September 18, 2011
Oliver and I finished our first week of school here. Each school day starts at 7:40 AM with assembly in the school yard. Students sing several songs in unison and the principal and teachers make any necessary announcements. Then students are dismissed by grade back to their classrooms. Oliver and I will hopefully be starting to shadow the teachers this week but last week consisted of us finishing up a few things in the library and developing a computer class for the teachers. We’ve taught two classes after school. Experience varies but there are several teachers who had never even touched a computer. We started at the very beginning (turning on the computer, using a mouse) and this week we plan to begin to introduce the teachers to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. In the future we may do this again if the teachers are interested in a specific area but we wanted to get them comfortable and know what resources are available to them.
We ended the week by going to a game park backpackers with other volunteers and then doing some much needed grocery shopping. One of our walks in the park went along a river and we saw a herd of impala down on the banks. We walked a little closer and they all ran away but one. Then Oliver saw a crocodile slowly creeping towards the last one. It was getting quite close when suddenly the impala looks up straight at me and then books it away for there. Strangely, I don’t think it ran because it was scared of being devoured but because it didn’t want to be alone with me.
On our way back through Manzini, we decided to search for a bus that goes through our area. We’ve looked for this bus before and never found it. I was beginning to think it didn’t exist but one of the teachers assured us it did. We went down to the bus rank at about 1:00 and started asking around. A man told us it would be leaving there at 2:30 and showed us where to wait. Usually we try to get through the bus rank as quickly as possible because it is very loud and quite a few thefts happen there. We decided that we had to wait so we could finally figure out our transportation options and sat down.
Usually we draw a bit of attention but so far I had only experienced people staring at me or mildly harassing me. What was different about that day was the number of people that wanted to make sure we were ok. After we first sat down, a girl about my age tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we figured out what bus to get on. A little while later an older woman asked us where we were going and if we enjoyed Swaziland. She seemed happy to meet us but slightly worried about how we were doing. Both of these women were genuinely concerned for our well being. At about 2:10 the bus still had not showed up and we were starting to second guess ourselves. Another person walked up at that time but they were trying to get us a different bus just so they could earn the fare. Oliver knew it was going the wrong way and was trying to explain that to the guy. Fortunately another man came up to us and told us that we were waiting in the right spot and not to worry. He kept an eye on us and when the bus finally pulled in the bus rank, pointed it out to us. We thanked the people sitting around us and got on the bus. Several teachers from the school were already on so we knew this was the right one and were happy to see them.
It was a good experience overall because we figured out that the bus leaves from Manzini to our area (meaning we only have a 2k walk home) at 2:30. It also leaves at 5:30 on some days but one of the teachers said it is not reliable and to be prepared to spend the night in Manzini if we choose to try and wait for it. It’s great to finally figure this out, I’ll take one ride home a day over none. Now we just have to figure out how to get out in the mornings. Every time we’ve waited thus far at the scheduled times, nothing has driven by.
Waiting in the bus rank was interesting for another reason. Many people like to try and talk to us and we’ve gotten a few free rides but that is mostly because they are curious. Several times, conversations have turned into requests for money so I often try to shy away talking beyond greetings and pleasantries. However, the three individuals in the bus rank wanted to help us and make sure we were ok without expecting anything. As opposed to when people ask us for things because we are foreigners, these people realized because we are foreigners we may not understand how things are done. Being in Peace Corps is difficult because we come with the good intention of helping others and expect them to let us do so. The first real help I’ve received since coming to Swaziland, that is: not from someone who already knows me or wants something from me, was yesterday at the bus rank. What I am coming to realize, is that may be the case because I have not let anyone help. It is hard to differentiate between people who want to help and those that just want to take advantage of you. If that is the case for me, it is probably the same for those in my community. Everyone needs help and wishes it would come, but being able to trust another person to give it to you is whole another issue.
Rebecca is currently reading: The First Part of the Contention
Oliver is currently reading: Banker to the Poor; White Man’s Burden (the title is supposed to be ironic)
We are currently watching: Planet Earth and West Wing: Season 5