We are about to finish up Week 3 of training. We have actually been here for about 3 ½ weeks, but they count that first week as ‘Week 0’. This week has been exciting for many reasons. It is the first week where we have had a strong focus on the ‘meatier’ aspects of our training.
The first couple of weeks were pretty much focused on us learning how to live and get around our training communities. We’ve been cooking for ourselves, perfecting our bucket bathing technique, taking khumbi rides into and back from town, continuing to work on our siSwati, fetching and purifying water, etc. It is amazing how much time it takes just to keep up with daily chores. In addition, Rebecca and I have both had a quick hit from a 24-hour stomach flu, but are both back to firing on all cylinders. This week, though, we have been focusing more on what we are going to be doing when we get to our permanent site. As you have probably heard several times before we left—our service is centered around sustainable development—in that we will be focusing on helping our assigned communities develop their capacity to address their own challenges. Many times a development project fails because the person facilitating the project eventually leaves the area and the community doesn’t have the skills or sense of ownership to keep it going.
After our 9-weeks of PST, we will be placed in our permanent community for the remaining two years of our service. The first three months of this time (August 10-November 10) is called ‘Integration.’ In addition to using this time to integrate into our assigned communities, we will be conducting what the Peace Corps calls ‘Participatory Community Assessment’ where we work with the people of our community to identify past challenges and solutions found as well as the current challenges that need to be addressed.
In addition to reviewing methods and ideas for conducting these assessments, we have learned more about the Swazi education system and talked with current volunteers about their experiences. All, in all, it has been an interesting week.
After the initial shock of being here, I think I am beginning to warm up to Swaziland. One point which I am sure will stick in my mind as I think back on our training is when we were visited by the Regional Administrator from the Swazi government. This man (who went to college in Wisconsin) holds a very important position and yet took the time not only to come and greet our group of volunteers, but gave a speech which cemented in my mind that we are welcomed and needed here in Swaziland. He spoke about his country and the enormous problems they are facing, but also about the improvements he can see as a result of Peace Corps volunteers before us. He pleaded with us to help the Swazi people to learn to better address these challenges—showing humility that I have never seen among any politicians in the US. While there are ups and downs in every stage of life, it is moments like that that help to remind me why we are here and the enormous work that lies ahead of the Swazi people. -Oliver
Ok. We’ll try the pictures again!
This is the wood-burning stove that our host family cooks on. Rebecca and our Sisi even were able to bake some chocolate-chunk cookies in the small oven last Saturday afternoon (despite no real way to regulate temperature).
Three of the pictures provide a ‘virtual tour’ of our accommodations (we have it pretty good). In addition, these pictures were taken before we put up our mosquito net—so don’t worry, we now are in a bug-proof netting while dreams of Taco Bell and Pizza dance through our heads.
This one shows a bit what the landscape is like here. It varies quite a bit but usually you can see pretty far, even to South Africa!