Monday, February 25, 2013

Lots and Lots of siSwati

For the first few lessons, I was trying to post what we’ve learned in siSwati on the blog, for review for myself, and for the interest of anyone who likes obscure languages.
And then, stuff got real, and I really don’t have the luxury of simple word lists to post and all that. Suddenly, I find myself just writing lots of stuff in siSwati. Lots, lots, and lots of stuff in SiSwati.
So, I figured I'd leave you with a picture of my homework from last night, mostly because I'm really proud of it, and kind of as an explanation why suddenly grammar and vocab and everything in between stopped being something I could boil down into a chilled-out blog post.

Off to class!

Midterm Adventures

I got back from the midterm break yesterday, which was oh-so wonderful, and everything I could have hoped for. Originally, I was planning on going to Mozambique for the weekend, but just because of costs and visas and time to plan, that got postponed until a later break, which I was initially disappointed about, but to be quite honest, I think that how my midterm turned out was better than anything I could have planned in Maputo.
Thursday: School got out early, and my friend’s mom picked us up, and drove us across Swaziland to their house, which while still in Swaziland, is right on the SA (South African) border. Her mom directs an NGO related to child development and permaculture, and so essentially, they live on this experimental permaculture farm that helps to train community members in sustainable farming techniques. It was so cool, with a “test farm” where they practice different techniques with all these exotic fruits and vegetables. Wound up eating my first freshly-picked passion fruit, which looked like fish eggs, but was rather good. I slept in a tent in the yard, because of a lack of space in the house, but I rather enjoyed being in a tent. I figure if I’m going to be in the middle of the Swazi bush, I might as well sleep in a tent. (Probably shouldn’t mention the cobra we found by the house later in the weekend. Never mind, Mom. It was great! :D).
Friday: Chilled around the house, and started a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. Sometime in the afternoon, we took a walk to the store, which was a total of maybe an hour and a half walking through this plantation and these fields. It was definitely a switch from Mbabane, but I really enjoyed seeing and doing something new, and seeing something different in Swaziland. For dinner, there is a couple from the States working on the permaculture and sustainability projects, and we joined them for pizza night. I have to say, their pizza definitely beats Capitol Caterer’s (Waterford’s cafeteria caterer’s) pizza by miles. Or by kilometers, I suppose they would say here.
Saturday: Got up fairly early, pulled on my gym shoes and socks (which, for those of you that know me, never happens – I live in flip-flops), and set off on a “hike” with my two friends from school, a Swazi guy who helps with IT at the NGO, and a Finnish girl who just arrived here a few weeks ago, starting three or four months working at the NGO. "Hike" was a cruel understatement for a Midwestern girl, who assumes that hiking is flat ground, and climbing involves an incline. I assure you, this was a climb.
We walked probably six kilometers through these farms along this red dirt road, which made me just think of country music, and then got to this gate. After the gate, the incline was probably 45 degrees for a while, but then we got to this final hill, and it was literally 89.9 degrees up – practically a wall. I was already exhausted, but I really wanted to get to the top of this gosh darned mountain, so up I went.
Long story short, after many breaks, and a few moments when I was sure I wasn’t going to make it, but then decided to keep my mouth shut and climb, I reached the top.
^It was a really stunning view from the top – this totally doesn’t do it justice.
^Proof that I made it.
^The funny thing is that you can see exactly where the South African border is, because there’s some lumber company right on the other side, and so the trees start right at the border. That line of trees and not trees in the picture? That’s the border. Swaziland on the left, South Africa on the right.
THEN, on the way down, I was just taking pictures, and realized what a mind-blowing perspective shift this one is. You can’t even imagine how steep this mountain we climbed up and down was. Okay, maybe you can, but it was still really steep!
See the people walking, right in the middle? Those are my two friends from school. They’re not in front of me, they’re BELOW me. Go ahead, look again. Those hills at the top aren’t in the distance, that’s the scenery BELOW us. Yes, the trees are growing horizontally.
Mind. Blown.
Anyways… I got back exhausted, amazed that I walked all the way back, and just plopped down on the stoop, drank about six gallons of water, took a shower, and went back to work on the thousand piece puzzle.
Sunday: Chilled again, which doesn’t sound that exciting, but you have to understand that after six weeks of hostel, a house and access to food other than three planned meals is a miracle in itself, and doesn’t stop being enjoyable.
Also, finished the thousand piece of puzzle, which was kind of a big deal. I count it as finished, even if the cat ran away with eleven pieces.
Monday: Woke up, took down my tent, and headed back to school. We got my friend’s mom to drive us into Pigg’s Peak, the nearest town to the farm, and then took a kumbi from there back into Mbabane. (A kumbi is a mini-bus, essentially. They run within Mbabane, but also between towns, which is really convenient. They’re oftentimes really crowded, but the one from Pigg’s Peak to Mbabane was really chilled). We would have walked from a kumbi stop to school, but they had lots of school work and bags, so we wound up taking a taxi from “downtown” Mbabane up the mountain to Waterford.
Long story short, I really enjoyed midterm. It was really cool to see another side to Swaziland, other than Mbabane and Waterford. Being “at home,” even if it wasn’t my house, was really welcome break to hostel life, even if I am happy to be back in my QB at school, no longer fighting with the crazy biting bush ants. I couldn’t have imagined a better first midterm break!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waterford Swimming Gala

Today was the annual Waterford "swimming gala," which meant that the entire school crowded around the pool to watch a few of us racing. And when I mean the entire school...
I mean the entire school. We're all divided into three houses, Henderson, Stern, and Guedes, named after people early in the school's history. We have these inter-house competitions in a variety of areas, from theater to swimming to chess and so on, and it's kind of like Harry Potter where you can earn points for your house, and at the end of the year a house is declared a winner.
Anyways, so I swam in two of the races. Many of the people swimming have swum really competitively, on national teams and all that. SURPRISE! I haven't. I'm a lifeguard and everything, and can swim, but not fast. And... I can't dive. In lifeguarding, we practice all these ways to get into the water while not letting your head go under water, and so diving isn't really a priority. I was still racing though, and had to start somehow, so while all these other amazing swimmers were getting into the water like this...

I was entering the water like this, because I'm such a classy person, obviously :)

I am proud to say though, that I didn't come in sixth place in any of the races that I was in, and I think that Henderson wound up winning the entire thing! (GO HENDERSON! :D).

Edit, March 9, 2013: Guedes won. Whoops.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mpaka Refugee Camp

(Went yesterday, wrote this last night, but then the internet wasn't cooperating. I have better things to do that switch "today" to "yesterday" a bunch of times :D)
Today, we went to Mpaka, which is a refugee camp about two hours away from school, but still in Swaziland. The point of today’s trip was to fix up the building which is hopefully going to be turned into a preschool, and to become familiar with the place and people there. While it was a rather large group from the school for this big project, I’m part of a group called 30 Seconds of Change, and we’re going to be going back to the camp several times to facilitate a variety of projects, from building latrines to starting some sort of garden for a sustainable food source.
The big thing when working with this sort of a community is to make it sustainable. Every community service project starts with a problem, so I’ll just give the example of food at Mpaka: there’s not enough, nor is there enough variety for it to be healthy. First option would to be to give people there food, but then the next day, there’s no food again, and it’s making them dependent on you to give them more food, and being that dependent on someone else isn’t a great way to live.
On the other hand, our goal is to organize an agriculture project in the camp. Many of the residents were fishermen or businessmen in their home countries, and don’t have experience in farming. While we don’t have experience either, we’re working to learn about farming in Swaziland, and get some people with experience to help teach the people at Mpaka about farming, so that they can grow their own food. Growing their own food helps not only their diets, but helps create independence.
The other thing, suggested by the Peace Corps volunteer helping out at the camp, is setting up some sort of business with the people there. As far as we know at the moment, there’s no organized way for the people there to maintain an income, essentially meaning that they’re stuck. It’s really hard to get out of a refugee camp without some money, and it’d be great to help set up some sort of sustainable way to make some income for the people there, to build up some savings, and eventually get out of the camp. Because, no matter how much we work to make it a nice place to live, working with people there on sustainable projects and everything, it’s still a refugee camp, and nobody wants to live there forever. So, planning and implementing a stable cash flow is something is something to really work on with the people there during future visits.
Anyways, our project today was to fix up the area around and inside the future preschool. First off, we added some murals to a classroom.
Then outside, there were all these weeds and tall grasses, so we dug out part of the area in front of the school, just because no kid wants to walk through a bunch of weeds to get to the door of their school.
What I spent most of my time doing was cleaning out another classroom, sweeping, mopping, and clearing out junk in there, and then scraping paint off the floor with random bits of plastic and broken tools, because it’s a refugee camp, and people are amazingly resourceful. For most of the time, one of the people at the camp was chilling with me, helping scrape off the floor. He’s from Somalia, and came to Mpaka in 2009. He wants to be a doctor. And the thing is, I’m sure he will be. The people I met at this camp aren’t down because they’re in a refugee camp – they’re determined to make something of life, just like everyone else in the world. While yes, it’s a refugee camp, and it’s not the nicest place to live, there’s this energy there, and everything and everyone there has this potential that you can just feel, and you know that they’re really awesome people living there. It makes me feel kind of silly, because I’m just some random person, and I’m sure these people know way more about life and everything than I do, but I’m really excited to be able to work alongside them.
Anyways, it was a really great day, and I’m so happy and excited that I get to work alongside such awesome people!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

After-School, We Climb Mountains. Actually.

After school today, I (attempted to) climb up the mountain with one of my friends from Lesotho. I say attempted to not because we couldn't, just because we got lost, and never actually got to Tom, the proper peak of the mountain. I guess it was a good thing we got lost, because we wound up walking randomly into this village on the mountain. There was this little kid sitting on the porch of a house that was blasting Cascada music inside, and he chased me down with a rubber band, trying really hard to shoot me. It was actually pretty hilarious.

As we were walking out of this village, this truck comes bursting out of the trees. It was just so funny, because you have to understand that we got there by this path up the mountain, picking our way through grass and rocks, and ditches and such. It wasn't so much a road as it was two narrow strips without grass on them, and yet this massive truck comes pulling up into the village. I guess people live there, so it makes total sense and everything, but because we were "exploring" it gave us a start to see a truck bursting out of the bushes.

And then on the way down, I couldn't help but look at the view. I'd only ever been up the mountain during fog before, when it looked like this:

So, you can see that the scenery isn't the greatest in the fog. Today, it was clear though, and I was so determined to go up there... and success! It was so beautiful. I had this feeling that I haven't had since standing on the top of the mountain above Petra. It was just quiet, other than the wind and the grass. It was so wonderful. After a few minutes of appreciation, we figured we should break the appreciation and take our dorky pictures.

So, I guess that's me, on a mountain in Swaziland. Looking at this picture is kind of awesome - let me describe to you what the stuff below is: my school. (Whoa!)
In the middle there, you can see the field. That's where all the sports happen. For description's sake, I'm going to start describing what's on the right-hand side of the field, just to the left of the rock that I'm standing by, and go counterclockwise around the field in telling you lovely people what the stuff is.
The building right there, just to the left of the rock in the picture - that's the classroom block, where almost all of my classes are held. To the left of that, you see some trees, and then there's the bluish-greyish building. That's the CCLD, or Center for Creative Learning and Development. (We love acronyms here). Essentially, it's a music room and practice rooms downstairs, and a empty drama/dance room upstairs. Attached to it is the amphitheater, where we have assemblies in the mornings sometimes. Just to the left of that is the yellow building, which is the MP Hall, or the multi-purpose hall. It's a gym, but there's also the rock climbing wall and weight lifting room in there.
Continuing counterclockwise around the field, you can see that turquoise slimmer there is the pool. I've gotten into the habit of swimming a mile in the pool every Sunday morning, and in all honestly, the pool just makes school sometimes feel like vacation. I'll enjoy it now though, because once it gets to be June and July, and winter comes, it's not quite as nice to go swimming (understatement of the year - apparently it actually gets decently cold here). Also, it still feels weird to say July in the same sentence as winter. Southern hemisphere, you confuse me.
And then, last stop on this lovely tour of campus, just below the pool in the picture, is that big white building with the red roof, which is Emhlabeni, where I live! There are about 130 of the IB kids that live here with me, and we pretty much are the best. I mean, Elangeni, the other IB hostel is cool too, but you can't see it in this picture. Also, Emhlabeni is the best.
Did I mention that Emhlabeni is the best? Just kidding. But mostly not.
But yeah! That's campus, and now I'm really tired from walking up the mountain, but I still have rehearsal tonight, and lots of homework to do, and dinner is being served in a few minutes, so I'm going to just end this here!

Friday, February 8, 2013

CAS at Waterford

In doing the IB diploma, there's something called "CAS," or "creativity action service." Essentially, it's extracurriculars,  but forcing you to do a broad range of them, instead of all theater, or all sports. Instead, you have to make sure to get a certain number of hours in all three categories. It's something that we all would do anyways, but CAS kind of makes it a joke, because we have to keep track of hours, so whenever you show up for something, there's this joke of "CAS HOURS."

Anyways, Waterford has some pretty cool clubs, so I figured I'd write a little bit about the things that I've been doing here outside of school.

First of all, for action. Let me make it very clear - I never did sports in the States, but I tried. I tried tennis, rock climbing, and yoga. I kept hitting myself in the face with the tennis racket. I kept just falling off the rock climbing wall. I felt like some sort of landed fish trying to twist into yoga shapes. And so, what was I supposed to do for action?

To be honest, failing at sports was probably the best thing ever, because if I wasn't desperate for action hours, I wouldn't have tried two of my favorite activities here - Indian dancing, and Scottish dancing. Dancing counts as either action or creativity, which makes it a wonderful activity for someone like me.

Indian dancing is actually really wonderful. It's the kind of dancing in Bollywood movies, with the fancy hands and all that. The really nice thing about Indian dancing is that we're preparing for UWC Day, which is a day of a bunch of culture-sharing stuff at the end of the term. One thing about the culture of Waterford is that everything is really laid-back, and it doesn't matter if you're late to a club, or if you miss a rehearsal or a class. While sometimes that's nice, it's not how Indian dancing is. The girl running it wants us to be good for UWC Day, and to be honest, it's really nice to have something that you're expected to be on time for, and can count on other people to be on time for, and to always be there, especially having something we're working for all together. Also, I just feel awesome doing these funny dance moves.

Scottish dancing is pretty much the opposite. It's really laid back and kind of goofy, but since there's no performance we're getting ready for, that's fine. The best way to describe it is if I liken it to that scene in Titanic, when Rose is wearing that dark purple dress, after that boring dinner party, and they go down to third class and go dancing? It's that kind of dancing. And it's awesomely fun.

I'm also trying kayaking on Saturday, which is in the pool, but it could be fun. I'm hoping it is :)

Okay, so then there's creativity. First, I'm in public speaking. After all my time as captain of the speech team at my old school, I figured I should at least try it out, and it was really fun. I did impromptu in the States, which was a smaller event there, but that's the main focus of this team, which is really cool for me. We're working on getting involved in some competitions around Swaziland and South Africa, so I'm really excited.

Along with that, I'm actually in a play, if you can call it that. I really enjoy being involved in it, but it's probably more accurately described as an abstract performance arts piece. Essentially, my role is to walk really slowly across the sports fields, tripping every three steps, as four other people walk slowly, doing their respective actions. The field is lit up a certain way, and we're wearing certain things, and it's all a very big symbolic piece of existentialism, but people still walk past our "rehearsals" being very confused why there are these people walking slowly across the field. It feels ridiculous and awesome all the same, and remember, "CAS HOURS." Just kidding...

For service, I'm volunteering in the pediatric ward of the government hospital here in Mbabane once a week, but I'll probably end up writing a whole separate post about that, so I'll leave it for now. Along with that, I'm involved in a group called 30 Seconds of Change, which is a rather new group, founded by Sofia Gomez-Doyle (USA WK '12). The focus is to use social media to empower those who wouldn't normal have a large voice, encouraging them to do community improvement in their areas by connecting funding to projects, and that sort of thing. Locally, the "chapter" at Waterford is looking at working with Mpaca Refugee Camp here in Swaziland to install toilets and (maybe) computers. After that, there's room for anything, and it's really a club that just looks around at how to make the world a better place, and just does it. I'm really excited to really get going with it.

There are a few more things that I've been doing around campus, but those are the major ones for now. There are so many cool things to join here - sometimes I just wish I could join everything, however cliched that might be :)

Oh, and I hear that there are snow days going around in the States - enjoy that! I'll be enjoying our 80 degree, sunny weather with my shorts and flip-flops ;)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superbowl in Swaziland

Here's my timeline:
Yesterday, 8 am - Realized it was Superbowl Sunday.
Yesterday, 8:01 am - Realized nobody else here even knew what that was.
Yesterday, 5:00 pm - Realized that with the time changes, the Superbowl was going to start at 1 am here.
This morning, 7:00 am - Realized I didn't know who won the Superbowl, and felt like a terrible American.
This morning, 7:30 am - Googled who won the Superbowl, and was just kind of confused. The Ravens?
This morning, 7:31 am - Wondered why I just Googled who won the Superbowl: I'm in Swaziland and nobody cares.
This morning, 7:32 am - All sports attention goes back to AFCON (African Cup of Nations).

The funny thing about sports here is that I've realized America is a really isolated country. Most other sports are international leagues, meaning that they play against teams from other countries. American sports? They're all national leagues, meaning we only play with other US teams. Football? The NFL. Hockey? The NHL. Baseball? The MLB. Basketball? The NBA. With the exception of a few Canadian teams in our leagues, we refuse to play anyone but ourselves!

Also, we have a weird set of sports. School sports offered here at Waterford are rugby, football (soccer), netball, squash, badminton, cricket and athletics, among other things. They're missing the Big 3 (in America) - American football, basketball, and baseball! It's strange, but to be honest the sports here are cooler.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

50th Anniversary of Waterford Kamhlaba

Tomorrow is the (official) 50th anniversary of Waterford Kamhlaba, but we had our celebrations this morning - quite the flurry of excitement.
First of all, the library was named after Tony Hatton, who was a teacher here for the first fifteen years of the school's existence. He was quite old, but it was pretty cool to see him back here.
Then, we had Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of Botswana, or just Ian Khama, Waterford Kamhlaba graduate. Either way, he came and spoke. The cool thing about it was that the event was more about the dedication of the library, so his speech was nearly entirely about being a student of Hatton, Hatton's book, and his time as a student at Waterford. He even brought his old Waterford uniform and tried it on onstage during his speech. The whole thing was just really interesting to see the president of Botswana on such a human level, speaking as just a student, instead of as a head of state.
^Side note: I was volunteering as a greeter that morning, and said hello to the president as he walked into school. He said hello back. I'm counting that as a conversation with a head of state.
At that point, the assembly was over, and we just ran around taking pictures because we were all dolled up in National Costume to greet all the VIPs that morning. This picture got out of hand rather quickly - it started with just four or five of us posing, and people kept jumping in :)
So, uh, you know, just an average day at Waterford Kamhlaba!

siSwati Lesson Three

Please start from the beginning. This is lesson three – if you are reading this and have no idea what is going on, please refer to lesson one, and the crazy woman there will sort you out.

For those of you already on the train, here we go: today was… LOTS OF RANDOM-SEEMING VOCAB. I've tried to break it into somewhat logical groups, but the vocab is still random, so just go with it :)

eNingizuma Afrika – South Africa

Uhlaphi? - Where do you live?
Ngihlala… - I live…
Ekhaya – Home
Batali – Parents
Bahlala – They live…

Angiva. – I don’t understand.
Awuphindze. – Please repeat that.

Utsandza kudlani? – What do you like to eat?
Tibhidvo – Vegetables
Sinkhwa – Bread
Inhlanti – Fish
Inyama – Meat
Inkhuknu – Chicken
Emacandza – Eggs

Uyadlala yini ibhola? – Do you play ball (usually referring to soccer)

Sibongo sakho sakabani? – What is your last name? (“The surname of you is of the place of who?”)
Sibongo sami sakho… OR Ngiwaka… - My name last is…

Yebo – Yes
Cha – No (remember, it’s a click. CH isn’t the same as in English)
Angeke - Never 

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Giving," "Superman-ing," and Novelty Babies

In the past couple of days, something that keeps coming up in conversation is community service in African countries, how "Westerners" who want to do some sort of community service see "Africa," and how they act while doing that community service.
First of all, there's this idea of "Africa," as some poverty-and-starvation-stricken wasteland, where everyone is a dying baby with dirt on their face and a spine you can see through their skin. I promise - that's not what it's like. The thing is, there are so many of these NGOs and good-hearted people who come to Africa with these grand ideas of how they're going to help people. The problem with this is that they don't really understand the communities which they're trying to help. I have two examples.

First, there's the TOMS shoes project, which is really well-known in the States. A couple weeks ago, a group of students went to fit and distribute the donated shoes to some local kids. After everyone returned from their various projects that day (I had worked at an orphanage - more on that later), we were discussing whether the TOMS project was really a good idea. First of all, giving shoes to little kids is the least sustainable project EVER. TOMS knows that for it to work, it's not the point to give a kid a pair of shoes once, it's necessary to do so every couple months as their feet grow.

Also, with TOMS, projects of the "giving" sort kind of mess up the economy. While people keep on trying to work towards a sustainable society, where people work, earn money, and buy things, these "giving" projects mess up the chain. The kids parents haven't paid for the shoes, which might be because they don't have money, but maybe not. What if they might have gotten a job in a shoe factory, but they don't, because TOMS doesn't have factories in the city where they're distributing the shoes, and the reason their kid has to wear donated shoes is because they don't have that job. On the other hand, if their IS a factory that employs people and makes shoes, TOMS is undermining their business and making it even harder for those people to make money.

See the problems with "giving" projects?

Secondly, there are the sorts of projects that seem more sustainable on paper, but they're executed in communities that the charities or NGOs or foreign individuals have no idea about. For example, there was a project to install wells in rural villages so that the women there wouldn't have to walk for hours each day to get water. Seems like a good idea on paper, sure. Except that within a few months, the women had purposefully destroyed the well.

Whoever started the project knew that the community didn't have water nearby, and knew that the women spent lots of time out of the village getting the water. What they didn't consider was that getting water was the only time each day that the women had the chance to get out of the village and away from their husbands - essentially, the water time was their girl time, and having a well in the village was messing with that. While the project was good-hearted, the charity had such a one-sided view of the community, and such a shallow view of what went on there made a good-hearted project a flop.

And there is the problem with the "I'll-be-superman-and-swoop-in-and-fix-the-problems" projects. I'll call these "superman" projects. See the problems?

While these are two somewhat different approaches to doing community service, they're similar in that they neglect the complexity and capability of the societies and communities in African nations. They see entire communities as just a group of people that needs one need taken care of, such as water, or shoes. Nice thought, but when you neglect every other facet of life, it doesn't work out so hot.

SECOND THING is how people act when doing community service. Let me describe a few pictures to you, and you can decide whether they sound familiar. I hate to add in race here, but I don't think you can ignore it. A picture of a white, teenage girl, smiling really big, holding up a little black baby who just looks confused. A picture of a white guy, standing in the middle of a bunch of black pre-schoolers, all holding up peace signs. You know what pictures I'm talking about, and it's not that the pictures are all that bad in themselves. Thing is, the mindset in taking the pictures is "Oh, look at these cute African babies," and that's wrong.

The other week, I went to work for the day at the Sandra Lee Orphanage here in Swaziland. It was my first time there, and I didn't know the kids' names, and I didn't speak much siSwati, and essentially, I was someone who had showed up to kick soccer balls around, and not much else. I didn't know the kids, and was honestly a little confused on what we were doing there.

Then, I look over and see one of the other girls from school, a white girl, taking pictures of one of the white guys from school holding one of the kids in his lap. Don't get me wrong - really nice students, but it was bizarre. They'd known the kid for five minutes, and they were already taking these pictures? It's like the kids are some sort of novelty, just because they're black, and in an orphanage in "Africa." I've never seen a black person do this with a black baby they don't know, and I've never seen a white person do it with a white baby they don't know. I hate to say that race is a factor, but it just seems like it is.

It especially bothers me when it's in this sort of "one day service project" scenario. It's totally understandable if you've been working with the kids for months, and know their names, and are really going to miss them later, but in this instant, and most instances, that's not the case. In this instant, it was just treating people like novelties, cute pictures to show their friends back home, "look what a good person I am, holding up a little black kid in Africa. I'm making his life SO good."

It bothers me.

Two sites that I've seen in the past couple months related to this are and - they're both pretty sarcastic, but they make you think.