Lessons I have learned in Swaziland…

As I approach the six month mark of my service (December 27th to be exact) I have decided to reflect on the lessons I have learned so far in Swaziland. These lessons are by no means everything I have learned but they are the ones that stick out to me. Some of these lessons may be hard to forget when I return and need to readjust to what’s appropriate in the states.

  1. I don’t have to wash my hair every day. I get more compliments about my hair on day three or four of not washing.
  2. It’s perfectly acceptable to pick your nose in public. There is a lot of dust here and sometimes you just need to get it out in order to breathe better.
  3. It’s also perfectly acceptable to pee just about anywhere outside. If you have to go, just go. (I’ve even seen this on a moving bus, though I don’t think that’s as accepted).
  4. When it’s really hot out it is appropriate to wrap a lihiya (thin fabric in many colors and patterns) around you and call it clothing.
  5. Emahiya (plural of lihiya) can also be worn as a skirt the day you wear pants but need to cover up because you are going somewhere where skirts are required.
  6. Any meeting will go better when the participants get food.
  7. There will never be personal space in lines, on buses, or on khumbis.
  8. Maize can be made into tons of different dishes, some better than others. It can even be made into a drink (not my favorite).
  9. It is usually a compliment when someone tells you that you look fat or have gained weight. It means you are able to eat well.
  10.  If you stay inside during the day because you want to read or watching media, your family or neighbors will assume you spent the entire day sleeping.
  11. If someone comes over for a visit, even if it’s just for a minute, it is necessary to offer them water and maybe a piece of fruit, at least.
  12. The best decision on a hot day is to stay inside on the tile floor and not move.
  13. Forks are overrated. If you have to use a utensil, use a spoon. You won’t always get a utensil when getting take away though, so get used to eating with your hand. Hand sanitizer is a big plus here.
  14. Music only has one volume, loud. This pertains to any music and any location. Whether in a khumbi listening to rap music or when my neighbor blasts gospel in the morning, all music is played at speaker breaking loud.
  15. If a trip usually takes 2 hours, plan 4 hours just to be on the safe side. It’s better to plan more time and be surprised by how quick the trip happens instead of being disappointed by how long it is taking. 
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4 thoughts on “Lessons I have learned in Swaziland…

  1. I find all your experiences and lessons learned very fascinating, Megan! And good look when your “journey” there is over…..it definitely could be very interesting getting readjusted to the good ole US of A!!!

  2. I am finding all of this fascinating!!! My favorite is picking your nose in public. I haven’t commented before but I have enjoyed every minute of keeping up with your adventure. It just doesn’t seem that long ago that you and I were sitting across from each other discussing quinoa at lunch. I bet it seems like a million years ago to you! Take care, – what are your plans for the holidays. OR do you even have plans for the holidays???!

    • Hey Missy! Ironically I made quinoa for lunch today! Since the seasons are reversed I can’t gauge time here very well. It definitely doesn’t feel like December. Some days I feel like I arrived yesterday and other days it feels like I’ve been here longer than 6 months.
      Luckily I do have plans for the holidays. I think it would be quite lonely otherwise. I am heading to a different part of the country to celebrate Christmas with other volunteers at an NGO (non-governmental organization) that was started by a former Peace Corps Swaziland volunteer. The school I work and live at is currently on a six week break so it’s nice to have somewhere to go and people to see. Thanks for the note! Happy Holidays!!!

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