Training week pre-family move in

At the King's Game Reserve in Swaziland

At the King’s Game Reserve in Swaziland

We are a couple days in now. We have had a lot of cultural training and safety training…A LOT. However, I will meet someone from my PST host family tomorrow and still can only say hello how are you in Swati, so I am hoping we cover a lot in the language lesson tomorrow. We have heard a lot of negative cultural differences like sexual relationship differences( cross generational, multiple partners at one time, etc…), gender equality differences (it is unacceptable for women to smoke in public but not men, must address the male head of household first), and drinking (frowned upon heavily for us to, but relatively common among Swazis). I am excited to get to know some of the positive things to as we move into a community and get to speak to people one on one and see the positive things too. Also, learning the language should help a lot because they may know no English and I know next to know Swati. Apparently, we are too direct compared to their culture. You must say hi hello how are you, how’s your mom sister etc before talking to them, which is unnatural in English if you’ve just seen them an hour ago, it’s unusual to regret someone 5 times  a day, but maybe having it ingrained in a different language and mindset will help.

Me and some other PCV at King's Tomb

Me and some other PCV at King’s Tomb

We have also had our briefing on HIV in general and our safety from it. Definitely the most depressing day I’ve had in a long time. The prevalence rate here is the highest in the world, but hearing the statistics paired with stories at the same time is very sobering. Many households have no adult in the family so girls and boys of 14 or younger are heads of households. At that age prostitution may be the easiest or only way to feed your younger siblings. Further, often older men in a family or neighborhood are the first sexual encounter a younger girl has, not often by choice.
It’s crazy to me that in a culture that is so conservative on the surface, that frowns upon multiple sex partners, drinking, smoking, and is largely Christian there is such a persistent problem with HIV transmission. It’s even crazier to me that with such a  high prevalence those that are sexually active do not take necessary precautions always.

We’ve been told that when we meet our families tomorrow they may ask about our religion and push on the subject so I am nervous because I do not know what to say, and there will be a language barrier. Similarly we’ve been told people with ask for money often and literally the clothes off your back, but it is rude to say no…..So there’s that to figure out. I expect a lot of cultural learning in the next days and weeks and am just trying my hardest to not offend anyone.



Arrived in Philly, trained for 6 hours, left at 3am for JFK. Flight was better than expected. Crappy food, small space, but I slept a lot. They made me gate check my carryon even though I said absolutely not I wont part with it but he said I couldn’t get on the plane with it (bullshit) and it’d be totally fine (double bullshit) It had everything I could not bear to lose because that’s how they told us to pack. So he took it and when I got to swaziland…they had LOST it. Not even sure if it ever made it into the cargo hold or the guy just stole it. Literally everything in that bag was the stuff I could not bear to lose, so naturally it was the bag that did not come through, and since it was my carry on did not have a luggage tag. UGGGGGH I am praying and positive thinking that it is just misplaced and will come here tomorrow undamaged with everything in it. Other than that hanging over my head like a giant black cloud, so far so good. Everyone in my group is insanely friendly. We’ve really only done medical paperwork and lugged bags all over the place. Tomorrow we have a full day though, so it seems this will be my last day of freedom for the next 9 weeks.

I’m really excited to start training, but it seems like I’m still in a holding pattern since we won’t be able to move to our villages for that entire time. Our Preservice training in Philly focused a lot on the Peace Corps mission, expectations, and feelings things like why we want to do it. Pretty sure that’s not what the next couple months will be like. Our schedule is packed with language, cultural, and technical trainings, with a healthy dose of paperwork in between.

It still all feels very surreal. We are at a training facility that’s the nicest in the country, although still pretty meh by American standards. However, having beds and running water for showers doesn’t feel very Peace Corps-y. We will move in with temporary host families on Tuesday and be with them for 2 months, so maybe then it will really sink it. It’s bed time here on my first full day in my new home, and I’m one bag down and exhausted. Hopefully things will turn around tomorrow. …..

UPDATE It’s tomorrow.

THis morning I got woken up to my roommate asking me for a rubber glove?? I’m not a morning person and was less than helpful. A few minutes later I asked why and it turned out our shower was on full blast hot water because she had turned on the hot and before turned on the cold it got too scalding for her to reach through the water to turn it off. SO it’s 6:30 am, I’m groggy, we’re in pajamas, and trying to figure out how to tun off the shower that is quickly filling the room with steam, not just the bathroom mind you, our rooms’ walls were dripping because there was so much moisture. So finally since my raincoat was in my lost bag and neither of us packed dish gloves (who would) we had to take an umbrella which I held getting our entire bathroom flooded, while we tried to turn off the water. It was raining outside and there’s no fans in the bathroom so now at 9:45 pm 16 hours later, our bathroom floor is still wet. As is the laundry we had hanging in there from yesterday. My roommate had a little burn on her hand from trying to turn it off and I got to wake  up an hour early and lie in bed.  So I’ve gotten my first couple bad experiences out of the way.

We already had one person drop out of the program and choose to fly home, yikes!!! He left after breakfast this morning, and we are now down to 5 boy and 29 girls. It makes me kind of sad someone would come through the rather grueling process of application and staging and leave a day and a half in before seeing more than the training center we are leaving 5 days later. We started health training and met all of the in country staff, had lunch, and started language lessons.

At break one of the PCVNs knocked on my door and MY BAG FINALLY ARRIVED AND NOTHING WAS MISSING. It may or may not have been the happiest moment in my entire life. Imagine losing everything sentimental and expensive all in one bag, thinking it was gone for ever…no really start making a mental list, then imagine getting it back, add a couple puppies and sunshine and you still are not at my level of joy. It was amazing. After dinner we all had a bonfire and played bannanagrams and two truths and 1 lie. So all in all and it’s been a hectic but great start.