Monday, May 4, 2009

April happenings

March 29 2009- Hiking in Malolotja Nature Reserve: I went hiking through part of Malalotja today with two PC friends, Victoria and Jenn, and the Mbabane Hiking Club, which consists mostly of PC staff and ex-pats working for the gov’t or Baylor or MSF. The nature reserve is basically in Victoria’s backyard, of which I’m slightly envious. The pictures detail our hike, beginning to end....i will add them soon.
April 5, 2009- The Seven Shades of Green: As you can see in the pictures of the hike it’s pretty green and lush here right now. The summer rains really boost vegetation growth and color. The rains begin in November and usually end some time in March or April. This season was unusually wet, but has ended sooner than it usually does. By mid-March it was done, and I was rejoicing. “I guess it rains down in Africa.” Yeah, A LOT!
But it does make everything look beautiful. I never realized until living here how many different colors of green exist in nature. Jade green, light green, olive green, lime green, grass green, pistachio green, emerald green…I saw these shades in America but never so many in one space, at one time. It’s breathtaking. And sadly, it’s ending soon. Fall is fast approaching; the days are cooler, the wind gentler, and the evenings chilly. Soon, the high temperature for the day will be mid-to-high 60’s, and the evenings will be in the 40’s, sometimes even dipping down to 35 degrees C. I won’t miss the hot, stifling days, but I will miss the sea of greens. In winter, from May – July, only the pine trees stay somewhat green. The rest of the landscape is brown and burnt red. But it will be interesting to see how many shades of brown and red appear once the green recedes.

April 7, 2009- Tutoring a Teacher: Phindile, an elementary teacher and member of my exercise group, is taking continuing education classes to get a higher certification for teaching. She’s asked me to help her understand her class this term; last term she missed passing the exam for this class by only a few points. This term she’s determined to pass, and I enthusiastically said I would help. The class is about curriculum development in postmodern era. I read the preface of the book she’s required to read for the course this weekend; I think it will be an interesting course. The author mentions Thich Nhat Hanh’s philosophy and writings as inspirational to his career and in helping form his own beliefs about teaching. He quotes 7 of Nhat Hanh’s 13 precepts on life and living. He quotes Thich Nhat Hanh! This cannot be that bad of a book or a course! I’m really looking forward to tutoring.
Here’s the precept that resonates most with me: Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation which helps realize your ideal compassion.
I think I’m on the right track. I hope I’m on the right track.

April 19, 2009- Just a few updates: I spent the first half of Easter weekend with the Shiselweni girls, Jaci, Deja, Alexis and Justine. We cooked meals together, watched music videos, and movies. I took a leisurely bath and painted my toenails. I made scarves for my exercise group, one pink and grey, the other green, grey and yellow. Then I spent Saturday to Monday in Mbabane with my friend Jenn, to keep her company and raise her spirits. She is currently residing in Mbabane, in limbo, but soon moving to a different community because she was assaulted in her first community. We went to House on Fire Saturday night with three other volunteers to see a jazz band from France. They were fantastic, and we had a glorious time dancing to their music and later to the dj’s ethnic mix. Sunday morning we made French toast, and scrambled eggs, and drank mimosas for Easter brunch. In the afternoon Jenn and I took a walk around the Pine Valley neighborhood to see Sibebe Rock and the upper-class houses of Mbabane, and then watched a movie. For supper, at the request of the others, I made gourmet mac and cheese, and we shared the rest of my Shiraz. It was a pleasant day, beautiful weather, good conversation, and great company.

Two weeks ago I announced to my Form 2A’s that I was done teaching them this term if they refused to listen or participate. After giving them an assignment several days prior, I received only seven journal entries back….out of 55 students. I decided I was done with them. I told them it was their choice not to listen or engage in the class, and since that was the case, I would not continue teaching to students unwillingly to learn from me. For those willing to continue the class, I offered them the chance to join the other Form 2 class next term. They were briefly (briefly) shocked, and then spent the rest of the period chatting as if I hadn’t said a word or wasn’t even there. WHATEVER. Toward the end of the class, the Head Teacher (Principle) entered, wondering what was happening. I explained my dilemma to him, as well as the class’s behavior. He offered to address them, and I gladly turned the class over to him. He reprimanded and shamed them for ten minutes, saying he was very disappointed in and embarrassed by them. I don’t think it had an effect on most of them, sadly. But at least I know the Head Teacher supports me and my opinions, even if the Deputy Head Teacher (Vice-Principle) and the other staff do not. I received his permission to teach the career guidance class as an after school program next term, but only to Form 2’s and Form 1’s that are truly interested. Amen! I feel better about the situation, like a weight is off my shoulders. I will have a set schedule for teaching next term, I will teach only to students who really want to be in my class, and I am backed by the Head Teacher.

April 21, 2009- Chilly, rainy day: Today felt like a fall day in the Midwest. The high was 12 degrees C (53.6 F). It rained last night, so this morning was wet and bone chilling. On my way to the siteshi (bus stop) I greeted my Make who was starting a wood fire on the outside cook stove. She asked if I had warm under-things on, especially warm underwear, because today it is kumakhata kakhulu (very cold). I said I was wearing warm clothes. “Good, she said, “I don’t want your uterus to get cold. You don’t want a sickness getting in through your vagina.” WHAT?! I thanked Make for her concern, and reassured her I was wearing warm clothes. Thanks, Make, for being so concerned about the health and wellbeing of my uterus.

April 28, 2009- 10 months in…what have I learned?: Today marks my 10th month here. It’s really hard to believe because it seems like the months since January have flown by rather quickly. So, I think it’s time to relay, and remember for myself, what I’ve learned so far. I present a continuation of ‘What I’ve learned’:
-Expectations are overrated. I didn’t come here with many expectations, or so I thought. But my “I have little expectations for my progress” turned out to be “I really do have expectations about my service and what I want to accomplish.” After careful consideration—over several months time—and taking into account how long progression takes here, I changed my stance. Now I really have no expectations, about any aspect of my service except that I will finish my service. That’s it. And that’s enough.
-Making friends in my community, as well as identifying fellow volunteers who are genuine friends, has saved my sanity and boosted my spirits. I opened myself up when I first arrived, exposing my heart and putting erratic feelings on my sleeve, sooner than I usually do with people because I was hoping to find people to connect to, to feel some semblance of normalcy. I got burned. But I recovered quicker than is typical for me and realized it was okay to feel raw because I remained strong. It didn’t break me. I found people I really want to spend time with; they are real, they are true, they are kindred spirits.
-If am not alone. Being here has made me realize how blessed I am to have so many dear friends and supportive family members who really care about me. I am Nonhlanhla- a lucky girl. I will never really be alone with such wonderful people in my life. But I still REALLY miss everyone dearly…and obsessively! : )
-A favorite Swazi saying is siyahhlula or we are all together. We are all together, interdependent, and connected.
-I want to obtain my teacher certification in yoga. I taught my exercise class a basic sun salutation and a few other basic poses; they took to it, especially the meditation part. I really want to bring people who are new to yoga to the mind-body-spirit benefits of yoga. My first yoga teacher, in Boulder, use to say if more people in the world practiced yoga and received massage on a regular basis there would be less fighting in the world. I want to believe that concept is really possible. It’s my hope.
- When is now a good time? If not now, then when? I’m trying to practice living in the now, in the present. I struggle with being patient because I want to know everything now! But it is coming, little by little. (Another Swazi saying is kancane, kancane, which means slowly, slowly or little by little.) Be in the now, little by little.