The opinions expressed are mine and do not reflect the positions of the Peace Corps or the US government.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Posting for Michele.

December 16, 2013

The rain taps gentle melodies on the roof while I marvel at the incongruencies in my life. I sit on the bed, under wooden poles thrust into cement walls, windows decorated with wrought iron bars, covered with cut up mosquito netting stuck to said walls with velcro glued with contact cement (my screens), then covered with lace curtains and finally emahiya (fabric in bright patterns). The cement floor leaves my feet gritty, even though I sweep 3-4 times a day. But on the bed with me are my electronic toys - bluetooth keyboard, ipad, phone that tethers the ipad to the internet and kindle. I feel as though the 21st century snuck in while I wasn't looking.

The other night, getting ready for bed, movement caught my eye. A small bat was flying around the room. I opened the door wide, but it circled around and around, unable to find it's way out. Finally I turned out the light, walked outside and turned on a flashlight. The bat flew free. Whew!

Early December, riding the bus into town, past fields of maize. People were weeding, some were women with small children on their backs. To tie a little one on, a woman leans over from the hips, parallel to the ground. Then she swings the toddler up over her shoulder onto her back, throws a long shawl over the baby and ties it just above her breasts. Then she takes the lower half, pulls it tight, stands up and ties it,  then tucks it under the baby's bottom. The babies go everywhere, and are usually pretty quiet. If they fuss, the sling is pulled around to the front and the baby can nurse. Public nursing is totally acceptable.

The rains have started, and people collect rainwater, so even though the community tap is still dry, water is not, for now, an immediate issue. The roads are. Or rather, transport is. The roads are dirt and sand that turns into mud that cakes onto shoes and slides across what used to be roadbed. For a week the road was impassable, meaning to get to town busses had to go in the opposite direction, make a big circle, charge twice the bus fare and take twice as long. It's frustrating and inconvenient for me, but for those with jobs in town it's a whole different level of problem.

Add to the mix that some of the khombis are not running, and you wind up with 1 bus serving the area of my homestead. Got on that in Manzini 9:30 one morning, and set a new record - 4 1/2 hours to get the 20 or so miles home. Definitely a lesson in patience and in learning what the Universe has in mind for me. We started out, stopped, turned around and took a scenic tour of the back roads of Manzini to - some buildings behind a fence. There, for the next 2 hours, the driver, conductor and workers from the building repaired the bus. First they plugged in some extension cords, then took a skill saw, cut through some rebar, shaped one end into a tool, then soldered it to a handle. Brought that up to the bus, which was on a jack, removed the wheel and proceeded to do some welding and other repairs. Sent someone off to get parts, and 2 hours later, it was done.

Hanging out, waiting, talking to folks. The conductor wants to expand his business. My sisi knows him, so I may be able to get some resources to help him do that. He's also a student at a university. Busy young man. An older man talked about Nelson Mandela, and how he modeled for us the importance of not giving up, of having faith that his goal is the right one, of doing something every day, every day. It was as though that man were talking to my heart, to my self-doubts, the part of me that wonders if being here is right. It is.

So off we went - back to the bus rank, then the long way around. Turns out my stesh is the last one on the route - bus turned around there and headed back. Eish! What a journey.

More bus sights: Busses, understandably, are packed. The woman next to me pulls a little girl onto her lap. The child falls asleep. Little kids, undeterred by manners, stare, stare, stare at me. A first white person? Police stop all traffic. Sometimes they just talk to the driver. Sometimes we all get out and line up and they go through our bags. No one knows what they are looking for. Then we get back on the bus. Even though we were at the end of the line, and people are standing, we wiggle through the mass of humanity to get get to our seats which await us.

Contrasts and differences. look around! friends. What contrasts, less noticeable but notable just the same, do you see?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Picture Time

I am at Simunye Country Club for some R & R and there's real wifi!  Here are some pics.

Here is Sinethemba with that hat he made in one weekend. This was the school project he procrastinated starting till the last minute.

Life is short, roast marshmallows before dinner... The kids are in the lidladla - the outside kitchen - and dinner is in the pot. I think only one marshmallow, out of 2 bags, fell in the fire.

Siyabonga is about to release the cattle who have been pulling a plow to weed the maize.
A huge storm hit, putting dents in my corrugated metal roof. I was lucky! The roof in this tree used to be on a church next to my homestead. The wooden walls wound up on the ground, and all that was left was the cement foundation.
Here is a better view of the roof.

And since it was Sunday morning, the congregation put up a tent for church. Note the pick being turned into a hammer. That's Menzi, looking on.

And they needed chairs, so Nomile, age 6, helped out!