Extension life: English is confusing

When I moved from Ohio to Utah I remember having to change one word of my vocabulary. I received too many comments when I would say “pop” while working as a cashier at Target, so I forced myself to remember to say “soda” instead.

Now I work at an American NGO in eSwatini where my coworkers regularly speak and write in English. The topic of American English versus British English never really came up in my community, but it is a regular discussion at work.

I have to ask who the audience is of what I’m working on. It could be American or liSwati. Words that I didn’t even know were spelled differently in British English are (anaesthetic or hyaena). And don’t get me started on the meanings. Throw in making British English South African or liSwati and I am regularly confused or confusing someone.

A coworker and I came up with this list through a bunch of laughs and failed descriptions.

What do you call a vehicle that has one or sometimes two rows of seats with an uncovered back end? A truck or pickup truck…also known as a lorry or a bakkie.

What do you call a vehicle that carries multiple rows of people, is often driven by mom, and is never considered cool? A van…also known as people carrier, multi-purpose vehicle, or minibus.

What do you call a manufactured home? A mobile home…also known as a park home.

What do you call a smaller vehicle with four doors? A sedan…also known as a saloon car.

What do you call a place where women get their hair done? A salon…also know as a salon but pronounced like saloon.

What do you call a group of people traveling together to one place? A caravan…also known as a convoy.

What do you call the vehicle you might live in and travel the country? A camper/camper van…also known as a caravan.

What do you call the piece of clothing that covers your legs individually? Pants…also known as trousers.

What do you call the piece of clothing worn under your pants or trousers? Underwear…also known as pants.

What do you call the front part of a vehicle where the engine usually is? The hood…also known as a bonnet.

What do you call the back storage compartment of a vehicle? A trunk…also known as a boot.

What do you call the game you play on a table with cue sticks and balls? Pool/billiards…also known as snooker.

What do you call the device that hangs over an intersection or displayed on a pole to control traffic with different colored lights in an intersection? A traffic light…also known as a robot.

How do you consume a pill orally without chewing? Take one pill by mouth…or drink one pill.

What is the name of the floor above the floor closest to ground level? The second floor…also know as the first floor.

What is the name of the device that heats water for your home? The hot water tank…also known as a geyser (pronounced like the American geezer).

What do you call thinly sliced potatoes that are deep fried and sold at room temperature in a bag? Potato chips…also known as crisps.

What do you call potatoes sliced into rectangles that are deep fried and sold hot? French fries…also known as chips.

What do you call the dessert that comes in small round or square shapes that are made from dough and baked in an oven? A cookie…also known as a biscuit.

What do you call the piece of clothing you pull over your head or zip or button up to warm up? A sweater…also known as a jumper.

What do you call the sport that involves kicking a ball with your feet? Soccer…also known as football.


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Wednesday photo: The view from my table

Yes, the elusive, hand-me-down table has arrived. 

I can now seat seven (or more if you bring your own chair!) and do 1,000 piece puzzles. 

It took two tries to get it into my house, but it was eventually a success. 

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Wednesday photo: The view from my desk

I have been at work for two weeks. I have spent most of my time learning about social media marketing and reviewing what PSI Eswatini currently is doing. 


Litsemba Letfu means our hope. It is the brand for PSI’s clinic for men.

If any kind of marketing is my kind of marketing, it is definitely this kind that does not involve being a door-to-door salesman. 

For those of you who do not remember what PSI does, it started as a family planning NGO in India. It has expanded around the world, and here in eSwatini, our current mission is to find the remaining positives and get everyone who is positive on treatment. There are 35,728 people in eSwatini who are positive and do not know their status, and there are 13,832 people who know their status and are not on ART. Those are the people we need. Everyone else we are trying to keep negative with services such as condoms, PrEP (medication someone at risk of becoming positive takes as prevention), PEP (medication someone takes after a potential exposure to prevent conversion), and male circumcision. 

You may have noticed two spellings of eSwatini in this post. This is not a mistake. The siSwati spelling of this country’s name is eSwatini. Place names start with a lowercase e, followed by a capital letter. Unfortunately, that isn’t how the U.S. government decided to spell this country’s new name, which is with a capital e and a lowercase s. 

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Gratitude for life as it is

Gratitude has been building up inside me as I have waited to make time to write. Even now, I should be sleeping, but what is one more late night.

Today I came home to loads of clean laundry and a clean house for the cost of a nice dinner out. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I do not have money to waste, but every lishumi (E1, about 7 cents) of this now weekly cost will be money well spent.

I am also grateful for being able to walk to and from work, and the difficulty crossing the street even at an intersection (Swazis do not give pedestrians the right of way, and neither do they stop if there is no oncoming traffic at stop signs), is worth not riding public transportation to get everywhere.

I am grateful for the staff at my apartment complex who speak to me in siSwati, and my coworkers who also test my siSwati knowledge every day.

Speaking of work, I am grateful to be thrown fully into the fire with some serious tasks and truly do find myself in a position at the intersection of journalism and public health. My responsibilities are still in progress, but I am excited for the possibilities.

Fun side note: this is the first time in all of my working years that I am working all of my work hours at one place and working during the day (except for that internship in NYC). I still don’t have a 9-5 job because we start at 7:45 a.m., but that’s not a big deal.

And finally, I am grateful to not be woken at 5:45 a.m. by loud music, but I have been cursed with waking up at 5:45 a.m. every morning since I moved anyway, even though my alarm is set for 6:30 a.m. At least with the music I knew why I was awake; I haven’t figured this out yet.


Baking for the week

  • German chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday

Media for the week

  • I finished Kindred by Octavia Butler and you should drop everything and read it right now. It was incredible. Our other book club choice for the month is The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, which listened to on audiobook but am rereading because it was also wonderful. And someday, I will finish the Hamilton biography.
  • I’ve watched a slew of movies: Coraline was the last movie I watched with my kids. Since then, I’ve watched Black Panther, Save the Last Dance, Moonlight, the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Invictus, and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging.
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Wednesday photo: Delightful dinner

I know, I know, you all want to see apartment photos. I’ve taken a break the last couple nights after work instead of working more here. Soon I shall be finished unpacking and then there will be photos. 

Instead, I will share with you the one special dinner I have made since moving in. 

Enter orange-fleshed sweet potatoes with black beans and veggies with lots of spices. I’ve been dreaming of this dinner for a long time and am happy to have finally prepared it. 

And after dinner the dishes were washed in a sink with hot, running water. What a life!

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Wednesday photo: Goodbye, home

I said goodbye to my home of 23 months this morning. But I did it in siSwati, so I really said stay well. 

The hardest part of moving ended up being loading the car. I said we needed two vehicles. The driver helping me said he would make it all fit. 

And make it fit he did. 


So far, there’s no casualties, but I’m not fully unpacked.  

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Gratitude for the last 25 months

This is the last weekend on my homestead and it is surreal. I can’t imagine my life after here. I can’t imagine not having all of my belongings nearly within arm’s reach. I can’t imagine getting up in the morning to go to work at 7:45. I can’t imagine living in a city (which is small enough to just be called “town”).

On the other hand, I can imagine not being woken at 5:45 a.m. by loud music. I can imagine using a porcelain toilet instead of a latrine or bucket. I can imagine not walking in front of 10 family members to get to my future, inside toilet. I can imagine washing my dishes in a sink and my clothes in a machine. I can imagine not riding a khumbi to get everywhere.


The view with the jacaranda tree, one of my new favorites.

I will miss many things, though, including all the time I spend watching movies with my bhuti Hero, celebrating my family’s birthdays, learning siSwati from my littlest bhuti Wenzo, having someone to ask for help, growing vegetables in an actual garden, an open view to the mountains, my chickens coming to my door, and many other things I won’t miss until I miss them.





But I have left places I have loved many times before and survived all the moves and transitions and new jobs. I know the bad memories will fade away and the good ones will stay ingrained forever. So here’s to another goodbye and many new hellos.


Baking for the week

  • Dirt pudding for my bhuti’s early birthday celebration. I had made custard from scratch a few times in America and here. Pudding is even easier! And so delicious! Sorry Jello, I have no plans of going back to the premade or powder varieties.

Media for the week

Movies and TV

  • The kids and I finally finished the three season’s of Avatar. Some of the children’s movies I watch with them I think are pretty awful but they like them anyway. This TV show, though, was excellent. While there were some predictable moments, I was kept guessing until the end.
  • Mission Impossible: The two high-action scenes of dangling from the ceiling in the white room and the train chase made all the boring parts to this one worth it to my bhuti.
  • The Jungle Book (live action): This is the birthday party movie to be watched this evening. The kids really liked the cartoon, so I hope they like this one too. It’ll be a first for me, too.


  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz: Book four in the Millennium series with Lisbeth Salander Mikael Blomkvist. I chose to read this because I heard a film version will be released in November. After reading, I watched the trailor; I think they made the film without reading the book. The movie could still be good. I enjoyed the book.
  • The Girl who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz: Book five in the Millennium series. It was predictable and not as good as book four.
  • I’m still reading Alexander Hamilton’s biography. Finally made it to the halfway point. It is still fascinating.


  • I caught up on some Carpool Karaoke (and Daily Show) on YouTube to use up some internet data that was expiring.
  • I listened to music from some Bushfire artists and other African musicians including Yemi Alade, Mafikizolo, Jah Prayzah, and Johnny Drille.
  • I also checked out some tunes referenced in an old issue of Rolling Stone I got from another PCV: Liam Gallagher (of Oasis fame), Kesha (who knew she got rid of the $ from her name?), and First Aid Kit.
  • And a couple articles my mom sent me mentioned how Meek Mill’s song “Dreams and Nightmares” was a theme song for the Cavs. I didn’t like it.
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So much fabric leads to so many new clothes

I’ve been seeing other PCV posts on their locally-made fashions, and knew I wanted to do the same. Then PSIN asked for photos to share with G16, and my bhuti was looking for some money to buy a pizza, so I asked him to take photos of me in all the clothes I have had made here. My family got a kick out of the fashion show, too.


The first dress I had made in Swaziland.





We took a photo with Madiba and Ngumdagga, too.




The pill suit. It was expensive and altered (even though the tailor didn’t think it could need fixed, so it still doesn’t fit right. I won’t recommend this tailor to anyone.].


Thanks for this fabric, Deacon!




The only pencil skirt I’ve had made because they leave behind so much fabric.


I bought this one pre-made at a market in Maputo, Mozambique. The fabric was just so fantastic I couldn’t pass it up. The tailor who made it was selling it, so she was able to do a couple alterations to make it fit better. It was a great purchase.


I didn’t have this one made for me; instead, I bought it at Bow Afrika in SA. It’s great, but the pleats are a pain. I’ll be shopping for another the next time I am in the Johannesburg area.


Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t show the exciting back to this shirt. It crisscrosses. I saw this shirt on someone in Tofo, Mozambique. Then I had it made. Then I wore it at Bushfire this year, and someone took a photo of me. A perfect circle! Thanks, Taylor, for the photo.


I finally had this made because I realized that tailors charge the same for any kind of dress, even if it’s not fancy like this one. I wanted it made while I still had easy access to my local tailor who is much cheaper than the tailors in town. Thanks for the photo, Nicole!

I’ve since had two more skirts made. and I have photos of another dress, but they are too poor of quality. I will be sure to update later.

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Wednesday photo: Fourth of July

Preparing for the Fourth, while stressful in the lead up, was much less stressful when preparing the food than I expected. I had a great team of kitchen help, with the surprise addition of another PC Swaziland staff’s wife and helper who cut so many veggies and fruit. 


Nine PCVs, our country director, and visiting staff from SA.

We didn’t forget to put any food out this holiday, but we still guessed over and under on a variety of foods. Feeding 90-some people is hard! 


Doris, our CD’s helper, and I. She washed dishes for hours and hours.


The food list is hanging with food lined up on the table for the oven.


My plate. Sweet potato casserole has become a holiday staple here.


As have cinnamon rolls.


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Living allowance: May

May is a rough month. I saved money during the first half while working at GLOW camp and with attending COS conference, except that I had an expensive dress made for COS (it was worth it, though!). 

Then at the end of the month was Bushfire, where I spent E800 on camping and food. 

In between, I went to a birthday party and spent the night out. 

It was a big and expensive month.


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