Monday, August 30, 2010

The end of the world as I know it

I’d been sitting for nearly 3 hours in the ice box of an office tucked away at the back of the community meeting hall, patiently flipping through the pages of my Lonely Planet guide to East Africa and fantasizing about white sand beaches and temperature-controlled buildings, when the indvuna (chief’s headman) finally called me in to speak. The last time I formally spoke to the chief’s inner council of elders I nervously introduced myself in forced SiSwati. Now, two years later, I stand with confidence in front of strangers turned friends, bow subserviently and avert eye contact with men as though it’s second nature, and say goodbye to my community in relatively fluent SiSwati.

An hour later Peace Corps showed up at my house, loaded all my bags and boxes into a Land Cruiser, and drove me away from my community. By Friday afternoon I’d taken care of all my final paperwork and medical check-ups and whatnot, and I had my official “ringing out” ceremony with Peace Corps staff. (Immediately after which I chipped my tooth and had to make an emergency trip to the dentist before my dental insurance ran out at 5pm. It takes real talent to be so accident prone, but I maintain it’s better than having injured myself on my first day WITHOUT dental insurance.)

So, exactly two years (to the day!) after swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am officially unemployed. I’m proud to have made it two full years and, though I’ve certainly had my ups and downs in Swaziland, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have done than Peace Corps, anywhere I’d rather have been than Swaziland, or anyone I’d rather have spent the last two years with than my host family, my fellow PCVs, and all my Swazi and expat friends.

Friday night I celebrated my Close of Service with a bunch of friends at the Bholoja concert at House on Fire. Bholoja is a Swazi musician whose music I LOVE but who I hadn’t managed to see live until that night, so it was a perfect way to end my time in the Swaz. (He’s apparently been nominated as Best New Artist for the African Music Awards or something, which is pretty impressive. Check out his music!) I closed down the dance floor just after 4am Saturday morning, bid farewell to friends I won’t see again until my return to the Swaz in December, and returned to my homestead to spend a few final days with my host family.

Unfortunately, though, it’s Umhlanga (Reed Dance) time, which means that everyone is either gone or busy. Mkhulu and Gogo have gone to a funeral in South Africa, and all of the older boys from the homestead have either gone with them or are staying with their fathers for the week. Both of the older girls, Zandile and Londi, are up in Lobamba dancing for the King, and I haven’t seen the younger girls since early last week. So it’s just me, my one Sisi, baby Mpendulo, and Eliza for the next few days. I guess I’m okay with that though. I’m horrible at saying goodbye so maybe it’s easier to just have people be gone. I’ll see them in December, anyway, right?

So I think this is the last bit of love I’ll be sending from the Swaz…

Thursday morning I’m off to the Jo’burg airport to fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Then Friday morning I’ll take the ferry to the island of Zanzibar, where I’ll be taking my first of two Swahili courses until the 17th of September. Then I’ll either hang around Zanzibar/Dar Es Salaam until the 25th of September, or I’ll take the bus up to Nairobi for a week or so to visit old friends and the kids at Mama Ngina’s Children’s Home. My intensive Swahili course in Iringa runs September 27 to December 17, and then I return to Swaziland from December 20 to sometime the first or second week of January. I’ll keep posting Blogs entries and photos and whatnot from my East African adventures but, for now, that’s all.

Love from the Swaz!!


Michelle and Peter McCubbin from Pasture Valley Children’s Home hosted a going away party for me and Jenn Ritchey (the one in the blue hoodie), who’s been working at Pasture Valley for the past 3 months and who will be going to Zanzibar with me. The kids sang a bunch of songs as a farewell to us (but it was dark so most of the pictures didn’t come out), then we ate lots of unhealthy food and drank wine and watched bad movies. My idea of a perfect evening. This picture is Jenn Gaspers, Jenn Ritchey, and me.

Of course I took pictures of the food! Brandy Balls from Pick N Pay. Imagine the densest, richest chocolate cupcake ever, topped with sprinkles and a dollop of whipped cream. Amazing.

For the past month or so there’s been a bunch of drama about KFC selling Halaal chicken. KFC and many other restaurants/foods have been Halaal (basically like Kosher for Muslims) for YEARS, but Swaziland apparently just took notice of this and decided it was cause to make ignorant and hateful comments about Islam. The Swazi Times has been running articles about how Halaal foods are un-Christian, and Swazis being interviewed have said that Muslims are trying to convert everyone to Islam by tricking them into eating Halaal foods. There was public outcry, lots of factually incorrect editorials, and then a decision to make KFC restaurants sell both Halaal and non-Halaal meats, which is just ridiculous. A couple weeks ago, as a result of this drama, a local church taught a lesson about Muslims and Halaal foods during its Sunday morning sermon. When I asked someone after the service what they’d learned at church that day, they said, “I learned that I hate Muslims and that Christians should not eat at KFC.” I love that the Swazi version of Christianity promotes ignorance and hate.

This article, published sometime last week, says:

“Christians complained of the following:

· Rituals from another religion imposed on Christians

· Franchise (KFC) has violated their constitutional freedom of choice

· Franchise has shown disregard and disrespect of the Christian faith

· Franchise has violated their constitutional freedom of choice

· The religion behind halaal is being made standard for all”

Last Saturday I went hiking at Mahamba Gorge near Nhlangano with the Jenns, a British volunteer named Becca, and my friend Shaun. According to Lonely Planet, it’s the only thing other than the casino to do in the Shiselweni region, so I figured I should do it before I left. I still wonder whether the supposed trail actually existed, but it was a pretty fun hike and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I admired this tree’s determination to grow out of the rocks so much that I took a picture of it.

Me sitting on a rock at Mahamba Gorge. After the hike, we took a peek at the rooms at the relatively new Mahamba Lodge. The whole place is solar-powered and built in a luxury version of the traditional Swazi way, which is cool. They also happened to be full of ladybugs, which I see as a bonus.

One of the girls from Pasture Valley Children’s Home painting colors at Nhlangano Central Primary School. They did a great job, but I still have to go back and do some edging before I leave on Thursday (because I’m a perfectionist).

Friday night’s Bholoja concert at House on Fire with Jenn Gaspers and Becca. I’m wearing a black and pink strapless dress that I made on Monday night (before donating my sewing machine to Pasture Valley on Wednesday) when I couldn’t sleep because of the malaria prophylaxis I’m taking. I believe in making productive use of insomnia…

Me, Alice (a British volunteer at a school in Mbabane), and Laura (a Finnish intern at the Mbabane City Council) celebrating Alice’s 21st birthday at Quartermain’s Restaurant in Ezulwini Valley. I had sushi on both Wednesday and Thursday nights because, well, it’s good and I had cause to celebrate and friends who wanted to accompany me.

I don’t know why, but I always found this particular brand of fruit rather entertaining. “Don’t worry! Eat Fruit.” It’s a good philosophy, I think.

Eliza’s doghouse, almost finished. Please note the new and improved interior which I’ve painted light blue with green polka-dots. I also wrote “I love you, Lize!” over the door on the inside, so if she ever learns to read she’ll know that I love her. At the meeting with the inner council last week, the chief instructed the whole community to be nice to Eliza after I leave, to let her onto their homesteads and into their kitchens to stay warm during winter, and to give her porridge or bones or anything else they have to give her as a way of remembering me. How very un-Swazi…

Me and baby Mpendulo Siyabonga “Noah” Khumalo. He’s finally starting to recognize himself in pictures, I think, because when I show him pictures of us together he laughs. When I come back to visit in December, he’ll be an expert walker! (He tries now but hasn’t yet mastered the art…) It’s crazy how fast they grow up.

Baby Mpendulo Siyabonga hanging out on my front steps. Things to take note of in this picture: (1) Baby has TEETH! (2) Baby is also not wearing pants. Apparently he’s of the age that they just let him urinate and defecate anywhere he wants, which is why I shut him outside. Last time he came in, he pooped on my floor. That’s just plain unsanitary. (3) The waist-high brownness on the house behind him on the right is dirt, not paint. That’s just how high the dirt blows. (4) There is a baby goat entering the thatch-roofed rondavel in the background.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Mpendulo looks so big!!!! Have fun in Zanzibar! Good luck!