Sunday, December 28, 2014


Hello! Now, I know that I have not gone on the trip yet, but in the past when I write on packing lists, it seemed to be very popular, so I thought I'd share my packing list for Semester at Sea, for a semester-long (112 days) voyage. But first, a friendly reminder of my personal commandments of packing:
  1. Thou shalt not pack clothes you never wear.
  2. Thou shalt not pack more than you can carry.
  3. Thou shalt not pack high heels.
  4. Thou shalt not pack a fanny pack.
  5. Thou shalt not pack in a suitcase if a backpack will do.
Then, without further to do...

Clothes: As much as possible, things are synthetic fabrics to dry quickly, as everything needs to be drip-dried in the bathroom. Also - this is not a minimalist list. While I love backpacking, Semester at Sea is not a backpacking trip. I have a room on the boat, and don't have to carry all of this whilst I'm travelling in-port. There is no need to wear the same two shirts over and over like I would normally do on a backpacking trip.
  1. Yoga pants (2) - just for the ship
  2. Hiking/"travel" pants (2) - they fold into nothing, weigh nothing, and dry quickly
  3. Shorts (4) - just for the ship
  4. Long skirts (5) - lately I just like skirts more than pants
  5. Leggings (1) - also folds into nothing, yay for layers!
  6. T-Shirts (7) - necessity
  7. Tank Tops (7) - they're tiny, which makes packing them nice
  8. Underwear (12) - running out sucks
  9. Bras (6) - not sure what to say...
  10. Hiking socks (1) - quick dry, keep away nasty feet
  11. Other socks (2) - I usually wear flip-flops
  12. Flip-flops/ncops (3) - one dollar each from Swaziland Shoprite :)
  13. Dress sandals (1) - can't always wear ncops
  14. Active/hiking/gym shoes (1) - mountains in ncops? maybe not...
  15. Formal dress (1) - short dress, small to pack
  16. Suit (1) - there is a chance of a university interview along the way in-port
  17. Scarves (8) - to cover butts, shoulders, hair, and anything else that happens to be haraam
  18. Jersey (sweatshirt, my dear Americans) (1) - it gets cold, bros
  19. Long sleeved shirt (5) - layers, man
  20. Rain jacket (1) - Christmas present :)
  21. Bandanas (8) - most of the time I wrap my hair in either these or a scarf
  22. Swazi outfit (1) - I'm technically registered as an international student from Swaziland, so I figured I should :)
  23. Beanie (1) - my head gets cold
Electronics: I usually go much more minimal here, but I do have to survive a semester of university, so this is what I'm bringing (plus chargers and outlet adapters)
  1. Netbook (my trusty computer, duct-taped together but still clicking along)
  2. Nice camera (somewhere between DSLR and point and shoot)
  3. Waterproof/shockproof camera
  4. iPod (my mom found one of the old models used for $50 - will be great for checking internet in ports, seeing as how there's no internet on the boat, and I don't want to bring my laptop into ports)
  5. Extra memory cards + flash drive 
  6. Ear buds (I've had a pair for years that has been through hell and high water and the washing machine and still works - I think they came free from some promotion... who knows?)
  7. Phone: (the basic Nokia brick - for me, it's essentially an alarm clock)
School supplies: I mean, it's a semester at sea, not four months of nothing at sea.
  1. Textbooks (9) - required, I had to buy eight and print out one from a PDF a professor sent
  2. Binder/filler paper/dividers (1) - I have one two-ring binder from Swaziland that I just filled with the paper I had left over from IB. It'll be plenty for four months of school.
  3. Full pencil case (1) - some pens, some pencils, a highlighter, a Sharpie. Nothing fancy.
  4. Empty expandable folder (1) - I'm assuming I'm going to get some papers at some point.
Room stuff: The cabin is supposedly small, but I have a feeling after Waterford QB's, it'll be massive.
  1. Magnets (a massive amount): The walls are metal, and we're not allowed to use tape, so magnets are needed for decorating. I bought a roll for magnetic tape at Walmart for two dollars and spent some time making my own.
  2. Air freshener (2): Small room, no windows, bathroom in the room, going to have to drip-dry clothes in such a room... just trying to avoid a disaster
  3. Pictures for the walls (lots): because white walls are my worst enemy
Travel necessities: Seriously, though. In my book, these are almost always necessities.
  1. Sleeping bag and liner: I have a small-ish one that's warm almost all the time. It makes risky hostels a lot less disgusting. I use a liner just to keep the bag clean, as the liner is much easier to wash. Also, camping.
  2. Passport: Duh.
  3. Credit card and debit card: As much as I budget travel, some money is going to be spent. Withdrawing from ATMs in foreign ports is so much easier than trying to find a currency conversion place.
  4. Travel towels: I know this is random, but seriously, don't bring a normal towel. I use a konga and a microfiber towel, and have a microfiber facecloth as well. Not only do these not take up space, but they dry amazingly fast, which is the important part.
Bags: Because I'm not going around the world with this stuff loose.
  1. Backpack: My trusty thing. I stole it from my mom's closet in 2010 and it has been attached to my back ever since.
  2. Overnight bag: Medium sized, with a shoulder strap
  3. School pack: For classes on the ship
  4. Shoulder bag + tiny purse + string tie backpack: They take up very little space, and it's nicer to have the right bag for the day, whether it's hiking a mountain or going out at night. 
Other: Because no list would be complete without the miscellaneous.
  1. Glasses
  2. Toiletries (pack for yourself, you know what you need)
  3. Journal
  4. Host family gifts
  5. Jewelry
  6. Goggles
  7. Hair ties and clips
Okay, that's it! Good luck, enjoy packing!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Swaziland, America, and a Boat?

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself that I don't live in Swaziland anymore. The most difficult part in getting that fact through my head (other than the fact that our hostel family has been scattered across the world) is that my replacement, at least until May, is to go live on a boat (and I'm not exactly sure where after that). I'm so excited about the whole boat thing, but admittedly, this whole affair has got a little bit of the "homeless" vibes to it - but, that's kind of what I signed up for with this whole wandering the world thing :)

Other than that, I have very little to announce, other than that I'm leaving in less than a month! Until then, you can find me busting my butt working long shifts at Toys R Us. I assure you, spending ten hours at a time in a store filled with colored plastic is not helping with my culture shock on being in America... but I just remind myself - one weekend there paid for my flights within India to be reunited with my other half, and that is definitely worth it :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Next Great Adventure

Now that I've been back from Swaziland for just over a week, I'm already in knee-deep in preparing for the next adventure - Semester at Sea. So, I figured I'd write a little bit about what it is that I'm going to be doing from January to May.

Semester at Sea is a semester of fully-fledged university (sponsored by the University of Virginia), where a bunch of university students live on this boat (MV Explorer) for four months, and sail around the world. It's quite expensive, but thanks to the never-ending generosity of the Davis Foundation, I haven't even seen a price tag. I'll be taing classes every day when we're on the boat, and then I'm free to roam in the ports where we will be stopping.

For classes, I will be taking Travel Writing, Gender and Society, Systems of Inequality (a sociology course), and Global Health. I'm really, really excited for these classes! it's nice to finally be able to just take classes that I'm interested in, instead of for requirements for graduation (I'm looking at you, IB). If I were in university already, the credits would transfer, but because I'm planning on university in Europe, and the ECTS system is so different from the American system, it won't transfer. For those at American universities, though, the credits do indeed count for a semester of classes! As for me, I'm just taking it for the fun of it - my grades and credits don't count for anything. Makes for a nice, relaxing semester!

Each class meets when we're at sea, so there are no classes when we're at ports. But, three of the classes do have "field labs," which are one-day programs that we have to do in a port for the class. But, I've picked my classes so that I'm excited about the field labs, which include, in my case, a visit to a market and station for travel writing, and visits to local NGOs in Vietnam and Morocco for systems of sociology and the gender course. Should be good!

Now, as for the exciting part... the PORTS! We will be stopping in the following places:
Hilo, Hawaii,
Yokohama and Kobe, Japan
Shanghai and Hong Kong, China
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Singapore, Singapore
Rangoon, Burma
Cochin, India
Port Louis, Mauritius
Cape Town, South Africa
Walvis Bay, Namibia
Casablanca, Morocco
Southampton, UK

We usually have five or six days in each port, with a few exceptions. Once we're in the ports, other than the field labs described above, it's up to me what I want to do! Right now I have a few plans and a few open pages, but I'll leave that for another post. For now, just looking at this list makes me really excited!

And that's about it! I've been hustling around trying to do all the preparations I've supposed to been doing since October in this last month, as much of it wasn't possible when I was in Swaziland (either that, or not probable, because I had southern hemisphere exams to deal with). Anyways, now, I'm just getting ready, and slowly starting to pack again! I mean, my backpack is never really empty... I submitted my Indian visa yesterday and am waiting for that back, and I've ordered my textbooks last night! Soon enough, it will be January, and I'll be on my way!

Until then, enjoy December!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Upon Returning to America

A few weeks ago, I read quote along the lines of "the point of travelling is not to be a foreigner in a foreign land, but to return to your homeland as a foreigner." Having returned to America after two years in Swaziland, I assure you, that is very much the case. As such, I would like to describe the top six things which have stood out to me over the past two days as points of major culture shock, which I am currently experiencing in my homeland.

  1. TELEVISION: I'm not sure if I got just a little bit too used to SABC (South African Broadcast Company) or Swazi TV, but American broadcast television (we don't have cable or satellite) is just bizarre. Infomercials, the extent of repetitive reality TV... I don't know why it's bizarre, but it just is. I haven't seen the United Auto Insurance commercial in a while, and it freaked me out. In other news, apparently if you have had a bladder sling and it has gone wrong, they want you to call their 800 number... I'm already yearning for the South African commercials.
  2. TRAFFIC: In America, it's so much more organized, and somehow that makes it that much scarier. In Swaziland, if they have an intersection, one road will go, and then the other. Here, they've got these massive systems of lights and signals and lanes and turn lanes and straight lanes, so that everyone is still driving all the time. I practically had a panic attack yesterday, half because I'm used to driving on the left and everything is backwards here, and half because there were a million cars going every direction when I thought only one side of the road should be driving!
  3. FENCES: There are none here. Anybody who has ever lived practically anywhere in southern Africa will understand how weird it is that there aren't any here. No barbed wire, no Inyatsi Security signs, no nothing. 
  4. FOOD: It's not a joke. American food is over-sized, over-processed, and kind of weird. The sugar has all these tiny white grains, compared to the big brown grains from the less-processed sugarcane in Swaziland. The pizzas are massive, maybe three or four times those from SD. Cookies are too perfect, and everything strikes me as just being a little bit not-food-ish. Even the vegetables are weirdly shiny. I scrubbed a pepper for twenty minutes yesterday, and then decided not to eat it, because it was just too polished.
  5. AMERICA IS A GHOST TOWN: There are literally no people outside. I know that it's cold, but there's not that much snow, and even when it's pouring rain outside there are people around in Swaziland. Even in summer, people aren't outside here. It's bizarre. It's like the aliens have come and abducted everyone in America except for me... and then I see a car drive by. But still, there's nobody outside here.
  6. BOILING WATER: Strangely enough, the electric kettles that we use in Swaziland are faster at boiling water than using the metal kettle and the stove like I do here. My tea takes forever, and I feel impatient. Just so you know that Swaziland is more efficient than America, in at least one area.
And that's my list. There are many more, as I'm sure my mother will tell you... apparently I've been walking around the house like someone who has grown up underground and is seeing the sky for the first time in forever.

Monday, November 24, 2014

It Shall Come To Pass.

And so that's it. Two years in Swaziland, I blinked, and it's over. I spent the last two days in airports and planes, flying from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi and back to America. It's crazy to think about the day that I first got the letter from UWC, asking me to apply, all the way until now, as I've technically become an "alumni," but it really doesn't feel like that. I feel like in the middle of January, I'm going to get on a plane and fly back to Swaziland for another year. Logically, I know I'm not, but that doesn't change the feeling.

Despite my tears and frustrations at being scattered from my best friends and adoptive family, it's strange that life goes on. I got back to the States last night, and I have a job interview in approximately an hour (kind of panicked at what I'm supposed to wear, looking at my haphazard suitcase in front of me), an appointment with the Indian visa people in a week to process my visa for March, a whole lot of other things to do for Semester at Sea, and a rather neglected life and family here in Illinois that I have one month to catch up with before leaving again.

It's strange. There's really no other word for it. During exams, we would joke that no matter how much or how little you study, the exams will simply come to pass. Time keeps going, and no matter what we do, it's going to pas us by, whether we like it or not. When I think about the fact that three days ago I woke up next to my best friend in Swaziland, and now I'm looking out the window at America, my head kind of spins. It all seems so big, somehow overwhelming to even think about the distance between myself and so many of the people I love so dearly. And then there's always that realization that no matter where I go, there will always be someone I love who is on the other side of the world.

And that, as they say, is the price we pay for the life we live.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Diwali at Waterford UWC

Hello! All right, let me try and get this blog back on track.

In July, my friend from India asked me how to write an event proposal. A few months later, we were shopping for, preparing for, and setting up for a Hindu festival called Diwali, which we were hosting as a cultural event here at school.

First of all, there was the food. Waterford so generously gave us funding for the event, so we were able to make a bit of Indian food for everyone to try. So, all morning was spent in the kitchen, working to make pakuras from chickpea flower, onions, and some spices.

Photo Credit: Deepali Tikone

Then, I left to start working on set-up. It took about eight hours to get all the furniture and equipment moved between buildings and set up properly, and then to set up all the decorations, including many strings of lights and about 200 candles, but in the end, I'm really proud of how it worked out!

Photo credit: Sarah Hahn

We rushed around like chickens with our heads cut off for the entire day, but the event itself was well worth it. We set the limit at 80 people to attend, because of the food and space limitations, and every single ticket that we gave out returned to us with a lovely person, complete in their requisite Indian attire, or at least a valiant attempt at such.

The program for the evening included a dance, a presentation about the history and religious significance of Diwali as the Festival of Lights, an lesson in dance, food tasting, and a fireworks display. For all of you who know Waterford, you might have a small inkling of how proud I am that we got fireworks on the field, smack in the middle of the cricket pitch! The following photos are credit to Kim Sinnige.

I almost had a change of life plans after this event, thinking I wanted to be an event planner or something. Anyways... I really encourage anybody at a UWC (or even another school) where you think you are lacking in cultural events to get up and do one yourself! Diwali here was something really special, and I hope that it's started a tradition in cultural events for years to come. 

Oh, and one massive final thank you to Deepali, my partner in crime in having the idea for, planning for, and getting this whole event to happen. Also, thanks to Nayifa and Sarah for working themselves silly all day setting up and cleaning up, and also to Waterford's administration for being so generous with the funding for this event, so that nobody had to pay anything to get in the door. And thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Epilogue to Swaziland and Prequel to Semester at Sea

Hello! I feel like I've completely abandoned this blog, but someone just told me that their husband found it and was reading and laughing at the stories, and so I'm feeling inspired to start writing again.

I finish my time here in Swaziland in just over two weeks, which, after two years here, is a crazy notion indeed. For those two weeks, I'm busy writing my final exams, and so there won't be much posting in that time. But, once I return to Chicago in December, I'll try to fill in some of the better stories that have happened here in the kingdom over the past few months.

And soon enough, the next adventure is going to start! The guy who has paid for my time here in Swaziland (Shelby Davis, super cool dude, spends all his money on international education scholarships), has given me a full scholarship to participate in the Semester at Sea program. So, I get to live on what is essentially a converted cruise ship and sail around the world for four months, starting in the beginning of January. So, I assure you, the adventures are not over, and this blog was merely in hibernation, not entirely dead.

In the meantime, I'll just tell you that there is a eight inch long spider (maybe twenty centimeters) chilling in the bathroom, and we're all admittedly a little bit scared of it. Admittedly, I'm also going to miss the fact that all the insects here in Swaziland are humorously big.

Until December, when you can expect a few more Swaziland stories and some preparation tales for Semester at Sea!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Guess Who Came to South Africa?

So, during the last school holiday, my family came to South Africa - I have literally been the biggest slacker with this blog, but for your viewing delight, I have decided to share a few pictures from their brief encounters with my land. Be prepared for animal pictures, though, because we touristed :)

Without further to do, I present, "Two Weeks, Ten Pictures."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Namibia and Botswana - One Month, Ten Pictures

I just spent a month hitch-hiking around Namibia and Botswana, but sometimes pictures are just better than words, so here are ten of my favorites from the month. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Women's Empowerment - So, are you empowered yet?

This year, I'm helping to lead a women's empowerment group here at Waterford. We visit local schools with a program that is meant to empowerment the female students, and hopefully inspires them to dream beyond what is there in front of them.

I'm not sure if it's working.

The issue we had was deciding what really was "women's empowerment." I'm a very hands-on, do-it kind of person, and after having read "Half The Sky," (great book, highly recommend it), I was convinced that the only real way to do any women's empowerment was to pick an issue blocking empowerment, and work against it. For example, work on a project specifically focused on maternal health, sex trafficking, education, nutrition, etc.

The other view was that as students, our presence in simply speaking to students at various schools would be enough to inspire some sort of change, or at least plant a seed in one of the student's minds of what the future might hold, should they decide to chase it. My challenge with this is that it provides students with no support, and nothing that might make reaching their goals any easier. Sure, we've told them to dream, but all I can imagine is us leaving, and having them rolling their eyes and saying "we are dreaming... stupid Waterford kids."

So, here's what we've come up with as a middle ground. It's not a direct project, but it's also not just going to a school for a week, saying what we're going to say, and then leaving.

The plan is that we're going to be working at Motjane High School for the rest of the year. We're going to have four weeks with one group of thirty girls, and then four weeks with another group of thirty girls. Once a week, we will go down to the school and run a session around a specific theme. Each session will include activities, discussions, and lessons in which the goal is going to be to empower the girls as much as possible by "tricking" them into leading the sessions themselves, with as little guidance from us Waterford students as possible. The themes are going to be:

  1. Gender Roles: How to break them without making everyone angry
  2. Goal-Setting: How to make a reasonable goal and what to do to reach it
  3. Relationships: Self-Esteem to Self-Defense
  4. Women in Leadership Roles
Hopefully going back so often should have some sort of an impact. I'm really excited to start this section of the project, and see how it goes! I've found that every project is a bit of an experiment, and whether or not this is the absolute best way to empower this specific group of thirty girls, it's definitely not the worst. The school is keen to have us, and I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DIY: How to Live Out of a Backpack for a Month

So, today was officially finished term one of the new year! If you've read this blog before - you know what that means. If not, let me tell you: IT MEANS ADVENTURE TIME.

The last time I went meandering around the African continent, I headed north to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. This time, I'm going to be going west instead, to Botswana and Namibia.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning, bright and early at six o'clock to catch a bus to Johannesburg from Swaziland, and then hopefully it will all unfold from there! I don't have much to say about a trip in advance, other than how to pack, and so I figured that's what this post can be about. So...


First, you need a tent. I'm borrowing a backpacking/cycling tent from a maths teacher here at Waterford (because that's just how we operate at Waterford). I mean, you could try and not bring a tent, but it's much harder to find places to stay if you don't have a tent. If you're absolutely loaded with cash, skip the tent. But, let's just say that I'm planning on relying heavily on the house of cloth.

Then, depending on where you're going, you need a sleeping bag. I'm going to be in the desert for lots of this time, where it will get crazy cold, so this is definitely a "yes" for me. I'm borrowing one from my tutor here at school (that's kind of a boarding school thing - your tutor is like your parent, but not really). I didn't know what it was going to look like, but I just went and picked it up, and it's perfect for backpacking (small and such), so it's all great!

Then, you need water. I never carry less than two liters, and for this trip, considering the fact that it's the desert, I'm planning to bring three liters. I used a canteen last time, but it was somewhat annoying, as it didn't fit in the pack, so this time I'm just bringing five or six 500 ml bottles.

Speaking of packs, you need a decent pack. Some people go on about weight distribution and frames and blah, blah blah. That's silly. Get a small pack that's big enough for what you need, and not big enough for anything else. That way, you won't bring too much and hurt your back. Just make sure it's comfortable and sturdy, and you're good to go.

Other than that, just make sure you're wearing decent shoes that dry easily (don't pack any extras - that's silly), enough toiletries and meds, and that's about it! Extra clothing, while usually on the top of a packing list, is on the bottom of this. I bring one extra t-shirt, a jacket, and a flannel shirt. That's it. I mean, if you're living out of a backpack, expect to look like you're living out of a backpack.

And then own it, because backpacking is awesome, and even though you are going to look like a homeless tramp, enjoy it.

Yeah, so that's about it! I'm leaving tomorrow, and I'll be back to the Kingdom of Swaziland near the end of May! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

No Water? No Problem.

We woke up this morning to a campus without water. I kind of paused, and then brushed my teeth with the little bit of water left in my water bottle. I threw on a shirt, and left my room to go to breakfast. This is rather a normal thing here in Swaziland, at least in Term Two, when it stops raining, because that's where we get out water from ("god bless the rains down in Africa...").

But, upon opening my door to the big, wide world, I had to practically climb over the mangled ruins of IB1s who had never dealt with a lack of water before. I could hear screaming, quite a few moans, and one siren wail of "what are we doing to dooooooooooo?" It's like they were incapable of remaining human without instant water.

I'm not sure if I should say I helped or anything, because there's not much you can do (other than wait) when the water stops coming out of the taps at school. So, I went to breakfast, where there was Muesli, which is massively special, and none of the other IB girls got to see, because they didn't dare go out in public without a shower.

I just laughed. Not showering for one day? That's fine. I once spent five days in Malawi without a shower, and that wasn't even considering the cow pie smeared across my back.

Anyways, gotta go do my siSwati prep. Which can also be done without water, no problem. I mean, other than my tears at the fact that it's so much harder to reach the word count in siSwati because words are combined... example: Ngingatijabulisa = I am able to make myself have fun. DO YOU SEE WHAT AN ISSUE WORD COUNT IS?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Performances - Waterford Kamhlaba UWC Day 2014

(Please read the original post about this year's UWC Day here - this post is just some of the videos of performances from the day)

Here are some of the videos of the performances that took place yesterday at UWC Day - some are full performances, and some are just clips. Apologies to Russian Choir, Indian Dancing, Finnish Duet, Zimbabwean Choir, and Zim-Zam-Malawi Dance, which I didn't get the chance to film. Other than that, here they are!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Waterford Kamhlaba - UWC Day 2014

Today was Waterford's annual UWC Day here on campus! So, since we're such a diverse school and everything, a lot of the times we forget exactly how diverse we are. I mean, I sit between a Tanzanian/Rwandan and a Swazi in maths class, and live across the hall from a Zimbabwean, so it's pretty obvious that "diversity" is kind of an everyday thing for us here.

So, once a year, we have UWC Day, which is our big international festival. Oversimplified, we dress up like ridiculous patriots and traditional people from our respective countries and cultures, make lots of traditional food, and then watch each other singing and dancing traditional pieces.

The great question every year is "what do you wear for a national costume if you're _____?" In my case, what the heck was I supposed to wear as an American? Last year, because I did Indian dancing (my lovely Indian friend in the blue above did it again this year), I avoided the question. But, this year, as the Russian choir I was singing in didn't have a set outfit, I was left to dress like an American - here is what I came up with.

Overall, the day was definitely a success. I performed with the Russian choir, and then spent essentially the rest of the day hanging out, watching different performances (I'm going to attempt to post some videos later today), and eating lots of different kinds of food. Some of my favorites were the banana creme pie from the Britain stall, and the burfee from the south Asian stall, and of course, the caterpillars from the Lesotho stall. There was a specific name for the caterpillar, but I was too busy making this face as I ate it to remember...

Let me tell you - that was not a small caterpillar. Strangely enough, once I got over the fact that I had just ingested a two-inch long insect larvae, the taste wasn't all that bad. Kind of spicy, actually.

At the end of the day - I'm tired, thirsty (from eating Zambian salty snacks) and with aching feet, but I'm also smiling and chilling. Just as I think the "UWC Day" is over, my friend from South Africa walks into my room, and I realize that it's not over, at least until we graduate. And then a Zimbabwean comes in and asks if I've seen her phone, and I hear a Tanzanian laughing in the corridor. Thing is, I haven't thought of anyone by their nationality in a long time. I guess it's just today, and tomorrow, I'll forget we're all from different places, and we'll all just go back to complaining about teachers and homework (some things are the same everywhere).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waterford Kamhlaba - Inter-House Athletics

First of all, on Sunday we went hiking, and so here is an obligatory "awesome-Swazi-rocks" picture of me and my wonderful IB1 from Ethiopia.

Anyways, yesterday was Waterford's annual inter-house athletics competition. The way that inter-house competitions work in these parts is that the entire student body is randomly grouped into three houses. Here, the houses are Henderson, Guedes, and Stern, named after the founders of the school (in very proper South African boarding school style).

So, I'm in Henderson, which is the best house, and also happened to be the winning house of the day, with six hundred and something points. My small contribution to that was my winning six points in running the 3000m race! Now, I am wonderfully sunburned (again, whoops), and quite honestly not looking forward to going back to classes tomorrow.

Here are some of the highlights photos from those that I took yesterday:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Control Your Husband Using a Remote?

This is a post about the classified ads in Swazi newspapers (The Times of Swaziland, in this case). It's a lovely paper, with questionable credibility, cited sources ranging from "The Google" to "Wikipedia,"  and pictures from stock databases. But, the one thing they do have are the most amazing classifieds - they start rather similarly to newspapers in America. But then, after a few pages, you reach the sangoma (witch doctor) ads. (Sorry to make you turn your head - the internet doesn't like me, and the connection is simply too slow to do anything about the rotation).

 But seriously - this is no joke. You don't mess with the sangomas.

Friday, March 21, 2014



Last August, I went on a grand travelling adventure. and then never actually posted anything about it on here. Sad.

In April and May, I have another term break, and will be going on another grand adventure, and so to lead up to that, I'm going to try and post a few of the stories that I've been hoarding from August. I know, this is really not in a timely manner, and goes against everything the internet stands for in terms of being "instantaneous," but whatever. I run on Swazi time.

Without further to do, I present to you...


This is a story that is hard to start, because it's kind of an epic saga that takes three days to build up to. So, I'll start three days beforehand. I was hitch-hiking from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, making my way up into Zambia, and then just further north and north up into Zambia, where I would take a sharp right and head over into Malawi. And taking a right was about as specific as my directions were, because I didn't bring a map on this adventure.


So, one night, a truck drops me off in Mpika, Zambia. Here are a few maps for your reference in this story: the yellow country on the first one is Zambia, and the red dot on the second one is Mpika.

I find my way to an inn, pay my fee for the night (a whopping 2 USD), and settle into my room. After showering in a standing shower for the first time in about four days, I head outside, and try to figure out where I'll be heading in the morning. I'd heard that there were few towns further north of Mpika along the road, so I figure it's about time in the adventure to think about that right turn into Malawi.

So, I walk back onto the road, and see a group of men and women sitting around in some lawn chairs. After introducing myself, greetings, and answering the typical questions of what in the world a girl like myself was doing in Mpika (do I need to say that Mpika is really, really off the tourist route? Because it is. The tourist route doesn't even know Mpika exists), they decided to take it upon themselves to draw out my route for the rest of my Zambia trip, into Malawi.

After a solid half hour of really intense debate, which I only understand a tad bit of, because English is not the lingua franca in those parts, they presented me with a plan.

"Sistah," the man said proudly. "There is a bus tomorrow. You will take it back to Lusaka, and then over to Lilongwe."

Now, Lilongwe is in Malawi, but please look back at the two maps that I've just posted of Zambia. I had just come from Lusaka. Lusaka is three days trip from Mpika. I was not about to retrace those steps. I described this to them, and they all looked at each other cautiously, before offering their next piece of advice.

"Sistah," a woman started slowly. "You may go north to Isoka. It is on this road. They will know more than we do. But, there are no roads to Malawi from there." I was frustrated at the lack of roads. Google Maps, which I had referred to back in Swaziland while planning my route, showed several roads leading from northern Zambia to Malawi, and I asked her about these.

"THOSE roads?" the whole group laughed. "Sistah, those roads are dirt trails through Chinese mines! And they are missing all the bridges! Nobody can pass on those roads." (Dear Google: Please add a maps option to avoid Chinese mines and missing bridges. Thanks.)

Anyways. Seeing as how I really didn't want to go back to Lusaka, I figured my best bet would be to head up to Isoka. At the very least, I was here to adventure, and this was an adventure.


I hitched a ride in a lorry from Mpika to Isoka, where I was dropped on the side of the highway. I took the driver's phone number, not because I wanted to call him, but because I knew that if I anyone was being creepy, having a local phone number was a great way to back up the pretense that I was visiting a friend from around here.

I walked three kilometers down a side road into Isoka, which turned out to be quite a bustling little village, especially compared to Mpika, which felt like a ghost town compared to this. There were no paved roads anymore, and everything just seemed to wind in and out of itself. The building were all corrugated iron, but there were a lot of them, and somehow none of them looked like they were about to fall down.

By this point in my trip, I knew that I was going to stand out, as I am mzungu - white. But, I think this was the first time I was in a place where I genuinely wondered whether people had ever seen a white person before. I tried asking for a place to stay, but literally nobody spoke English, and I was met with wide eyes - some that were curious, some that seemed scared. I didn't quite know how to handle my position, and must have looked increasingly lost. A group of women sitting in between two of the shacks called out to me.

"Mzungu," the oldest woman called. They were sorting through a massive pile of colorful clothes.

"Yes, ma'am," I said, walking over. They were smiling, which was a good sign. I remembered the name of a guest house the truck driver had mentioned. "Do you know Luangwa?" (For all my Americans, that's pronounced ROO-ANG-WAH.)

She smiled, and nodded. She called over a group of kids, maybe four or five years old, all barefoot, and talked to them rapidly in a language I don't understand. I wish I knew what it was called, but the language in Zambia changed between villages, and on such a trip where I moved on every few days, I could never remember the name of the language of the day. After giving them the instructions, she shook my hand, and motioned for me to follow the kids.

I really hope that Luangwa is actually the name of a guest house.

Anyways, it was. And when I got there, I was met by the funniest woman I have ever met. She said her name was Annie, and spoke a very amusing sort of English. Nonetheless, it was completely comprehensible, which was an achievement.

"HELLO SISTAH!" She greeted me in a high pitched scream, which turned out to be the normal tone of her voice. "YOU STAY HERE TONIGHT YES?"

"Yes, ma'am," I nodded.

"YES YES YES!  COME SISTAH, ON CHAIR YOU SIT!" She motionned to a chair inside the doorway, while she scurried around the corner into what was a little booth, presumably her office.


"Just one night, ma'am."


"I'm going to Malawi, ma'am."


"Sorry, ma'am, I meant Malawi."


This went on for five minutes, until I gave up (little did I know how wrong I was). Anyways, we shall leave this for the time being. Annie showed me around the guesthouse, and showed me all eight different toilets, all which were equally disgusting. But, I couldn't help but smile, because she was so proud.

Later that night, a man and a woman came to my room. I mean, seeing as how I was just travelling around, I was not expecting visitors, but here they were! Turns out Annie had run around outside telling everyone that I wanted to go to Malawi in the morning, and they were here to explain the route to me.

"Sistah, the journey will be hard," he declared solemnly, as if trying to go to Malawi from here would be some sort of pilgrimage. "There are no bridges on that road, and you will have to cross the mines."

"Can I do it?" I asked, hoping the roads weren't entirely impassable.



After a night in the guesthouse, Annie burst into my room at five in the morning, grabbed my arm, and dragged me awake, handing me a piece of bread and a cup of water.


I always have my backpack assembled when I sleep, so I just grabbed it, and she grabbed my arm, and we ran through the streets of Isoka, the sun barely risen. Everywhere we went past, even places I hadn't yet seen on my explorations of the previous night, people were yelling goodbye, as if I knew them. It's strange.

So, we reach what appears to be the bus rank, except that where in Swaziland people would have been piling into kombis, people here are piling into the backs of pick-up trucks and lorries. Annie pushes me onto a truck, and says something quickly to the driver. I ask the woman sitting next to me where we are going. She smiles, and replies, "Muyombe."

Muyombe? Come on, Annie. I'm going to Malawi, not Muyombe! I get the driver's attention, and he comes over. We greet each other, and I am happy to find he speaks perfect English. I ask him where the truck is going.

"Muyombe. Nobody here knows how to get to Malawi. Muyombe is closer to the border. Maybe they will be able to help you."

Well, I guess I'm going to Muyombe! I hug Annie farewell, and try to position myself well on the back of the truck, which is becoming increasingly chaotic. It's a lorry, with a metal frame on top of the back. There are people sitting in the back, on the frame, in the front, and on top of the cab. I counted forty people, and there are still more climbing on. Men are loading crates of gasoline, tires, and several dozen chickens on the back with us. I position myself on a wooden board, leading against a metal pole. I didn't know it when I sat down, but I was going to be in that position for the next ten hours.

We set off soon after that, after the truck had been overfilled past what I thought was considered overfilled. Now, the first thing that was greatly apparent to me what that I had no idea what I had gotten into. The moment we took off, everyone suddenly came up with these fabrics and masks and headscarves. It looked suddenly like what you would imagine the Middle Eastern deserts to be, with people protecting their faces to such an extent that everyone looked like colorful Bedouins. I pause, and then reach into my bag and pull out my Swazi mahiya, which I wrap around my head and over my mouth, not quite sure why.

But, that too soon became apparent. As it was dry season, the red dirt was essentially dust, ready to be flung up by the tires as a kicked along the dirt path. Especially driving in and out of the mines, where no plants grew to hold the dirt down, the dust was suffocating, and coated everything with a thin layer of redness. I was more than grateful that I had something to cover my head.

Now, let's refer to the above map for the rest of this journey. First, find Isoka, and then follow that "road" east (I've learned that on maps of Africa, at least from what I've seen, any dotted or thin "road" lines denote something more along the lines of a path). Ironically enough, the lack of a bridge didn't matter, because everything was so dried up and dusty that the river was more of just a downhill, which was essentially ignored, and we bumped across it like it was flat ground.

Speaking of flat ground, please look at the map. Zambia had, until this point, not been particularly hilly. But reflecting on this journey, I've realized that Muyombe is, as far as I can tell, right there where it's 2000m, in between those two mountains there, next to Malawi.

Let's just say that your overfilled truck had some issues with some of the hills.

But, as we went along, I realized what the purpose of all the supplies was. As we bumped along, we'd stop at random points along the path, where groups of ten or twenty people would be standing. They'd take some gasoline, some maize meal, and whatever else the wanted, paid the driver, and walked back away from the road with their purchases. For such a rural area, it appeared that I was riding along with the grocery truck.

At one point, all the attention of the truck seemed to turn to me. It was one of those awkward moments where everyone was looking at me, and clearly talking about me, but because they had wisely chosen to avoid English, I had no idea what they were saying. I glanced over at the woman next to me, who I knew spoke English, hoping she might translate, but she just smiled and shook her head, laughing a bit. I figured I'd better just do the same, and listened, trying to figure out what they were saying with a slightly confused smile pasted across my mouth.


Eventually, we made it to Muyombe, a village of what seemed to be all of four buildings and a pool table in the center of the square. As I got off the truck, I asked the woman where I might find a place to stay for the night, as it was about four in the afternoon, and I didn't think I would find any continuing transport that night. She told a young boy, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, and then told me to follow him to the guesthouse, which was just down the road.

In writing this, I amaze myself at how trusting I am. And then I get amazed again at how trustworthy the world I run into seems to be.

I arrive at the guesthouse, meet the owner, pay another whopping 2 USD for my room, and start to settle in. But, not thirty second after I'd paid, the boy comes bursting into the doorway, mumbling something about "truck" and "Malawi." He clearly didn't speak English, but clearly wanted me to come back to the town with him. I started to follow him, but he grabbed my bag, said something to the owner, got my money back, shoved it into my hand, and started to run, motioning for me to come with. I had never seen such urgency from someone, and so I followed him down the path at quite a fast run.

We got back to the center of town, and I was met by a circle of ten or fifteen people, including the woman who had set next to me on the first truck. 

"Sistah," a man started. "You are going to Malawi?"

"Yes," I replied, wondering if I was about to be told when and how.

"We are going to Malawi. You will come with us."

I glanced over at the only vehicle left within sight. It was an old pick-up truck that looked like it could fall apart at any moment. I wasn't sure I really wanted to go to Malawi on this truck.

"Will we use this truck?" I asked, pointing to the pick-up.

"Yes, sistah. This truck leaves tonight. The next one will leave next Wednesday."

Five days in Muyombe? I guessed I'd be taking a ride on the scary pick-up truck!

"Okay. I'll come with you." And so it was decided.

I chilled in the village for a few hours after that, as the men prepared the truck for the journey. I found that another girl would be riding on the truck with me, which made me feel slightly better. She was from Malawi, but had been staying in Muyombe for a few weeks, and so she showed me around the village. There really wasn't much beyond a small building, which was the social center and restaurant for the village, a shop or two, and a small circle of houses. Everything was made of dirt, and yet everyone in the village was well-dressed and clean. I wished I weren't quite so covered in the red dust from the previous trip.

A group of men was playing pool in the center of the road, where a pool table seemed to have been dumped there. It too was immaculate, and I wondered under what miracle the dust had stayed away. Anyways, one of the men walks up to me, and is obviously drunk. But, it's not a malicious drunk, and his friends are laughing at him, so I play along.

"Sistah!" he cries. "You are going to Malawi! Me too! I'm driving!" I feel my second doubt at the safety of this ride, but it's soon pushed away by the following laughter, the kind of laughter that only comes when somebody says something so ridiculous it can't possibly be taken seriously.

"Sistah!" he continues. "Have you evah had sugah cane?"

"No," I replied.

"AH-AH!" He's practically screaming. He runs into the restaurant, and comes back out with a two-meter stick of sugar cane, and hands it to me. I pause, break it in half, hand half to the other girl, and then hesitate, not quite sure how to approach eating what looks like a bamboo stick. I watch the other girl rip off the outside with her teeth, and then chew the inside pulp like some kind of tobacco. I follow suit, and am surprised at how good it is. I mean, I know, it's essentially just sugar, but it doesn't look very nice.

So, we sit there eating this sugarcane until the truck comes back, ready to go. Six large barrels of petroleum have been wedged into the back, and in the space left, a few bags of coconuts, personal luggage, and one that is only rubber flip-flops. The driver shouts, and all the people who have been lounging around the restaurant and buildings stand up and load onto the truck. I count thirty-four people. In the back of an already loaded pick-up truck. To describe to you how we're sitting - nobody's seat was lower than the top of the cab. We were sitting on top of a load that was already an overload. And this time, I had no board to sit on and no pole to lean on. 

"Let's go!" someone screams, and so we go.


I never travel at night. Actually though, I never, EVER, hitchhike at night. I mean, except for this.

By the time we had left Muyombe, it was already dark. I found myself wedged between a young man from Zambia, who spoke great English, and the girl from Malawi I had been talking to before. We were piled so high onto the truck that we essentially just held onto each other, in one big mass. That way, if we tilted too far to one side, as we did every few minutes, we'd just hold each other on. There were only two girls on the truck, and they made us sit in the middle so that we wouldn't fall. At first, I protested, thinking this was sexist. Then, I realized that this was rural Zambia, and so feminism took a different form here than in America. Feminism here was going to be saving my life from falling off the scariest truck in the world, and so I moved into the center. I soon found that I was grateful for the place, as the truck swerved and tilted so far over I was surprised it came back upright again.

Driving through this area at night was strange. I knew that there wasn't going to be any electricity, but what happens when people don't use electricity is that they use fires and candles. Riding along the back of a truck, I couldn't help but be touched by the repetition of it. In complete darkness, we'd pass a small flame, visible only as some vague brightness away in the bush. A  quarter hour later, another one. And then, another.

We weren't even driving on a road anymore. The driver slowly made his way through the bush, weaving in and out like he was driving in circles. Our group on the truck had grown silent, although looking around, I could tell that everyone was completely awake and alert. We drove like this for hours, just listening to the tires crunching over the bush, and the sounds that insects and animals make in the nighttime.

That is, until out of nowhere, we hit tarmac. After not having seen pavement since Mpika, I've jolted back intop consciousness, wondering where we are. I get an answer almost immediately as one of the men sitting on the top of the cab calls out, "WELCOME TO MALAWI!"

For most everyone on the truck, this announcement is met with joyous noise. Everyone breaks out their wallets, and starts exchanging money with each other, as if the back of a moving truck in the middle of the night is a typical place for currency exchange. Thankfully, I knew the rate between Zambian kwacha and Malawian kwacha, and smiled when I realized the man I traded with had done the exchange just slightly in my favor. Whether for convenience of math or for kindness, either way.

But then it occurred to me - wait, Malawi? What about the border, my passport, the fact that my passport said I was still in Zambia, but I was in Malawi? I asked the man next to me about whether we'd go to a border post.


Oh. I mean, okay. I guess that's cool.

We drove for another three hours along the actual road before reaching a village, where we spent the night. The next morning, I woke up and faced my reality - I was in the country illegally. I made my way to Mzuzu, where I went to the immigration offices (which were also the prison offices - eek), and explained my predicament. They stamped a note into my passport, and sent me on my way.


But, to this very day, my passport lacks an exit stamp from Zambia, and an entry stamp into Malawi. yet, a week and a half later, when leaving the country, that realization of what a sorry state of affairs my visas were in caught the attention of the immigration officer at the southern border.

"How did you get into the country?" the officer asks me, a stern look on his face.

"I got on a truck in Muyombe," I state simply, holding my breath.

His face melts, and he laughs - practically giggles, before stamping my passport. "Oh, Muyombe... have a nice trip, sistah."

Thanks guys.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Nothing extraordinarily exciting (always a relative statement) has been happening around here this week, but there have been quite a few moments that have made me laugh when I think about how "UWC" they are. Here are my top ten from this week:
  1. The sheer amount of time that I've spent speaking Arabic this week, after nearly three years of ignoring the fact that I speak the language.
  2. When the Dutch student is shocked that I am speaking siSwati with the Swazi student.
  3. When I sit down at dinner and we joke that it's a south Asian cultural meeting, but it's not even a joke, because the other people at the table are two Indians and a girl from the Maldives (Maldivian? Not sure).
  4. Seeing my bookshelf and realizing that the titles are in three different languages, and that I understand all of them.
  6. The fact that one of my best friend's room is a mess right now because she's spending all her time constructing a costume for a traditional Malawian dance, to be danced by a Zimbabwean boy and a Zambian boy at the cultural day in a few weeks.
  7. I am in a Russian choir. Enough said.
  8. Because currently looking around the room, I could thirteen nationalities. There are fourteen people.
  9. When maize-meal porridge is served at a meal, everyone has a different name for it "from home.
  10. Because today, I got rejected from a job in Germany, and I don't even care, because in a month, I'm going to Namibia and Botswana.
Anyways, that's pretty much all! And to make this even more UWC, here's a picture of me representing the Anti-Human Trafficking group in an assembly announcement. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

South Africa - Gay Pride 2014

This midterm, I hauled myself 1,700 kilometers across the continent from Swaziland to Cape Town Pride. And while, over the course of five days, I spent a grand total of 60 hours on a bus, and a mere 8 hours asleep in a proper bed, it was totally worth it. No doubts, no questions - it was absolutely, positively fabulous.
Gay Pride is something that happens all around the world, in various countries, albeit at different times of the year. It's a celebration of diversity, and an acceptance for being one's self, and essentially a big party to promote free love in such a world full of hate. While South Africa has a liberal constitution that allows gay marriage, hate crimes still run rampant, and neighboring nations such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland still have extremely anti-gay laws in place.

And yet, thousands upon thousands of people turned up in the street for the parade and festival. I don't know exactly when I realized it, but I found myself very nearly crying at the sheet sight of so many different people all together. I don't even know how to express the feeling of seeing it, especially after having been living in Swaziland for the last year, which is not the nicest place to be queer (I'm technically breaking the law every time I enter the country). And so, after quite a long time in Swaziland now, being a part of Cape Town's Pride literally made my heart swell.
I guess this is the moment that sums it up for me: at one point, this particular drag queen was on stage. Her name is Mary Scary, she's wonderful, and yeah. Anyways, she was up on stage, and she says, "Let me hear you if you've ever been called a dyke! Let me hear you if you've ever been called a faggot!" Hearing the noise that people made after that made my legs practically drop out from under me. Sometimes (that's a lie - most of the time), it's difficult to be proud, faced with so many of the attitudes and discrimination against being queer in Africa. Many times, especially in Swaziland, where essentially nobody else at school is openly gay, it's isolating. Yet, there at Pride, the feeling of being one of a thousand people standing there, all sharing the same struggle, and all making it, despite every attempt made against us - it's more than powerful.
Then, led by the queens, the entire crowd lurched into a roaring rendition of (this one's for you, Ugandan legislators), "F*** YOU! F*** YOU VERY MU-U-UCH!"
I feel like I can't really articulate what this Pride meant. More than the wonderful-ness of seeing drag shows, more than the freedom of gay bars and clubs, more than the happiness of dancing on a parade float, throwing glitter at angry people watching us from their windows, it was a few days to be really, truly proud. Not necessarily rainbow socks and tiaras "proud" (although that was definitely a thing), but simply PROUD-proud. Proud as in not caring what people thought. Proud as in not worrying about people thinking the whole thing was "too gay." Proud as in showing love.
And while love is not the easiest thing, especially in a place with attitudes that are so filled with hate, love is still love, and that is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

There's too much English on the internet.

Kufanele ngibukete siSwati nyalo, ngako-ke ngitawubhala ngesiSwati. Ngihlala eSwatini - ngobani angibhali ngesiSwati? Ngiphupha kutsi i-internet ikhone kuba ngesiSwati, siZulu, netilwimi tonkhe emhlabeni. I-internet, singayitfola yonkhe ngesiNgisi, ngako-ke ngitawutama kubhala ngesiSwati. Ngisifundza - angicabangi kutsi ngati sonkhe siSwati, kepha angicabangi kutsi ngati sonkhe siNgisi! Kulungile, ngiyacala...

Ngitsandza kuhamba entsabeni lonkhe liviki. Uma ngikhona kuhamba, ngijabulile kakhulu. Ngiye entsabeni nematfombatana waseZimbabwe. Sijabulile kakhulu!

Ngikhuluma siFolenji, ngako-ke, ngete luhlolo. Nyalo, ungabona liphepha kute ngifundze eFulansi, ngente inyuvesi yonkhe ngesiFolenji. Ngesancele, ungabona indvodza yaseNgwenya. Yena, ufundzisa siFolenji enyuvesi yaseSwatini. Ngesekudla, ungabona "la directrice d'Alliance Francaise." Batali bakhe baphuma eMelika, kepha ukhuluma siFolenji.

Nyalo, ehlobo, kuyashisa. Ngitsandza kubhukusha lapha ngemphelasontfo. Ncesi, Melika, ngati kuyabandza kakhulu lapho, kepha lapha, ngingagcoka isikipa, futsi ngiyashisa! 

Ngicabanga kutsi ngicedzele kubhala lapha.Ngiyabonga!