Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And then there was one...

Despite the fact that I’d gone to bed around 6:30 on Saturday night (seriously), when the door-pounding started around 7:30 on Sunday morning, I ignored it for a full 5 minutes. But my brothers were persistent. They boys alternated actual, open-handed pounding with the Swazi knock, which involves a hand motion similar to knocking, but instead of making contact with the door they just say “knock,” pronouncing the “c” as a click. (It’s strange.) And then they said “Bokhi ufile,” which catapulted me out of bed immediately.

After the stillborn birth on Monday morning, she’d been kind of mopey. She’d been taking care of Puppy Face, but not really eating, and she wasn’t anywhere near as attentive to the puppy as she’d been to Eliza and Maggie. Then, when I came home on Wednesday, the puppy was gone. Then Thursday, Bokhi was gone. She’d disappeared before, but never for more than a day or two, so when she hadn’t returned by Saturday afternoon I’d accepted that she probably wasn’t coming back.

Until Sunday morning. When the boys woke up, Bokhi was lying outside my door in the pouring rain. Dead. (“Bokhi ufile” means “Bokhi has died.”) I’m not sure how she ended up there, but I think somebody brought her body home in the middle of the night for me to find, and they took her collar and her “My Name is Bokhi” tag as their reward. I didn’t mind, though, I was just glad to have her home.

The boys and I took turns digging a grave for her, which Mkhulu (Grandpa) thought was crazy. In Swaziland, babies under the age of 6 months aren’t even given a funeral, since they’re not seen as human until they go through a ceremony held at 6 months. If a human baby doesn’t even deserve a funeral, it’s just ridiculous to give a dog a burial ceremony. But she was MY dog…

After the boys had had enough of my silly American affection for canines, Eliza and I said our good-byes and laid over the grave a big, flat stone with “BOKHI” painted on it in thick black letters. It’s sad (and, yes, I did cry this time, which my host family thought was nuts), but I know she had a long life (she was older than my 9-year-old bhuti) and I gave her a full year of American-style love, pampering and leftovers. She was a fantastic dog, she gave me Eliza and she kept me company in my first few months here when the language barrier was too much for me and I was desperate for a non-judgmental friend.

So, since the last time I wrote a blog, my dog population has decreased from three to one. And that one, Eliza, is having a pretty good time being an only dog. She’s 7 months (and 3 days) old now and has grown into a great guard dog, a relatively well-behaved pet and a relentless wannabe friend of the cat, Patrick, despite the fact that Patrick only shows love with his claws.

In other news, the Hluti Central High School Junior Achievement Company (the business studies after school program I did from February to June) has made it in the top 10 of all schools in the country. That means that, despite the fact that we had our last meeting on June 11, we have been given the honor of remembering everything we did half a year ago and giving a lengthy presentation to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, USAID and other sponsors this coming Saturday. They want the club to put together a PowerPoint presentation for the sponsors, which is funny considering most of my class has absolutely no clue how to even turn on a computer. I tried to explain the concept of a PowerPoint to them, but explaining the concept of a projector is only slightly easier than explaining the Internet, which is impossible.

How do you define the Internet? It’s an imaginary place where people can communicate with each other, buy stuff, do research and a million other things, and you get to it through your computer. It exists, but you can’t see it. It costs, but you don’t actually GET anything. It’s like explaining love, which, incidentally, was the topic of my Life Skills classes last week. The class was “Love v. Lust: Recognizing Acts of Love” and basically it was a big group-work brainstorming session on how to show love. The whole purpose of the lesson is for students to list ways they show love to their parents, siblings, friends and boyfriends/girlfriends, and then to realize that there are a whole bunch of ways to show love OTHER THAN having sex with someone. (In every single class, the students listed “have sex” as a way to show love to a boyfriend or girlfriend.) We talked about lust and how it didn’t mean love, and how somebody who actually loves you will never ask you to do something you don’t want to do.

The lesson went really well in all my classes, but I was a bit horrified at some of the responses. In almost every class, the first answer I got to complete the sentence was “I know somebody loves me when…” was “…they give me sweets” or “…they give me money.” Under every category and in every class (4 classes total), students said that you can tell somebody loves you because they give you gifts. Hm.

Perhaps this explains why I’m constantly asked for gifts. Everybody is just testing me to see if I love them. Today, in a span of 4 hours, I was asked for the following things (I kept track):
A bag of chips
A loaf of bread
A bottle of Fanta orange
Sweets (candy)
My necklace
The dress I was wearing (when I leave)
Kombi fare (twice)
My phone number
Money to pay for a girl’s hospital bills
Transport to take said girl to the hospital
A dog
“Breast spray” to make a girl’s breasts look like those of a virgin
To purchase a life-size chicken made entirely of yarn
A donation of economics books to the high school
Money to rebuild a house that had caught fire
Money to pay for school fees (twice)
Money to pay for a student to re-take an exam he’d failed
An E1,500 cell phone (3 times the price of mine) and airtime

That’s all for now. I just finished a fantastic book (which I started before I even left for Swaziland) called “Nine Hills to Nambonkaha” by Sarah Erdman. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cote d’Ivoire from 1998-2000 (I think) and she writes about all of the amazing, frustrating, educational, life-changing experiences she has over those two years. It’s really well-written and an easy read (if sad at times) and a lot of the analysis she gives of barriers to development, the role of international aid, the mystery of traditional beliefs and the challenges of being an American in Africa apply 100% to my experience here in Swaziland, even though I’m 20 countries and a decade away from where she served. If you’re considering Peace Corps or you just want to know more about the experience, I definitely recommend the book. It’s, hands down, the best account of PCV experiences I’ve read (and, trust me, I’ve read a lot). Eliza really liked it, too. She thought the back cover was particularly tasty.

I've been teaching the boys on my homestead how to use a camera, which is nervewracking to say the least. I live in constant fear that they'll drop it, which sometimes they do, but I make them fasten the loop around their wrists for back-up. Swazis seem to be extra un-coordinated with expensive things like cell phones, cameras, radios, etc. Anyway, this is the first photo my bhuti Kwanele took, and I rather like it. Please note the mud everywhere. That's what Swaziland looks like during rainy season.

This is the homestead after 3 days of rain. My floor is brown. It's supposed to be light gray. It's disgusting. I've completely given up on trying to keep mud out of my house because, between the dog and the kids, it's impossible.

Kwanele playing dominoes. They can't get the word "dominoes" so they keep calling them "dice". We've been practicing math stuff with them (basic addition mostly) and then building towers and knocking them over. Good, clean fun. Well, it would be clean fun except that you get muddy from just being in my house.

A cow. Standing in a puddle. I take my camera along on all my long walks to the clinic and the school and it makes the walk seem more like an adventure. Most mornings, I see the family that lives nearest to this puddle drawing water from it. To drink. Despite the fact that cows stand (and do other things) in it. Gross. This is why people die of diarrhea in Africa.


Erin said...

I hope it stops raining in the next 25 days. 25 days till we leave!!!

Poor Bokhi, she was a good dog. And you gave her a life that a Swazi dog can only dream of.

Jessica D. said...

I'm sorry about Bokhi...

I agree with Erin with the 25 days the rainy season better stop! I've experienced African monsoons once. I would like to avoid them a second time!