Sunday, April 28, 2013

Adventure Time

I'm writing this on April 26th. I've called upon the magic of the internet to publish this today, while I am in South Africa with zero internet access. I won't have internet for a while.

I'm in South Africa, most likely on a bus. I have exactly one backpack, and that is all. And I am happy.

When I came to Swaziland, one of the things I was most excited for was the idea of term breaks, where I can just pick a place and go. Now, after three and a half months of school, it's finally the first term break. The term has flown by, but I have to admit, I'm ready to get off this campus. It's time to explore for a while.

At school, we have to sign out when we leave campus. This time, everyone signed out to "home" or to "link family." I signed out to "adventures." And that's pretty much what it is. I know where I'm going to sleep every night, but that's pretty much all that I know.

I don't really have anything to say about my trip, other than the fact that I'm there. And that's the point - it doesn't matter what you're doing, as long as you're doing something.

So, uh, that's your cue. Especially everyone reading this in the States, where you still have a summer vacation. Go do something.

And congratulations to Abby and Leo - they're the US national committee's selections to come to Waterford in January as IB1s. Can't wait to meet them!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Machetes and Pap

Last weekend, I worked on a community service project removing bugweed from the Malalotja Nature Reserve here in Swaziland. Bugweed is essentially a twenty foot tall stalk, kind of like bamboo, that's from South America, and is invasive to Africa. Mostly, it just sucks out all the water from the ground, which kills the other plants.

So, I was handed a machete (what they called simply a "bush knife") and was told to whack away! It was a really good time - you'd be surprised what good stress relief a machete can be!

As you can see, it was a really rainy day, and we were all definitely soaking wet by the end. Yet, I don't remember the last time I was so sore, wet, cold, and happy all at once. This project was one of my favorite days since getting here :)

Then, last night, my beginner's siSwati class went out to dinner at this Swazi restaurant. The school cafeteria serves Swazi food every Thursday, but it's really not very good, and so to save the reputation of Swazi food, we had to go get some "real" Swazi food. Amazingly, after all my failed attempts at liking the cafeteria's Swazi food, I really, really liked the Swazi food at the restaurant.

Let me describe what we had - I'm sure there are Swazi names for all this stuff, and I'll include the ones I know, and maybe add the rest later. Anyways. I'm starting with the two yellow circles and going clockwise.
  1. Sinkhwa nembila (corn bread) - it's not exactly American corn bread, but it's pretty good. Maize bread, I guess they'd say in English here.
  2. Umbhidvo (spinach) - it's just finely chopped spinach mixed with some other things. I'm not a huge fan, but I can tell that it's good if you like spinach.
  3. Some sort of mashed beans - decent, better if you eat it with the next thing.
  4. Corn and beans - Again, I guess they'd call it maize here, but that still sounds strange to me. This one is my favorite thing. I could live off of this stuff - it's so good. It really doesn't taste like anything else in the world, and I can't even describe it properly, but it's so good. So good.
  5. Liphalishi (pap) - they take maize, peel earn kernel, and mash up the insides. I would compare it to mashed potatoes, and while it looks similar, it's really not at all the same. It's not rubbery, but it is more rubbery than mashed potatoes. Rubbery probably isn't the best word, but when you squish it, it kind of rebounds back, if that makes any sense. It's really popular here, and admittedly, it's pretty good.
And then for desert, we had fried sinkhwa nembila, carrot cake, ice cream with mint sauce, and chocolate cake. It was actually the best thing ever. After having school food for so long, you really, really appreciate outside food, and when someone gives you unlimited, delicious outside food, you eat. And so we did. It was a really, really nice night with some really awesome people. Definitely looking forward to the rest of these two years of classes with the other "ab swats."

Now, I've just got one more day of classes, and then it's FREEDOM for a month! I've finally got all my plans all hammered out, and I'm ready to go! UWC Day is still Saturday though, so I'll probably post something on here about all that, but then Sunday morning, I'll be leaving on a bus, and exploring for the rest of the month!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Next Year's IB's

Looks like some of the European national committees are starting to announce their finalists - essentially, a handful of teenagers just found out they're moving to Swaziland next January.

If you're one of them - CONGRATS! Feel free to comment here and I'll try to add you on Facebook, seeing as how you're going to come chill with us here at WK for the next few years.

Do something awesome with the time you have left in your home countries, and we can't wait to see you guys in January!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

We're Gonna Make This Place (Country?) Your Home

Something that has occurred to me in probably the last two or three weeks of being here is that people live here. I know that sounds obvious and silly, but when you go somewhere “exotic,” sometimes the normalcies of everyday life seem like they can’t possibly exist.

I spent Easter break at my link grandma’s house (think house family). The best way I can put it was that it was normal. In a really good way, it was a break from school. No matter how much I love Waterford, it’s full of chaos, and sometimes can get really exhausting. Also, dorm rooms will never be houses, and while dorms are fun, they’re not a “home.” On that side, spending a few days in a “home” was really, really nice. And my link grandma and I get along really well. Sometimes, staying in a host family situation can be awkward, but we just get along really well, and I literally felt entirely at home within four or five hours of being there.

On the other hand, it was bizarre, because I realized that normal things happen when you live somewhere, no matter where. We had to run errands in town, and decide what to cook for dinner, and wash dishes, and lock the doors at night, and feed the dogs, and so on and so forth. After dinner, we watched some program about monkeys on TV, and then read for a while. We walked the dogs. We went to one of her friend’s houses for dinner. It was all fine and well, but I was surprised at how strange it felt to be doing such normal, familiar things in what I had previously considered a really foreign, exotic country. I mean, the country hasn’t changed, but I can’t even imagine myself describing Swaziland as foreign or exotic right now.

Now, the problem with all of this is that it makes me wonder, why in the world did I come to Swaziland anyways? I could be accepted into university already! Why am I here, especially realizing that life here isn’t all that different from life in the States, or life anywhere, for that matter! For a while, I really thought this. But then, I realized that it’s similar only on the superficial level. Sure, dishes need to be washed in America just the same as they do in Swaziland, but they’re washed after a different sort of meal, where there was different conversation, and a different sort of etiquette, as was influenced by a different sort of culture. Sure, some things are the same, but a lot of things are different, and I’m thankful that I get to make the “different” my “everyday.” I spent my morning going to classes, just like I would have done in the States, but then I spent my afternoon teaching computer classes to orphans, tutoring a junior student in French, and presenting about American culture to an audience consisting of people from seven or eight other nations.
I mean, maybe things aren’t that different in some ways, but it’s just lazy to pretend that they’re not that different in all ways, because they are, and if you don’t go somewhere to see the differences, and live with the differences, then something’s missing. I have a hard time articulating exactly why I’m happy with my choice to come to Swaziland, but I am, and now that Swaziland suddenly feels like home, I’m having a very bizarre combination of loving the fact that Swaziland, of all places, is home, and feeling like I want to go on an adventure and get out of Swaziland.

So, guys, newsflash: people actually live in Swaziland. They have normal lives. They do normal things.

So, self, newsflash: I live in Swaziland, and it feels entirely normal and entirely abnormal, all at once. I figure I'll have this sorted out right about the time I graduate and have to leave... figures.