Monday, January 25, 2010

Lightening DOES strike the same place twice

So I always thought that the worst part about getting caught in the rain here was elastic waistbands. You know, when it's pouring rain and your skirt, which is invariably a cotton-blend, gets heavily water-logged and heavy and begins to slide down to the point of indecency because all the weight is just too much for the elastic waistband. Sunday afternoon, returning from a visit to another volunteer's place, I was juggling my computer, groceries (18 eggs and a loaf of bread, which got soggy) and a big bag full of brand new school uniforms, AND trying to keep my clothes from washing away. And then I tripped over a rock, rolled my left ankle, and ended up stumbling to the side of the muddy road. Why? Not because I'm clumsy (well, maybe that's part of it), but because of a faulty shoe. That's right, my lifetime guaranteed, super heavy-duty Chaco flip-flops came apart (the straps came out of the sole) and I then had to walk the rest of the 2 kilometers home half-barefooted. On a gravel road. In the rain.

But wait, there's more...

So I get home to my flooded little hovel to find, unsurprisingly, that the electricity is off. Fine, I think, I'll read a book until it comes back on. I opened the windows to air out the dank, molding smell that inevitably develops any time I'm gone for more than a few hours, and settled in to read "Blink" by Malcom Gladwell (really interesting book!). An hour or so later, I heard the distinct sounds of WWE wrestling coming from the main house's TV, so I got up to plug in my computer and get started on my "To do" list for the week...when I realized that there had been a fire. Apparently, there was an electricity surge or lightening or SOMETHING that shot out of my surge protector (which obviously does nothing to protect from surges), melted the surge protector's plug that went into the outlet. Everything was charred and, since it had been sitting on the top of some cheap, plastic shelves, the shelf was melted a little. And it burned up about 60 teabags in a box of 100 that was sitting near it. And, surprisingly, nothing else. Luckily, I had unplugged everything from the surge protector before I left, just in case, and there wasn't anything TOO flammable (though I would have thought tea bags were pretty flammable...) sitting near it, and the fire put itself out. In a way, I'm glad I wasn't there becuase I definitely would have been scared out of my mind (I'm afraid of fire anyway...).

So, long story short, I don't have electricity anymore. I went to the Swaziland Electricity Board today (all utilities are government-owned) to see if they could/would fix it, but they charge E200 for the FORMS to fill out to request a quotation be made to have someone come out and appraise the damage, then you have to pay for the appraisal, then the transport of the appraiser and the repair person, then the repair person. And all the materials required to fix it. Not worth it right now.

In other news, school FINALLY starts tomorrow, so I've been trying to get together all the things the kids need for back to school. Thanks to a donation from my grandparents, I was able to buy all of them the essentials they need for their school uniforms (every school in Swaziland requires uniforms), and I'm in town today exchanging things that didn't fit or weren't right. I bought them all pencil packs and erasers and other basics, and then at least one piece of uniform for each of them--replacing the oldest thing(s) or things that didn't fit anymore. And I realized something...it's expensive to be a girl! The boys uniform for the high school is gray pants and a gray long-sleeved button-down shirt--a total cost of E110. With shoes, E180. The uniform for the girls involves skirts of 2 different colors, dresses of 2 different colors, shirts of 2 different colors, a polo shirt with the school logo, sweatpants for gym class, 2 colors of v-neck sweaters, a belt with the school logo that HAS to be purchased from the school, and 2 different colors of jackets, PLUS shoes. And it's not like a girl can just buy the one dress and wear it every day because there's an assigned uniform for each day of the week.

Why? I asked one of the teachers, and he told me that it's because girls smell and if they give them the same uniform for every day of the week, they wear it all week and never wash it. So they give them a different uniform for every day so they don't smell. OR (this is my thought) it's a way to systematically keep girls out of school. But that's just my opinion...

Anyway, things here are going really well. I've been keeping busy these past couple of weeks, but now that I can't sit in front of my computer for hours at a time (no electricity, remember?), it seems like I'll have a little more free time this coming week.

Tommorrow, I'll be meeting with the head nurse at my local clinic to talk about the progress of my partnership project. I'm still raising money, if you haven't donated yet! So far, I have $1000 of my $8591.69 goal, so I've still got a long way to go! But I'm making progress. The project is to build a community garden and dig a borehole to provide improved nutrition and water access to the families in my community, particularly those involved in the HIV-positive support group. It's a great project, and you can donate at www.peacecorps.gov, or to learn more you can visit www.swazilandproject.com. Thanks to EVERYONE to has helped to promote the project or who has donated money. Unfortunately, I don't get the names of everyone who's donated (until later, maybe...I'm trying to figure this out), so I can't thank you individually, but you know who you are and I really appreciate it!

That's all for today. I'll be back Thursday, hopefully with no more stories of mishaps involving shoes or fizzy water or falling down.

Love from the Swaz!



Kwanele is getting pretty good at taking photos. About 200 a day. Digital cameras are so much fun.


Me making jewelry. I'm making my concentration face. See the ones I have on? They're my faves. Someday I'll post a close-up picture of them.



January 14 was "dress up your pet" day, so I tried to celebrate. Eliza was not a big fan of the holiday...this is the only picture where she's getting READY to bite me, not actually biting me. I also put a shoe on her, which was hilarious. Kwanele and I were absolutely ROLLING with laughter when she tried to run away. We never got the shoe back (but its mate was long gone already, so it was no big loss).




The kids and I spent an afternoon trying to make balloon animals with a kit Brittney sent, but we failed. We ended up making a wide variety of balloon boats, which we played with in my bathtub. (Bathtub=small basin full of water)



One of the neighbor boys (I should know his name by now, but I don't), Londiwe and Kwanele hanging out in my house. Londi has been learning how to use the little XO computer that I brought, and I think it's really helping her with her typing skills.



Friday, January 22, 2010

Failure and Success...

On Tuesday evening, after a miserable 6 hours of researching graduate schools in the hundred degree internet cafe in town, I boarded a kombi (mini-bus) to head back home just before dusk. I took the kombi's last available seat in the front row, wedged right between two bomake (women) with blankets and bathing dishes and bicycles (no joke) on their laps, and we started on our way. I took a few deep breaths to let go of the stress of the day, then decided to crack open the 2-liter of Aquelle-brand flavored fizzy water that I'd bought as my reward for all I'd accomplished that day. I twisted open the cap and, of course, it exploded. But I'm not talking about a normal "Haha, I'm so glad that's not me" sort of explosion, this was an EXPLOSION. Obviously, my first reaction was to put the cap back on the bottle, but the pressure of the sticky liquid spewing out of the bottle was so great that it actually knocked the cap out of my hand. And I was wedged into a moving vehicle, so it's not like I could move to get it out of the way. So I just sat there, trying to cover the top of the bottle with my hand while Aquelle water ran down my arm and onto the woman beside me, who was staring in awe. Finally, it stopped, but that wasn't the end of the problem. My lap was a PUDDLE of Aquelle water. Just sitting there, sparkling in defiance. My legs were pressed tightly together, making the reservoir water-tight, but I knew I couldn't keep it up for the whole hour-long trip. So I unclenched and let the water splash onto my feet and run down my legs and pool on the seat and the floor below me. Excellent. My papayas were wet, my transcript request papers got wet, my waterproof Timbuk2 bag was HOLDING water and, worst of all, I looked like I'd been in a waterballoon fight. Or peed myself. (If you recall the experience where Patrick peed on me on a kombi, this was 20 times worse.) It wasn't such a big deal until I got off the kombi at my bus stop and had to walk the 20 minutes home, since I looked like I'd had an accident and I felt compelled to explain to everyone staring at me that it was really just Aquelle water. And that's my failure of the week...

But, that aside, it's been a super successful, super productive week!

Most importantly, with the help of friends, family and all of you, I've raised a total of $1000 towards my community garden and water project! Yeah, that's right, in 2 weeks I've managed to collect about 1/8 of my total amount of $8591.69. I want to say THANKS to everyone who has contributed, and everyone who has passed my blog address, website (http://www.swazilandproject.com/) or desperate begging emails on to friends, family, etc. I really really appreciate it, and I know my community will too! But I still have a long way to go, so keep passing on the word!

In other news, I'm crazy. For a while now, I've been looking in to graduate programs in public health for after my Peace Corps service, which I plan to start in 2011. I'd narrowed it down to a few schools, with Tulane being my top choice. Then, I learned that Tulane was accepting applications on a rolling basis for the Fall 2011 term, so I've decided to apply. More than a year ahead of the application deadline. Because I'm nuts. So I've spent the majority of this week working on the application and personal statement, which is actually really exciting for me. I'll be submitting the completed application by the end of next week (hopefully, I'm waiting on a transcript from Washburn University), and I SHOULD have a decision in the next couple of weeks. For a program that won't begin for more than a year.

That's all I've got going on for now. Schools start on Wednesday, supposedly, so I'm in town today buying school uniforms for my host family so they don't have to go barefoot or wear short-sleeved shirts in the winter like they did last year. Students get beaten if they wear anything not included in the school uniform, yet uniforms are super expensive and don't include ANY sort of warm clothes (jackets, coats, scarves, tights, etc.), which just seems ridiculous to me. But, then again, lots of things in Swaziland don't make sense to me.

Love from the Swaz!
Justine/Phindile

Friday, January 15, 2010

Video!

Sanibonani Bonkhosi! I've been playing around with my video camera, trying to figure out how to actually make a video with it. The answer, apparently, was that I needed to have some additional driver installed on the computer before I could do anything, so I got that taken care of today. (And the computer expert fixed the wireless on my computer so I can actually update my anti-virus, which is amazing.)

Here's my first video, which I shot on Wednesday when I was trying to figure out how to work my camera, etc. I put it together as a video today to make sure my new software actually worked. It does.

video

I think it's hilarious that any time you ask a Swazi child to sing something, it's always a song about Jesus. My favorite song that they sing goes: "Come come, my sweet. He's so, he's so sweet. Jesus is sweeter than the honey of the bee." (It's the second one they sing on this video.) There's also one where the only words are: "Jesus, Jesus my savior. I love Jesus, of course I do." They do it in a sort of round, like Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The dancing they do in the video is the traditional Swazi dancing called "inkhwazi" (I think that's how you spell it). It's the dance I kept doing in public when Erin, Jess and Brittney were visiting. For some reason, they were embarassed to be seen with me. In the dance, your hands are supposed to represent snakes (I think) and sometimes two dancers "battle" with their snakes in the dance. Unfortunately, my bobhuti (brothers) are still a little unsure of this whole camera thing, so they were a little too shy to battle. I'll save that for my next video, I guess.

I'm currently working on a video where I'll talk about/show you where I live, what Swaziland is like, what I do, etc. It's been more difficult than I anticipated because every time I pull my video camera out of my bag, a Swazi comes up to me and wants me to "shoot" them, or wants to know how much my camera cost or if I'll video tape their wedding for free. My goal is to have it finished by the end of the month. There's also that thing about how a lot of older Swazis think that cameras steal their souls, so I have to be really careful about not stealing the souls of the elderly.

Oh, and to update you on my fundraising efforts, I'm currently at $465 of my overall goal of $8591.69. Keep passing the word around!

This afternoon I'm headed out to Pasture Valley Children's Home to install Mavis Beacon typing tutor (which was donated by the computer place in Nhlangano) on all 3 of their computers, then teach the older kids how to use it so they can work on their typing skills. I'll be doing some basic computer classes and tutoring in the coming months (because I don't have enough to do already, haha), so this is a start! And then, tomorrow morning I'm going up to Manzini for a workshop on how to teach a business studies program that I already taught last year, but for some reason they're making me re-train. Free lunch, I say.

That's all for today. Lots of love from the Swaz!

Justine/Phindile

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hey, can Swaziland borrow 10 bucks?

After months of committee meetings, painstaking budget calculations, countless red-inked drafts and a lengthy review process, my long-awaited Peace Corps Partnership Project has FINALLY been posted on the Peace Corps website. FINALLY I can begin the process of getting it taken down, which will happen as soon as I’ve collected $8591.69. (No, please keep reading!) I’m optimistic.

So, you’re asking, “What in the world do you need $8591.69 for?” I’m glad you asked.

My local clinic, Our Lady of Sorrows, runs a support group for 166 HIV-positive adults and children in the community. The support group, which focuses its monthly meetings on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) adherence, HIV education, nutrition and positive living, provides an open space for HIV-positive individuals in the community to share their experiences, seek advice for dealing with complex issues like disclosing their status to family members, and access the psychological support necessary to live with a chronic, devastating disease like HIV.

Since 2008, the support group has also run a community garden for its members, giving landless members a place to grow maize (the staple crop of Swaziland) and supplying bed-ridden support group members with nourishment needed to survive, which everyone in the group helps tend to. Unfortunately, because water is scarce in the area and because they don’t have a fence, the support group can only grow maize. (Cows usually leave maize alone, but if you plant lettuce, carrots, beets, beans or anything else the cows, goats, chickens, pigs and neighbors treat it like a buffet.) Since all members of the support group are HIV-positive and many come from homesteads where other adults and children are also infected with the virus, it’s important that they supplement their maize-based diets with fruits and vegetables to boost their immune systems and continue to be productive members of their families and the larger community.

My (actually "your") $8591.69 will pay for a fence, a 120-meter borehole that will pump water to a nearby tank, and a small (1.5m2) storage shed where the gardeners can safely store their tools. The project will be completed over a period of eight weeks (beginning when it gets funded, but it may take longer because, after all, this is Swaziland), and from the time of its completion the support group members will be able to plant, grow and eat vegetables. (And maybe more people will join the support group because they see the benefits?? But they have to help with the garden and have regular attendance at meetings before they get any vegetables.) Since most families in the area gather their water from a river or an unreliable water pump, everyone conserves the water they gather for bathing, cooking and washing clothes. Considering the amount of water vegetables drink, it’s impossible for most families to grow them on their homesteads. Thus, though it’s very expensive, providing water to the support group’s garden is essential. But wait, there’s more! Since we’ll be digging a borehole in a part of the community that currently doesn’t have water, we’ll be giving hundreds of people, who previously hauled their water out of a dirty river, clean water for drinking, bathing and cooking. (Or even for planting their own gardens on their homesteads!)

This week, as I was walking to the clinic at my unusually fast pace, I passed a couple of support group members carrying shovels and pick-axes. And then a couple more. So I slowed down to ask what was going on. Apparently, they are so eager about the project that they’ve already started digging the holes for the fence posts! Seriously. It’s encouraging (and rare) to see that kind of motivation in Swaziland, but I’m not entirely surprised. The support group is run by an extremely dedicated nurse and a committee of 6 HIV-positive community leaders, and the whole lot of them have been pushing HARD for this project to succeed since long before I became involved. Last year, they raised money for a borehole to be dug, but ended up contracting with a man who was either incompetent or willfully dishonest, and they lost all the money. Now, since they’re out of money, they’ve pledged hundreds of hours of manual labor in the construction of the fence, the storage shed, and a 200-meter trench for underground water pipes, and Our Lady of Sorrows Mission has promised to provide free transport for all the materials required and the use of a number of building/digging/gardening tools that we’ll need.

So, all we need is money. Or if you anticipate being in Swaziland anytime between March and June of this year (Mom and Dad), you can come help put up a fence, dig a trench, install a water tank or hand-plow a gigantic vegetable garden. Yeah, it would just be easier to donate money.

The way I see it, I only need 859 people to donate $10 each. And, seriously, what else would you have spent that $10 on? A grande cinnamon latte and a brownie at Starbucks? A movie ticket? A couple of packs of cigarettes? A Double Whopper Meal? (I actually have no idea how much cigarettes or Whoppers cost. Or anything, for that matter, because I live in Swaziland.)

In Swaziland, that $10 could buy 5 of the 274 fencing posts we’ll need for the project. Or one of the 10 bags of cement we’ll need for the storage shed. Or 1/35 of a 4000L water tank. Every little bit helps!

Even if you want to donate less…$1 buys a cement block, and we need 175 of those.

If you’re still not sure: it’s 100% secure, 100% tax deductible, and I promise that 100% of the money you donate (not 95%, not 99%, but ALL OF IT) will go towards this project. Beat that, Save the Children!

So, now that I’ve convinced you, here’s what you do:

Go to https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=645-079 and enter the amount you want to donate, click “Donate!” and follow the directions. It’s easy, I promise.

If you want to do more, copy-paste and send this address to somebody else who has $10 to spare: http://justinesswaziadventure.blogspot.com/

I’ll keep you updated on my fundraising efforts and, after the project is fully-funded, the progress of the project’s completion. Thanks for your help in this project: siyabonga kakhulu (we’re all very thankful)!

Hopefully, next time I write I won’t be begging for money.

Love from the Swaz!

Justine/Phindile

Happy and Merry, Swazi Style

When I woke up at 7:30 on December 23, it was already 80 degrees inside my house. I immediately stripped down to a sports bra and shorts and parked myself in front of the fan, stringing paper beads onto necklaces and watching “Love Actually” to remind myself what Christmas is SUPPOSED to be like. At 10:30, as my alarm clock informed me the temperature had reached 96, my power went out. Rather than melt, I turned a floor-length skirt into a strapless dress, tied my sweaty hair into a knot on the back of my head and made the trek to Nhlangano to hang out in the only air-conditioned place in town: the bank.

After 3 straight months of unseasonably cold rain, summer has finally arrived! Just in time for the holidays…

Having spent the majority of November on vacation, I opted to stay in-country for the holidays, house- and dog-sitting with Jenn for a friend of ours in Nhlangano. Aside from our mandatory house-sweeping and dog-feeding duties (this is more difficult than you think…the dogs eat leftovers from the butcher, which means I had to cook, cut and ration cow hearts, pig brains, and all sorts of things I couldn’t identify, along with a traditional Swazi porridge), I filled my holidays with bad music videos and cheesy Hallmark movies, screaming children and Chinese food. You know, a traditional Christmas…

To kick off the holidays, Jenn and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Pasture Valley, helping with the Children’s Home’s Christmas Party, eating Twizzlers and playing with the kids. I gave 10-color manicures with Hannah Montana nail polish, had my hair braided (slash pulled out) by the younger girls, organized a soccer game with newly-donated sports’ equipment, taught the kids how to use my camera (which, surprisingly, still works), colored with the younger kids and had a sugar cookie-decorating party with (homemade!) red and green frosting. Despite the sheer volume of 24 children in one place, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather have spent my Christmas.

After a Christmas night feast of spinach and feta salad, pizza bread, gazpacho with papayas and mangoes, mashed potatoes, veggies and dip and cream cheese brownies, Jenn and I started our own Boxing Day (that’s December 26) tradition: Orange Chicken. We had envisioned a whole Chinese-themed feast with egg drop soup, egg rolls and orange chicken, but due to ingredient restraints we just ended up doing the orange chicken, along with some brown rice and wilted spinach. Delicious! And it was soooooooo easy. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out:

Justine and Jenn’s Boxing Day Orange Chicken

Ingredients for Sauce
1 ½ cups water
Juice of 2 oranges (1/2 cup)
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar*
2 ½ Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
½ tsp minced fresh garlic
2 Tbsp chopped green onion
¼ tsp red pepper flakes*
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

Ingredients for Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Oil for frying (preferably olive oil)

Directions
1. Pour 1 ½ cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce into saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool 10-15 minutes.

2. Cut chicken breasts into ½ inch pieces and marinate in 1 cup of sauce for at least 2 hours. Reserve remaining sauce.

3. After chicken has marinated, mix flour, salt and pepper together. Coat chicken pieces with this mixture either by rolling them in a bowl full of it, or Shake-N-Bake style in a plastic bag. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then place the chicken in the skillet and brown on both sides. Drain chicken pieces on a plate lined with paper towels and cover with aluminum foil.

4. After frying all the chicken pieces, wipe out the skillet and add reserved sauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Mix together the 3 Tbsp cornstarch and 2 Tbsp water and slowly stir into the sauce to achieve desired thickness. Reduce to low head and add the chicken pieces, stirring until all pieces are coated in the sauce. Simmer 5 minutes.


*I actually left the red pepper flakes out of the recipe (you can’t buy those in Swaziland) and substituted regular vinegar for the rice vinegar (it’s super expensive here) and it was still delicious. And, despite the lack of crab rangoons or fortune cookies, this recipe satisfied my craving for Chinese food.

As my holiday grand finale, I made the trek up to Ezulwini Valley (“Valley of the Heavens”) to ring in the new year at House on Fire, Swaziland’s premier concert/party venue. This year’s party was “Moonwalk: A Tribute to Michael Jackson,” complete with a magician (?), black-and-white checkered dance floor, white gloves for sale, a disco ball, Michael Jackson music videos all night long and a dance remix of all his classic hits, accompanied by the bar’s manager on the bongos. Amazing. And because it’s Swaziland and time isn’t really important, we got to do the countdown a couple of times, followed by a feast of vegetable curry. Because nothing says 2010 like magicians, bongos and vegetable curry.

A few other things have happened since I last posted a blog (including me losing my flash drive, which is why this didn’t get posted earlier). In no particular order:

• Me, Jenn and Victoria went hiking for Jenn’s birthday on the 18th. After a round-about kombi ride and bribing the kombi driver with a chocolate bar so he’d drop us off at the right place, we found the somewhat elusive (it’s not clearly marked!) Mvubu Falls. I hadn’t planned on hiking that day, so I was wearing dark-wash jeans and flip-flops and carrying a purse, but we made it the 45 minute hike (which took us 90 minutes) up the river and to the waterfalls, only to turn around and go back. Since we crossed the river something like 14 times, I was actually pretty glad I was wearing flip-flops, since I was the only one with dry shoes at the end of the day. The low point of the day was our single snake encounter, which happened early on and made us paranoid for the rest of the hike. After consulting the “Snakes of Southern Africa” poster in Michelle and Peter’s house, I’m pretty sure the snake was harmless, but after seeing a snake on our path I was definitely regretting the choice of footwear.

• I taught a 2-day workshop on HIV/AIDS and STIs at Pasture Valley Children’s Home this past week. On the first day, I taught the older girls (5 from the Children’s Home, 1 daughter of a farmhand, and Michelle and Peter’s daughter Claire) about the reproductive systems, sexually transmitted infections (complete with scary pictures), pregnancy and HIV. For most of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever talked openly about any of the topics, which is scary in the country with the highest rate of HIV in the world. The second day, Michelle and I instructed the 2 house mothers, Constance and Nelly, on the basics of HIV/AIDS, caring for HIV+ kids and the basics of anti-retroviral treatment. Of the 24 kids at Pasture Valley a small number are positive, so it’s important for the house mothers to understand how to care for kids with HIV, as well as how to protect themselves and the other kids at the home from becoming infected. It’s a complicated thing, though, because how do you treat the positive kids differently without treating them differently? They need more vegetables in their dinners, they need pills at least twice a day, and it’s dangerous for them to get hurt, but how do you do all that without stigmatizing them or making the other kids afraid of them? And how, especially, with a child who’s too young to understand what being HIV+ means? Do you tell a 6-year-old, whose whole family has died of AIDS, that he, too, is infected with the disease that killed his parents?

• The weekend before Christmas, Peace Corps Swaziland’s Country Director, Eileen, and Medical Officer, Daynese, brought Christmas to Pasture Valley Children’s Home a couple of days early. They drove down to the farm with me and Jenn and delivered a gift to each of the home’s kids: remote-controlled cars, Play-Doh machines, hand-held video games, crying dolls, Lego sets and a bunch of other things. (Apparently there’s a Toys ‘R’ Us in Nelspruit, which is only a couple hours’ drive from Mbabane.) The kids were ridiculously happy about the presents, and Eileen seems committed to doing even more for Pasture Valley. For me, I’m excited to see the two organizations I work with—Peace Corps and Pasture Valley—working together. Hopefully, even after I leave, Pasture Valley will still have a relationship with Peace Corps and PCVs.

• Between the over-eating and the taming of the children, I’ve filled my school holidays (school’s been out for over a month already) with classic movies, lots of reading (“The Master Butcher’s Singing Club” by Louise Erdrich and “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff are my latest conquests) and jewelry-making. Finally, I’ve started taking the hundreds of rolled paper beads I made and turning them into necklaces and earrings. So far, I’ve made long strands of beads, dressier necklaces with brown glass beads in the mix, and a number of different styles of earrings. I’ve also started experimenting with washers (like the hardware kind), both in painting them with nail polish and covering them with paper, to create pendants. It’s a great way to pass the time and still feel productive, and the Swazis who see what I’m making think I’m a genius. Perhaps they’re on to something.

Looking ahead to the long-awaited 2010, I have a few things planned (aside from my New Year’s Resolution to stop eating KFC). I’m currently working on a mass-media campaign with a few other volunteers to promote HIV/AIDS, diabetes, pregnancy, nutrition and general health awareness to kombi drivers, passengers and general passer-by along a 50k stretch of paved road in the Shiselweni Region. I’ve also submitted my Peace Corps Partnership Proposal for the support group’s community garden and water project, which SHOULD be on the Peace Corps website sometime soon (trust me, I’ll remind you when it’s actually up). Other than that, I’ll be honing up on my siSwati before my language proficiency exam in May, hanging out at Pasture Valley, reading, watching movies, making jewelry and, once the schools finally open, teaching my life skills and HIV classes at the high school. All the while not eating KFC. I have an excellent life.

That’s all for now. Merry (Belated) Christmas, Happy (Belated) New Year, and Love from the Swaz!

Justine/Phindile






Bonkhosi showing off his headstand.



Bonkhosi playing with some of the cars that were donated for Christmas. I looked, they're all older than me.



Buhle and her new pink volleyball/netball. I can never tell the difference.




Anele testing out the new stencils in the preschool.





A fancy 3-tier necklace with brown glass beads that I put together to wear on New Year's.

If you look closely on the left, I've put a red circle around the snake's head.  Small, but a snake is a snake.



Me painting the girls' and boys' nails.  There's no judgment of boys with painted nails in Swaziland.

My neighbor Mathedi wearing the coolest hat ever.  It's mine.  I spent money on it.  By choice.



One of the pendants I made with magazine pages, glue, clear acrylic and a washer.  Amazing.