As of today, I’ve officially been a resident of the Kingom of Swaziland for half a year. In all honesty I’ve learned way more than I’ve taught at this point. In the past six months I’ve learned (some) siswati, to cook liphalishi, how to properly use a hoe, and how to kick higher when attempting traditional dances. I’m pretty sure all I’ve taught is that when you’re dabbing, really lean into it.
At this point in my service the official “integration” phase is over and the real work begins. We capped off integrating with a two week training back at SIMPA, where we had our initial pre-service training. It was two weeks of showers, friends, dishes I didn’t have to wash, and constructive sessions on projects for your community. I learned the best way to implement clubs and libraries in the schools while maintaining sustainability and it was really eye opening for me. Often times I feel we volunteers can get caught up in the American mind set of wanting to get things done quickly, but when you go about projects that way they typically end up dead as soon as you leave since you did the project by yourself rather than teaching people around you how to do a project so they can maintain it. While definitely a tad more frustrating at times, it because clear how important it is to build capacity.
At training we also reviewed different committees volunteers have the option to serve on and I was ecstatic to be selected to help advise the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) program! I will be serving with two other amazing, passionate, and dedicated women. We will be organizing trainings, events, and a week long camp for girls in different clubs across the country, but our main job is to know and support the amazing Swazi women who run these clubs. The three of us will be shadowing and learning from the current GLOW directors until the close service in May, and then we will officially take over.
Until then however, I am back at site. I returned from training with about a week to run around to all the schools I work with and say goodbye. I helped assist with one of my preschool’s graduations and it was probably one of my favorite events I’ve been to in Swaziland. The kids were adorable in their caps and gowns and did an amazing job show casing everything the learned this year to their parents. The preschool has been one of my favorite places to go in my community. If I’m ever feeling down, all I need to do is visit them to get 30+ hugs and hear shouts of “How are you, my friend?” It’s impossible to feel sad after that.
The Saturday after graduation I also was able to attend my first wedding in Swaziland. It was what they call “white wedding”, which means Christian wedding taking place in a church rather than the traditional Swazi wedding. While many aspects of the wedding was similar to weddings I have attended back home, a few keys things were different- flower girls threw candy rather than flowers and the service lasted 5 hours total, including an entire sermon and a whole lot of gospel music. The bride was beautiful and it was great to see such a large number of people in the community turn out to support her. After the wedding, we naturally had a post wedding photo shoot (my Swazi friends’ fave) and I learned that pink is clearly the in color to wear to a wedding right now.
One other thing that is new is how green the country is right now. Before we got here, Swaziland was experiencing a horrific draught. People were losing crops and livestock- some volunteers were even moved communities due to the lack of water access. Now, the affects of the draught are still not entirely over, but man is is green and amazingly beautiful right now. The maize is growing high again and the cows are seeming happier!
Finally, now that we have finished integration we are allowed to begin projects, the only problem is that schools just let out for summer and when school is out the community essentially shuts down. Luckily I’ve been able to pass time in either working with my family in the fields or in my hammock beneath the mango trees with a book, so I really can’t complain.
My plans for the rest of 2016 include attending Incwala, having a Christmas party with some fellow volunteers on the 23rd, enjoying Christmas with my family here, then heading off to Mozambique to ring in the new year on some beautiful, sandy beaches with some of my favorite people!
Six months in, twenty to go- can’t wait to see where this next year will take us❤️