Monday, May 18, 2009

I believe in fate, personal responsibility and well-timed potty breaks.

After 8 fabulous weeks, 6 wonderful days, 8 kilos of puppy chow and countless “accidents” on my conveniently cement floor, Monday marked the most difficult day yet in my short history of puppy parenting. I guess I was secretly harboring hope that the US would magically change all travel restrictions regarding dogs coming from Swaziland and I’d be able to take Maggie home without quarantine, but it seems I’m not quite that lucky. So, loaded down with a bag of puppy chow, a freshly repaired stuffed giraffe and one apprehensive puppy in my arms (she wouldn’t walk), I walked the 20 minutes to the tar road and hitched a ride to Hluti.

The puppy hand-over was scheduled for 9:00 Monday morning, but I was soon informed that Maggie’s mom-to-be wouldn’t be around until the afternoon. No problem. I’d just take her to my meeting, then hand her over after lunch. Honestly, I was excited at the prospect of one last afternoon with my favorite puppy ever. We hitched another ride to the high school, where we played with Giraffe on the soccer pitch until the meeting started (at 10:15, which is apparently the Swazi 9:00), then held her on my lap for the entirety of the meeting. Honestly, about an hour into a boring meeting full of siSwati talking in circles, I decided that meetings are infinitely more bearable with a puppy in my lap.

After the meeting we took a kombi back to Hluti. The kombi driver was all upset about me having a dog on my lap and tried to charge me extra, which is ridiculous because they don’t charge extra for stinky, crying babies or tied-up livestock, so why should they charge extra for a well-behaved puppy? He gave up when I pointed out that the woman sitting behind me had two live chickens in a pot on her lap. I bet you can’t wait to take public transportation when you come to visit me, right? (I didn’t even blog about the time I got peed on by a grown man in the back of a kombi, did I?)

Anyway, I soon found out that the woman who was supposed to take Maggie had gone to South Africa and would be staying for a day or two or a lifetime or something, so her sister asked me to bring the pup back later in the week. Um, no. I wasn’t really excited about the prospect of yet another tearful good-bye to Bokhi (I was the only one crying, actually) and I figured that if she couldn’t even show up to pick up the dog she probably wouldn’t get her spayed and vaccinated like she had promised. Time for a new game plan. I texted the Peace Corps office desperately seeking a staff member in need of a puppy, then figured out a way to get her up to the shelter in Mbabane by 5:00, then went into the shop across the street to buy airtime to make some more phone calls.

In the shop I ran into Jerome, the head teacher of Our Lady of Sorrows School a few kilometers from my house. We’d met once before when he’d given me a lift from the school to Hluti and he seemed like a nice guy, so I greeted him in the check-out line. He reached out and patted Maggie on the head and told me that if I wanted to sell him my dog when I went back to America, he’d take her in a heartbeat. So I handed her over to him. He thought I was joking, but no. In addition to having a job and a fenced yard away from a main road and being a “dog-lover” (his words), the man went to grad school in Chicago and knows how to spoil a dog like an American. He even asked if she was house-broken! As in he plans to let her in the house! I made him promise to get her spayed and vaccinated, and he said I could visit her anytime I want because his house is right next to the clinic where I work every Tuesday. I ran into him on Thursday afternoon in Hluti and he reported that she is well-behaved and, after a day of mild depression, very perky and adorable. And she’ll be visiting the vet on Friday for her vaccinations.

And that’s why I believe in fate.

Meanwhile, I have one depressed but recently vaccinated puppy (that was a fiasco on two 40-minute kombi rides) and a sick Bokhi (that’s nothing new) who is being strangely overly-affectionate. Seriously, she crawled into my lap on Monday afternoon when I was sitting on the ground outside, which is pretty out of character for a supposedly vicious Swazi guard dog. It’s sad to me that I’m the only one who knows what’s going on in this situation. But I’m confident that Jerome is taking good care of Maggie (he plans to re-name her) and I’m going to visit her next Tuesday.

This Tuesday, however, I was delinquent in my pill-counting duties and, instead, went on a mysterious trek in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility. As part of the mini-company thing I’m doing through TechnoServe at Hluti Central High School, I taught the students about the importance of giving back to the community in which your business operates and they came up with a community service project for the company that I was actually really impressed with.

The project involves providing basic assistance to a child-headed household in the neighboring community of Nsingizini. There are 3 kids, ages 13, 7 and 4, living in a tiny little thatch hut with no adults. After learning that the youngest was HIV-positive, I naturally assumed that their mother had died of AIDS, but I was wrong. As I think I’ve explained before, Swazi tradition makes orphans out of children born out of wedlock because when a woman gets married, her husband usually refuses to accept her existing children as part of the family. Thus, they get sent to live with grandparents or other relatives. But this family is an example of what happens when the bride/mother has no living relatives or, as in this case, the mother is estranged from the only living relatives. After getting married in 2007, she literally abandoned the kids without looking back, leaving them (ages 11, 5 and 2) to fend for themselves.

The kids, though, seem to be taking surprisingly good care of themselves, with little help from their mother’s brother who, rather than caring for them, tends to steal the food NGOs provide for them. The school was kind enough to waive the fees for the two oldest kids, and the oldest girl is responsible enough to take her little sister to the clinic every month for ARVs. Unable to farm, they get most of their food from World Food Program, UNICEF and the Government of Malawi (see 2nd bullet below), and a little corn-soya-blend with the ARVs from the clinic (theoretically given to all under-5’s on ARVs), but it all gets picked over by their uncle who is listed as their caregiver. But there are just some things that a motherless 13-year-old girl can’t do. For example, they have plenty of clothes but no money for laundry soap and no basin to wash (laundry or themselves) in. They have 2 old wheel barrows and a piece of corrugated iron to block the wind and build a cooking fire, but can’t afford matches. Their stick-and-mud, thatch-roof hut hasn’t been repaired since long before their mother left and has no door or window panes and a horrible roof, which means that they have problems with keeping rain and snakes out of the house. Their bed, which consists of two threadbare, uncovered mattresses stacked on top of a bunch of broken chairs to keep it off the floor, is easily 20 years older than me. And they have no pit latrine and no way to build one. Worst of all, the house is situated right next to a shibeen (moonshine bar), so the kids are constantly harassed and perhaps sexually abused by drunk men at night. (When we arrived, there was half a bottle of booze on the ground outside and the oldest girl said a man had left it there…why was he there in the first place?)

Seeing those kids living like that kind gave me a new perspective on all that is unfair in this world. In my community there are two “child-headed households,” but in both cases the oldest child has already finished school (one has a college education), so this was a completely new experience for me. It’s so sad to think that of the challenges they face and the responsibilities they’ve had thrust on them simply because their mother chose a man (and the financial security that comes with being married in Swaziland) over them. That’s the frustration of a communal society, though: people choose not to take personal responsibility for their actions/problems/obligations because they assume that somebody else will pick up the slack. But sometimes there isn’t anyone left to pick up the pieces…

It kind of puts my “problems” in perspective too. I felt pretty guilty, after spending a day at the vet with my HEALTHY DOG, seeing SICK CHILDREN who can’t even afford to go to the clinic. And it’s not just them, either; it’s most of the families in the rural areas, even where there are parents.

Anyway, after an initial survey of the help needed we decided on a multi-day project. Day one the girls rounded up a basin and some jerry cans and headed down to the river to wash the kids’ clothes and blankets. Meanwhile the boys (they don’t wash laundry) tidied up the house, borrowed a machete to cut down the grass around the homestead (except the grass they use as a latrine) in hopes of keeping the snakes away and dug a shallow pit for the kids to throw their rubbish in. After some negotiations with a roof thatch salesman, on day two the girls cut down enough thatch to fix the roof of the house as soon as we find some affordable rope. Meanwhile, the boys were busy digging a 3 meter-deep hole for the pit latrine, which will hopefully be completed in the next few weeks if we can get some cement and corrugated iron donated. Unfortunately I don’t know how to make windows. Honestly, I’d kind of like to build them an entirely new house, but the company didn’t make nearly enough money to do that…

I do have to say, though, that I’m really impressed with the way the students in the club have come together to do this project. Originally when we were brainstorming ideas for community service projects, people mentioned things like building a pit latrine for a family without one or doing laundry for a homestead with handicapped or elderly people who can’t do it for themselves, but the ideas were voted out because they said it was too much work. Then, after meeting the kids and seeing the situation they were living in, the students all changed their minds. They even volunteered to make bricks and build them an entirely new house if we find a way to come up with the money for it. (I’m in town today to talk to Peace Corps about financial resources and organizations providing support for child-headed households, so hopefully I’ll figure something out.)

In other news:

--I saw an enormous, unconscious rat lying on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant I always go to. I almost stepped on it, which freaked me out. But not as much as when I realized that he wasn’t dead, he was just in shock or sleeping or something. Maybe the cat in the restaurant chased him out, I guess, but he was just passed out on the sidewalk waiting to be stepped on by my big foot. THAT never happens in America.

--I think I mentioned this before, but why does the Government of Malawi donate food to Swaziland? Malawi is WAY less developed than Swaziland, way poorer, and has way less arable land. And they have pretty much the same size population. Why, then, is Malawi able to produce enough excess maize to donate it elsewhere, but Swazis are starving? Maybe it’s because Swazis seem unable to adjust their farming practices to the drought (a.k.a. permanent change in weather patterns).

--After being here almost 11 months (whoa!), all of the weird little parts of my routine (bucket bathing, flooding with the rain, power outages, flies in the latrine, noisy roosters, etc.) seem so normal to me. But, no matter how long I’m here, I’m pretty sure I’ll never be comfortable with all the critters that invade my personal space on a daily basis. Right now I have a very noisy but well-hidden frog (toad?) croaking up a storm from under my bed and all manner of flying beasts swarming the light above my head. When I turn out the light, the bugs will be replaced by bats, except for the mosquito which will buzz in my ear all night, and the frog will crank it up a notch. And man oh man am I tired of cleaning up lizard poop. My life would be so much easier if my house was critter-proof.

--There’s no remaining evidence of my lightening strike except for my intense fear of lightening and electricity. When I returned Sunday afternoon, the electric company had already restored power to my homestead (apparently it knocked out the chief’s electricity, too, so fixing it was a priority), and my family had another extension cord for me. My computer magically survived, too. It makes a strangely loud buzzing noise (the fan?) and keeps telling me that my Windows Explorer has a virus and then closing and trying to send error reports over the non-existent internet, which is pretty annoying, but otherwise it’s functioning normally. Good thing, too, because I have lots of new movies to watch.

--I’m tired of people telling me I’m fat. All the time people are saying thing like “now that she’s taking ARVs, she’s almost as big as you” or “I thought you were older because you are so big” or “you must eat more than that because you are so fat.” Or there was the time that a man told me that my hips were so wide I must have at least 3 children. It doesn’t make any sense, either, because it seems that as soon as a woman has her first child she puts on 40 pounds that she never loses, so half of this country is fatter than me. I’m muscular, people. It’s muscle.

Anyway, that’s all. This weekend I’m heading up to Mbabane for a friend’s Slip-N-Slide-ful 30th birthday party (since when do I have 30-year-old friends?) and to buy a collar and some new de-worming tablets for my tinja (dogs). Next week school is supposed to start again, then I have a big week-long conference with Peace Corps, then my sisi will be having her baby (June 9!), so I promise I’ll stop writing about my dogs very soon.

Oh, and some advice to the Group 7ers who will be joining us very soon: learn to sew before you come so that when you cut the top of your shoe off with a pick-axe while trying to prove that women CAN, in fact, dig pit latrines, you can sew it back on. (Seriously, though, with a limited wardrobe and lots of barbed-wire fences, it’s a really good idea to know how to sew. And you can buy sewing kits here for really cheap.)

Love from the Swaz!

Fourteen of the 31 kids in our "company" showed up for the community service project. I think we're going to fire everyone else.

The 7-year-old boy in the family. He was afraid of me.

All the girls washing laundry.

The family inside their house.

Maggie on our last day together. Adorable, I know.

The oldest girl...

This girl is 4. She was also afriad of me.

The dinner table...

The family cooking. I'm going to get these pictures printed and framed to put up in their house. It's rare for families to have photos of themselves, so I think it will be a special gift for them.

Friday, May 8, 2009

It's all fun and games until Justine gets struck by lightening...

So, Thursday night I was frantically trying to finish writing a grant proposal when it started sprinkling. Heeding the numerous warnings of our safety and security officer, I unplugged my computer from the wall to avoid the electrical surges. Still running on the battery, I was playing music and procrastinating by playing with Maggie, who was sitting on my lap.

Then there was this loud boom like when someone gets sucked into a time machine in a bad Sci-Fi movie and there was this big flash (may have been my life flashing before my eyes) and my chair was thrown backwards into the kitchen unit behind me and Maggie went flying across the room and was screaming and my whole body went numb. Mysteriously, the screen of my computer went black (still is), but "She Drives Me Crazy" by the Fine Young Cannibals was still blaring from the speakers.

And then the next thing I know I was pacing in circles in the middle of my house, screaming and freaking out over the fact that my hut smelled like burning hair (the dog, turns out) and I couldn't feel my left hand or my feet. I've probably never been so scared in my whole life.

But I called the emergency number for Peace Corps and they took good care of me and I'm alive. I'm still not sure what happened, but my computer wasn't plugged in so I'm thinking the electricity surged out of the outlet and was seeking the signal being emitted by my computer battery and I just happened to be in the way. We'd been warned by our safety and security officer that sometimes lightening bolts surge out of the outlets in the house even when they're turned off, but I didn't believe that until Thursday.

So, the moral of the story is: don't play with any electronics when there's a lightening storm in Swaziland. But now that I'm convinced that neither myself nor Maggie is going to die, and now that about 95% of the feeling has returned to my left hand, it's quite funny. In a really "this is my life" kind of way.

Yeah. I survived a lightening strike this week. What did you do?

Sometimes I Like to Pretend I Live in America

So, school’s out and, as per last week and the week before, I’m crazy bored. Today I woke up at 6, walked the hour+ to the clinic and waited for a nurse to show up who never did, then walked home and napped from 10 to 2. After I’m done typing this blog and belting out John Legend (I got the Evolver album last weekend and it’s amazing), I plan to watch Airplane and consume ridiculous amounts of gummy bears. My brain is on vacation.

This past weekend, all of me was on vacation. Kind of. On Friday (May 1) I went up to Mbabane on the pretext of turning in a completion report on a grant from PEPFAR, only to find out that it was some Swazi holiday and the office was closed. I guess I just figured the holidays were over since about half of April was holidays, but apparently May is the same. (Seriously, who gets 2 days off for Flag Day? Oh, all of Swaziland.)

Anyway, Friday night we PCVs celebrated Workers’ Day along with every other white person in Swaziland (including most of PC staff) at the “One Love Reggae Fest” in Ezulwini Valley. It was an outdoor concert in the middle of nowhere by the SwaziMarket Craft Centre (where they make really awesome earrings that I can’t afford) where they roped off a large patch of grass for concerting/camping and set up a stage. They turned the classrooms at SwaziMarket into a bar and set up food, craft and marijuana tents. As I was standing outside waiting for the other volunteers to show up I started fantasizing about hot dogs, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a close approximation to ballpark-style hot dogs inside. I mean, they were no Hebrew National, but they had grilled onions, ketchup and mustard on them and I really couldn’t tell the difference after a year. Anyway, the concert was amazing and we all ended up staying until about 3:30 Saturday morning just dancing and pretending we weren’t in Swaziland.

Friday night was my first real introduction to the ridiculous world that surrounds the white and/or wealthy people here. It’s very strange. There are a few hundred (?) white Swazis or South Africans who live in an area called Malkerns, or in the suburbs of Mbabane. Most of them went to high school together, some of them went to college together in South Africa, and they all hang out at the same places and go to the same parties. They’ve been hanging out with Peace Corps volunteers in Swaziland for a few years now so, as the Group 5ers prepare to return to America, they are passing their social circle on to us Group 6ers.

Friday night, they invited us to attend the Rat Races on Saturday night, which I agreed to despite (1) having planned to return to site on Saturday morning and (2) having no idea what that meant. Apparently at the Mbabane Club (an American-style country club) there was a squash tournament all day Saturday, and in the evening there was a Kentucky Derby-style Rat Race (they were actually mice) to raise money to repair the squash courts. Or something. All I knew Saturday morning was that we were supposed to dress like we were going to the Kentucky Derby, so another volunteer and I set out to find dresses and big hats. We found fantastic coordinating dresses at this place called Mr. Price for the equivalent of $3 and sewed some fake flowers onto some already obnoxious hats and we were ready to go. We spent the whole night drinking brandy and coke (yum?) and watching mice run on a little track. After the races were over and all the “adults” left, we all hung out and played terrible South African house music over the speakers and danced until, again, 3:30 Sunday morning.

With the concert, the Rat Race and an intense session of deep conditioner, it was a pretty unreal weekend. My little village, where nobody speaks English and traditional healers are consulted before doctors or nurses, seems a whole world away from my weekend. Honestly, it kind of makes me feel guilty when I eat at a restaurant twice a day and then return to the land of the malnourished.

But Monday, after sleeping too late on Sunday to make it back in time, I DID finally return to the Swaziland that I know. And, as I was standing on the side of the road waiting for the driver of my kombi to repair the broken-down vehicle for the SECOND time (there was noxious smoke coming from the engine, which was right under my seat and kind of burned my calves), I laughed at how familiar the scene seemed compared to the surreal American-ness of the weekend. Then, after we finally got push-started again, we were immediately stopped at a police checkpoint, where the kombi was impounded for being un-roadworthy and I had to return to Nhlangano to start my trip over again. Welcome to the real Swaziland.

In other news, Maggie and Eliza are almost 9 weeks old (Tuesday) and are freakishly large and always hungry. I guess the only puppies I’ve ever seen are pugs, so it’s a poor comparison since they’re about the size of a full-grown pug now, but man they’re big. One of the guys this weekend had an 8-week-old Rotweiller puppy and she was nowhere near as large as my puppies. I’ve had a pretty hard time this week trying to figure out what to do with them. Originally, I planned to take them up to the shelter in Mbabane when they were 11 weeks old, but in the past week they’ve grown so much that it would now be impossible to take them on a 4 hour bus trip. I’m outnumberd…I’m not doing that. So, after a number of very expensive phone calls trying to arrange transport for the girls up to Mbabane, I decided to just reschedule my problems for next August. We’re going to keep one (my family expressed a desire to have a Bokhi replacement since Bokhi is really sick) and on Monday I’m taking the other to Hluti to give her to the woman who runs the restaurant where I always eat. I had a meeting with her earlier this week to discuss the terms of the adoption: she must get the puppy spayed and she must have all her immunizations, and preferably have a home with kids on the homestead, and she’s not allowed to beat the dog. She agreed, so now all I have to do it decide which puppy I’ll keep and which one I’ll be giving to the restaurant lady. The problem is that Maggie is my favorite, but everyone else seems to like Eliza. Anyway, if happen to know how to get a dog into the US from Swaziland/South Africa without the 4-6 month quarantine, please let me know, because I’d really like to keep Maggie and then take her back to America with me when I go, rather than leave her here…the airfare isn’t a huge deal, but I don’t want to put her through the quarantine.

Anyway, after finding creative ways to kill this week, I’m up in Mbabane again for the weekend. Friday we’re HOPEFULLY turning in a constitution and proposal of sorts to Peace Corps to get funding for the youth support group (not from Peace Corps, but they have to approve them before we can go any further), and then Saturday I’m hanging out with some of the guys from last weekend. I’m not sure what we’re doing because they have a vocabulary that is completely different than mine and I often don’t understand what they’re talking about even though it’s supposedly English. I also may have volunteered to help with a fundraiser/horse show at the Swaziland Animal Welfare Society, but I’m not sure if that’s this weekend or next (I really just wanted to volunteer to play with puppies at the SAWS shelter, but apparently they don’t need volunteers to do that…). Next week I’m helping with this workshop of sorts teaching students how to weave grass chicken nests and mats and things. Maybe I can learn and then I won’t be so unbearably bored over the next school holiday. Then, if the economy is really bad when I get back to America and I can’t get a job, I can always support myself weaving chicken nests, right?

Love from the Swaz!

Me and one of the pups. I can't tell who from this angle. They're 9 weeks old on Tuesday!

Jenn, Nicole and me at the Mbabane Club. I traded my hat (the one in the background) for a tie with blue pigs on it. I think I got the better end of the deal.

Me with the biggest dog I've ever seen in my life. For real. They're like Sharpes on crack!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swaziland: Where Nothing Makes Sense

If I were designing a tourist campaign for Swaziland, I think that would be my slogan. Because it’s true. Three examples from this week:

1. At the bank, which is supposed to be open until 3 but for some reason closed at 2:15 yesterday, you have to go to the “Teller” window to make a deposit. After I made my deposit, I wanted to check my balance, but apparently that is an issue to be taken care of at the “Enquiries” window. Thus, to make a deposit and then check your balance, you have to wait in two separate long lines. Cool!

2. This woman who teaches with me at the high school ran into me in Hluti the other day. She was asking me where to get a mammogram and pap smear, which is a little sad to begin with since this is her country and it would be good if she already knew this, but I was glad she asked me. Then she decided to demonstrate how to do a breast self-exam…except on me. In public. And for some reason that wasn’t strange…

3. I returned from town last weekend to find Bokhi's ear all bloody. When I asked my bhuti what had happened (I assumed it was a dog fight), he told me that his mother had cut it. And then he showed me that his mother had also cut a half inch slit into his ear. And his brother's. Why?

Anyway, I’m super bored now that school is out (Why did school close on the 8th of April when it was supposed to close on the 24th?). I’ve spent my week playing with/cleaning up after the most adorable puppies ever. Here’s my week, in short:

We had the April meeting of the Shiselweni Regional Youth HIV/AIDS Support Group, which was kind of sad since schools are out and only 11 kids showed up. But we had a good time anyway. We played duck-duck-goose (lidada-lidada-lihansa) and taught the kids the Hokey Pokey, then talked about expressing emotions. Since schools are out, the guy who normally brings our bag full of supplies was on holiday also, so instead of decorating our emotions (one of those “how are you feeling today?” charts with the different faces), we acted them out. Swazis don’t cry so they thought we were absolutely ridiculous, but we had a good time. I kind of like the smaller group anyway.

There’s this one boy, Gcina, in the support group who is 7 and HIV-positive. He’s been passed around from one family member to another as his family gradually dies of AIDS, but now he’s living with a 19-year-old girl who is remarkably responsible and has managed to get him on ARVs. He’s been coming to the support group as long as I’ve been in Swaziland, and he was always a sad, tired little boy with yellowed whites in his eyes and he usually passed the game time in the meeting just sitting on the picnic table. Until this month. Apparently he’s been on ARVs consistently for a few months now, and the change is so remarkable that we PCVs actually had an argument about whether it was the same Gcina. He was running around and laughing and playing and so full of energy we literally couldn’t believe it. It’s really amazing, in a country so full of HIV-induced suffering and hardship, how ARVs can change a person’s life. I teach this stuff every week, but it’s something different entirely to see it actually happen.

After the support group, my fellow Shiselweni girls and I went to another PCV’s community to attend the Miss Sandleni Pageant organized by two PCVs. There were 10 contestants who each had a personal interview with the judges, then competed in traditional attire (no swimsuits in the Swaz!), talent and formal attire events. The judges (who included Miss Swaziland, but not Mr. Swaziland because he failed to show up) chose the girl we were all rooting for, which was nice. Then afterwards we went to Jaclyn’s house and had lots of wine and spring rolls (so good!) and had our own prom with the formal attire. Then we all slept on the floor “kombi style,” which means I shared a twin bed with another girl. Welcome to the Peace Corps.

These past few days I’ve done an intensive cleaning of my house (it’s been ravaged by children and puppies), washed all of my laundry (literally, all of it) by hand, unintentionally fed Bokhi a Sam’s Club-sized block of cheese (she got really sick and now I’m omelet- and grilled cheese-less), and studied for the GRE until I honestly considered going for a run. And if you know how much I hate running, you understand how bad that is. I registered to take the GRE in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 19, so now I’m feeling really motivated to study. I’m pretty well-equipped, too. In addition to the whole Kaplan set of GRE study books, other volunteers who intended to take the GRE and then punked out donated to me the complete Princeton Review and Barron’s sets. I now have 9 discs of practice tests. If I don’t ace this test, I don’t deserve to go to Grad School.

Also, I’ve improved my relationship with my pregnant sisi. First, please don’t think I’m a terrible person for not knowing her name. In Swaziland, once a woman has a baby she is known as “Mama (Baby’s name)” and no longer her actual name. So they call her “Mama Zakhele” because that’s her son’s name. And I know that version of her name. Second, since I seem to be the only one excited about the inevitable existence of one more mouth to feed, she’s invited me to accompany her to the hospital for her cesarean on June 9 and has asked me to name the baby. His surname will be Khumalo (koo-MALL-oh), and she wants him to have a Swazi/Zulu name and an “American” name. I’ve decided on Noah for the “American” name, but Jury’s still out on the Swazi name. I’m sure there’s some Zulu database for names or something…

This weekend I’m in town to attend the “Reggae Fest,” which will either be really awesome (assuming it actually involves reggae music) or really awful (if all of the music is about praising Jesus and there are long speeches by important people in siSwati). Either way, it seems that the whole ex-pat population of Swaziland will be in attendance, so that should be fun. I enjoy hanging out with people who don’t tell me they love me and then continually pester me for my phone number. But I’m sure there will be plenty of those too.

That’s all for now. The puppies are adorable and I wish I had more pictures of them, but I can’t get them to sit still for any period of time. I can, however, get my bhuti Samkelo to capture Eliza for long enough to take a photo.

Anyway, let me know if you have any name suggestions. I’ll write again at some point in life.

Love from the Swaz!

Mkelo holding Eliza and Kwanele being a punk and refusing to smile. It's amazing that these kids are no longer deathly afraid of the puppies. Although I thought that was a bit strange to begin with...

The girls at the pagent. Number 9 (the pink dress) is my prom dress from junior year of high school.

Me holding Maggie. She's my favorite. This photo was taken by Hle, which is why I have no head.