Wednesday photo: Ezulwini view

I went to a funeral today for someone from work. A better description may be calling hours, which are all-day, every day between someone’s death and burial. There was singing, praying, and a few readings from the Bible.

The location was somewhere new to me, high up in the Mdzimba mountains above Ezulwini.

It was a beautiful drive and a beautiful day.

In the center is Execution Rock, with Sheba’s Breast to the right. Below is Ezulwini. The neon green fields are growing sugar cane, and I lived below the mountains in the far back.

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Wednesday photo: Beginning another round of goodbyes

It’s that time of year again when PCVs start going home as they finish their service.

The Fourth of July was the last time everyone is guaranteed to be together.

Nine G14s extended for an extra year in eSwatini

Nine PCVs from my group made it through a third year here, and three of us are staying for year four.

Fortunately, us extenders should see each other one more time, but the G15s will begin departing in two weeks. The end of another year here has come.

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Wednesday photo: Happy early birthday, America

I won a ticket to attend the U.S. Embassy’s official Fourth of July celebration this year.

Happy birthday!

There are plenty of reasons to want to go to the Embassy. There’s drinking fountains and nice (my vote for the nicest in country!) bathrooms at the Embassy, and there was finger food and drinks for this special occasion. There were also homemade brownies!

The ambassador gave a great speech about powerful women and the king’s representative mentioned the Peace Corps.

I also realized I’ve learned a few things about siSwati and was able to tell that the liSwati who sang the Swati national anthem sang it in isiZulu. I was able to confirm this with Peace Corps staff, who noted that she could be from southern eSwatini where isiZulu is much more common, or perhaps she learned the words from a grandfather from the time when school here was taught in isiZulu. But I digress.

It was wonderful to go to a party where I didn’t cook the food, yet I still look forward to the Peace Corps celebration next week!

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Wednesday photo: Pulled pork fail

I know that my friends said the pulled pork was amazing. I, on the other hand, am perhaps jaded from the ridiculousness of the whole matter.

The grocery store didn’t have any appropriate-looking pork, so I went to the butcher. The cashier at the butchery didn’t know what I was talking about. When I called to place my order I asked for a tenderloin. Instead I got loin chops, complete with 50 percent fat and the skin and bones, to boot!

2 kg of pork

I couldn’t trim the skin or fat easily before cooking, so I did that after slow cooking, at which point I was able to shred the remaining bits.

Next time I have to take a photo to the butcher or just stick to chicken the next time I have a pulled pork craving.

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Wednesday photo: Fall or winter?

Determining when seasons begin and end in eSwatini has been tricky. Is it fall or winter right now?

In mid-May fall definitely began in Mbabane. It smelled like fall and the mornings were definitely chillier. The few trees that lose their leaves started dropping them.

Mbabane’s park has a few deciduous trees that now look like fall.

Now, the nights are colder with temps dropping below 50 degree F. Without snow or freezing temps, I wonder what the signal for winter is. Is it that I put all the blankets on my bed, am sleeping in layers of clothing, or that I started wearing two pairs of pants when I get home from work?

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What I have been reading

I have somehow found more time in my day for reading the last few months, which is fantastic. I have not done a good job of keeping up with my reading here, so I wanted to share a list of what I have read in the last six months.

One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo, a collection of short stories about PCVs who served in Africa
Zulu Inspired Beadwork: Weaving Techniques and Projects by Diane Fitzgerald
The Complete Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsebet Bathory by Kimberly L. Craft
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
Lonely Planet’s Egypt guidebook
The Tutankhamun Deception by Gerald O’Farrell
Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphics by Bridget McDermott
The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man’s Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt’s Greatest Mystery by Bob Brier and Jean-Pierre Houdin
Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Commentary on my reads

The PCV stories really show how the Peace Corps has changed since its inception. I can’t imagine fighting a lion during anyone’s service nowadays.

The beadwork book has been great for learning new styles of beading, and I have many projects from the book still on my list.

Erzsebet Bathory is a wholly fascinating person who may or may not have murdered a whole lot of women and girls.

Howe’s book about Deliverance Dane started my time travelling theme with travels between the Salem-area witch trials and modern times. I really enjoyed this one.

The Outlander books all blend together now, but the story has continued to be good enough and the characters still find plenty of trouble. It is hard to put down, even though each book nears 1,000 pages.

The book about King Tut was fascinating. I could neither confirm nor deny most of the commentary on my trip to Egypt. My guides hadn’t heard of most theories, but nothing in this book seemed implausible. On the other hand, I am 100 percent convinced that Houdin’s theory about pyramid construction is the right one, regardless of what my guides said.

Mahfouz’s books were disappointing.

Zeppa’s book about serving in Bhutan has so many comparisons to life as a PCV. Read it to understand a bit of what our life is like.

And The Alchemist. I easily understand why it is a classic. It was a great read.

What am I currently reading?

The seventh Outlander book, which introduces more characters into the first-person narrative style and helps with preventing the story from dragging.

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Wednesday photo: Indian food

About two months ago I told my newish neighbors that their food always smells so good.

This has started an exchange of Indian and American food that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Chicken curry with roti

Deep-fried potato-filled deliciousness with mint chili sauce

It’s also nice that I can visit with the people next door instead of sitting at home alone all the time. Having a bit of a family here again is a welcome addition to my day, especially since it never includes loud music at dawn.

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Wednesday photo: Finished jewelry

After about a week and a half, I finished making the bracelet that I mentioned here.

I love the new stitch I learned and the piece grew quickly. I’ve worn it twice this week and I had multiple requests to buy it off my wrist. I hope to make something with the same stitch again soon so that I can perfect my method. I had a hard time keeping the taught-ness steady throughout.

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Wednesday photo: Egyptian street food

Falafel and sugar cane juice were highlights of my trip to Egypt. My guides were always directing us to clean restaurants, but street food often shows how the regular people eat, so I dug in. Everything was delicious, even with the horrible hand hygiene.

Egypt’s green falafel

Sugar cane juice

I made falafel at home and it was good but nothing like what I ate in Egypt. I’ll have to keep trying.

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Wednesday photo: A new beading project

Last night I started a new beading project to match a new shirt that I will wear at Bushfire. The music festival is the place where the PCVs all dress up to the nines, and it will be a great place to show off my jewelry.

All my supplies spread out to help me choose colors and a design.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make, and I considered a few patterns from my Zulu beading design book. Ultimately I chose a purportedly-African pattern and switched the three colors to match my shirt.

Of course, the pattern was made with a stitch I haven’t yet learned. I guessed correctly, and started learning even-count peyote. Between a video of the stitch and a document on how to read an even-count peyote pattern, I got started. Except after my first row I realized my pattern wasn’t even-count, but rather odd-count. So I learned the odd-count stitch, which is a bit trickier. The first few rows are a pain, but once I got going, it is quite easy.

The remaining problem will be if I can make enough time in my schedule to finish this before May 25th. Wish me luck!

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