Kindle by Candlelight

All the days are beginning to blend together. Last week we had a lot
of hub days aka lectures and training, nothing exciting. We did,
however, get to observe a class on Tuesday and talk to students, which
was very enlightening. They split us into 3 different age groups and
groups within that. I went to the high school that one of my sisters
goes to and observed a form 4 (Junior year) with Josh who is Health
sector as well and two youth development girls. It was very different
from the states. We got there later than planned because the transport
Peace Corps hired never came (TIA). They start the morning with a
school assembly that is just all the students standing in the yard
listening to the principal, there’s no sound system or chairs.
Further, most of the information was things in America that would be
written down and given to the parents, not said once and expected to
be relayed by the kids.  We all had to stand in front of the whole
school and introduce ourselves to the students.
The principal was supposed to explain that we were there to observe
and everything should continue as normal, but that did not happen.
Instead, he told the kids to be on their best behavior because you
never know one of us might see something they like and give out a
scholarship or two or have something else to give the students….It was
really inappropriate and uncomfortable. Peace Corps is very clear on
not giving out money, gifts, etc. because of their plan for
development. It’s very different from a lot of charities that come
build a well or give some computers and leave. I felt it put us in a
weird position that the students now expected something from us when
we had nothing. It also just illustrates the mindset so many people
have that when foreigners come into the country they always come with
a gift, which creates a lack of motivation to develop the country
itself and also creates dependency. It’s frustrating that’s the
precedent here and really across Africa because it makes it harder to
help people help themselves when they’d rather you do it for them. I
guess it is good we had a chance to experience that now and start
thinking about how to respond than being singled out once we are alone
in our permanent sites.
Anyways, we observed a geography class and I will list some
observations/differences than what Americans are used to. The kids did
not respect the teacher at all, people were copying homework, texting,
talking, and otherwise not paying attention and the teacher did not
care one bit he clearly was not there to put in any effort. Only 2/3
of the class had desks, even less had books. 1 of the 42 kids had
glasses (more probably needed them but cannot afford them). There were
no supplementary materials or anything on the wall. You could pay to
not wear your uniform so it was very obvious who the wealthy kids
were. There’s a 3 or 5-year age gap within the class; some of them
were literally my age. It’s not encouraged to think outside the box.
You are taught at, not interacted with. The school uses corporal
punishment. There are no counselors for college or otherwise. There is
no trust between teachers and students so they would never confide in
a teacher. Some of the teachers just do not show up for class if they
do not feel like it.
After the lesson we got a chance split the class up boys and girls and
ask about what their average day entails. Josh and I talked to the
boys and got to hear their routines. A lot of them do chores after
school for the family(drive a khumbi, sell things, herd cattle, feed
chickens) , some play sports, watch tv, help with dishes, and study.
It’s funny because the girls schedule is way more packed because of
gender inequality they share a large burden of the household tasks,
but I would never call the boys lazy. Although they do significantly
less than the girls do, they still do way more than American students.
We also went to the umpagatsi (royal krall-think village center) and
got a chance to interview the village chief. The chief is born and
passed down through families, but it is not the oldest brother. The
family’s oldest brother becomes a counselor automatically and the
extended family elects from the remaining males who should be chief.
The chief is approved by the king and acts as his representative. Land
here is not owned but rather given by the chief of a village for use
by a family. It is all Swazi land  or owned by the kingdom
technically. Because of this, a person who wants land must ask the
chief in a rather long process if he can find him a piece of land in
the village, you don’t have to pay for the land, but you are also not
guaranteed land if trying to move to a new village. Women are not
allowed to own land because they think a single woman near married men
will be propositioned and cause strife within the village….not going
to go on a tangent but you can imagine a lot of the females in our
group challenged that idea.
Saturday we had a birthday cookout for me which was great because we
ate something other than porridge, had a half day off, got to
socialize without our bosses there, spent time outside, and had a
cider for the first time since we got here. It was really great to get
to know some of the people I hadn’t had a chance to talk to yet, and
really fun. Sunday I did laundry, cleaned my room, read a lot, and did
homework all before 11am. It’s amazing how different my schedule is
here, but even on a weekend sleeping in means 7am. I went to church
with my family because I wanted to see what it was like, and it’s such
a big part of Swazi culture I thought I should experience it. Most of
my family goes to the Apostolic church that Peace Corps uses as our
meeting place. My make went 2 hours before the rest of the family. I
went with my sisis around 11:30. The congregation sits divided by
gender. It was all in SiSwati so I just listened to the singing, which
was beautiful, and observed. Within the gender groups people also sit
according to age, except the munchkins. The gogos (grandmas) sit
together, the makes (moms) together, and then the sisis together in
the front, but the little tiny ones sit with their moms.
This week has been more uneventful training so nothing to report, but
we are going back to a school tomorrow and I’m teaching 7th graders
about puberty and hygiene…I’m terrified. I also get a phone Friday
which I’m pretty stoked about. Thursday we have our round robin
interviews, which include language and skills tests. It’s our halfway
testing and the last thing before they determine our permanent sites.
A note: my life is full of dichotomies here. Sunday we watched the
video about how awful the rap industry is and my family all thought it
was awful and, no joke, when it was done my sisters turned on a lil
wayne music video. We have satellite tv but no running water or
bathroom. Peace Corps gave us a kindle with our manuals but the
electricity was out today so I had to read it by candlelight. I feel
like I’m awash in irony.

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One thought on “Kindle by Candlelight

  1. HI Maggie,
    I saw the puppy pic. So cute! It sounds like you are learning so much.
    Always remember that you have a positive message for the people you meet,
    and you will do just fine. Let me know when you receive my box #1 and what else
    I should send.
    Love you,
    Aunt Jane

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