Saturday, January 24, 2009

My President Has a Last Name, It's O-B-A-M-A

In an attempt to feel productive, this past Monday (the 19th) I made the trek up to Mbabane to use the internet to research grad schools and to watch the Inauguration of the first president I’ve ever voted for. It was a nice vacation from my otherwise uneventful life.

On Tuesday night, about 20 of my fellow PCVs gathered at a “Greek restaurant” (they served Indian food) for a sports bar-style viewing of the Inauguration. We got there at about 5:00 our time (the inauguration started at 7:00 our time) to get the best seats in the house, and by 6:30 the restaurant and bar areas were PACKED with Americans of all sorts—Peace Corps Volunteers, aid workers, UN workers, MSF people, etc. And I don’t think there was a Republican in the bunch. For that demographic, I think the Inauguration is a bigger deal than the Super Bowl, so we spent the evening clapping, cheering, standing (for the oath of office) and singing (the national anthem). It was a good time. And it’s pretty funny that the oath of office that Obama took was identical to the oath we took at swear-in, except that we said “Peace Corps Volunteer” instead of “President.”

In Mbabane I also met a really nice Chinese-American-Canadian who works as a Chinese-English translator for Chinese people seeking asylum in North America. She works half the year, then travels for months at a time, and somehow she ended up in Swaziland. I invited her to come stay with me for a day or two to get a feel for rural life in Swaziland (and because I was bored), so she came down to visit on Thursday. We made the public transport trek to my house, and I introduced her to the family, then we watched movies (she had a bunch and I uploaded them to my computer) until dinner time. For dinner, I’d asked my Make (mother) if she could teach us how to make “Swazi food,” so she called us into the kitchen to help with the liphalishi (maize meal, water and salt) and chicken stew (chicken, salt, onions, green peppers; we had her kill the chicken without us), all of which was delicious and EASY! My friend also brought a cake for the family, which they devoured with an enthusiasm I found almost frightening. I was a little apprehensive at first, inviting a total stranger to come stay with me for a night, but I think it made for a really interesting cultural exchange for her, me and my family. I mean, it’s not like I invited a total stranger to come live in my house for 2 years (like my host family did).

So that’s all the excitement in my life. Today (Saturday) I’m in Nhlangano for our monthly support group, which is fun. Mostly because it’s followed with copious amounts of food and an overnight visit by the girls whose buses leave before the support group ends (I have the best transport in the area, so they spend the night with me and go home on Sunday).

That’s all. I hope you’re all enjoying having a “President Obama,” and if you’re in DC and you got to go to the Inauguration, I hate you.

Love from the Swaz!

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