Saturday, June 12, 2010

May happenings

1 May 2010- A very important piece of information: I neglected to tell you a very exciting development in my life. It happened last month. When I returned from the COS conference there was a change on my homestead. A water tap! What does that mean? It means underground pipes from the main tap were connected to the ones running to my homestead. It means I no longer have to take the wheelbarrow and two 25-liter jugs to the water tap near the store to fetch water (a ten minute walk). I merely walk 20 feet to fill my kettle or one 25-liter jug and happily walk 20 feet back to my hut. Make’s son, who’s been staying with us since February, reconnected the pipes. And I’ve been in heaven since. I did joke with them that now I would need to find an exercise as good as for my arms as hauling two full 25 liter jugs once a week. But I’m not complaining very loudly! (Update: 10 June- water tap isn’t working at home. The river is running low, so water running to the main tap near the sitolo is running slowly. Hence, water is not making it to the homestead. Water is such a problem here, and I wish I knew the solution.)

3 May 2010- Adoption Woes: My PC Admin Officer and her husband are in the process of adopting a 3 year old girl name Siphelile; they took custody of her shortly before Christmas. They are doing a local adoption since International adoptions are currently suspended due to possible human trafficking violations. The Ministry was ordered (by the UN, I believe but don’t quote me) to restructure their processes for adoption if they wanted to reopen International adoptions. A local adoption means the adoptees are currently living in Swaziland and plan to stay one to two years after the adoption is official to ensure legalization of the process: one year if you plan to pay an adoption agency in the US to process paperwork on the US side to make the adoption legal there; and two years if you don’t want to pay the fees—after two years of custody in the child’s country of origin, the US will recognize adoptees as legal guardians and the only fees you pay are for passport processing. I’ve been following their struggle, talking to Nicole often about the crazy road of adopting and the hoops they had to jump because I was also considering adopting a little girl. She lives at Pasture Valley, the children’s home where I’ve been volunteering. Her name is Buhle, which means beautiful. Her mother was young when she became pregnant, 17 I think. Believing Buhle was a mistake, the mother neglected her for the better part of 2 years, sometimes feeding her sleeping pills so she’d sleep for days and days. Since I began volunteering at Pasture Valley in August, I’ve felt a connection to Buhle, one I didn’t feel I could ignore.

And so I contemplated the idea at length before talking to my Admin Officer or Michelle and Peter, the owners of Pasture Valley. The first step was determining her HIV status. We took her to the Baylor clinic were I volunteer. She’s negative. Unfortunately, that’s where I stopped. Local adoptions have just recently been suspended; the Ministry decided to restructure both local and International adoption processes at the same time. Because of this, I’m not allowed to begin any paperwork while the processes are being reorganized. There is no indication as to when adoption processes, local or international, will be sorted out, and chances of it being a quick process is not likely.

I guess I’m thankful for the chance to examine my feelings about adoption and the possibility of taking care of a child on my own. I know that I’m capable, and it’s good to know that one is able. I must confess, though, I’m a bit crestfallen. Nonetheless, things happen the way they need to happen. So I am grateful to the universe for its answer.

10 May 2010- My adoring fan says: A young guy was trying to get my attention today. Here’s what he said: Hey Obama! Hey Obama! Hey Obama! (Pause) Hey Barak! Hey Barack! (Pause) Hey Miss… Miss America! After chatting me up, asking who I was and what I was doing here, he parted by saying, “Could I have E2? I said, “No. “Okay, well I love you.”

It’s possible to hear this or something quite similar several times a week. Could I have money? No. Well, I love you anyway.

12 May 2010- Spitting Cobra: I was visiting my friend Phindile this afternoon. On my way home, I noticed my neighbor Babe Sibandze throwing rocks at something on the road; others lingered slightly away while Babe’s dogs yelped and ran around fitfully. I know this Babe well, and I couldn’t help but think he’d jumped off the deep end—throwing rocks at nothing. Approaching the scene, I noticed the dead animal he was stoning. And I wondered again, what’s his deal?—throwing rocks at something already dead. But then I took a closer look. He was killing a snake. I greeted Babe Sibandze, and wondered in amazement at his killing abilities; the snake had a gapping hole in its middle. I asked what kind it was. He said the kind that, and then using his fingers as tongues at his mouth, made a spitting motion with his fingers. Then he pointed at both of his eyes to indicate they spit in your eyes to blind you. I said, “How?!” which is the expression used to indicate surprise, shock or amazement. I looked a little closer, wishing I’d had my camera. The snake was a silvery grey and its head was small. So I’m not sure if it was a spitting cobra because I couldn’t see the telltale sign of a cobra—it’s hood. Either way, the snake looked menacing, even dead. I’m glad Babe Sibandze was on the road ahead of me and that I left Phindile’s house 5 minutes later than I planned.

14 May – 16 May, 2010- Getting robbed and eating zebra: The cabin that I will be moving to in July was vandalized. The day started with Justine and I teaching crafts at Pasture Valley; once the sun began to set, we decided to make our way to the cabin for the evening. While walking from the orphanage to the cabin, we heard noises in the forest. Neither of us thought anything about it; mostly likely a cow or dogs. The door was harder to unlock than normal; I couldn’t get the key to turn. Justine tried and the door popped open. Once inside, I sensed something strange, out of the ordinary, had happened. There were blankets haphazardly strewn outside one of the bedroom. I said to Justine, “This is strange. Something’s not right here. It seems as if someone was trying to rob us but left in a big hurry. Or maybe the children came to get some of our bedding to wash. But why would they leave things like this?” I was half-joking, but then we noticed all the blankets had been taken off both beds, including the ones we bought in Lesotho. Bizarre. That’s when we noticed all the cupboard doors in the kitchen were open, and matches were scattered all over the kitchen. I’m not sure why we gravitated toward the door, but we checked it. The lock had been jammed into the locking area, which is why I couldn’t unlock it. Justine and I starred out each other, thinking the same thing: we’d been robbed, and they must have come near dark, using matches to see. We heard more noise in the forest; they were still out there! Justine called Peter and Michelle; I called our Safety & Security Officer. While Michelle called the police, Peter searched the forest and their roads with the help of a neighbor. Peter scared the perpetrators with gun fire into the air; we heard them running away, and saw flashlights cutting through the trees. Alas they  were never found. The police came about 2 hours later to take our statements. The chief came into the cabin with his semi-automatic machine gun, towering over both of us as if we were children. He set his gun on the couch, looked briefly into the rooms, ordered his deputies to take statements, and then walked outside to talk to the children and one housemother who came to observe the drama. The officer taking Justine’s statement flirted with her the entire time, saying she was of marrying age so why wasn’t she married. Mine didn’t; he must have either been very professional, or judging by my age, thought I was too old or already married. They commented on the cake on the dining table, so we gave them the last slice. Justine sat on the couch while they finished writing, forgetting the gun was there. Suddenly realizing it was there, she looked at it, mouth gaping, and then turned to me and mouthed ‘oh my God!” I mouthed, ‘I want a picture of you next to the gun!” and tried to not laugh at the madness of the situation we found ourselves in. If only a picture were possible. As they started to leave, they gave us their numbers in case we needed to call again. I asked if they wanted to take their machine gun with them once they reached the porch. They laughed, saying they were about to forget it. I told them I would keep it if I knew how to use it. They laughed again. Justine and I slept in the same room that night and the following night. We tied the front door shut with plastic Spar bags, and locked our bedroom door. Neither of us had a peaceful sleep; every noise seemed to wake us. The following morning, our Safety and Security Officer visited to take our statement as well as pictures of the damage. We promised to begin using the padlock on the burglar door.

Thinking about it now, weeks later, I can admit I was scared the first night, freaked out that a group of inconsiderate people violated my space. Then I was angry, ready to kick some burglar arse for coming into my space. My anger subsided quickly, though. I realize it was a crime of necessity. They took blankets to keep warm. Perhaps they would have used them to wrap other items in to make a quick get-away and maybe that’s why they were on their way back to the cabin that night. I am still upset about my blanket since it was my beautiful maize-themed Lesotho blanket. But what can I do? Mostly I feel I need to remain confidence in my ability to handle myself, stay aware of my surroundings and lock the burglar door every time I leave.

They rest of the weekend consisted of teaching more crafts, attending my friend Phindile’s graduation party and having Sunday lunch with Michelle, Peter, and their church friends. Peter grilled zebra and nyala (like an antelope), a gift from Michelle’s cousin that runs a game reserve in SA. It was my first time eating either. Zebra, I must confess, is quite good. I helped myself to a second piece.

19 May 2010- Conversation with my Sisi: Make thinks my bosisi are having sex. Apparently a neighbor saw a boy visiting over the Christmas holidays when Make was visiting Babe and I was in Cape Town. Make was livid. But I cannot figure out whether she is more upset about them possibly having had sex or that they are possibly having sex in her house. She doesn’t believe their side of the story, so I thought I would have a little chat with each about boyfriends and sexual activity. Sexual debut happens at an unbelievably young age for girls, sometimes as young as twelve. Most girls are forced into it; in other words they are raped or the man/boy convinces them it will be beneficial since the will receive money or gifts. They are told they will be “taken care of.”  I wanted to make sure nothing like that was happening. Plus, a chance of the girls using condoms is unlikely, so I wanted to assess the situation in that area too. Zandele was adamant that she didn’t have a boyfriend. Nomdumiso insisted it was all a misunderstanding. The boy who visited was a friend of Machawe. She said she was too young to have a boyfriend. I asked that she tell me when she is serious about a boy, because then we needed to chat about being safe. She promised. I want to believe her. I think she’s quite a flirt. But I really want to believe her and Zandele haven’t had sex. I just know they wouldn’t use condoms if they were having sex; people don’t use condoms here no matter how much literature is thrown their way. And without condom use or proper condom use, they would face with either pregnancy or HIV or perhaps both. I don’t wish those circumstances on either sisi or any young girl. It’s the way I feel about my nieces; I want them to be young and untainted for as long as possible. 

20 May 2010- Gauging my Ears: In November I bought an earring a size larger than a normal post in order to begin gauging my second earring hole. I want to take something physical from Swazi culture with me back to America. Victoria is also gauging her ears, and gave me plugs she can no longer use. So I have a plug in one earring hole and the size larger post in the other, which I need to replace with a plug soon. I plan to get a larger plug or spiral earring to replace the first plug when I go to Nelspruit in a few weeks. I’ll be there to watch the New Zealand vs. Italy World Cup Soccer game. Are you jealous?!

25 May – 30 May 2010- Preparing for Bushfire and Bushfire 2010: The Bambanani Project, an income-generating project I began working with in March, sold products at Bushfire 2010. Bushfire is a 3-day music festival held at House on Fire; this is the third year. Not only a music festival and international arts festival, it’s also a fundraising event. Proceeds from the event go to Young Heroes, an NGO that pays school fees and buys school uniforms for orphaned children in Swaziland. Justine, Michelle and I have been working with the boMake and boBabe group at Dwaleni to make recycled jewelry; namely paper beads that we string into necklaces or earrings. We’ve also been teaching the girls at the children’s home to make the necklaces and earrings as well as sewing handbags. We sold necklaces and earrings by the girls and boMake & boBabe, handbags and canned preserves made by the older girls, and cards made by the younger children. Considering this was our first debut, we did well. We didn’t make enough to recoup expenses but we made many contacts and got good ideas from other marketers, as well as positive feedback from buyers. I was quite stressed about the event; I wanted to participate and show off my group’s hard work. But I didn’t anticipate the amount of time and work that would go into getting ready for such an event. However we pulled it off, and with a nicely displayed booth of products too.

This same weekend, 11 volunteers from my groups said good-bye; they COS’ed or closed their service. This weekend was the last time Group 6 would be together in Swaziland. We danced and sang to the Parlitones on Friday night and to Freshly Ground Saturday night. Then we hugged and I said, “See you later” but not good-bye as I will be seeing those precious faces again, some time soon.

31 May 2010- Celebrity Sighting: I met Chris Lowell, the actor who places Dell Parker on Private Practice at Bushfire. He said he was there visiting a friend. He also told me he’d just finished jamming with his band, Two Shots for Poe. I didn’t believe it was him at first. I asked him if people think he looks like Dell from Private Practice, and he said, “Well, I am that character. We just finished shooting session three.” I still wasn’t sure if I could believe him; after all, I can be pretty gullible. But I asked to take a picture with him anyway, just in case. Turns out, the Mozambican PCVs that were dancing with him confirmed that it was indeed ‘Dell’ from Private Practice. Lucky for me, I had my camera. And I have a picture.

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