Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy New Year!!

June 26 marked the first anniversary of my arrival in Swaziland, forcing me to ask myself, “What the heck have I been doing for the last year?” I mean, I know I’ve been doing some work, but that takes about 4 hours a day at the most, so what have I really been doing? Here’s my year in review.

In the first year of my Peace Corps service, I have…

…survived Pre-Service Training, including basic Survival SiSwati, the addition of 35 friends to my life and 2 months living in a strange family’s living room.

…become accustomed to living in a hut with no running water and unreliable electricity, where it’s like an oven in the summer and a freezer in the winter and I’m constantly being bombarded by bats/lizards/insects. And I call it “home.”

…redefined my concept of “walking distance” to include anything costing E10 or less on a kombi (about 15 kilometers).

…taught 48 lessons on HIV/AIDS and Life Skills at Florence Christian Academy and a handful of Form 4 and 5 English Language classes.

…spent approximately 170 hours on public transportation, not counting the time spent on the side of the road waiting for the broken-down bus/kombi/sprinter to be repaired.

…counted over 50,000 co-trimoxizole (CTX) tablets at Our Lady of Sorrows Clinic and assisted in one TB Day presentation.

…facilitated 9 monthly meetings of the Shiselweni Region Youth Support Group, including all the paperwork involved, PEPFAR funding applications and 1 grant proposal that is still in the works.

…taught the Junior Achievement Company (Forms 4-5) and Economics for Success (Form 3) programs at Hluti Central High School, certifying 52 students total for their competency in business studies.

…painted a world map and a Swazi map in the courtyard of Florence Christian Academy (though not all the countries are labeled because I need to buy a new marker!).

…built a fence, planted vegetables, harvested for one season and then watched my garden be destroyed by a tractor, cow and goat who were obviously in cahoots.

…had exactly one shot of Stroh Rum, which was the first and will be the last in my life.

…been proposed to so frequently that if someone ever proposes to me for real I’ll probably ignore him, and if he says he loves me I’ll probably call him a liar (“unemanga”).

…washed approximately 192 loads of laundry by hand (about 4 basins of laundry each week) and then dried them on the barbed wire fence.

…consumed 3.5 huge bottles of hand sanitizer and countless purse-sized ones, yet only 2 bottles of shampoo (hygiene is not a big concern here).

…lost and then promptly re-gained 7 kilos (15 pounds).

…completed 12 practice GRE tests (though not for a few months and I’m taking it for real in August…oh man).

…mourned the loss of 9 of my fellow Group 6 volunteers, including Beth who left the Shis Crew eternally incomplete.

…entertained 7 children in my house on a regular basis with coloring books, crayons, chalk, paper airplanes, masks, music and my silly American habits.

…been struck by lightening once.

…witnessed the birth of 4 goat kids, 13 piglets, 2 puppies and 1 calf.

...participated directly or indirectly in the deaths of 3 chickens, 3 bats, 2 black mambas and countless spiders and cockroaches, and witnessed the death of 1 unfortunate baby goat.

…consumed over 20 liters of peanut butter, about 40 loaves of bread and countless bags of popcorn.

…gone swimming twice while fully clothed, once in the winter.

…painted/redecorated the interior of my hut on 3 separate occasions.

…read over 50 books and every magazine sent to me, watched the first 4 seasons of The Office, the first 2 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, most of Sex & the City and too many movies to remember (many of them multiple times).

…written 43 blogs, not counting this one, and three trimester reports for Peace Corps.

Somehow, over the last year, my life has started to seem boring. It doesn’t even seem odd to me that the first thing I do in the morning, after waking up to the incessant crowing of the rooster, is sweep out the night’s worth of dirt on the floor while I boil the water for my bath. Or that I walk 2 hours a day just to get to work, which may or may not be cancelled. Or that my electricity decides to cut off any time I’m hungry and planning to make dinner. Or that everywhere I go, everyone knows my name even if I’ve never seen them before. That’s just how it is. It’s my life.

All things considered, it’s been a good year and, even though I’ve spent more time with myself than I’d like, I’m excited for the coming year. I have more lessons to teach, more maps to paint, more children to entertain, more movies to watch, more books to read, more talking to myself to do and lots more awkwardness to endure thanks to the language and cultural barriers. And I’ve got lots more East Coast Radio to listen to, mostly because Jane Lindley-Thomas is my hero.

And I have 33 new friends to meet tomorrow! (Wow, I’m lame.)

In another year I’m going to have the most abnormal social skills ever.

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