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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More Pictures

 In no particular order...

This is Siyabonga hanging by his feet.

And Ayanda in traditional dress celebrating the King's birthday.

Kelsey, Jami, and I with Robbin in the back next to the Blyde River just above some amazing falls. You can see a small part of them below.

And below - dawn at my homestead.


Make and Babe just after church to the right, and Simphiwe and Gogo down below.

Autumn, Camp and Vacation

April 27, 2014

I think that there's a lot less outside world stimulation here, so the day to day things are clearer. It's easier to be present when there are fewer distractions from outside, if that makes sense. No TV, no radio, precious little news. Sunrises and sunsets delight me, more poetry getting written, watching the seasons turn, the night skies change. Water, weather, crops, kids - more important. I think I'm more in my present world... Oh - didn't realize that! Maybe that's one of the gifts of the Peace Corps - being in the time and place I'm living, not living globally... I know other PCV's pay more attention to the outside world - I just don't. Interesting!

May 4, 2014
GLOW Camp! Girls Leading Our World. An amazing week with about 78 girls, their club counselors, senior counselors, all Swazi. And guest speakers. The girls walked in, some hot, tired from long bus rides, groups of individuals. A week later, after sessions in art, team building, crafts, sexual reproductive health, looking to the future and more. Those girls were –well, sorry. GLOWing. The Human Machine (thanks, Maggie!) went really well, as did many other activities. By Friday, I taught sessions on interviewing, and asked the girls to tell me, “How are you unique?” They were able to fill a full flip chart page! But perhaps the best example of the changes came the last night. Talent show. I think every girl went up on the stage to show her talent, either individually or in groups. They stood in front of more than 70 of their peers, plus adults. And they sang, read poetry, danced, did skits. But the best was when the one young woman with some kind of physical disability made her way, alone, to the front of that room. She began to sing, a bit haltingly, and the whole room joined in. She led that song, and it swelled and filled the room with sound and caring and solidarity. At the end, she received the only standing ovation of the night. We were a cohort, a strong group, supporting each other’s strengths.
I floated out of camp totally exhausted and remembering why I’m here.

Now it is, again, the dry season. And again, the tap is dry for a reason my family does not know (despite asking). The family is hauling laundry to the river to wash (at least 1/2 mile away), though I will be able to wash here. And talking of buying water - about 400 - 450 Emalengeni per month - a VERY large amount, given the economy. Just to translate, at 450 Emalengeni, if I pay 10%, (45E) that, combined with electricity would be about 9% of my income every month. Doesn't seem like much, but... if that's for one person, and I don't have kids, so no school fees, no school uniforms, etc. And transport costs are supposed to go up 25% next month. That puts the basics of living pretty high for folks.

May 10

Just returned from my first vacation. It was grand.

Went with 3 other PCV's - 2 will be going home in July/August, the other has another year+ (like me). It's such a matter of perspective. The 2 who are completing their second year were thinking about going home the other one and I were thinking about another year here. The two folks returning did all of our planning. They found an amazing backpackers (hostel) online called Joy River. Look it up on FB.

Transport, as I know you've figured out by now, is really sketchy. I'm thinking you'll be looking online at the places I name here, so won't try to describe distances. But... we left Kelsey's at 5:15amto catch the khombi to Manzini, and arrived by 6:15 or so. Then waited till 9:30 for the khombi to Nelspruit to fill up. 1:00 found us in South Africa, and we had rented the car by 1:30. CAR!!! First private vehicle since we got here. Only slightly lost in town, found great food, went shopping for groceries, walked out into deep dusk. A couple of hours later we arrived at Joy River Backpackers (we'd call it hostel). We only got lost a few times, and it was all tar road until we turned off onto the track. Apt description. Narrow dirt road, rutted and dusty. We bumped along and then our headlights found - Jesus? Really? Well - could have been. Actually, it was Heston, the owner, with longish hair, sandals, wrapped in a blanket and accompanied by a couple of dogs. He directed us well, then helped by bouncing along at a trot, waving his flashlight wildly.

The quarters he had given us were - unique. Heston directed us to a carport of wood and tin, then showed us where we were to stay. he apologized for it being rustic, and - I guess it was. But to our eyes, accustomed to  living in one or two room huts with no running water, no indoor bathrooms, no kitchen sinks... We were in heaven and told him so. There was even a bathtub (if you didn't mind the rusty water) and a shower. And the sound of the Joy River to lull us to sleep. Bathroom was made of stones, and the tub emptied into a trough which went around the shower. There was space for a fire outside and they made us probably the best pizza we'd ever had, using arugula and lavender! but that was later.

We walked to Joy River in the morning, and allowed the peace and joy and quiet of the world to surround and soothe us. Sat next to a little drop/pool/drop riffle, just watching. Guess I was meditating, watching/listening/experiencing the water dropping over the rocks into a hole, the drops filling with air, bubbling, incorporating light into the mix, ever-changing, moving but not in a straight line, altered, but the same.

Spent a whole day in that place of bliss, of quiet joy, that fragile place I never want to leave, but which cannot be summoned nor sustained. And wrote this poem:

I wake to the river
Swirling in my heart
Sunlight sweeping softly
through my dreams

Chill of stones beneath me
Under foreign skies
Water dancing
music know to all

Listen in the moment
Feel the flow of time
Balance on the precipice
So uniquely mine

                                Joy River, South Africa

We hiked, wandered along waterfalls, walked through savannah then slipped into jungly forest.

Our first walk was to the Potholes. First the Blyde River, flat, flat, dropping dramatically down into carved canyons, pot holes (of course), waterfalls and more falls and more flat rocks and bridges. Then up to hike what we thought would be about 8 km. But...

We walked through savannah, then dropped into the woods, steep, steep. And then the two in the lead stopped, began walking back towards us:  we were warned off by baboons! They growled and warned, patrolled, one on the ground, one in the trees, and let us know we were not welcome. We tried going forward. The warnings increased. One, who has worked with horses, is most tuned in to animal behavior, was totally spooked, and though the rest of us were too blind to truly understand, we hesitated a bit, then trusted her, and backed away, then left. Walked quite a while, sat next to a creek to eat lunch and decide whether to try again, hoping they had left. Nope. Not only had they not left, they were approaching with warning growls. Decision made! We high tailed it out of there.

Later, we asked locals and they all assured us, not there was not problem. But when we got back to Swaziland and internet connections, we found that what we did was absolutely correct, and that the baboons were protecting something - territory, mothers, whatever - and could have charged and hurt us. Another reinforcement of trusting intuition.

The next day we drove to sites we found on the internet. For the record, siyamanga! They are lying! Nothing was as described, but some of it was pretty and we did laugh a whole lot about it.  If you ask any of us about "The Pinnacle" be prepared for gales of laughter.

We were saddened by the miles and miles and miles of tree farms. Rows of pine trees being grown for paper. You know that they are deeply damaging the land with single crop planting. And it was like driving through a giant zoo (rather than game preserve). They clear cut to harvest the trees. It was hard.

Overall, the trip was glorious. We travelled well together, sharing quiet as well as conversation, calm and that something that either is or is not present in groups. I'm so grateful to have found such a group.

May 11
Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to all you mom's, both physically and emotionally/spiritually/acting as. I think that covers all the women I know.

When my body is tired, my mind wanders all over the place. This coming week I'm going to a training on positive discipline/classroom management with 2 teachers from my school. The question has arisen for me: What makes us do the "right" thing? I asked my host family, wanting it to be a personal, not rhetorical, question. Make was not too interested, and Babe generalized it. He said that our actions are designed to protect our territory. If we are aggressive and people fear us, we can do whatever we like within out territory and no one will challenge us. Makes sense - that we carve out some territory for ourselves, then our actions protect it.

But I didn't get an answer, so I pose it to you: What makes you do what you believe is right? You, individually, not you as people in general.  I'm not sure how I would answer that question. I'll work on it, but don't want to let you off the hook by providing a possible answer.

Some of what I've been thinking is that Skinner's behavior modification theories were designed to answer that question. But I think it's much more complex than that, that there are many answers to the question, and all are intertwined and pieces of a larger whole. I look forward to reading comments or emails in response...