Pre-Service Training (PST)

Disclaimer: This post was written before my Gardening and Cooking post but I haven’t been able to post until now. Enjoy 🙂

Since my last post internet has been very limited. We moved into our PST (pre-service training) host village on the 2nd. We are split up according to project into 2 villages so the health volunteers are in one, and the youth development in the other. The village is laid out on a mountain so I am a little hike up with a homestead above and below us. A couple volunteers are in nearby homesteads. I am on a homestead of 9 during the week and 12 during the weekend (a couple of my brothers work in the city and come home on weekends). My family is super great and although my make (mom) doesn’t speak English, my brothers and sisters do to varying degrees. I have my own room that is down right swanky by Peace Corps standards: read electricity and a clean floor and curtains. I cook, study, sleep, and brush my teeth within a couple feet of each other and it does not seem at all strange anymore. but it was still a big adjustment to living without running water.

The family has a big jojo tank with a hose so I have to bring my bucket and set it up then climb up a ladder to turn the tank on and off and carry the water back to my room. Any water we use has to either be boiled or let sit for 3 days to avoid parasites. So if I want to take a bath (in a bucket) or get really fancy and wash my hair I have to plan out my water accordingly. Our drinking water has to be boiled, cooled, filtered, then bleached so that whole process is at least 4 hours before you have a liter of drinkable water.

PST is kind of like being a kid again. I don’t know how to do anything correctly. (Cooking rice over a wood fire outside, cleaning my clothes by hand, washing my stoop, speaking the language)Everyone worries about you; my family sends my brother with me when I hike if it’s at dusk because they are afraid of me getting lost or attacked. We have to ask permission to leave our village on the one day a week we do have off from training, and we have a curfew the other days.

Fourth of July we got a break the second half of the day and got to go to the country director’s house for a cook out. Meeting the other group of current volunteers was awesome, but we had to leave 1 1/2 hours after arriving so we could be back before dark. My adult status has dwindled drastically.

Celebrating the 4th of July

Celebrating the 4th of July

We are getting a lot of technical and language training, half the time in the village and the other half at our training center. We train 6 days a week 7am-3 or 4 pm and cannot leave the house after its dark out (around 6pm). That was the biggest adjustment so far, lack of free time and lack of socializing. We are not allowed to get phones until we’re halfway through PST. At night I get home, haul and boil my water before it’s too dark, try to help with dinner (which is always turned down), do my language homework, eat dinner with my family, bathe and go to sleep.

This past weekend was fun though. We had a mini sleepover at my house and even though our Saturday night getting wild meant staying up until 11:30, that was a treat. Sunday was our first day off and one of the guy’s birthdays so we surprised him and organized a trip into town for lunch. This week we have to work Sunday so there’s no day off.

Everyone is very religious here, Friday night one of the churches had an all night mass, and a lot of the families go 3 or 4 times a week. You can hear the church near me tues thurs fri sun singing after dark. It’s a big part of the culture so I am trying to go with my family if I can next week.

Everyone has been super friendly. Yesterday I was walking to class in the morning and my friend Josh’s make yelled out to me and walked to the road to give me an avocado just because. Today we went for a walk during language and were learning the SiSwati word for everything we saw and one of the makes we walked past talked to us and gave us 3 brimming full bags of avocadoes from her trees….I don’t know what it is about me that screams give me avocados but I’m the only one it’s happened to in my village, and that was the 4th person to give me them. I currently have 12 GIANT avocadoes sitting with my food waiting to ripen. It’s awesome.

Two of the families in the village just had puppies and I am trying to get one for my permanent site. We aren’t allowed to have pets during PST, but I’m hoping I can reserve one and take it with me when we move to our permanent sites. One of the gogos (grandmas) who lives by me who I usually say hi to on my way to class said I could buy one for 20E aka $2 US. There’s also a litter of bigger dogs that’s 6 weeks old my teacher knows the owner of which are absolutely adorable, that I am trying to get because a bigger dog would be better protection. He said I might be able to get one for free because people here do not really keep dogs like we do. So yeah, avocadoes are free, puppies are super cheap, and I’m really happy.

This week’s schedule is built around nutrition and farming so we went to the chief’s kral l Monday which has a community center and are working there all week. We made a compost pile yesterday and spent all morning gathering the materials and putting it together…this morning it was half knocked over and eaten because cows here ruin everything and roam free in winter. So our composting efforts didn’t start so well. Today we started plotting the garden we are making for them. We walked the property and learned about placement considerations, water management, and other considerations. We found a spot and are now mid way into plotting our garden. We dug swales today and dug the initial digging of the garden and walkways. I’m getting pretty good at hoeing. Thursday we will do the second dig and finish it up. I love all of the agriculture lessons, and am really excited to start a garden at my permanent site.

Other random things:

I have looked outside to find cows outside my bedroom window multiple times,

chickens are everywhere here including pecking at my door and the roosters crow from 11pm-7am at least once an hour, my Swazi name my family gave me is Gugu which means precious J, outhouses are gross, if you run for exercise here they think you are crazy, I’ve learned I cannot cook Swazi food well (yet), hand washing all your clothes for a week takes approximately 2 hours, I miss pants, Getting up at 5:30am is no longer painful (but the morning cold still is), My SiSwati pronunciation is slowly improving-yesterday our teacher was so happy because “his students were saying things that you could actually understand” , I’m not a fan of powdered milk, One person eating 3 a day still cannot finish a bag of oranges before they start going bad, paved roads are underrated.


3 thoughts on “Pre-Service Training (PST)

  1. SGI President Ikeda’s words may be apropos:

    We are the pillars of peace.
    Our victories are the light of hope for the world!
    By exerting ourselves, without leaving any regrets behind,
    in all the challenges that we now face,
    let’s achieve monumental victories
    for both kosen-rufu and our own lives!

  2. Hi Maggie:

    I am enjoying reading your posts and hearing of your adventures in Swaziland. Sounds like you are adjusting well and were not too traumatized by the chicken slaughter. The father instinct in me likes the idea of getting a big dog.

  3. HI Maggie,
    I have been battling a bronchial infection all month. Finally got to the doctor on July 25.
    Got medicine and an inhaler. Feel so much better already. Just read all your posts.
    AMAZING experiences already. I can’t wait to read more. I sent a box around July 18 addressed to Sr. Maggie Becker from Sr. Ellen Parish (that’s me!) Hopefully it gets there OK. I am so in AWE of what you are doing. The chicken thing is disturbing, but you will probably be an expert butcher by the time you leave there! Remember it is the natural order of life! Let me know what else I can send. I have your list from Lindsay. Hope you had a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, it certainly will be memorable. Good luck with your language lessons and gardening. LOVE you so much and am so proud of you,
    Aunt Jane

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