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.


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.


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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My most-used items as a PCV in eSwatini

I might not love all of these items enough for them to make it onto my favorite lists (These are a few of my favorite things, These are a few of our favorite things, My favorite items during PST), but that does not make them any less important.

Sorted clothes

I packed a lot. I do not regret being unable to carry everything well without assistance.

Below are lists of items that I use every day, when I travel or leave the house, items that are fun, and a few extra items I did not use but you might. These are items that Peace Corps did not provide to us. Those can be found here: What Peace Corps gives us.

I noted brands for a few items and if that company offers a pro deal/discount to PCVs. I recommend the bigger ticket items (electronics) be purchased in America. You can find almost anything you could want in Eswatini. It might be hard to find, or cost a lot, but you can find it. I suggest that most kitchenware be purchased here if you want more than Peace Corps provides. I could have saved money if I had done that.

Daily items

  • Headlamp with rechargeable batteries (Black Diamond head lamp with Energizer batteries)
  • Indoor/outdoor thermometer and clock (LL Bean)
  • Outdoor sandals (Teva, gives PCVs a discount)
  • Indoor flip flops (Eddie Bauer)
  • Bike shorts or leggings (I always wear something under my skirts)
  • Plastic silverware, plates, and dishes
  • Water bottle
  • Weekly pill holder
  • Smart phone
  • Pitcher for pouring water
  • Clothes pins (not just for hanging wet clothes, but also for closing food bags and displaying photos)
  • Food storage containers (bring a few to get you by until you amass a collection of yogurt and peanut butter containers)
  • Sleeping bag in winter
  • Fleece in winter
  • Slippers in winter
  • Fan in summer (I bought an oscillating fan here, and brought a small, rechargeable one from Goal Zero)

Preparing food

  • Plastic cutting boards
  • Pairing knife (definitely bring a good knife from the U.S.!)
  • Non-stick skillet
  • Plastic spatula/turner
  • Kitchenaid plastic spatula for baking
  • Refrigerator
  • Stoven (like a toaster oven but with burners on top stove + oven = stoven)

When I leave the house for work or travel


You need to be able to carry all the things. Thanks GHSP for the hand-me-downs!

  • Backpack
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Big shopping bag to carry lots of purchases at one time (LL Bean)
  • Clothes pouch (Eagle Creek, gives PCVs a discount)
  • Tent (I had one I could bring for free, and it saves you a lot of money when going to Bushfire or Hlane; I don’t know if the PCVs who bought tents specifically for their service were happy with the purchase)

For fun

  • Kindle (PC Eswatini gives us one)
  • Flash drives/hard drive for media and saving work
  • Computer

Just because I didn’t need these every day doesn’t mean you won’t

  • Solar charger/solar powered lights (Some sites in Eswatini do not have electricity)
  • Dress shoes (these were my first purchase after moving to town for my extension)



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Wednesday photo: My shower

One of my apartment stipulations when moving to town was to have a shower. Theoretically, I do have a shower. It just doesn’t really work. 

The most frequent problem is that after about two minutes the cold water stops working. It continues to work in all other locations (bathroom and kitchen sinks).

I’ve talked to the landlord about this problem four times already. The plumber comes and it stays fixed for a few days, and then stops working again. 

So I’ve been bucket bathing. I really hate washing my hair this way because it takes so much time. I mix hot and cold water in the red basin. I use the pitcher to get wet and rinse. 

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Living allowance: June

This was a rough month. I spent too much on groceries, too much on clothing, and too much on eating out. This was partly Bushfire’s fault, but the food there is totally worth going over budget. 


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The chicken diaries: Goodbye my friends

Since moving out, I regularly think about my chickens. I hope they haven’t been boiled for dinner. I hope that Thandi and Sitfwatfwa will forgive me for moving away. 

I miss Sitfwatfwa pecking at my screen door to say hello and ask for food. I miss Thandi’s raucous singing after laying an egg. 

Here’s a few photos from our last morning together.   


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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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