Friday, May 8, 2009

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!

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