Today 33 of us will take the same oath that the President takes as we are sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. No longer Peace Corps Trainees, we will be the real deal. How intense is that? We understand that more than 200 people will be there to witness it.
We're ecstatic, exhausted, and - a bit terrified. Because, tomorrow the Peace Corps transport will take us and all our accumulated stuff to our new sites, unload it and drive away. We will be left with a list of assignments and an admonishment to get out of our hut every day.
Till now the training has been intense: filling us up with information. Now, finally it's time to look OUTWARD, to use all this information in something beyond daily survival skills. Yikes!
So - a few observations to share:
As I looked around my homestead and community, I discovered vistas almost every day. Did my eyes adjust to the new, and begin to take in hitherto unnoticed details? Was it the gradual change of seasons, as Spring begins it's sneaky magic? Not sure, but it seemed the beauty increased almost daily.
Polygamy (men with more than one wife, not the other way around), although not all that common, is accepted here. At least one volunteer will be staying on such a homestead.
There are 2 types of marriage: traditional and civil (though civil ceremonies may take place in a church or through a court, same as in the US). In traditional marriages, the two families will merge, become one family in very real ways. The results can mean many things, I think, and varies a bit with the individuals. But think about how that would differ from our own ways of doing things.
Culture is such a strong word, and covers so much. Tribal structure and culture is such a long way from the feudal and then industrial and now informational cultures of that we know. A grandmother, "Gogo" (a term of much respect), came to talk to us about the the traditions she fears are being lost as Swaziland grows. She spoke of how what it means to be a man, to be a woman, are changing, and losing some of the strengths that have served Swazis in generations past. It was eye-opening in many ways - gave me much to contemplate about change, growth, and how I can work with my community. With HIV such a strong reality, talking about sexuality must be much more frank than at home. How Swazis, as a group, view it is changing. How? And how do the individuals with whom I'll be working view it?
And boundaries: what is okay to ask? What is is okay to not answer? Personally? In a teaching situation? How do we address the the stigma of AIDS? Any stigmas, for that matter?
So many questions to ask. So many answers to evade me.