to grow my hair out, let it go because I’m in Africa. But it’s hard to wash long, thick hair in a bucket; plus it take a lot more water. So instead of a trim, which I was originally wanting, I got a SHORT cut. Imagine Audrey Tutou’s (sp?) hair in Amelie…that’s what I have. It’s so cute. So much cooler. Much easier to wash and care for. I LOVE IT! Jaclyn was nervous; she’d never done a cut like that. I decided that even if it turned out terribly, it would still be easier to care for than the madness that was my long hair (it was past my shoulders, long enough to put in a ponytail).
November 26, 2008- Learning to bake an apple pie: Today I taught my exercise club to make pie crust and apple pie. The only pies made here are meat pies. A fast food place called King Pie sells pastries filled with ham and cheese, spinach and feta, chicken and veggies, beef curry, or stew. They were surprised to know Americans ate pies without meat. I started listing all the pies I knew to make: apple, pumpkin, cherry, strawberry rhubarb, sour cream raisin, coconut cream, peach, blueberry, mixed berry. As the list grew, so did their eyes. Amazed cannot describe their expressions. I made crust and one pie as they watched intently, asking many questions along the way. There was enough for another pie, so Phindile tried her hand at a second once I put the first pie in the oven. Despite my trouble converting ml to cups and calculating temperature difference, the pies turned out perfectly. And more importantly, they tasted fantastically! I was as excited as they were to eat it; it’s been a while since I’ve baked a pie or tasted the sweetness of creating something from scratch! We ate our slices with coffee and talked about other things they want to learn to bake. I think the next item on the list is pancakes. They both ordered me to rewrite the apple pie recipe for them. I also shared a little cinnamon and nutmeg with Nomy. She was planning to make a pie the next day for her uncle. Cute!
November 27, 2008- Thanksgiving…Swazi style and the wonders of transport: The Jackson’s invited the Shiselweni Region volunteers to their homestead for Thanksgiving. I left my hut at 9 am to catch my bus to town. I waited for the 11:30 bus with Justine; it would take us to Beth’s site where we’d meet up with Jaclyn. Justine and I were propositioned on the bus by a very drunk man. He first asked us for money to buy fertilizer so he could plant. We told him he should have used the money he spent on booze—which he was drinking on the bus—to buy fertilizer. Then he said, “Okay, that was phase one; now for phase two.” Phase two involved offering to marry one of us; he enticed us with promises of a large house and swimming pool to entertain ourselves when he was gone. Justine said, “Only if that house is in America.” I said, “Only if you’re always gone.” We got a laugh from bomake in the seats behind us. Once he heard the laughter, he quit. I was sorta curious what phase 3 might be, but thankful he stopped harassing us. We arrived at Beth’s site around 2:45 pm. We were both hot, sweaty and covered in red dirt. After getting off that bus, I don’t know why I put a dress on or fixed my hair. Jaclyn arrived around 3 pm, and we began our walk to the Jackson’s. They said it would only take about 45 minutes. Beth laughed, saying it was more like an hour and 45 minutes. Oh joy! Two hours later, we arrived at the Jackson’s homestead even more sweaty and dirty than the bus ride. It was all well worth it. Jay had killed 2 turkeys the day before and they were roasting nicely. Hilary attempted dressing for the first time, and it was pretty good. We also had mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, cooked spinach, zucchini casserole, corn casserole, black eyed peas—my first time for this; the Jackson’s are from Texas and it’s a traditional side dish for holiday meals—sour cream cake, apple pie and carrot cake. We made enough to share with their host family, which pleased them thoroughly. We were all full by the end of the night. And completely satisfied. I ate some traditional foods and some new dishes. I enjoyed company of new friends and family. I sat on a grass mat under the stars eating my Thanksgiving dinner, thinking about how bizarre it was to be eating Thanksgiving dinner on a grass mat outside (smile). I missed watching the Macy Day parade. I missed cold weather. I missed pumpkin pie. But we each talked about how we would spend Thanksgiving back home; we enjoyed some wine; Jay played guitar; and both Hilary and Jay sang. It was different. But it was good.
December 1, 2008- World AIDS Day: The Shiselweni Region hosted this year’s World AIDS Day. Along with Shiselweni’s regional NERCHA director, 8 PC volunteers and about 75 community members walked 14K from Mahamba to Nhlangano led by a marching band as a way to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. We marched through town to King Sobhuza Memorial Stadium. There were speakers from NERCHA, Ministry of Health, Drs without Borders and Ministry of Education. Several youth drama groups and choral groups performed. Ten VCT’s (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) tents were set up for people to test. I burnt my nose to the point of blistering and peeling, as well as my arms and calves. But it was a successful event. And since I might have more to do with the planning of next year’s event, it was a good learning experience as well.
December 2, 2008- Shadowing a Baylor Doctor: I’ve decided I’m going to shadow every Tuesday to begin. I want to learn their process. I also want to be able to recognize warning signs of HIV and TB, important for spotting HIV or TB signs in children at my clinic. The doctor there currently is going back to the states on December 12th, so I only have one more day to observe him. But I’ve already learned a lot. I’m not sure when Baylor will send another doctor to cover him, but Richard said they would. He also gave me some good things to think about regarding my future. I mentioned my background in massage therapy and passion for alternative medicine, and that perhaps I’d go back to school when I finish my service. He said there were great medical schools in northern California that specialize in combining western medicine with CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). He thinks I should consider homeopathic medicine. Wow! I’m sure you can imagine the high I was on.
I will be grateful to anyone willing to do some research for me regarding schools in northern Cali (or any place for that matter) specializing in CAM, homeopathic medicine, nutrition/herbals and/or osteopathy. The internet here is too slow to properly peruse sites. I will reward you with a Swazi gift! Thanks in advance.
December 3, 2008- Is it really December?: I’m having a hard time believing it’s December. It’s so hot here. December and January are the hottest months; very unlike back home. I just realized it was December today, and that Christmas was near. I asked bosisi how they celebrate Christmas, as we were sitting outside playing UNO—their new favorite game. (Thanks Anne!) Are there presents? Is there a Santa Claus? No and no. How do they celebrate? They don’t. I asked Zandele if she knew how to make cookies. No. Would she like to learn? Yes. I told her and Philiswa that for Christmas in America, we make Christmas cookies, and since I was missing my family I was going to make cookies. Would they like to learn to make cookies? Yes. Were they free on Saturday? Yes. So, I’m going to teach bosisi to make sugar cookies. I also want to make treats for the staff at the clinic; perhaps scones and fudge. I want to do something that resembles something Christmassy. Some shops in town have Christmas decorations. I might buy a string of garland to decorate my hut. It’s just so weird to imagine Christmas approaching. It’s HOT here; not cold. That’s the biggest deterrent to wrapping my head around the holidays approaching. That and I’m still living in surreal world. My days are more even. Thank God for that. And even though I’ve forgotten why I decided to come, I’m here now. I must decide what I’m going to do here, and I’m beginning to figure it out. Occasionally, I do stop mid-step or pace my hut, thinking, “OMG. I’m in Africa. What the hell am I doing in Africa? I really thought this was a good idea?” It is fleeting, though; I look over my shoulder or out my window and I exhale at the sight I behold. This is Africa! Oh my God! I’m in Africa! Surreal…yes! Good…yes! Scary…hell yah! Unfamiliar…yes. Comforting….sometimes. Invaluable…more than I’ll ever imagine. Side note: We made sugar cookies on Saturday. They were a hit. I played Christmas music and talked about how my family prepares for Christmas; less impressed. But they liked the cookies!