Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Winter is Coming. Sort of.

Made it to the stesh in time for the 6:30 bus. That's my homestead, and another beautiful sunrise.


Addy and Ryan's Great Pumpkin


Group 9 merriment
 
Philile teaching me to grind nuts properly (my form is terrible, I have learned since)


I have been warned about winter coming for months. After spending last winter in the coldest region of the country for training, I was anticipating the same 40-degree days in uninsulated buildings and bone-chilling nights. After 9 months of summer, this sounded great. Hell, I remember watching Titanic and even a swim in the fatally cold Atlantic sounded great. But now its July and technically the middle of winter, but the only discernable difference between summer and winter in Lubombo is the sharp decrease in heat-induced mania and the boundless energy a non-dehydrated person feels. I love winter! It can be chilly, the high veld sees temperatures in the 40's at night sometimes, but generally its gorgeous, breezy and in the 70's. The tricky thing is the days are still hot and the sun still burns. This makes dressing extremely difficult. In late June, the new batch of volunteers arrived and are training in an area of the country known to have moderate to warm temperatures. Thus, by the time I leave my house, 6:15 AM in the dark I am bundled up in long johns and boots, only to be roasting by the time I reach my destination at 11. I would say I have developed pretty epic layering and backpack-packing skills though, while completely disregarding every fashion norm I have ever heard. Black, navy and brown? Sounds like they'd go great together. Hiking shoes and a dress? Absolutely. Now I can trek some mountains and still look like a lady. Added bonus.

June was a nice breather and reminded me of both the good and bad of Peace Corps. As the One Year mark passed, I had little moments of gratitude for my circumstances and surroundings. I sat outside around the fire with my family singing Zahara (she is a Xhosa singer from South Africa who's first CD is awesome and allllll the rage) under the Milky Way. Another time, a group of school children walking home was picking on one little girl who was crying and walking by herself, I let her wear my wayfarers to hide the tears and she instantly perked up (while I felt slightly guilty for possibly spreading Hipsterism to my community) and then all the children seemed to accept her newfound confidence. Even workwise, people began asking me to come to events and help out with my ambiguous volunteer skills. (My nurse friend: "So you went to college for 4 years to become a volunteer?" Uhhhh....) I taught my first class to the RHM's (rural health motivators) on First Aid and easy remedies for common illnesses (how to treat a cold without Aspirin for a pregnant lady). It felt great for everything to be running smoothly. But the negative aspects also creep up unavoidably.


An average night in the hut
Being emo is a phenomenon not limited to 2005, South Park's "Vampire Kids" or Taking Back Sunday fans. Emoism strikes in the hut. I think every single person has a capacity for being Emo but the numbing affects of constant internet access/ability to drown out your inner monologue with a continuous stream of news, media, cat videos (evidently the Internet is 30% cat videos - good job humanity! sorry, no citation available) suppress it greatly. While getting Emo may sound, and surely feel, pathetic, its one of the greatest aspects of Peace Corps. Being forced to be alone (in your dark, empty hut) is a fast and effective way to get O.K with being alone and satisfied with your own company. As another PCV recently explained to me, there is a huge opportunity for personal growth during this experience, but growth has to be earned. I'd also define my own personal growth, relatively, as the ability to shake out a rain coat, have a centipede fall out, and calmy but effectively kill it. 100 legs? Well I have a womens' size 11 shoe. Boom.

After a month at site, I was excited for the annual "Christmas in June" get-together. It was really more of a Saturnalia in June, since we celebrated it at the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere (not because we are heathens per se but because that is when its most appropriate to drink/eat holiday food). Nothing about 'Nog is appealing when you could fry an egg on your tin roof on Christmas morning. So we slaughtered and roasted 5 chickens, had a ton of Paula Deen-inspired sides everyone misses from their own homes, general merriment kakhulu, fake snow, Christmas music, lights, and every decoration any of us had been sent in the last year littering the local Backpackers with an amalgamation of Christmas cheer. It was awesome and almost everyone from each group showed up to celebrate and take part in the festivities. What started out as a White Elephant with some Swazi flair (one of the gifts was a giant pumpkin from someone's garden, another was a box of Takeaway) it (d)evolved into a big dance party per usual. Call Me Maybe and That S*** Cray have made it onto all of our playlists...I am not yet sure if this is a good development or a troubling one.


Since then, I have been extremely busy participating in the new group's Pre-Service Training. I have had to put a  lot of my community work on hold for a couple months as a PSN member, but I enjoy it! Plus, being in town has its perks: constant access to cable (Swamp People and Taboo are probably the best shows on television) and an electric tea kettle that never gets a break.

Random Fact of the Week: Ok so it IS cold in the high veld/Mbabane. I inherited a tent from a departed PCV and the zipper is unfortunately broken. I figured the rain fly was enough closure, and a brick to hold it down, but after chattering for a few hours one night with a flimsy blanket from the hostel that may have been used to transmit Smallpox to the Native Americans and a pillow even an airplane would reject as uncomfortable, I decided I should probably hold off on the money-saving camping option until the warmer months return, or when I remember to bring my Mummy bag...


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