And we’re off…

One of the questions we receive most often (from back home, from other PCVs, and even some Swazis) is, “what exactly do you do all day.” It is often asked in a more indirect way in an attempt to not sound critical, but the meaning is usually the same. The straightforward answer is some combination of it varies and I dont know.

However unsatisfying that answer is, it might help to reflect on what we have done during our first five weeks since being ‘sworn in’ as Peace Corps Volunteers. As this week is the start of our first of six school terms that we will spend here in Swaziland, it is a turning point in this phase of our service called ‘Integration’. While this time is almost entirely consumed by our community/school assessment assignments, we hope to be as productive as possible while staying within the guidlines set by PC.

To help facilitate our positive entry into the school community–showing the teachers and principals that we are serious about our mission here– we have started working with our principal on a couple of the most apparent needs here at the school.

We have categorized all the 3500+ donated books by topic and reading level. Our principal and the school committee chairman have worked to ensure that the construction of book shelves continues (we just have a few boxes left of books which dont fit on the current shelves).

In addition, our school principal has asked us to work in earnest on getting the donated computers up and running. We have been sucessful in getting some working and are in the process of fixing the rest (thanks to those back home who were able to answer some of my questions). While we wait to get the rest up and running, Rebecca and I have been asked to facilitate a series of 30-minute ‘Introduction to Computers’ sessions with the teachers so they can begin to feel more comfortable with ‘these gadgets’ and begin to introduce them to their students. It will be a challenge, especially because we have been told that, while past experience differs, many of the teachers have never touched a computer.

Our initial plan was to do one lesson per week, however, the decision that was made during todays staff meeting was that they would like the lessons to be held four-days per week (at least for the first few weeks in an effort to try and break down the fear of computing that exisits among some of our schools teachers). Oh yeah… And the lessons will start tomorrow 🙂 so you can guess what we will be doing after lunch.

Besides trying to hit the ground running at our school-we have been working on our community assessment projects. Our homestead survey has gone fairly well so far, but we have hit a hiccup in scheduling and are trying to get it back up and running.

However disappointing it can be when plans dont work as well as we’d hoped, the little extra downtime has helped us make tremendous progress on our projects at home. After spending several hours collecting materials–everthing from prying old nails from scrap boards to saving and cleaning food containers. We have been able to begin organizing our home using almsot all recycled, repurposed materials. So far we have made an end table, a closet organizer, sock drawers, a bookshelf, a spice rack, curtins, and a bunch of other household items. Besides the satisfaction of cutting down on the number of discarded (yet still useful) items being burned (as our garbage is here), we have also saved enough of our Settling In allowance to buy a REFRIGERATOR!

It is amazing what a difference it has made. While our electricity usage has gone up a bit, we are able to keep so many of the foods we love last much longer in the fridge.

While it may sound like we have been busy, we have found plenty of time to relax and enjoy our first few weeks at site. Rebecca has read several books, continues her morning jogging routine, and plays gameboy and sudoku in her spare time. I have even sat down and read a book, enjoy watching The West Wing and other movies/tv shows on our computer, and have gotten lost (in a good way) several times on my walks to nowhere. In addition we have gone through our entire Lonely Planet Southern Africa book and drew a map with all of the points we want to hit during our time here (much more on that later). We have also started visiting some of the other areas here in Swaziland.

As exciting as the past few weeks have been, this week is sure to top them all as the students plan on returning to school tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates on how our quite school compound comes alive when 8 teachers and 178 students return.

-Oliver

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