Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Letters from Swaziland

June 28th 10:30am
Besides "hub days," we look forward to a field trip to Sondzela Bckpackers eMlilwane for a weeek. We leave Sunday, July 10th and don't return until the 15th-16th. Around then, we are also supposed to receive our cellphones (July 11th) and our permanent site placements. Apparently only one or two of us will remain in this area of southwest part of country.
The nearest town... is called Nhlangano (which apparently means "meeting place"). It consists of a kumbi terminal, a KFC, and two streets including two supermarkets , Swazi Bank and Telecom, three internet caf├ęs, a couple of bars and a few more "bottle shops". There are about two or three signaled intersections (they call traffic lights "robots") and a police station.
Well that's about it. It's my birthday today and I'm spending an extra amount of time thinking about all of you!! I miss you guys so much!! <3

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Letters from Swaziland

Tuesday June 14th 11:50am
Today is a big day because we are moving out of the dorms at the Ngawane Teachers College and into our host families' houses in nearby towns. All of us are nervous about how it will all work out because they're been giving us endless lectures about social manners, siswati phrases, security and disease. We will be armed with a propane tank and double burner, water filter, pots and pans, food, mosquito net and a million other things
I'm being sent to a little town called Makhonza with is about a 20min kumbi drive from the college where we are now and where we will come three times a week for classes during the next two months of training.

Wednesday June 15th 8:30am
Wow. The first night "in the field" was an experience I will never forget. I've been placed for eight weeks during training with a family called Makusuku. It is a huge, fat mother and her seven children and a father who looks like he comes and goes. The children range from 14 years to one year old - the oldest is a girl who knows a little bit of English, but the others don't go to school - probably because they can't afford school fees and uniforms. Their clothes are so tattered, they look like they are wearing hand-me-downs for years at a time. The bottom line is that the poverty is overwhelming.
The families are not paid to host us, except for the food, and must provide us with a locked room. Mine is a little room next to the garage and it is very clean and minimal - has a bed, a table and two chairs.
You may have ascertained - and you would be right - that this experience so far has not been easy. And I think it's harder than I think I had anticipated. [Though] I think I'm faring pretty well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting ready to board the plane to Johannesburg

It only seems fitting that we 39 new Peace Corps volunteers to Swaziland should wait at JFK to board our flight to Johannesburg this morning.  As we learned in Staging yesterday, President John F Kennedy founded the Peace Corps in a stirring speech made to students at the University of Michigan fifty years ago.
It's only 10 in the morning now but it's already been a long day.  After a couple of beers and fish n' chips at a great Irish pub in Philadelphia last night, my roommate Kelly Root and I hit the hay after midnight only to rise again at 1:45 am.  We all met in the lobby of the Hampton Inn at 2:30 and then boarded our bus for the two hour drive to JFK.  Then, hours more waiting in the front of the terminal until the South Africa Airlines staff manned the counter at 7:30 a.m. But all went without a hitch.  Many of us were worried stiff about exceeding our 80 lbs. luggage limit but the airline staff just waved us all through without so much as a mention of a fee.  Apparently the airline allow more luggage than we were told.  Yipee.  Maybe I could have put in that Stanford sweatshirt in afterall.
This may be my last post in over a month.  We are told that when we arrive in Swaziland, we will be given a chance for one cellphone call to tell our families we are safely in country.  But, after that, there may not be internet access for two months.  So I'm getting my last wi-fi in at the airport with gusto.  I've Skyped with Emma, played all my Scrabble games on Facebook and checked Jeff Frank's column today in the North County Times.  Thanks Jeff for the mention!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Swazi Send-Off A Hit

First and foremost, I want to thank the Bjornstads for putting on this amazing party.  Everything about it was perfect.  The food was so good and Classic Party Rentals is the best!  But most importantly, thank you to Jenny.  Jenny is truly the best friend a person could ever hope to find in a lifetime.  Not only is she a stunningly math teacher and tennis partner, she is always kind, always giving, always supportive, always loving. She puts up with my crappy tennis game and constant commentary on the court.  She inspired our daughters in the classroom and in life.    The list is too long, there are too many things.  But I want her to know, I appreciate it all.  I can never hope to repay all your love and kindness Jenn.
And Kathy, my other BFF.  Thank you so much for the gorgeous organizing for this party.  
Thank you, Kathy, for getting me off my butt to put together net wit.  We’ve had so much fun picking out shirts, coming up with sayings, and lugging them around.  I hope you can keep it going, but if you don’t have the time and it’s just too much, that’s OK too.  We’ve learned so much, and it’s been wonderful having breakfast meetings, happy hour meetings, and after tennis lunch meetings.  Who knew that business could be so much fun?  Kathy, you are such a dear, sweet friend –  I’m gonna miss you so much!

Thanks also to my family for being so supportive of this crazy decision to go to Africa with the Peace Corps.  In so many ways, if the next two years will be tough --these years will be the hardest on them.  They are the ones who have to hold up the fort here at home.  Nick is talking about taking a month to join me in my mud hut without a toilet or electricity.  Traveling around Africa, fixing something – anything that needs fixing. There is nothing that man can’t fix. Girls, give him a call. But I can’t talk about Nick and our two stunning daughters without breaking out in tears so I won’t … just know that I love you and I doing so this, in some small part, so you can be proud of me.  
It’s been a difficult decision to come to terms with.  And of course, I don’t know now whether it has been the right one.   I may never know, but I feel that this is something I have to do.  Who knows, maybe I can make some small difference in the world.  Maybe I can help someone who I don’t even know now.  Maybe I can motivate someone, someone who is poor, someone who has AIDS, someone who doesn’t believe in the future, to have a better life.  To believe in themselves, to believe in their culture, to believe that things can be better than they are now.   Maybe I will surprise myself too along the way.

I’m leaving my mother and Dave at a time when they probably need me most and for that, I must say ‘I’m sorry.’  They’ve moved all the way out here to Carlsbad and I pick up and go to Swaziland.  Thank you, you guys, for never saying ‘don’t go.’  My mom is one of those people who has always gone after what she wanted --- she picked up and moved to Silver City.  She found a great life there, a wonderful husband.  She probably knows better than anyone, it is always best to follow your instincts, to take a chance.  Sorry to say it mom, but you are the one who taught me by example, that life is not something to be feared but something to be seized

Don’t forget to write me, call me, Skype me, and send me packages.  Red Vines are always good.  And come visit.  I will miss you all.  But, you know, two years isn’t a very long time.  All of you with children know how fast two years can speed by.  One minute the kids are starting kindergarten, the next minute they are graduating from college. Two years will go by with a blink of the eye.  Before you know it,  I will be back again, on the tennis courts, in the writing class, in the book club, sitting at the bar.  I will be back, boring you with all the daily details of my adventure.  Be good to each other and hold down the fort until I'm home again.

My address, at least at first, is:
Ruth Marvin Webster, PCV
PO Box 2797
Mbanbane H 1000, Swaziland
P.S.  Apparently it's good to put Africa on the letter, things have been known to go to Switzerland.  Not a bad idea either, to add "Jesus Saves" on the outside.