Up, Down, and Hiking Around

7 August 2012

The past few weeks have been just plain strange. With the strike drama enveloping just about every activity in the country, it has been a trying time to be a Peace Corps volunteer (especially one living and working at a school). There have been several days where I’ve reflected on how much of my effort is going into projects that are going nowhere fast—these are the days that I miss home most.

Luckily, there are still bright points which keep me motivated and on-track to successfully complete my 2 year service in Swaziland. One of those bright points has been my work with connecting the surrounding community to the computer lab I set up here at school. In addition to the classes taught by one of my community-member counterparts, there are ‘community hours’ just about every Saturday morning. While the numbers weren’t spectacular this past Saturday, we got a lot accomplished. In addition to helping introduce someone to the internet (including signing them up for their first e-mail address and corresponding facebook account), I was able to help job-seeking community members prepare and print 3 CVs and letters of application.

Focusing on these small successes is what has kept me motivated through these past six weeks when all of my work within the school and with the students all but melted into a giant puddle of uncertainty.

Another tactic that I’ve tried to employ has been to volunteer to be useful for the next group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Swaziland. These past few weeks, I’ve been helping out occasionally at their Pre-Service Training – participating in panel discussion and helping facilitate some sessions on lesson planning/preparation.

The excitement of the current batch of Trainees (they will be sworn in as Volunteers on Aug 23) has helped keep my spirits high and renewed my excitement for the truly endless possibilities that service in the Peace Corps holds. We’ve got one more year left, and have got to make the most of it.

One of our ‘Final Year Resolutions’ is to get out more and explore Swaziland. To this end, we’ve joined the Natural History Society of Swaziland along with another Peace Corps couple. The NHSS sponsors monthly hikes, birding trips, and guest speakers throughout the country. This month’s hike began at the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine (home to the ‘Lion Cavern’ which is the oldest mine in the world) and went along the mountains through Malalotja Nature Reserve to Swaziland’s second highest point at Ngwenya Peak.

Though we didn’t get a chance to hike up to the ‘lion cave’, there is apparently a red oxide of the iron that has been mined from this cave for thousands of years for use in ceremonies and painting. It remains in use, even today and is available in the markets in Swaziland’s major cities.
After a few hours hiking through the beautiful mountains of Malaloja Nature Reserve—enjoying absolutely stunning views as well as sightings of steenbok, a troop of baboons, and even a some rare black wildebeests—we took a quick lunch break at Ngwenya Peak. We took this opportunity to enjoy some of the convenience foods sent in a recent package. Noticing that our time left to catch a bus back home was running short, we headed back down to the entrance gate with great haste. Only to remember that we had locked our backpack in the car of a fellow hiker who was at least 20 minutes behind us on the trail.

Rather than racing our last bus across the country, we decided to relax and spend a second night out. We were introduced to a great ice cream place in the capital and even visited a ‘Jazz Bar’ that never plays jazz music before heading back to site with our friends to enjoy some excellent home-made tacos.
Monday morning we were up early and caught a couple lucky lifts on our way back home where we noticed that our trek had been documented in an article in the local paper–http://www.times.co.sz/news/78361.html. We look forward to going on several more of these sorts of trips before we leave Swaziland next year.

-Oliver

Rebecca is Reading: The Earth Hums in B Flat
Oliver is Reading: The Collectors
We are Watching: Frasier Season 8, Glee Season 1

P.S. Enjoy some pictures from the hike

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