Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

My 24th Birthday was this weekend!  It will definitely be a birthday I will never forget, my first Swazi birthday!  Birthdays are a way of looking back and seeing how far we have come in life.  Only two short years ago I spent my birthday finishing a college paper just in time for exam week, track practice spinning in circles 20lb weight throw in my hands, and then after practice rushing through a blizzard to get ready for he Athletic Formal.  Wow, life has changed!
This year on my birthday, I had a successful event.  We are starting a youth club in my community, so the event’s purpose was to select the committee of leaders for the group.  The elected a female to be the chairperson! And they are looking forward to using this group to help organize social events, sports teams, and for community and business development.  I am really looking forward to working with this group!  After the meeting we all went down to the Butchery, where we bar-b-qued up some meat and pap and they all sang Happy Birthday to me!
Sinceni Youth Club
On Sunday, I ventured out to Simunye Country Club to meet up with other Volunteers who were also celebrating their birthdays.  This country club has beautiful grounds, grass everywhere! So green! And a sprinkler system to water the grass, hard to believe I am still in Swaziland.  I went swimming, ate a cheese burger, had a chocolate milkshake, free wifi, skyped with Patty, and a hot shower!  Successful day, I think so!  And if that isn’t good enough, I spent the night at Ryan and Addy Hall’s site (Ryan and I share birthdays).  Their family came to Simunye for Ryan’s birthday and they brought a cake, so I got my birthday cake after all!
The two weeks after Thanksgiving were really hard for me.  I was really excited and full of ideas after In-Service Training and then I got back to site and within a week everything started shutting down for the summer holidays and it was quite shocking o go back to living the hut life after spending a week with running water, prepared meals, and Americans all over the place.  So this weekend was badly needed and I am now out of that funk.  It’s amazing how little it takes to make me happy again: friends, a shower, and a chocolate milkshake.
Now I am really looking forward to some traveling, as I will be spending Christmas and New Years on the beaches of Mozambique.  It’s going to be a white sandy Christmas!

Peace Corps Swaziland Projects are looking for support

My fellow Swazi Volunteers are doing some great work around the country.  I wanted to let you know about two amazing PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Project) projects that just went live.  This is a way for you to donate to projects that are being organized and facilitated by my friends.

First, Swaziland is hosting Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) program in April. You can donate to this fantastic, gender empowerment initiative here:

Second, the third annual Books for Swaziland project definitely needs and deserves your dollar dollar bills. BFS will provide 30 schools throughout the country with a 1,000 books each. You can contribute at:

Neither of these are my projects, but I do intend on helping out with GLOW next year.  And as for the library project, the Volunteer who was at my site before me was awesome and organized the first annual Book Drive, so both my Primary School and High School already have books!  My colleagues will appreciate any support you can give!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! This is a time of the year to remember what we are thankful for in our lives, so I want to make sure that I acknowledge all of my family and friends that support me and are interested in my life in Swaziland as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I have been in Swaziland for 6 months now.  Crazy how time flies and crazy how my fellow Volunteers became like family so quickly.  Peace Corps is such a unique experience with challenges that don’t exist anywhere else or in any other job.  It’s hard to know if the experiences and difficulties I am having are ‘normal’ when nothing ever feels normal, so my colleagues have become great assets in my Swazi life.  I am thankful to have them all and I know that when we return to the States, these will be friendships for the rest of my life.  Many of them are also writing blogs so when you are bored and when I have been slacking in keeping you entertained with my African adventure and other random musings please check out their blogs because they are doing some awesome stuff here as well.
The blogs of my fellow PCVs are linked over there, enjoy! --->

New Normal

I asked Patty to send me some ideas for blog topics earlier this week.  I know a lotofpeopleenjoy reading my blogs, and I don’t want to disappoint you by not updating often enough.  When I brainstorm for blog ideas nothing jumps out as something that’s worth sharing, and actually when I arrived here brainstorming wasn’t really necessary since everything seemed so new and interesting.  The fact that I have to brainstorm for ideas now made me think of how the Swazi life is my new normal.  I am no longer taken aback by how many babies I see riding on their mother’s back held only by a bath towel or how breastfeeding in public is completely normal and it actually abnormal to see a bottle or pacifier.  I have come to expect the flies in the latrine, the smell of pigs, and how cows roam anywhere they want but know where their home is.  I refer to any white person I see as my friend, but that’s probably not too far from the truth, and this week we fit 28 PCVs plus the driver in a 15 passenger van like it was no big deal.  I also have stopped feeling lame when I am asleep by 8:30 or guilty when I wish for rain so I don’t have to go to my meeting and can just sit in my hut all day.
Patty asked me to write more about transportation, access to the healthcare system, and access to food and technology.  So here goes…
Almost nobody has a car, and if they do have a car it’s probably broken down and they are waiting til the end of the month to get the part to fix it.  They have to wait til the end of the month since if a person actually has a job or receives pension from the government they only get paid on the last Friday of the month (called ‘month-end’ here).  Anyways, back to transport.  So since no one has a car, we allrely on public transport in the form of either 15 passenger van taxis (khumbis) or buses.  I have relatively good transport where I live.  My bus stopis close by and there are buses about every hour that go to Manzini, the biggest city and khumbis that go to a smaller town.  Buses are cheaper and have more room for when I have big bags or boxes or groceries, but khumbis are faster with less stops and never have to worry about standing for 1.5hrs.  Hitchhiking is also common but against PC rules.
My community has its own health clinic, so I haven’t found transport costs to be too much of a barrier to people getting healthcare.  From what I understand, there is a 4E($.50) sort of co-pay to be seen by one of the nurses at the clinic.  On Mondays, there is focus on mother andchild health, growthcharting and immunizations.  On Tuesdays a doctor comes to give out ARVs (anti-retro virals, HIV treatment) which are FREE! to people that need them and pretty accessible throughout the country.

On to food, most homesteads here grow their own maize which they harvest, dry, and then grind into maize meal and raise their own livestock.  People eat porridge for every meal and don’t have to buy too much of their food.  There are many ways to prepare the porridge. They can make it thick or thin; sweet, sour, or salty; and mixed with other food like porridge and pumpkin.  I eat the porridge but hate eating the same food all the time, so I buy my food either from my local shop or the big grocery stores when I go into the city.  I have been eating lots of pasta, rice, eggs, potatoes, peanut butter, and fruit.  I know for a lot of people cooking is fun and creative, but for me it is a chore.  My stove heats up my already hot room making it really uncomfortable to sleep.
I hope this post gives you a little more insight on my life here.  I am doing really well and it is hard to believe, but I am already a quarter of the way done!  We justfinisheda weeklong training session with all the PCVs in the country.  It was inspiring to be with all of them and learn all of their ideas for what they are doing or have done throughout their time here.
Our training week also included a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner with the turkey and all the trimmings and I am looking forward to Christmas on the beach in Mozambique with a group of my fellow Volunteers, so I have lots to look forward to!
If you have a topic you have wanted me to write about a topic, please leave a comment, email or facebook me.  As I said at the beginning, life is normalizing so the ideas don’t naturally occur to me anymore.
Me and Bholoja, a Swazi superstar! He was performing a concert to bring awareness to World AIDS Day (Dec 1st)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


The first three months in our community is called the integration phase.  We are meant to go around our community introducing ourselves, asking questions, and figuring out what the challenges our community faces.  We are tasked to compile a report on our findings which will help us and use as a reference throughout the rest of our service.  We are only allowed one night a month to stay away from site which kind of feels like house arrest.  My counterpart has been really good at setting up meetings for me to meet with all of the groups throughout my Chiefdom.  I have met with 5 Neighborhood Care Points (the community kitchens that feed orphans/vulnerable children), 3 HIV support groups, a handicraft group, sewing group, adult literacy program, the clinic, the primary school, and development committee.  I have met the Chief, attended a couple Umphakatsi meetings (community meetings with Inner Council to the Chief), I was there for the election 25 new community police, and I go to church on a fairly regular basis.  I am supposed to go homestead to homestead with a survey, but that really hasn’t happened.  I have slacked a bit on that end, but I hope all of my other meetings will compensate.
Thankfully, house arrest, I mean integration is almost over.  It ends with an In-Service Training that will help us in the programming aspect of our service.  I am really looking forward to IST because at this point, I have identified ton of groups I could help, but I am not an ideas person as far as programming goes.  I have never been the initiator of a project and being the leader is intimidating to me.
I could sit in my room and do nothing for these two years and come back to America with a couple pictures and a few stories and everyone would be so proud of me because simply I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.  But I don’t want to leave here having done nothing.  I want at the end of these two years to have actually made a noted positive impact on my community.  I feel this huge weight on my shoulders, but it’s a weight of my own making.  I have higher expectations for myself than anyone else. 
It makes it easier when I get to talk to my fellow Volunteers and share our successes and setbacks, but this hasn’t been so easy (house arrest).  So I am really looking forward to IST to help organize my ideas, brainstorm solutions, and give me the confidence to be a catalyst for development in my community.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So much time, so many craft projects to learn

I am a crafting machine lately. Last week I finished making my Swazi hat made out of braided reed grass. Yesterday I spent the day with a handicraft group. They taught me how to make the colorful baskets that are sold in the markets! All the while I continue knitting stuffed toys for Christmas presents. Next week I will learn to sew. One of the PC goals is to learn culture. I am counting this. Also I like turning nothing into something and my laziness into productivity. I just wish my hands worked faster!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The importance of boiling water

In America, we take for granted the availability of clean drinking water. Here, when my water comes out of the tap across the street its brown. To make it ok to drink I boil it, filter it, and put a drop of bleach in it. The summer has arrived here, so I am drinking more water than before and turning my stove on to boil it turns my room into an oven. The other day I misjudged and ran out of clean water. Big mistake! Diarrhea, vomit, fever. ugh! The fever broke and I am starting to feel better.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The rainy season is coming

We are approaching the summer and rainy season here. People are beginning to plant their maize fields now. Everyone here grows their own food. I find myself repeating 'we dont grow our own food and cows only live on farms.' I am planning on starting a veggie garden soon! When the rain comes, so does the lightning! Swaziland is known for its lightning, probably because its among the deadliest in the world, but that means its fun to watch, right? Dont worry, I will watch from inside where its safe.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I saw my first snake today! I was perfectly content pretending they didnt exist here and naive to think that if they did my lovable, adorable cat would put on a cape and become a ferocious reptile killing super hero. Well, no such luck! My cat kept grooming itself, unnoticing as the snake slithered on by within a few yards. Even the chickens paid no attention. I thought they would at least make a fuss. I guess I must fend for myself when it comes to those deadly Mambas! ahhh! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SOMMER! <3

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Protests in Manzini

Lots of drama is happening in Swaziland as the people here seem to be continuing the trend of protesting un-democratic governments. Do not worry about me though. I live in a rural area, far enough away from the cities that nothing is likely to happen here. I have little access to credible news. I am sure that with the power of the internet and some help from search engines you can quickly have more info about the current situation than me. Search SwaziTimes to read my local news.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Yesterday was my Grandma's birthday. I think of her alot here. Gogos are the center of the family unit and have alot of power in decision making on the homestead. For instance, if a man wants a wife he must ask her gogo and she will decide how many cows he owes. I get alot of attention for being white, about 2 proposals a day. I tell my suitors they must go to America to ask my gogo's permission. So if you see my grandma tell her not to marry me off and wish her a happy belated birthday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kids having kids

Yesterday at the clinic I met a Make. She was 22 years old, only one year younger than me. She came in with her newborn for an immunization. This Make has 3 other kids at home! Her oldest is 8. She was still a kid herself when her first was born. When I was 14, my biggest worry was not spraining an ankle at soccer practice. And now the thought of having one kid, let alone 4 is too hard to imagine! Unfortunately kind of thing isn't so abnormal. Lots of teen mothers here. Sad.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Worked at the clinic today.

I spent today at the clinic. When I arrived the waiting room was full of mothers and infants. They come on Mondays for growth monitoring, immunizations, and family planning. They saw over 30 babies in 3hrs. On Tuesdays they have a doctor come for volunteer HIV testing and counseling, as well as ARV (HIV meds) distribution. Yesterday I went to a support group mtg and an hoping to go to different one tomorrow. Schools open tomorrow, so I am planning on visiting those next week. Keeping busy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Everyday I am getting to know my community better. This week I will be visiting HIV support groups, shadowing the nurses at the clinic, chilling with the sewing group, feeding/playing with some orphans, making a hat out of palm leaves, helping to teach English. Nothing is scheduled for TH\F yet. If Im bored Im reading Edgar Sawtelle, good book! I sewed a curtain, crocheted dish towels. My new project is knitting stuffed animals. Im working on my 1st one, a bunny. I hope to make a few before Christmas!

9/11/01 Always Remember.

Ten years ago, we witnessed a horrible tragedy. We saw the worst of human nature as terrorists destroyed lives, but also the best of human nature in the actions of the heroes that day. I am grateful to the service(wo)men who have fought to protect our freedom, the freedom that allows me to say that I dont believe killing more people in all our wars is the answer to creating peace, but thats why I joined the PC. I want to serve my country in way that promotes friendship and not death. Life is too precious.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Good luck as you start your school year!

As the school year begins in America, Swaziland schools are scheduled to re-open for their last term (#3) next week. Education is not free here. The kids must pay school fees to attend. The govt has started a program to make primary education free, but is now having trouble finding the money for the program and also to say the teachers. Lately there have been protests about this lack of money which will delay the start of school. I feel bad for the kids. They are the ones being hurt by these money woes!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Church with Make(Mom) and Reed Dance

Today I woke up at dawn so I could travel 2.5 hours to the capital city.  I was notified that I had a package there from home, Thanks Patty and Sommer!   I also wanted to take a shower, and let me say how awesome that was!  It has been almost a month since my last real shower!!  And I also wanted to type a blog that was longer than the 500 characters allowed by my phone.

My Make (mom) came by my room at 5am this morning.  She wanted to tell me that she was going into the city to buy a part for the maize mill on our homestead and she wouldn't be home tonight.  My Make is a great woman.  She is in her late 40s, never married.  She runs our huge homestead all by herself, as my Gogo is too old to do much of anything.  I have learned more about small business skills from my Make in the short time I have lived here that I ever did in 4 years at business school.  My Make is very ambitious, always moving, and busy with something or other.  I rarely see her sit down to rest, and when I do she is already getting up again to check the pigs or fetch firewood or mop the front stoop even though it will be dusty again in no time.  Neighbors from all over come to buy biscuits, cheeto things, flavored ice, meat from the cow they killed a couple weeks ago,or fruit from the trees in her orchard.  We also have a maize mill on our homestead to grind the corn into corn meal that they use to make the porridge the eat with all their meals.  The band on the machine is broken right now, but it should be fixed soon.

On Sundays, I have been going to church with my Make.  Definitely a cultural experience!  There is no bulletin with the days readings, no organ, no choir, no hymnal, and not even a cross at the front.  The only thing that makes it resemble a church are the rows of chairs and benches and a table at the front that is used as an alter table.  They sing songs all from memory. It is so cool to be in the middle of all of them as they sing.  Mostly its all in siSwati, so I don't know what they are singing.  It gives me the opportunity to just listen.  Their songs are so beautiful, and the spirit immediately penetrates right to my heart.  If you single one voice out, you hear their pain, but together the congregation's singing sounds like resilience and hope.  Life is hard in the people in this country.  It amazes me that through all their struggles and all their losses they come to church and confess how thankful they are for the things and people they do have in their lives.

On Monday, I went to the Reed Dance.  It is  the biggest cultural event in the country.  Girls from all over come to pay homage to the Queen Mother and the celebrate their virginity.  The girls wear their traditional regalia, topless.  We, Americans have been told that Swazis aren't afraid of  I watched the 80,000 girls dance past us, and then I had to leave early since I wasn't planning on staying the night away from home.  Transport home was a bit tricky since I missed my last bus, but I was with a woman who had missed the same bus.  She made sure I got home ok.

The rest of the week was pretty quiet.  I take walks to the river and read a book.  In the afternoons a couple of the neighbor girls come to visit.  Their English isn't so good.  I taught the older ones how to do framework puzzles and word searches and the younger ones draw pictures or I quiz them on addition problems.  Hopefully before I leave they will be able to do addition without counting on their fingers.
My Training Family from my first 2 months.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Powdered Milk and Plymouth UCC

I realized that the youth from my church, Plymouth UCC in Syr have already finished their mission trip this summer. The mission trips I went on were definitely a huge inspiration for my desire to give back & join the PC. Today I was reminiscing about our NYC trip at a soup kitchen. The manager asked us to make the powdered milk. Powdered what? How? I never knew it existed until that day. So here in Africa whenever I use powdered milk I think of Plymouth. Life without a fridge brings back fond memories.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gogo = Grandma

I just talked to my mom! She sounds great and given the circumstances I think she is more worried about me than her life minus 5 fingers. She asked about Gogo. Her bio: Age: OLD! I showed her a picture of my Grandma and lied to her and told her she looks younger than my Grandma. She has a hunch in her back, and walks/shuffles around with help from a walking stick Job: She worked in SAfrica at in white family's kitchen. You can find her laying on her grass mat almost all day in random places around.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My new home: an oasis in the desert!

Last week, after swear-in, I moved from the 3rd largest city in the country (which is probably smaller than Buff State's campus). I lived there in community on the outskirts with a huge family and a fantastic they of the sunrise over the valley every morning right outside my door. Now, I live in the middle of nowhere, really. But, still beautiful! I live with a Make, Gogo & an old man who rents the house next to mine. It is an orchard with tropical fruit imaginable! It also has a hammer mill for maize.

Monday, August 15, 2011

'Being' is just as important as doing.

Life at my new site was pretty hard the first couple days. Doing nothing is harder than you think. With not knowing anyone, I cant just pop by someones house and sit for a while. I am in the process now of getting out there so people know I am here and will be here for 2 years. Everyday it feels like I do nothing, but in retrospect I have walked some miles, played with the neighbor kids, hung out by the sitolo, and today even though it has rained all day I spent alot of quality time with Make and Gogo.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I never knew a place could be so quiet, except for roosters and ducks!

Lots to say, but not alot going on. Tuesday I became an official Peace Corps Volunteer! woohoo! I met the US Ambassador and the Swazi Prime Minister(he told me he has been to Syr. small world). The next day we moved to our permanent site. I am in Lubumbo, the hot region so my sweaters went from the top of my bag to the bottom. My room is only 10x20 unfurnished. I bought a bed, but the store only had doubles. It takes up alot of space but its ok cause I will be comfortable! Need to get a table and drawers

Friday, August 5, 2011

No, that wasn't a dream. Bad news.

I woke up the other night at 3a to answer my phone. My sister called to tell me that my mom had been in a car accident. Her hand was injured pretty bad, but otherwise hs doing ok given the circumstances. It was basically my worst fear for something like this to happen and I am so far away, not that I could do much there anyways. Thanks to my family for being there for her and keeping me updated and also thanks to my fellow trainees for their support.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mefloquin Monday

August 1, 2011
One week left until I swear in as an official Volunteer!  I feel like the time has gone so fast and so slow all at the same time.  Time is funny that way.  And to be honest, my perception of time here is so askew.  I am so used to living my life based on the number on the clock and it is still how I am living, but relying so heavily on a watch doesn’t mesh so well with how people must live their lives here.  In a country like Swaziland with such limited electricity (or for those with electricity: no late night tv or 24hr news the sun is the only watch that matters.  Sundown is a strict curfew here, and even if it wasn’t, there is nothing to do after dark anyways.  So my African life consists of me waking up way too early, going to sleep pathetically early, and counting how many weeks I have been here based on the number of once-a-week Mefloqin malaria pills I have swallowed.   Even though the days seem to go on forever, especially the days we have language class for 5 straight hours, I cannot believe that I took my 8th pill yesterday.  Have I really been here for two whole months.. WOW!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I`ll take a milk shake with that.

A special thanks to all my friends and family and to anyone else who has stumbled across my blog, esp after last week's entry. I really appreciate your love and support. It def helps to lift my spirits knowing you are out there. Thanks for emails and fbook msgs.
Yesterday I cooked some good old American food. So good. I had a hamburger and french fries. I gave myself a pat on the back because I can make some damn good fries! I would have been in heaven if I had a chocolate milk shake :-)

I`ll take a milk shake with that.

A special thanks to all my friends and family and to anyone else who has stumbled across my blog, esp after last week's entry. I really appreciate your love and support. It def helps to lift my spirits knowing you are out there. Thanks for emails and fbook msgs.
Yesterday I cooked some good old American food. So good. I had a hamburger and french fries. I gave myself a pat on the back because I can make some damn good fries! I would have been in heaven if I had a chocolate milk shake :-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July so far... 4 posts in one

July 7, 2011
Yesterday I took a hot shower!!! So happy!  My hair feels the cleanest it’s ever felt… EVER!!!  I never realized how good Dove’s scentless body wash smells.  I got all the soap out of my hair for the first time in weeks!  It was great to stand under the water as long as I wanted, knowing that I don’t have to mop p all the water I spilled after I was down cause it just goes down the drain!  When the water was too cold, too hot, or just because they are there I could just turn the knobs.  And when I finally decided to be done instead of still being in un-insulated cement room, I turned off the water and the bathroom was full of the warm fog from my shower!  I knew coming to Africa that actual showers would be few and far between so yesterday was a very nice day!
July 12, 2011
Got my phone! It has internet!  It is ironic that I had to come to Africa to get such an upgrade!  Facebook is my cheapest way of communication or e-mail (but I don’t check that as  The internet is great except I have had some troubles connecting to it.  The network isn’t as good here as home.  You can also text or call me.  00268-76262531. It’s too expensive for me to call home, but its free for me if you call me(but not for you).
July 19, 2011
Emotional.  I am not usually emotional, so this is weird and hard to handle for me.  My mood is usually so even and every day I feel my mood worsening and worsening and I don’t have enough coping strategies.  I feel so lonely.  Making friends is hard work.  I don’t feel part of the group.  I feel forgettable and replaceable, and insufficient.  I don’t feel good enough.  My self-esteem is really low.  I had a good cry last night, got it all out, literally. I didn’t know I had that much snot..eww.   My insecurity issues are even more amplified since I am sick and have my period as well.  Ugh.  I am a bit fed up with training.  I keep telling myself to just let the process run its course.  It will be over soon.  If I dwell on the negative, nothing will get better.  Since going home is not an option I would ever contemplate, I have got to accept what is, and get on with it.
July 21, 2011
So the other day was definitely a low point for me.  Coming to Africa, I knew there were going to be days like that.  Now I have acknowledged my feelings and am moving on.  Oprah’s voice in my head telling me how to live my best life..haha.  And FYI, yesterday and today were much better, so no worries. 
On with it…
I remember hearing about the “where does milk come from” campaign to educate inner city, poor kids about where their food comes from before it gets too the supermarket.  I thought it was such a stupid initiative.  Kids have to know that milk comes from cows; it’s ridiculous to think otherwise.  I want to give kids the benefit of the doubt that they know this information about milk, information that seems so obvious to me.
I only bring this up because I made applesauce today, from scratch.  And yes, I did know that applesauce is made from apples, but it never crossed my mind how it is made or whether it was difficult to make.  I mean, why would I need to, it’s pretty cheap and available at most every store.  I think I thought that since I had never seen it made (except way back, my Grandpa made it) I assumed it was hard, maybe there was too many steps, or it never turns out as good as the stuff in the Mott’s jars. 
So today I peeled a few apples, cut the seeds out, threw them in a pot with some sugar and let them boil until I could smoosh them with my spoon… vwoolaahhhh….applesauce… so surprised it’s that easy!  I am trying to figure out why it took coming to Africa to figure this recipe out.  Now I KNOW where applesauce comes from/how it’s made, and I especially have a lot more respect for that milk campaign.
July 22, 2011
Ate my applesauce for lunch today!!  So good..tasted just like Motts!
I started my knitting business this week.  Well actually, not really a business at all, I just sold my first hat.  $25US/160E.I like knitting and creating something pretty out of what was nothing in the beginning.  I knew I would have a lot of time here to get some knitting done. So far, since I have been here, I have made 2 hats: the first one I kept for myself(the only thing I have ever kept for myself) and the second one was my first sale!! Whoop whoop!!
I have run into a problem though.  I only brought 2 balls of yarn with me to Africa, both gone now.  They have yarn here, but it’s not the kind I like(it’s like the Red Heart 4-ply stuff) and each ball is tiny (less than 25g).  I haven’t been able to check out the ‘big’ cities yet to see what they have there.  So if you want to put a smile on my face and let me know that you are thinking about me, you can send me some yarn!  My favorite is from Michaels: Loops and Threads, Charisma or I also like Lion Brand, Thick and Quick.  And I like any color that you think is pretty/you would wear that color as a hat.
If you are going through the trouble of sending yarn, could you also send chewing gum (eXtra, Stride, or Five: blue flavor… I don’t like green or cinnamon).  Oh and JIF peanut butter is always a good option! J
Mailing Tip:  Use Flat Rate, priority mail box from the post office and send it airmail.
Peace Corps Swaziland
Attn:  Kelly Tooley
PO Box 2797
Mbabane, Swaziland H100

As I go to post this blog, I am reminded of my coworker from the Gap who thought Swaziland was an amusement park.  We all had a good laugh that day!  But as you can see, this month has been a bit of a roller coaster.  It is hard for me to write about the bad things, but it happened, I’m human.  I have got some great things to look forward to!  Swear-in is only 17 days away, then I move to the site I will be staying in for the rest of my 2 years here!  Excited and scared!  It’s in Lubumbo region.. the HOT part of Swaziland!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Swazi Food 6/23/11

It is said that as a Peace Corps Trainee, your time is not your own.   As you may have seen from my other post about my daily schedule so far, they have our schedule pretty booked.  I have only been to town on one other occasion so far.  When we go to town we have the opportunity to go shopping and go to the internet cafĂ©.  Last time I was only able to spend 15 minutes on the computer, a computer so ancient and slow, it took half of my time to load my facebook and as I was writing a status to my friends and family that I was alive, the internet kicked me off!!! Uugghhh…. So with only a few minutes I was able to e-mail a blog post that I had stored on a thumb drive the night before…
I have come to find out that the only things I am missing from home is access to the internet (mainly facebook..haha), 24/7 news coverage(esp English news), and chocolate(they don’t eat dessert here!!!)!!
So as for the food here…  Initially, I was surprised.. I came here with the expectation that it would be completely bland and tasteless, and I guess some of it is, especially their staple food, corn porridge.  But whenever I have had that, which is like every other day, there is always a gravy that moistens it up and adds nice flavor.
For breakfast, I was eating corn flakes most days.  However the last two day I switched it up!  The other night, I watched one of my Sisi’s bake scones from scratch with no recipe, no measuring cups, and in an oven with completely uneven temperature.  It is a wood burning stove with fire only on one side of the oven!!  I will have to post a picture, this thing is like something we would see in a museum at home…lol.  Anyways, they came out great and I had a couple with apricot jam for breakfast yesterday and then I made oatmeal today.
For lunchI either eat a peanut butter sandwich using the JIF I brought from home.  They have PB here.. kinda tastes like Peter Pan, but I prefer JIF… or homemade french-fries and a hard-boiled egg.  The fries are good, but way too much oil.
And for dinner there is some kind of meat either beef, pork, or chicken; and always the worst cut with the smallest amount of real meat possible.  The beef and pork is always on the bone with almost no actual meat.  I think they eat the bone marrow and then also chew on the bones.  Yesterday, I tried to chew the bones like my Make, but all I was thinking about was breakin my teeth and how long I had braces on.
I am up for trying anything.  The other day I ate chicken liver.. or at least I attempted… gross.. it tastes like a chunk of mud. I choked down half of it and couldn’t take it anymore.  I gave the rest to Babe(Dad).  I also watched Make(mom) wash the other chicken parts: intestines, feet, gizzards, and head.  I am scared for the day she pulls that stuff out of the freezer!!
Dinner is always served with a grain.. either rice or the corn porridge.. (think thick grits).  It is usually a huge heaping pile of starch too… so much different than home.  Every night we also get some vegetable in as well, usually spinach, fresh from the garden, or butternut squash.
I am not going hungry, so don’t worry.

It’s too cold to be Africa, life as a Trainee. 6/20/11

I left NY in the summer and arrived in Africa the next day and it was winter L.  I mean, it’s nothing like an upstate NY winter, but Afirca is supposed to be hot!  But don’t worry about me, Ihave enough clothes and blankets to keep me warm.  Also, because its winter, it gets dark here so early, around 5pm, which isn’t too bad since I am exhausted by 6pm and then force myself to stay up until 8p.
I have been living at my first host-family’s homestead for a little bit less than a week now.   I have been given a Swazi name by my family.  I am called Ficiwe “fee-see-way”(one they have been waiting for) Nhlabatsi ”en-schla-bot-see”.  Since, I have been here I have started to create a daily routine:
5:30a Wake up, heat up water, make my bed, bathe, dress, sweep room.
6:00a Go to Make’s kitchen for breakfast of cornflakes with mil made from powder (the first days the milk was hot since my water needs to be boiled before I drink it.. gross, hot milk… I bring my own milk now)… then I finish my siSwati homework since I went to bed at 8:00p the night before and couldn’t finish
7:00a Head to khumbi station if classes are back at the college otherwise class is held in the next homestead starting at 8:00a
Khumbi- Swazi’s main form of transportation when they can’t afford a car, which is almost everyone.  It is a 16 passenger van full to the max +1 or 2 extras.  Very tight fit.
Station- where two dirt roads diverge… not really even roads, just  two parallel dirt lines where the tires roll on the ground
8:00am-10:30a Training
Tea break!
11:00a-12:30 More boring training!
Lunch- left overs from last night or homemade french fries!
More Training
3:30p Back to homestead
Play soccer with little cousins on homestead, 4 and 5 years old
4:30p Start making dinner with Make
5:00p It’s Dark!! Glad we have electricity!
6:00p Eat dinner.. Bony meat boiled in water with some spices over rice or corn flour porridge (lipashli), and spinach.. then wash and dry dishes
8:00p Excuse myself, take another bath (2 baths a day is a must in this culture), and try to study or do homework, pass out instead.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I made it to Swaziland safely!!

I left Syracuse for Swaziland 10 whole days ago! Wow!! I cannot
believe it! The plane ride from JFK to Johannesburg, South Africa was
15 hours long. The flight was smooth and pretty uneventful, just
long. I came to Swaziland with 38 other Trainees (we don't become
official Volunteers until August) and I am pleased to tell you that
every single person I am with here is genuine and hard working. They
have all become great friends in a very short amount of time. Once
the plane landed, we all hopped on a bus for 10 more hours of travel,
which included a couple pee stops, crossing the border from SA to
Swaziland, and dinner at a hamburger restaurant. I don't know if this
is a Swazi thing or not, but this particular restaurant puts BBQ sauce
and French dressing(I think it was) on their hamburgers.. weird, no
ketchup or mustard in sight… how am I supposed to eat my chips(fries).
It was very clear when we crossed the border of SAfrica that we were
now in Swaziland. South Africa was mostly flat plains and very little
shrubbery. When we crossed the border into Swaziland, the first thing
we see is a big mountain and many more trees and plants. This country
is very beautiful!
The first couple of nights we stayed in the dorms of Ngwane Teacher's
College which is where much of our training sessions are held. It was
justlike beingin college again; they cooked us breakfast, lunch, and
dinner while we were in class all day. The food was different… a lot
of it good, and some of it not so good. A lot of beans, rice, and
corn porridge (looks like mashed potatoes and has no real taste… its
corn flour and water). The beans or meat that was served always had
a nice sauce to pour over the corn porridge or rice… very good!
The stars here are beautiful! We arrived to Ngwane at night and the
first thing I asked was for someone to show me the Southern Cross (the
southern hemisphere's North Star). I feel like I have looked at the
stars in NY from some pretty remote, dark places, but it cannot
compare to the stars I see now!
I just move into my homestay the other day. I will be here for the
next 2 months. My family lives on a the Babe's(father's) family's
homestead. I haven't figured out how many live here. There is about
5 houses, a ton of sheep, cows, chickens, and a rooster that wakes up
around 2:30a. The nuclear family I am with I aMake(mom), Babe(dad),
Bhuti(15yr old brother). My Make is great, super nice and helpful.
She speaks English! I will tell more about my homestead later, but I
got lucky! I have my own little house with electricity and the spigot
with running water is close by.
I am in very good spirits. I miss everyone a little bit, but not
really homesick yet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yay! Today is the day!  It is finally here!  Heading to Philly today for staging.  Getting all of those crazy vaccines tomorrow! And then headed to Swaziland Wednesday!
Packing sucks!  I am hoping that my bags aren't overweight...  I keep trying to take things out, but that never seems to help.  The weight just stays the same :( ... Hopefully won't have to leave anything at the airport!
Bags are packed!  Hopefully they don't weigh too much!

I am not expecting to have access to the internet for a couple weeks.  I will try to update this when I am able, so please be patient and check back periodically.

Thanks to everyone for all your support and well wishes!  I love you and will miss you!
<3 Kelly

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I feel like a rockstar! Tons of Good Bye Celebrations!

6 days until I leave for Pre-Service Training!
I am beside myself with excitement! It still doesn't feel real that I am actually moving to Swaziland.  I don't know why I am not nervous about leaving to a third world country, but only about packing for it!

The last couple of weeks I have been spending in Syracuse, my hometown while preparing for departure, and the time has been going by way too fast!  I have been the center of attention, consumed way too much food and alcohol, received a surplus of hugs and well-wishes from all the most important people in my life!  You all have made me feel so special!  My life has been a huge party for the last couple of weeks, it has been great, but I think my sister is going to be happy when she finally gets to have a full night's sleep again!

Shout outs to:
My Sister, Patty for letting me live with her, hosting a barbeque, road tripping to Buffalo, staying up late, and making my time left at home really special!
My girls: Sommer, Melissa, Allison, Maureen, and Julie.... and Kyle.  You are the best!!
My family and my Plymouth UCC family for a great send-off on Sunday.
My camping family and a beautiful day at Southwick Beach!  (I will try to remember about Itis)
Linda - I am so glad I made it out to Buffalo to see you and your family.  The memorial day parade was great, but now I have a sunburn, ouch!
Danielle and Shawn - Congrats and have a blast at your wedding!
And to everyone that I saw this past weekend that I forgot to mention: I really appreciate your support!

I am looking forward to one more week full of going away excitement!  Soon I will be blogging from Swaziland, but for the first couple months I will have very limited access to the internet and I will be super busy training and learning siSwati anyway, so be patient and stay tuned because I am about to begin the experience of a lifetime and I am excited to share my adventure with you all!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Going away party!

14 days until Staging!  These two weeks are going to fly by.

Yesterday was my going going away party.  It was great to see everyone.  I could feel your love, excitement, and support for me.  I am very lucky to have you all.  I appreciate all of your gifts, cards, and words of encouragement!!!

I had to show everyone where Swaziland is on the map.

Awesome cake! Yum!

Love spending time with my family before I leave!

Packing Madness!  Too much to pack, not enough time!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

My ticket for Staging is booked!

This morning I heard my computer chime, notifying me that I have a new e-mail.  It was the staging information from the Peace Corps!!!  Staging is being held in Philadelphia for a day full of ice breaker games and sore arms from all the vaccines we need to get.

My travel itinerary for the next month:
In 5 days.. Saturday 5/14 - Leaving NJ for Syracuse!
about 3 weeks in Syracuse.
June 6 @ 3:23p - Leaving Syracuse and arriving in Philadelphia @ 4:25p
June 8 @ 3:00a!!! Leave hotel for JFK airport .... idk why staging isn't held in NYC?
   plane leaves @ 11:25a for Swaziland
June 9 - Arriving in Swaziland!!!!
June 10 - CULTURE SHOCK!! lol

I am very grateful for the last 8 or so months I was able to spend with my mom and stepdad in New Jersey and also for all the people I met while living here, especially the Carnes family, all of my coworkers at the Gap, and the members of Parsippany UMC.  You have all touched my life!

I am looking forward to seeing all of my friends and family in Syracuse for the next couple weeks!
Pastor Jeff of Parsippany UMC gave me a beautiful
blessing and a prayer blanket for my PC journey!

Will and Kari Carnes - I will really miss you guys!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Counting down

30 days until I will be in Syracuse!  I will be spending the my last couple weeks in Syracuse with family and friends and all the packing that needs to be done.
About 50 days til I will be in Africa.  The countdown has begun.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Flip flops + Snow in March = Really Cold Toes!

How is it that time can go so fast and so slow at the same time?   The days seem to drag on, especially since  I have been mainly working closing shifts at night and spending my days checking and rechecking facebook, reading blogs, and studying siSwati.  Yet, at the same time June doesn't feel that far away.

Two weeks ago we had a mini-family reunion in Myrtle Beach, SC.  I was a fantastic vacation full of sun, sand, and shopping!  Can't get any better!  I bought a few dresses for my new wardrobe.  We laid on the beach and played in the ocean.  I even got a bit of a sun tan!  At night we all went swimming in the pool and jacuzzi.  I didn't want to leave!  I thought it was a good idea to only wear a t-shirt, some jeans, and flip-flops to the airport which wasn't so smart because since the ground was covered in snow when we got home to NJ.  I didn't want my vacation to be over so quickly, but that snow definitely brought me back to reality.

Last weekend we went to REI and got a sleeping bag and solar shower, among other things.  Definitely a cool store.  So at this point I feel like I am almost done shopping.  I have a new wardrobe, somewhere to sleep, and the ability to shower! That should cover it, right?  Now, I just have to hope it all its in my suitcases in 2 months!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rubiks' Cubes and yarn

Ugh, packing... or maybe its just thinking of packing that seems so daunting!  One piece of advice thatI have heard a lot is that if I think I am going to want something, then bring it.  So I have been trying to figure out what extra things I am going to bring to help me keep sane during my 27 months in Swaziland.
- needles and yarn to knit
- 2 rubiks cubes
- an American flag
- a world map
- soccer ball w pump, needles, juggling net
- my laptop
 I am really looking forward to this weekend, going to Myrtle Beach!!  I am excited to see my sister, brother, and Grandma.  This may be the last time I see my brother before I leave, and I am looking forward to some girl shopping with Patty and Mom.  Hopefully we can find some skirts and dresses to add to my wardrobe!  I can't wait for the beach!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is church like in Swaziland?

and why are so many PCVs atheist/agnostic?  I have read a lot of PC blogs in way too LONG nomination process and many volunteers do mention church and how they try to avoid it at all costs.  That question might be a misconception on my part of the PC blog world or the PC bloggers might be a misrepresentation of volunteers' religious views...who knows?!?  I am looking forward to experiencing (at least one) Swazi church service, although I have this impression that it is going to be long, boring, and I will have no idea what is going on!  I will wait until I get to Swaziland to decide on my real impression of their churches.

I only bring this because I went to church this morning and I am always wondering what I will be doing in Swaziland this time next year.  I grew up in a protestant church.  I have a lot of great memories from my church and it has definitely been an inspiration in my life as far as the kind of person I want to be and how I want to live my life.  I don't consider myself to be a very religious person and I despise preach-y people, but I do enjoy the loving, supportive community, and the message to be a good person and to care for each other.

Since I have moved to NJ during my gap year between college and PC, I started attending a church down here, United Methodist Church of Parsippany.  They have been fantastic to me and I really enjoy their service.  They sing a number of the same songs every week, and one truly speaks to me, so will share it.

   "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me;
    Let there be peace on earth,the peace that was meant to be.
    With God our Creator, children all are we.
    Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.
    Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.
   With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow;
   to take each moment,and liveeach moment in peace eternally.
   Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The little things

Lately I have been trying to become conscious of all the little things that I have taken for granted in my life thus far. Things that seem so normal to me now, I feel that I will have a whole new perspective on in a few months when I am in Swaziland.
I wake up in a warm comfortable bed where it is nice and quiet.  I go to the next room, a nice clean bathroom with running water, not only that, its hot or cold and always clean! I can take a shower whenever I want.  I have been taking longer showers nowadays in preparation, knowing I may not have that simple luxury in Africa.  I blow dry my hair and straighten it.  I go downstairs, head for the kitchen, which my mom has stocked with plenty of food.  When I open the fridge there are always leftovers!  And if there is nothing to eat, regardless of the fully stocked fridge and pantry, there is a grocery store, Chinese food, subway and dunkin next door.  They are so close I don't even need to drive, but if I wanted to drive then the options are limitless
I turn on the tv with hundreds of channels, all in English...and if there is nothing on I can check the dvr or the ondemand channels, and then if I still cant find anything I watch hulu on my laptop.
If its too cold or too hot in the house I can fix the temp at the touch of a button.  And my bedtime is not determined by when the sun goes down.  Thank you electricity! and thanks to all the other things that I don't even realize I am taking for granted!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm going to Swaziland!

FINALLY!  It is like there has been a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I have finally been invited to serve in the Peace Corps, so I will be leaving for Swaziland in June!  I am super excited to serve in Swaziland, and hopefully my work there will be meaningful since it is the country with the highest HIV rate and lowest life expectancy in the world.

I applied for the Peace Corps in June 2009.  I was nominated in May for a position starting in February.  I graduated from Buffalo State in May 2010 and  was medically cleared in November 2010. Finally I have received my invitation at the beginning of this month, Feb 2011.  So basically my application process from start to finish will be 2 whole years.  I am sure the experience will be worth the wait and if I have learned anything from this application experience, it is patience and perseverance.

 I submitted my aspiration statement and a new resume to the staff in Swaziland earlier today, so now I feel like I am well on my way to beginning my preparations for leaving America.  I have been starting to write a packing list and a bucket list of things I need to do before going to Africa.  So far I have been able to spend some quality time with my mom, gone to see the Rockettes  at Radio City Music Hall and Lion King on Broadway... both were fantastic!!  I also was able be in the audience of the View.  That was fun!  And I have learned how to ski!  So now all that is left is heading to Buffalo one last time and I need to spend time in Syracuse with the family and friends.  I also need to plan my going away party (or week... haha).  Now I need to start writing my Africa bucket list...