Reflections on Year One

As I start to reflect on the completion of my first year of Peace, I am realizing that it’s me that’s changed the most in this year. I question the amount of change I will actually see in my community but I am now really starting to see the change in myself. Things I found shocking or strange at the beginning of this journey are now common. The other day I caught a ride to town in a khumbi (15 passenger van). I had to climb over a box of live chickens to get to my seat. This would have been so strange to me even 8 months ago. Now I just climbed over it and even assisted in keeping the chickens in the box. One did try to jump in my lap, which I didn’t like but that’s something I will never like. I’ve seen chickens in boxes, bags and just loose on public transport and now I’m used to it. I am actually kind of hoping one day I will get to see a goat on the bus.

I have what I call “American expectations” for the way things should function and work and those haven’t changed. I still have those expectations but when things don’t know out I realized it’s because I am trying to apply my Swazi logic to a situation that would actually do better with Swazi logic. When someone tells me there is a meeting at 11am, I would show up at 10:45am. When someone asks me to do something I do my best to get it done that same day (if possible). Now when I hear there is a meeting at 11am, I’m shocked if it starts before 11:30am. I bring a book and wait for everyone else to show up and the meeting to get going.

 Gladys is a staff member at my school. She is my saving grace. She is a Deaf adult and she teaches me sign language. She is probably the busiest person at the school too. She is employed as a cleaner but works in the kitchen and teaches sign language as well. At night she is busy working in the home economics room sewing all kinds of things. I have no idea when this woman sleeps. I don’t have a host family at my permanent site but Gladys and her family treat me like family. I don’t think I could do another year without Gladys here.

 Shlelelo is my other support. She is the adorable three-year-old that I have some pictures of on the blog. We have a unique relationship in that we speak in hybrid sign language/siSwati/English when we are together. She was recently gone for a few weeks visiting family and I missed her terribly. She came back home and didn’t talk to me for the first 10 minutes we were together. Next she sat in my lap for a while and then suddenly things were back to normal. She walked around telling me what to play and where to go. She walked me into her house, walked me over to a chair and said “uhlala” which in siSwati means “you stay”. When the time did come for me to go home she started crying, which made me adorable one-year-old brother start crying and me feel awful. Just leaving her house at night makes me think about leaving for good in a year and it breaks my heart. There are many things I won’t miss about Swaziland but without a doubt I will miss Shlelelo.

 The students at my school will also be missed. My sign is improving all the time and it’s a lot easier for me to talk with them now. A few of the students have told me how happy they are that I’m here and they will be sad when I leave. They’ve told me other people in their lives are lazy to work with them at times but that they are so happy when I help them. I didn’t ask for the validation but it feels great to get it. Sometimes I feel like I am doing nothing during the day but when they tell me they see my effort I feel better.

 

I haven’t been happy the entire last year. I’ve missed weddings, a funeral, birthdays, holidays and a lot of other things at home this year. I’ve had moments where I have disliked Swaziland more than I ever thought possible. I’ve made it through the year though with the support of people here and at home. The best advice I’ve received is that no job is perfect. Jobs in the states aren’t always enjoyable. You cannot like the work environment, coworkers, commute or really anything about a job anywhere. I’m lucky here though because I know this job is temporary. I can do this job for another year, while enjoying the good things. I can enjoy this job because there are good opportunities that come from it like traveling, experiencing new cultures, and the amount of time I can spend learning about myself and what I really want for my future.

 

Here is a list of firsts that I have achieved in the last year:

-ran a half marathon

-moved to Africa

-visited four countries I’ve never been to before

-taught in sign language

-killed three scorpions

-sat next to chickens on public transport

-had strangers offer me their baby

-hand-washed all of my laundry

-visited the Indian Ocean

-went cage diving with Great White sharks

 

Songs that are oddly representative of my Peace Corps service thus far:

Home by: Phillip Phillips

Stronger: Kelly Clarkson

Wake Me Up by: Avicii

Roar by: Katy Perry

Some Nights by: Fun.

Catch My Breath by: Kelly Clarkson

 If you don’t know these songs I would recommend looking them up and taking a listen. I have abundant free time these days since I’m not supposed to be out after dark and dark is from 6pm-6am right now.

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