We have just started our first full week in Swaziland as Peace Corps Trainees. This is the week where we move in with our training host families for about 65 days. Everyone is anxiously awaiting our first meeting tomorrow afternoon, which is Wednesday, June 22.
- The roads, so far, have been excellent. It sounds like the roads in our training villages are more of what I expected.
- There really are some mountains here. The one I am looking at now reminds me of the Untersberg in Salzburg. The sun sets just to the south of the mountain, which creates a very beautiful view.
- Sunset is early. For as far south as we are, there is only about 12 hours of daylight year round. Currently, sunrise is at 6:45 a.m. and sunset is at 5:15 p.m. It is dark before it is time for dinner.
- Our training facility is very developed. There is hot water and constant electricity. The lights have flickered only once or twice. I had read about some baboon incidents at the training facility in past years, and fortunately, the location was changed a couple years ago and there are no baboons!
- For it being winter, there is almost no green to be seen. The rains should come in the next few months, which will definitely be needed. All the grass is golden and there has been no apparent hurry to collect the bales. They are still sitting in fields.
- We have not yet had much corn, even though it is the most widely grown crop here (Babe gave me a roasted ear today, 6/24, for a snack!). We have mainly eaten rice and potatoes with salad, carrots or butternut squash, and stews – a vegetarian stew with baked beans and veggies and another stew with chicken or ground beef (known here as mince meat). There have been frequent bananas and apples, too. Breakfast has included oatmeal, dry cereals and milk; lettuce and tomatoes; chicken, pork, or ham; fried or hardboiled eggs, and toast. There is plentiful tea, coffee, and other hot drinks, too.
- We have left the training center compound only once for a quick shopping trip, and the walk was much more pleasant than I anticipated. There were limited stares, catcalls, and trash. Yes, there was trash on the side of the road, but nothing like what I have encountered in other places.
- The grocery store is just like an American store. We went to a Pick and Pay that had everything I looked for. Baking products are easily available and not terribly expensive. There is a full refrigerated and frozen section as well. In addition to food there were also other household items available, such as cleaning, bath and beauty, and paper products. It seems that all manner of clothing is available somewhere in country as well, although it may be out of our price range.
- My money went reasonably far. I spent E138 (about $10) on tissues, tea, laundry soap, clothespins, hangers, and crackers. This would have cost closer to $20 at home. We have since had a second shopping day E330 (about $22) to get additional products after moving in with our families. I purchased a broom, 20L bucket, four food storage containers, tablecloth, pineapple, pasta, lentils, baking soda, baking powder, bread flour, yeast, cleaning cloths, half a loaf of bread, and a yogurt.
- The language has a lot of syllable repetition and alliteration. Words are deceivably long because the subject, verb tense, and verb combine to make one work (for instance, ngiyabonga, which means thank you/I am thanking you). Every siSwati word ends in a vowel, which makes a very sign-song-y language. The click has been mostly mastered. The letters x and q also make clicks from further back in the mouth. These sounds are from the Zulu and Xhosa languages. It’s the dl sound that is the most complicated for me. To make this sound, curl the tip of your tongue up behind your front teeth, open your mouth and keep a straight face, blow air out of your mouth (this gets you to the hl sound), and add some buzzing to get the sound to change.
- I have yet to encounter screaming children excited to see a white person. I am intrigued to meet my family tomorrow because there are eight young children on my homestead. (Preview: my homestead’s children have become the running and screaming children excited to see me!)
I will be setting a second post to post in a few days because I am not sure when I will next have internet. We receive our phones on July 4, so it may be until then!