Wednesday photo: Handmade photo booth props

I have spent the last week in Christmas party preparation mode. 

Christmas in June, you ask? Apparently it’s a Peace Corps thing, and it makes some sense in Swaziland with June having colder weather than December. 

I’m in charge of this year’s party. There have been many times that I wished I wasn’t, but I will follow through with my assignment. It was fun to have a craft project to work on and adapt to Swazi style. 

The Christmas party is actually a Navidad party, complete with Mexican food and dessert and drinks, which meant I couldn’t make only American Christmas photo booth props. I had to make Mexican ones, too. 

Photo booth props complete with sticks from the yard in true Peace Corps style.

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Wednesday photo: Letters from America

Mail is a wonderful thing.

I invited my English club students to be pen pals with the students of one of my high school teachers. They were excited, but ultimately only four wrote letters for me to mail to America. I asked my teacher to have more than four of his students write a letter back in hopes that I could convince more of my students to participate.

When the mail finally arrived, the students were so excited. This is probably the first letter they have ever received.

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I hope the letters make it much easier for them to write responses.

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I may look like this as well when I receive mail.

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How I spent April’s Swaziland PCV stipend

The month of April’s spending was a bit more complicated than March’s. 

I made three trips to the office for the SOJO and for HIV Boot Camp preparations, which cost me a lot of emalangeni that are not reflected on this sheet because I would be reimbursed for the travel, hostel, and some food costs. With those expenses, plus another E500 in tutor costs that are also reimburseable, I was out more than E1000. This is a monthly occurrence that causes me some stress because I am already trying to live on a small amount of money, and compound that with spending one-third of that stipend up front on reimburseable activities, and it creates a bit of a bind. 

In April, I also went on vacation in Mozambique where I spent plenty of money on food and fabric and other touristy activities. I fit what expenses I could into my monthly totals, but still have a separate travel section. 

  

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Wednesday photo: Sunflower

I love watching and tending my plants in my garden perhaps more than I enjoy eating them. 

Watching this sunflower has been very exciting as it grew so tall so fast. It opened its flowers to the world this week, and then I forgot to share it yesterday. 

My sunflower, with trellised beans behind.

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A moment in my life: Bragging bosisi

So many entertaining things happen in my life in Swaziland. These are the moments I will want to remember because they make me laugh, and they show insight into my daily routine. These moments are often hard to photograph and usually last only a minute or two. I will start sharing them with you in this occasional series. 

Within the last two weeks, I have done something with two of my host sisters that has lead to each of them bragging about it with their friends.

First was my youngest sisi’s birthday. She turned 12 and it was her first birthday celebration. I have made a birthday cake for each of my family members of their birthdays. This sisi requested chocolate cake. Additionally my family had a small party for her, eating dinner together at the table and having soda and chips. It was beautiful.

Secondly, my middle sisi was able to attend Bushfire with me thanks to a Swede who could not attend and wanted a Swazi to go in her place. My usually loud sisi was quiet with sensory overload. She had never been somewhere so loud, so crowded, and so expensive. But she got to see Sands perform, a brag-worthy occasion, and then she screamed at me over my photo with Sands, which happened after she had headed home.

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Roundup of what you need to know before joining Peace Corps Swaziland

Sanibonani G15!

I have written a lot about what life is like as a PCV in Swaziland in the last year. This post is just to serve as a compilation of all my useful posts for you and your concerned loved ones.

Organized clothing

All of my clothes reunited and sorted on the day I moved into my permanent site. Not once have I thought I overpacked clothing.

Packing and home life

These are a few of our favorite things

These are a few of my favorite things

My favorite items during PST

What Peace Corps gives us

Packing for Peace Corps Swaziland

Home supplies

Clothing

Homestead hospitality in Swaziland

My permanent home in Swaziland

My first Swazi home

 

A week in the life

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 

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Traditionally dressed for Incwala.

Life in Swaziland

Dreams and hope in Swaziland

Monthly expenses as a PCV in Swaziland

There’s more to me and America than what Swazis know from TV

Transportation in Swaziland

Home for the holidays and advice on the Peace Corps life

Love and hardship with my training family

Learning about my community and the art of saying no

What’s in a Swazi name?

Upholding the meaning of my first name

Overview of Peace Corps Swaziland’s PST

Lessons learned in the first month as a Peace Corps Trainee

My first day as Ntombi

Impressions of Swaziland

 

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A lion at Hlane

What to do in Swaziland

Top activities in Swaziland

Wildlife at Mbuluzi and Mlawula

Rhinos at Hlane Royal National Park

Lions at Hlane Royal National Park

Elephants at Hlane Royal National Park

 

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Me, my sisi, and my chickens

A moment in my life

A week without professions of love

Peaches

Community meeting

Winter coats in summer

A green lollipop

Mama cow steals my water

Cockroaches

Words of wisdom from Make on cats

Trash bags and rainstorms

Water use and reuse

 

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These are a few of our favorite things

Sanibonani G15 and all other future PCVs,

Swaziland’s G14 wants to share with you a few of our favorite things. You can read about mine here and my PST-specific items here. There’s only two weeks to go until you land in Johannesburg and arrive in Swaziland. Some of you have been packing for months; others are probably just starting. Either way, why not get a bit more use of your Amazon Prime account before you depart? Or just take it easy and remember that you can buy almost anything you will need here.

But do not forget some winter clothes. PST will take place in the mid-veld, where lows are already down to 48 degrees, and there’s one month to go before the coldest days of the year in July. Sure, 48 degrees is not that cold, but it is numbing when you live in a small house with no insulation and windows that do not seal tight. Do not underestimate the cold.

We cannot wait to meet you. Some of us will be meeting you on day one, I will meet you at food day at the end of week two, and most everyone will be at the Fourth of July party.

Until then, salani kahle (stay well), and fine-tune your packing.

 

Kirby: Blue Ikea bags for transporting groceries and a Hydroflask.

Nate: Timbuk2 bag.

Nicole H.: Solar shower and bed canopy.

Tori: Filter coffee, fuzzy socks, and Sharpies.

Robert: Cordless fan, headlamp with rechargeable batteries, and as many backup chargers and cables as possible.

Meaghan: Things from home to decorate hut, a hard drive full of media, and a portable charger.

Abby: Stick deodorant, colorful duck tape, and resistance bands.

Rachael: Lanyard to keep track of keys, pictures of home, and favorite t-shirts.

Nada: Mac lipstick and essential oils.

Akirah: Essential oils, coconut oil, a small everyday backpack, and incense.

Timmya: Black on black Toms, foldable sun hat, perfume, and a quick dry towel.

Lauren: Snacks and emergency feel-good food like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and caramels.

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Wednesday photo: Sands

I bought a ticket to the Bushfire music festival in Swaziland only because Sands was performing. I was convinced I would not have a good time, but I had been trying to see Sands since his hit song Tigi hit the radio waves sometime in October or November, so I succumbed. DSCF3781

I actually had a great time minus the lack-of-sleep induced cold. I focused on seeing all the musical acts I wanted on my time rather than waiting around for others.

This included showing up early for the Sands performance so I could be in the front row.

It was an awesome show, and I look forward to more performances.

And then the following day I spotted Sands from behind, screamed like an adolescent girl, and made my friends stop so we could get a photo.

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Wednesday photo: Fall wild flowers 

All of a sudden last week I noticed these flowers were blooming alongside the main road. 

  
Cool weather flowering plants are still so strange to me when I’m used to a thick layer of snow on the ground, especially because these flowers remind me so much of the first wildflowers to bloom along the Little Cottonwood Canyon road that signal the end of the ski season is near. 

Here, it’s just the start of fall that has brought cooler temps and more wind. 

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Top activities in Swaziland

I had heard of Swaziland before receiving my Peace Corps country placement, but I did not know anything about this tiny kingdom in Southern Africa. You might be traveling to Swaziland for the first time because you know PCV here or maybe you are coming to Bushfire, one of Africa’s largest music festivals, and you probably do not know too much about the kingdom, either. Here’s Bushfire’s survival guide, if you are coming for the music festival.

This weekend will be my first Bushfire, too, but after 11-and-a-half months of living in Swaziland, I have visited many of Swaziland’s top sights and still have a list of places to visit.

There are plenty of places to get away from it all here in Swaziland, which you really might need after a crazy weekend at Bushfire with 40,000 other festival-goers, and fortunately because Swaziland is so small, it does not take to long to travel to any of these highlights. There are also a few sights closer to town (Swaziland is small enough that if you say town anywhere in the whole country you mean Manzini, the largest city) if a few days in the wild really isn’t your thing.

Best wildlife (flora and fauna) viewing

Swaziland is home to three of the big five (lion, elephant, and leopard) plus both black and white rhinos. The chances of you seeing a black rhino are decent and a leopard incredibly slim, but you do have excellent chances of seeing lions, elephants, and white rhinos up close and personal. There are also opportunities to see a variety of antelope, zebra, giraffe, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, many bird species, and other smaller creatures. And there is always something beautiful in bloom (poinsettias right now in May!) in this country without snow.

  • Hlane Royal National Park has lions, elephants, and white rhinos, along with many other creatures. Spend the night so that you can go on a sunset or sunrise drive. You can also go on a rhino drive where you get to exit the vehicle and approach a rhino. Read about my experiences there here (with elephant photos), here (with lion photos), and here (with rhino photos).
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  • Mkhaya Game Reserve has black rhinos and elephants. It is the most expensive park in Swaziland, but still much less than nearby lodges in South Africa.
  • Mlawula Nature Reserve is a smaller reserve in the eastern part of Swaziland with a restaurant and pool with an excellent view from the top of the Lubombo Mountains. There are also hiking trails and antelopes and other smaller creatures. Read about my trip there here.
  • Mbuluzi Game Reserve is a private reserve abutting Mlawula that additionally has giraffe and zebra. Read about my trip there here.
  • Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is located right behind Malandela’s and House on Fire and is the closest park to town. There are beautiful mountain and valley views and the park is home to zebra, antelope, hippos, warthogs, and the like.
  • Malolotja Nature Reserve is a reserve high in the Drakensburg Mountains in the northwestern part of Swaziland. This park is great for hiking, too.

Best hiking trails

There’s four well-known hikes in Swaziland, and there are many hiking opportunities in Malolotja and Mlilwane.

  • Shiba’s Breast: The trailhead is at Lidwala Backpackers.
  • Sibebe Rock: Near Mbabane, this hike is an ascent up the face of a granite dome.
  • Executioner’s Rock: In Mlilwane, this hike follows the trail used by people who were to be pushed off the top of the rock after they were sentenced to death.
  • Emlembe Peak: The highest point in Swaziland is in the northwest near Bulembu.

Best shopping

  • Malandela’s complex: There are shops for Gone Rural (woven grass bowls and placemats) and Baobab Batik (scarves, pillows, aprons, jewelry).
  • Swazi Candles complex: There are shops for Swazi Candles (candles shaped like animals), Baobab Batik, and other locally-made products.
  • Ngwenya Glass: Located between the Oshoek border post and Mbabane, this glass studio creates lots of delightful animals from glass.
  • Manzini Market: Lots of crafts of all kinds, including batiks, jewelry (usually made right there), and a lot of other tourist kitsch (most likely not made in Swaziland).

Best traditional activities

Traditional Swazi culture is exciting to see when on display at a handful of festivals throughout the year (particularly Umhlanga, the reed dance, and Incwala, the first fruits festival). Umhlanga is usually at the end of August and Incwala is in December or January.

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If you are not in Swaziland for either of those and would like to see a traditionally dressed dancing group, head to Mantenga’s Swazi Cultural Village for daily dance performances.

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The traditional kicking dance.

And if you are a PCV from another country and want to see a traditional homestead, comment below and we can arrange something!

 

 

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