Surprise in the bathroom

After nearly three years in country, there’s little that happens here that catches me off guard. There’s one problem, though, that always catches me off guard: Swazi women who don’t close the bathroom stall door.

You would think that if you had the option of doing your business behind a closed door, you would, and if it had a lock, you would lock the door shut. For some reason, the women of this country do not agree.

I have been walking in on women sitting on the toilet since I arrived in country. The doors here go all the way to the ground, so there’s no way to peek for feet. And when I use a stall without a lock, I hold it closed with a hand or foot while using the toilet. They don’t do that either!

This is such a big problem with this at work that I have started avoiding any stall in the bathroom that looks remotely closed (pushed closed and not locked, for instance) and go for one that is at least 50 percent open.

This just failed me too, as I walked in on a woman pulling up her undies!

Now that I have been scarred for life, and have scarred all of you (ncesi xem, a Swazi apology), I am hoping that someone has an answer to this or has experienced it somewhere else.

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There’s another Alison out there, and I get her emails all the time

For years I have received the emails of an Alison from the UK with the same last name as me. Her email address is slightly different from mine, and some email systems do not recognize the difference, which means her emails come to me.

Over the years I have learned all kinds of things about her, received her travel documents, been invited on trips, been informed of deaths, received family updates, and a myriad of other things. I think the best email of hers I have received was when she took a course on how to use a wheelchair as a member of the city council. My best responses definitely follow the vacation emails. I respond when I can, sometimes in humor while thanking the sender for the invitation, and sometimes just to let the sender know about the mistake.

In the last couple of weeks the English Alison signed up for UK’s eBay and started purchasing a Playstation2 and a plethora of games. The first one is being delivered today! I wonder if it is her husband, her son, her daughter, or herself who is the new owner of a used Playstation2.

Other Alison

Some of the games purchased this week.

It’s been too many years to keep this topic to myself and these eBay purchases were finally the perfect thing to post about.

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Wednesday photo: Mbabane bus rank

I walk past or through the bus rank here frequently as I go shopping. It can get busy, and transport drivers do many unpredictable things while driving.

I stopped to take this aerial photo from the stairs outside the second floor (or first floor here) entrance.

Fortunately I don’t have to use the bus rank very often thanks to the convenient location of my apartment. I don’t miss it.

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Tips to plan a trip for your parents to visit eSwatini and Southern Africa

Have your parents started asking about visiting you in eSwatini? Or maybe you have started asking them?

Have no fear!

I judiciously planned the use of all my vacation days, including for when my parents visited me in eSwatini. I know, though, that not everyone is like me and did not spend hours at site reading guidebooks for Southern Africa, South Africa, Lesotho, and eSwatini.

I started planning my parents’ trip by researching options I was interested in and by suggesting Bradt’s guide to Swaziland for my parents to read.

While my parents found the book enlightening and interesting, no specific activity stood out to them. This led to me planning a trip that specifically involved sights and locations not easily accessible by public transportation.

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We saw so many giraffes at uMkhuze Game Reserve.

We spent a lot of time in the car looking for animals, and my parents would have been ok with less. They were pleased with all of our destinations (we also spent a week in KwaZulu Natal traveling to uMkhuze Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, St. Lucia, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park).

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My dad and I at one of the beaches in iSimangaliso.

No matter who is coming to visit eSwatini, there are a few sites that I recommend to everyone.

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Dancing ingadla, a female kicking dance, at Mantenga.

Specific sites to see in eSwatini

Why Hlane?

The camp is beautiful, the lions are extremely chatty at night, and you are nearly guaranteed to see the lions there. Hlane is nothing like Kruger or any other big game park, but getting so close to the lions and the possibility of getting close to a rhino and elephant will create a lasting memory.

What about Kruger?

Kruger is amazing. I have visited the park three times, and I am planning a fourth now. You can either book everything yourself,  with a private hotel outside the park or inside the park, or you can work with All Out Africa here in eSwatini. All Out offers fully catered trips to Kruger from Swaziland that depart monthly and can schedule other trips too. They also have a hotel outside the Crocodile Bridge entrance, from where they run day tours. If you want more info from All Out, I can connect you, or if you reach out to them, let them know you heard about All Out from me.

Should I book game drives?

Wherever you go on a game drive, I recommend doing at least one drive with a guide. I am pretty good at spotting and naming animals now, but driving while doing that is a skill that is difficult. If you aren’t good at spotting or naming, then it is even more of a challenge. My parents really enjoyed the professional drives we took: one at uMkhuze, one at iSimangaliso in St. Lucia, one at Hlane, and one at Kruger.

Information about hotels

  • There aren’t really chain hotels like in the US
  • Most places are family run and well cared for
  • There are all types and kinds of places to spend the night
  • Bed configurations vary
  • Often include kitchens
  • Toiletries not provided, except hand soap

Other vacation locations

 

 

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Wednesday photo: Mail

I was surprised to see three envelopes from my mom in my mailbox today. It had been only two weeks since last checking. Then I checked the postmarks: June 2018, August 2018, and February 2019.

I’m not even surprised any more by this. I still think I might get the postcard I mailed myself from Mauritius in September 2017 that is yet to arrive.

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Wednesday photo: Work

When I returned to work in January, I was hoping for more tasks to keep me busier at work.

I have more or less been slammed and have plenty of responsibilities for the time being, of which I am thankful.

Today I was given an extra task that I truthfully don’t mind doing, except for the fact my boss thought it could be done in a few hours, while it will actually take a few days. So I brought a bit home.

Putting my pharmacy skills to good use: reading poor handwriting and alphabetizing.

We are mapping all of the locations in eSwatini where we distribute condoms… by paper. I actually helped create this form, without knowing how the data would be tabulated, and unfortunately, all the pieces don’t fit together so well.

On the positive side, I have learned a few things that will be good for the creation of future forms, and also a few more of eSwatini’s 58 counties. I don’t know where they fall on the map just yet, but I can recite a good chunk of them.

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Gratitude for nature, work, and food: What I’ve been doing the last four months

How time has flown! I have lived in town working my new job for more than four months now. My blog reading and writing routine has been severely disrupted and I haven’t found a way to work either into my schedule very well.

Work takes up so much of my time now that reading has also taken a hit. But I am glad for this middle ground of having a job and still being a Peace Corps Volunteer that is helping me readjust from the village life.

I spend a lot of my non-work hours cleaning (there’s just as much dust here and now I have a bigger house to clean!) and ironing. When I did my own laundry, I didn’t have enough power to wring my clothes out so much that I caused crazy wrinkles. But now I have a Swazi washing my clothes, and the wrinkles are intense. I ironed hardly anything in my community, but now I have to iron everything. I have also been learning to bead, and I have chosen working on some jewelry over reading the last few weeks.

I walk somewhere almost every day that involves a hill, which has been nice. I think my cooking is worse here because I have less time to spend on elaborate meals.

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The most chill white rhino I’ve ever seen. Those resting don’t count. At Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Side note: when we saw resting rhino, we always paused long enough to make sure they were alive. At one of these stops I made a small coughing noise, which was enough for the rhino’s ears to twitch from 20 meters away. Their ears are definitely their eyes.

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I was not well positioned for good photos, so please excuse my slightly blurry lion babies. These are the youngest cubs I have ever seen. We watched their mom call to them and they came out of their hiding place. Mom was taking them somewhere new. Also at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

I have been on two vacations: one to Ithala, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and Ophathe game reserves and the other to Cathedral Peak and Giant’s Castle nature reserves in the Drakensberg and to uMlalazi nature reserve on the Indian Ocean coast in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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At Cathedral Peak with a herd of eland behind me.

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It was like winter minus the snow at Giant’s Castle.

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We went to Giant’s Castle to see the paintings at Main Caves. Powerful antelope-men have special powers. Yes, the heads are that detailed!

I have also visited two new areas in Swaziland with the birding group: Dombeya Nature Reserve and Malolotja Nature Reserve.

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Protea tree endemic to Malolotja. 

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A pincushion protea endemic to Malolotja. Definitely my new favorite flower.

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A streptocarpus endemic to Malolotja.

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Unidentified Malolotja flower.

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A snake lily at Malolotja.

There have been two book club meetings: one at Liz’s new house in Pine Valley and one at mine, where we put my big table to good use.

I have still been baking cakes for birthdays because at work we celebrate all of the marketing team members’ birthday. I have even baked a couple that I was paid for. Unfortunately, one of my beaters broke and my mixer sounds like it is at the end of its life, so cakes are on hold for the time being.

Thanksgiving was intense, with another year of 20 pies. Fortunately they were made over more days this year, so their preparation was much less stressful. It was the best-run Peace Corps holiday I have been to yet.

What’s to come? I have been preparing for a quick trip to South Africa followed by my trip to the U.S. I am not ready for the hustle and bustle of a place I don’t really know (my parents move while I have been in eSwatini) or moving out of my apartment in Salt Lake, but it is time for both. I am convincing myself that I am ready for winter, even though I am sweating away here in the middle of summer. My last day of work for 6.5 weeks is Tuesday, but I will be working on three days while I am away when I present about my time as a PCV in eSwatini at three different presentations. I started packing two weekends ago. I am trying to travel with as few things as possible, so I have more room for the return trip. I hope to finish in the next few days. I have picked out my first meal (something Mexican that’s TBD based on what the restaurant has because I haven’t been. Bottomless tortilla chips and refried beans will be on my plate for sure). Want to get in touch with me when I am home? Don’t use my old phone number. I am looking into pay-as-you go/pre-paid options, but I will have access to wifi at home. You can definitely use WhatsApp to get ahold of me. If you don’t have my Swazi number, ask.

 

 

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Wednesday photo: Jacaranda

I was worried about not having a jacaranda tree nearby in Mbabane. I love the purple flowers that signify that summer is on its way. 

  
Fortunately, there’s a jacaranda tree at the end of my driveway and I get to see it every day. 

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Wednesday photo: Grilled cheese

A grilled cheese sandwich is the go-to meal of eSwatini PCVs. Moving to town hasn’t meant my consumption of them reduced. Instead, their consumption has increased in class.

  
I am now using freshly baked bread from good’s, a new local baker. Bread is the only food I haven’t been able to recreate well here, due to a lack of temperature control and oven space. 

I didn’t expect the bread to be as good as it is or for me to appreciate it so much. Ngiyabonga kakhulu! 

good’s bread is available at the Ekuphileni Farmers Market, Pink Lotus, and by calling 76861467. 

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Wednesday photo: Learning to bead

One of the PCVs from my cohort learned to bead from one of her community members. I was oblivious to this for way too long considering this now RPCV was my closest neighbor. 

By the time I learned about her skills when she was offering training sessions, I wasn’t able to attend. Fortunately, about a month ago I was able to learn from another PCV who learned from her. 

Three-dimensional art has always been an interest of mine, so finally getting to learn this traditional skill was really exciting. 

  
I picked up the patterns pretty easily and completed my first necklace about two weeks ago. I was on such a roll when making it that I added too many rows without noticing and had to take about an inch off. 

I have one more lesson scheduled before I am confident to start teaching others. 

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