A Whole New World

As I sit here in my hut alone I can’t help but notice how different my life is right now from what I am used to in the United States. I look outside and just see open fields, huts and mountains. There are chickens and roosters than sit on my front step and cows wandering in the field next to me. I have lived near farms but never lived quite this rural. It’s peaceful but will also take some time to get used to it. Today I am a bit sad because I am missing a family wedding. I knew when I signed up for the Peace Corps that it was likely I would miss family events but I don’t think I actually realized how it would feel. Don’t get me wrong I am excited about living in Africa and the work I will get to do here but knowing that all of my family is gathered in one place and I can’t be there is difficult.

I have been in Swaziland for 9 days now and it feels like weeks, maybe even months. Today is Saturday July 6th, and tomorrow is the first free day I will have since I have been here. Every day is full of learning siSwati and learning about the Peace Corps. The sessions are informative but draining because the schedule leaves little free time. We have sessions Monday – Saturday from about 7am-5pm, which includes transportation time. That time commitment is just for the sessions. That does not include the time it takes to do all of the other everyday things that need to get done.

The PC has a water system that we are supposed to follow. This process involves boiling water for 10 minutes before it can be used for anything. This means, drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry and anything else that would involve water touching my skin or getting ingested.  I am then supposed to filter and bleach and drinking water. Now this may sound complicated but not awful but when you combined it with a two burner stove and just small pots and a teakettle it’s a bit of a challenge. I am actually one of the lucky ones right now because my PST (Pre-Servicing Training) site has electricity. I am able to do things after dark without the aid of a flashlight or candle, unlike some of my fellow volunteers.

My site is actually really unique though because it is a child-headed household. Child-headed households are common in Swaziland because of the rate of HIV/AIDS. I am the only volunteer placed in a child-headed household right now. I am actually four years older than anyone else at my homestead. When I first arrived at the homestead I was really sad. I knew child-headed homes were a reality in Swaziland but to have one become my home was unexpected. Truthfully they are on of the lucky child-headed homes because they are all in their late teens or early 20s and not 13 or 14 and trying to raise younger siblings.

I had my first, hand-washing all of my laundry experience. this weekend. It is quite a production. I haven’t been able to do laundry since I arrived so I had a lot of washing. It took me about 2.5 hours to complete the whole process. I will be sure to do laundry at least once a week from now on to maybe help cut the time down. I have a feeling I am going to miss having a washing machine more than some foods during these two years. I find that thought completely annoying but very accurate. I have lived a spoiled life in the US with plumbing, electricity and appliances. These two years will get to serve as a reality check.

(The Disney reference in the title is for my new friend Elizabeth!)

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7 thoughts on “A Whole New World

  1. We certainly missed you at the wedding and spoke of you and the Steger’s often. We wish you were here to help clean out Gran’s house…which is a reality check in itself…just not quite as drastic as your reality check. Miss you and love you!

  2. Hi, Megan! I love reading your blog…..it is a combo geography and sociology lesson all wrapped up together! I see you are close to the equator. What is the weather like? This entire week in Oswego has been in the 90’s……with high humidity. It is supposed to cool off on Saturday.
    Let me know if there is anything you would like to get in the mail. Your mom has given me your address and how to handle. Take care. I will think of you this weekend when I am doing my laundry!!! Darla Mullner, your neighbor

    • It’s actually winter here right now, which is deceiving in its name. This week we actually had our first couple of days with temperatures that I would consider “winter”. It was probably no higher than 65 three times this week. Some days get as high as 85-90. The mornings can be really cool though. There have been quite a few morning where I wake up and I can see my breathe in my hut! It usually warms up by noon though so it’s not bad. I haven’t had to wear anything thicker than a fleece on any day for warmth.
      Summer is coming soon though and I am nervous. I am moving to the hot region and was told it can get to 40C easily which is about 104F. I might melt! Luckily my walk to work will be short since I live at the school.

  3. You bleach your water?!?! Crazy…but I guess it’s better than getting sick. Weird question: How often do you get to bathe? do they have indoor plumbing?

    Your words painted a very tranquil scene. I’m a bit jealous.

    • Indoor plumbing, ha! I don’t for my training site home. I bathe in a bucket ever night. It’s a decent sized bucket and I can actually sit in the bottom of it. My family has a pit latrine that I get to use. It looks out onto a field and the door doesn’t have a lock so I get to hold it shut with my foot. If it opens everyone in that field would be able to see me. My permanent site though has an indoor toilet and a bathtub! I am moving up to “posh corps”!

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