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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Wednesday photo: Puzzle

Now that I have more space in my extension-year home, I was able to put together a relaxing puzzle. 

 

Only 550 pieces.

 
I am looking forward to the collection of hard puzzles waiting for me in the States. 

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Wednesday photo: Delayed mail

Every so often it takes four to six months for a letter to arrive from the U.S. in my mailbox. 

I had a delayed package a year-and-a-half ago. It was held up by the post office saying the customs sheet was missing (it wasn’t). 

But the most recently delayed mail takes the cake. My mom mailed it in the middle of March and it finally went through an inspection on Sept. 4 and I picked it up last week. 

  
It included my Easter candy: a peanut-butter-filled chocolate dinosaur. It’s a tradition. 

It no longer looked like a dinosaur though, after six months of travel. 

 

It still tasted ok, though.


Fortunately, Peace Corps helps us out by collecting our mail and trying to find missing packages.  

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Wednesday photo: Dehorned rhino

South Africa has been dehorning rhinos to keep the animal alive. This post isn’t a discussion of whether this is the right solution to stop poaching. 

The first dehorned rhino I saw was with my parents last year in isiMangaliso near St. Lucia. We were told those were dehorned because their mothers were poached. 

This week I saw rhinos that were proactively dehorned at Ithala. 

 

Dehorned white rhino at Ithala.


 

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Roundup of what you need to know before joining Peace Corps Eswatini 2.0

Sanibonani G16!

I have written a lot about what life is like as a PCV in Eswatini during my 27 months of service. Your departure date is approaching quickly, and maybe a few of you only just received medical clearance like I did (I had about three weeks between being cleared and departure!) This post is a compilation of posts I think are most useful for you and your family and friends. And if you cannot find an answer to a question here, please comment on this post. I cannot wait to meet all of you in a few short weeks!

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 to wear while serving as a PCV in eSwatini

My most-used items as a PCV in eSwatini

So much fabric leads to so many new clothes

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

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Making announcements at morning assembly at my high school.

A week in the life

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

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Life in eSwatini

Gratitude for the last 25 months

Two years in the Peace Corps in numbers

Reflections on life after a year as a PCV 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

Extension life: English is confusing

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

Tick bite fever: Another strange illness to add to my Peace Corps service

Gratitude: Close of Service

A moment in my life: The wrong khumbi. Twice.

The chicken diaries: Slaughter time

The curious incident of the rodent in the night-time

Learning siSwati is hard

Wednesday photo: Language test

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The cultural group at Mantenga.

Holidays and culture in eSwatini

Introducing my parents to Swazi song and dance

Wednesday photo: Fourth of July

A traditional Swazi wedding, part one, part two, part three

Embracing Swazi culture

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Posing with our reeds.

Umhlanga posts:

Day one: Registration at Umhlanga

Day two: The first day of marching

Day three: Cutting umhlanga

Day four: Another long march

Photos from cutting reeds

Day six: Delivering reeds to the queen mother

Day seven: Dancing time

Delivering the reeds in photos

A few more photos from dancing Umhlanga

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A lion at Hlane.

What to do in eSwatini

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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Mokoro ride in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Travel outside of eSwatini

If hyenas could talk

Why I keep returning to Kruger

Victoria Falls: Zim or Zam?

Wednesday photo: Flamingos

Wednesday photo: Okavango Delta

Wednesday photo: Okaukuejo water hole

A long and winding journey to Lesotho

A photo tour of Maputo

 

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Gratitude for visitors

I am well settled in to my new apartment, and had three PCV visitors over the weekend.

The first was for a home-cooked, going-away dinner extravaganza for Aaron. He’s allowed me to crash at his conveniently-located extension home and feasts are a common theme. We cooked up mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, T-bone steaks, and a lemon cake.

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There were magenta potatoes for sale at the grocery store!

A fuse blew twice this week and it took a long time for it to be fixed, so I had all of my kitchen appliances hooked up to two extension cords to reach the bedroom, where there was electricity, which I worried about overloading. It made for an extra exciting, but very Swazi evening.

So many things that would bother me in America don’t any more. My tolerance for adverse events is nearly sky high. I don’t even concern myself with why things go wrong anymore and just say, “Oh, Swaziland.”

Two other extenders from my group toured my new home as well. Patrick mentioned he was in town and happened to be five minutes away, so he dropped by. Then Deacon brought me some curtains because I don’t have enough and he does. He bought nice ones for his hut and does not need them for his apartment, and they will be washed tomorrow and ready to hang as soon as I figure out how.

My apartment is also clean enough that if you wanted to come back to Eswatini, Mom, the invitation is open. My apartment was dirty when I moved in and there was dust in lots of hard-to-reach areas. Now that I have sturdy chairs, I could reach those spots better.

The invitation to visit is open to all of you. ESwatini is not without its challenges, but I really do love this place. There’s lions, rhinos, and elephants you can get quite close to, and maybe too close for comfort if you ask my mother. We could get matching outfits made, watch some song and dance performances, take a walk with zebras, and fall asleep to the growls of the lions. I would love to show you around if you have the time and money [eSwatini is pretty cheap, though!].

 

Baking for the week

  • Lemon cake for a going-away dinner

Media for the week

  • Remember the Titans
  • Train to Busan, a Korean zombie movie
  • Sherlock, Season 4 episodes
  • Orange is the New Black, began Season 4 episodes
  • A Photographic Guide to Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair
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What to wear while serving as a PCV in eSwatini

Starting in 2018, each intake group for Peace Corps Eswatini will arrive at the end of September, rather than in mid-June. This means that it (likely) will not be so cold when Trainees arrive. The heavy winter wear mentioned in My favorite items during PST will still be important for you once winter arrives, but it is no longer essential PST gear.

For G16 and all future groups as things currently stand, the dress code for your PST will be similar to your dress code for work. All PCVs will be working with either a high school (for youth development PCVs) or a clinic (for community health PCVs) where there is at a minimum, a business casual dress code.

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RPCV Taylor with her clinic staff.

Clinic staff is often in uniform and the teachers at my high school wear dressy outfits that do include dress pants, although I don’t know if pants for females will be allowed at this year’s PST, and sometimes your homestead or community or school, and always your community council, will require a skirt below the knees for females.

There is no heating at the clinic or school or home, and buildings have concrete floors and cinder block walls, so layers in winter will be very important. It is so cold in winter that you will want to dress like there’s snow falling. Even as I am writing this, one of my coworkers asked why I wasn’t wearing my jacket if I was cold. I told him I am not used to wearing my jacket inside, so I bring along a blanket and scarf to wrap up in. This means you should also bring cozy clothing to wear at home in the winter. I had to buy a fleece and sweatshirt here just to stay warm.

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Me speaking at morning assembly at the secondary school. It was too cold and for Tevas that day.

Swazis going to work at offices, clinics, and schools always looks professional in clean and ironed clothing (dry cleaners are available across the country). Dress shoes can be important for fitting in, and I was recently told that I should switch from my Teva sandals to flats for my extension work at an NGO in town. Flats are common for women, and sometimes I see teachers and the head nurse at the clinic in heels.

Non-professional clothing is needed for your homestead. I have many knee-length cotton skirts, leggings/yoga pants, and shirts/tank tops, I wear at home and outside of my house. I have shorts that I only wear inside or on vacation. My homestead is different from many others because my host father is a member of the community council, so rules for dressing at the community council apply at home. It is possible that someone could replace my site or move to another site where pants are not allowed. Females must be prepared for this.

It is also important to bring clothes that you like. If you don’t like it, you won’t wear it. Clothes that you like that do not fit the work dress code are still wearable to an extent here or when you are on vacation.

Mr. Price is like H&M. Pep, which sells both housewares and clothes, and Power both sell clothes at low prices. Trueworth’s and Woolworth’s both sell higher quality clothing at higher prices. I bought shoes at Woolworth’s after moving to town and dress pants at Mr. Price. There are Pep stores in all towns and other clothing stores are in Mbabane, Matsapha, and Manzini.

If you forgot something or need to buy a new outfit in eSwatini, it is totally possible, even during PST. You can also have clothing tailor-made, which I have frequently done. To get an idea of the possibilities, check out my new clothes here.

Check out my other posts about packing and what to bring:

These are a few of my favorite things

These are a few of our favorite things

My most-used items as a PCV in eSwatini

Packing for Peace Corps Eswatini

Packing for Peace Corps Eswatini: Clothing

Packing for Peace Corps Eswatini: Home supplies

Packing for Peace Corps Eswatini: What Peace Corps gives us

Sanibonani, G16s and all other future cohorts! I know you are out there, reading this blog. Please let me know if you have questions I can answer before you arrive.

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