RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) have described Peace Corps as “long days, short years.” I am starting to see the truth in this statement. As I’ve mentioned before Swaziland has a three-term system for schools. Term 1 is from the end of January to the middle of April, term 2 is from the middle of May to the middle of August and term 3 is from the middle of September to the beginning of December. At my school the teachers and students all live at the school during the school terms, during breaks the school clears out and it’s a few (3 tops) staff members and me remaining at the school. During the school term I may not always have something to do but I can always go to school and at least have people to talk to throughout the day. There are days during the term that are long and boring as well but during break the days are longer and have even less structure.
This is the time during which volunteers in communities are able to get more involved in things outside of school. It’s still a challenge because with the holidays basically no work happens during December and early January. Basically we all have tons of free time during school breaks but nothing to fill that time with. Peace Corps warns us of all this free time ahead of time. They want to make sure we don’t get discouraged by the lack of projects but at the same time that we plan accordingly and try to use this time the best that we can.
I am using this time to visit other volunteers and inviting them to visit me. During the month of December/January I have visited five volunteers and had about the same amount visit me. Now this still only fills about 2-3 days of the week. This is the longest school break at 6 weeks. I was able to use part of this break for my first vacation though so that was a bright spot in a long stretch of boring.
For my first vacation I went to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique for four days. I went with five other girls from my group. We heading to Maputo on a Thursday and started exploring the city. Maputo is a BIG city. No cities in Swaziland, including the capital, compare to the size of Maputo. There is tons of history all over the city, a building designed by Gustav Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower was a nice piece of history I didn’t know about before looking at the guidebooks. The six of us spent time visiting museums, markets, and stores. We even found a mall that is very similar to something you can find in the states, again not something that can be found in Swaziland.
We ate out a lot, options kakhulu (siswati for a lot) were available. I was able to have some amazing macaroni and cheese, which I definitely didn’t expect to find in Mozambique but it was by far the best meal I had on the trip. The challenge was ordering in Portuguese. No one in our group has ever studied Portuguese but a few of us have studied some Spanish. I quickly realized as similar as Spanish and Portuguese are, they are not the same. I was a new adventure and it the end worked out alright. One friend did have an issue when something she ordered contained pork when it hadn’t said that it would. She is Muslim and does not eat pork due to her religion. We were able to learn the word for pork and help her avoid that in the future.
On the last day of vacation we had scheduled a beach day. When we woke up in the morning, it didn’t look like it was going to happen, it was raining pretty steadily. Luckily we had set up our back up plan to pack our beach bags and head down to the mall, which would put us near the ferry to the beach if the weather cleared up. We never even had to go to the mall because the sun came out on our way to the ferry. We found our way down the beach to a hotel with a nice restaurant on a dock. From there we spend the day eating, swimming and tanning on the beach. I finally got to swim in the Indian Ocean and it was a great cap to my first Peace Corps vacation.