I expected moving to our training sites all on the same day with our poorly packed things to be mayhem, but was pleasantly surprised that it all went off without a hitch. We all had to have our things ready in the respective cars by 8am. They split us up geographically so I was with my friends Becca and Rachel in one car with a Peace Corps driver, a second car with most of our luggage followed behind us caravan style. We said our goodbyes which were not that sad since the country is so small geographically it is relatively easy to see friends, but there was definite anxiety in the air about moving to our sites for good. We stopped to get groceries and waited in traffic for a while since our moving day also happened to be concurrent with the reed dance, one of Swaziland’s largest events.
Home sweet home
My site is furthest geographically so we started by dropping me off first. I was really anxious because there had been some confusion on which house I would be living in on the homestead, and because I was getting dropped off in the middle of a foreign country to live with people I could barely communicate with, the latter probably contributed more to the anxiety. We pulled up to the homestead and immediately the PC car was surrounded by a hoard of young children all clearly very excited to see us. My host father and some of the older sisters came and with all the helping hands my things were placed into my new house in no time. The house I was staying in was a bit of an adjustment from what I am used to from the US, sunlight coming through places other than windows was unexpected. Standing there with no bed, furniture, water, or anything else a house I am used to has was incredibly overwhelming. I said goodbye to Rachel and Becca a little teary eyed at the prospect of them driving away and leaving me alone for the night. Luckily, my host family was all there so I did not have time to feel sorry for myself.
My first night was spent settling in, unpacking, organizing, and trying to find the essentials from the bulk of my luggage. Since I did not have a bed, my family lent me a foam mat to sleep on where I was able to commune with all the bugs in my house on their level of the floor that first night. I draped cloth over the bars on my windows for make shift curtains since, not shockingly, all of the little kids were very interested in the new white girl on the homestead, and even when I closed the door picked up the habit of peering through my windows and not understanding my siswati when I asked them to stop. The next day I literally sat watching the kids watch me for over an hour. It quickly became clear I need to think of things to fill my time. I have never had 24 hours in a day completely unplanned, seven days a week.
After waking up sore Saturday I decided the first priority was to buy a bed. I planned to take a bus to the nearest town, buy a bed, and hire someone to drive myself and the bed back. I walked to the bus stop only getting lost once, which I was pretty proud of, and waited. An hour later the bus still had not arrived. I tried to ask the two women also standing waiting if the bus was coming, but even if they understood my broken siswati, I could not understand their answer. Finally a car passed down the road and they ran out to hitchhike motioning for me to come with, getting out in English “no busses”. I later learned it was because of the holiday there were no busses. That was a bit of a predicament as Peace Corps forbids us from hitchhiking. After an hour of waiting in the sweltering sun I had to walk back to my house, and since there is never transport on Sundays and Monday was a holiday, to wait until Tuesday to buy a bed. Dropping us lacking the essentials on a Friday afternoon with no transport for three days was not the best laid planned.
Feeling a little dejected, I walked to my ssa’s house to say hello and speak to someone in English. After a lot of confusion I figured out the housing situation was that the house I wanted to move into had not been approved by Peace Corps, although my family wanted me in it, so I was in the current house until something changed. That at least was a glimmer of hope that it was still possible to move. My current house hosted a number of lovely tarantulas that allowed me to bond with my host sister by asking her to help me kill. I spent the next couple days settling in, cleaning, starting a compost pile, and waiting to be able to leave to buy furniture.
My homestead for the next two years.
Another picture of my homestead