Overcoming Disappointment

As I have started working more, I should not have been surprised when I had my first work disappointment. My primary school was approved for the Books for Africa project to get a library at a significantly reduced cost, and they have to pay a small portion of the fees to make sure they are invested in the project. I had suggested we fundraise for the cost, but my head teacher assured me he could pay the fee out of the school fees. Well, as the deadline approached I went to the school repeatedly trying to get the check, and they did not have it. Since the deadline is not something I control, when the school missed the deadline they are no longer qualified for the project. It is disappointing for any number of reasons, but not at all unusual.

Any development work here, especially following the Peace Corps approach is sometimes frustratingly slow.  Besides the differences culturally in definitions such as “on time” or “professional”, there are other barriers as well. The reason my school did not have money from school fees yet is because the government, which now covers fees for grades 1-6, had not yet paid the schools. For the first couple weeks of the term there was no electricity in the school. Obviously, paying teachers salaries takes priority over creating a library.

While this is a problem, there is an underlying problem I noticed the day before the check was due. When I explained, for the umpteenth time, that if the check were late there would be no books, my head teacher seemed slightly skeptical if that would hold true. There is little accountability from some development organizations so it is not entirely surprising our deadline seemed flexible. Secondly, the community having to put in any effort to receive aid is rare, especially in Swaziland. That is not to say they do not need or deserve the assistance, but rather they rarely have to work for it. My head teacher asked me why the US government could not just pay the fee for them when I said we would not have a library this year. While I was annoyed because I had explained repeatedly it’s not so much about the money as making sure the community is committed to the project; I also understand where they are coming from. When other organizations will give away assistance for free, there is little incentive to work with an organization that requires buy-in for the same or similar services.

While I firmly believe in Peace Corps’ approach to development; that combined with a legacy of other organizations in the community can make it much harder to do my job. I was disappointed the project I was most excited for is not going to happen, and sometimes it makes it very hard to feel accomplished. During training the medical unit showed us a chart of the average PCV’s emotions during service. We are currently in a low period according to the chart, and a lot of my friends’ texts, and it is easy to see why. Now that we are starting to do real work we are also starting to see real failures.

I thought I’d post a random picture of me and my friends hiking since my project didn’t work out!

Hiking with the gals

Hiking with the gals

Swaziland Families

Gogo-grandmother

Mkhulu-grandfather

Babe-father

Make-mother

Sisi-sister

Bhuti-brother

The list above can define just about every one of the fifty some people who I live with here. I have been trying for 6 months now to figure out how I am related to some of the people on my homestead, and still have not been able to. While at home we have siblings, cousins, stepparents, adoptive parents, neighbors, and friends here the lines are much more blurred. Swazi culture in general, is much more inclusive to all relations. Your parents’ siblings’ children are your bosisi and bobhuti. The adult who takes care of you is your babe or make no matter if you are related or not. Your father’s brother is your babe too, and any woman old enough is your gogo. The culture here is less worried about how you are related and more worried that you are taken care of.

I was talking to another volunteer about my friend who takes care of her kids and her husband’s kids, who were born during his marriage to another woman. My friend’s first question was if the kids that are not biologically the woman’s children are treated differently. It’s a fair question, but I never even knew they were not all her children until I met the other woman, and was told afterwards that she was the mom of a boy I had thought was my friend’s.

Some of the kids in my Swazi family

Some of the kids in my Swazi family

Many young men and women here are dating two, three, or four people simultaneously, the traditional marriages mean the brothers and sisters you grow up with could easily be from a different wife, and cheating while married is common, while divorce is unheard of. The other factor is so many people who had children died before ARV’s were introduced here or have died since, and their children have been adopted into their neighbors’, aunts’, or cousins’ families.  These different mores mean when I ask how I’m related to a person who I know did not come from my babe or either of my makes I am still told it is my bhuti. In some ways this is the best outcome for all of these blended families. If you really take the time it is possible to figure out who was born to whom, but in Swaziland no one but myself and the other foreigners care.

Books for Africa

We have an annual partnership with Books for Africa, an organization that ships books to start or improve libraries around the continent. As I wrote about earlier, my school did not get books this year, but as I am on the board for my group I still got to help out in other ways. Instead of just handing out books we include a librarian workshop to train our Swazi counterparts on how to start, manage, and maintain a library. I completely took for granted the education we get at a young age not only just having a library at school, but having someone to explain fiction and nonfiction, the parts of a book, and how to find books in the library.

Image

Our first day of sessions the room we had reserved for 8am had a church service in it that did not end until 8:20, and by the time we set up everything were already running behind. After that snafu, everything went much smoother. We had two days on everything from cataloguing to mending spines, and at the end of it got a lot of positive feedback. It was interesting, though, our speaker spent an entire session on library rules highlighting all the way kids will mess up the library. He suggested checking backpacks for weapons before they enter the library, and ensuring girls are dressed appropriately so they don’t encourage harassment. The relationship between book borrowers here versus at home is clearly going to be different.

After our last session I ran to Mbabane where we had an embassy versus Peace Corps volleyball tournament. We did not do so well, but had a fun time. It felt like home being around Americans and playing a sport other than soccer.

Image

Rainy Season

I don’t have electricity in my house, but I am able to charge my electronics at a different house nearby. Usually, this is not much of a hassle, but during the rainy season their electricity is knocked out multiple times a week and can be out for a couple days at a time. Because of this my use of my computer, phone, etc. became a lot more selective in case I could not charge it for a while. The good thing about this was I caught up on a lot of reading; the bad thing was I couldn’t blog much. However, now the rains are done and I should be back on track.

In March I took a weekend trip for my friend Patty’s birthday. Eight of us were supposed to leave for our much-anticipated break early in the morning to make sure we all got seats on the khumbi to Durban. It had been raining hard for 3 days prior and I was worried my bus would not be running because of the roads. Luckily, it still was-albeit it 2 ½ hours late. I am pretty far out there so there is only the one road in and out of my community. Of course, on the day I was supposed to leave for a much-needed vacation, that road decided to flood. There is a bridge a couple feet high that runs over a trickle of a river 20 minutes from my community, but somehow with all the rain that bridge was completely covered in rushing water. I did not notice this until the bus started going towards the river and other passengers all stood up to watch. It is probably a good thing I didn’t notice though because I would have gotten off the bus and missed my trip. I genuinely thought the bus would hydroplane or get pushed off the bridge, the driver couldn’t see to begin with, by the rushing water, or somehow lead to the bus in the rapids that had formed around boulders that were usually dry except their bottom 2 inches. It was the scariest thing I have gone through in Swaziland so far, but luckily we made it across and no one was hurt, although the bus did stall one minute later. There was a large crowd on the other side of the new river because no one had been crazy enough to try and cross it, and school ended up being cancelled that day because no one could safely get to it.

Rainy Road

The “road” during rainy season

After that adrenaline filled start to my vacation, it was a relaxing weekend. The things I miss most from home are not running water or the lack of hand-sized bugs. I had missed really simple things like Thai food and spending a day window shopping. We were only there3 days so I spent my time doing everything I can’t do in Swaziland; walking around at night, shopping, meeting people who are not volunteers, and getting my haircut. We had a fun couple of days with lots of things I’d missed -tapas, Mexican, sushi,  my first margarita in 9 months, and good company too.

Tequilla, how I've missed you.

Tequila, how I’ve missed you.

On the last day some of the other girls went to the beach. None of us had phone signal so when my friend Janae and I did not see them all day we did not think much of it. We got back to the hostel and I connected to wifi to get whatsapp messages telling us they got robbed. They were at the beach and although they never left their bags alone someone managed to grab a purse with phone, ipod, glasses, rx sunglasses, credit cards, and clothes. The police were less than helpful because it happens often and the thieves are professionals who unload the stuff they can’t sell immediately. The police drove my friends home and it was a good thing we were leaving anyway. I think we all learned to leave valuables at the hostel when possible, and I will not forget to renew my travellers insurance this year.

Me and the birthday girl

Me and the birthday girl

Election Time in Swaziland

Image

It is election time in Swaziland. We are thoroughly counseled not to get involved in politics here, but since it is also a cultural learning experience I allow myself to go to the community meeting where campaign speeches will be held. I will try to explain my limited knowledge of government here. There is the traditional government; the king, inner council, indvuna (chief) who all are important, but work within their own structure. There is also a parliament and locally elected positions somewhat equivalent to alderman-but for a larger geographic area. I got to see the speeches for bucopho which is a paid government position and covers a couple communities. After 2 hours of sitting on the ground in the sun the speeches started, and I understood exactly none of it. I could tell some of the candidates went for humor while others acted more serious, but beyond that I think I heard the words “water” and “”cow?”.  I also got my official introduction to the community at this meeting. After 4 hours of sitting on the hard ground in the African sun, I am sure it was a great first impression. Luckily, Sonia tried her hardest to coach me on what to do. Women are not allowed to stand during meetings (which I did NOT want to respect) so I had to kneel when speaking. They introduced me and I waved with my left hand (a new no no for me to learn), but otherwise I did not make any big cultural gaffes for once.

Since we all were given kindles, and there is a large collection of shared digital books, we have started a swaz-ebook club. Considering my current pace of reading we could probably meet every week, but for some reason others are not so enthusiastic about that idea. I have my schedule pretty set now. Wake up, work out, bucket bathe(which I am still no better at), play guitar, cook lunch, read and then spend time with my family especially the little kids. I joke Peace Corps is basically training me to be a stay at home mom, but I am not sure how much of a joke it is when it is one hundred percent true.

This week I went to the clinic, and get to start helping out there two days a week. As great as I am at my new hermit lifestyle I am very excited to have something to do again. I also dug my garden this week. Because I wanted to double dig (for better root growth) and dig swales and berms (for water catchment), digging takes 2 days before it is done. I had a nice crowd watching me who have no idea why I am digging in this weird way, but I am hoping to lead by example and try to explain all my weird hippie gardening ways.

Supply closet at the clinic

Supply closet at the clinic

Most importantly I got approval to move the burglar bars to my new house and found someone to do it! I am beyond excited, but still have to let the family pick a  way to do it.

Two days worth of digging

Two days worth of digging

My Goat Proof Garden

The Quiet Life

Swazi campaign posters

Swazi campaign posters

My next couple days were spent moving furniture in my house, then moving it again, and moving it again. I have no concept of space and could not figure out the best place for things just by looking. My babe’s sister (so my host aunt?) was visiting the homestead so I got to spend one of the cold days inside with everyone ,drinking Swazi tea, different from other tea because it is so saturated with sugar there’s a good inch of un-dissolved granules when you finish, and nodding vigorously whenever I heard my name. I figured out later the event was to bless the new house my family is building, I had assumed it was a birthday. It was quite the production for a strip of land; later in the day a large group of men from the community came over to see the land, or maybe help bless it, I am clearly soaking in the culture here.

I got to see sorghum being ground by hand when I went to sit with my family. Both of my makes had large flat stones they were using to grind the grain into a powder, and somehow the whole process gives off the smell of freshly baked bread. When I am not playing Tetris with my furniture or sitting with my family I read, a lot. I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to read too much, but if it has not been achieved yet I may be the first to over-read.

The hours drag by here, but the days fly. I stopped wearing my watch in my house because I check it too frequently, but every time I look at the date I cannot believe how quickly it is going. Day 1, week 1, month 1 have all snuck past without fanfare. I started a compost pile and quickly learned mountains of thorns will not detract hungry goats. Throwing rocks does, but only temporarily.

Side note: I was able to switch houses on the same homestead.  While my new house still has its bugs and other “minor” issues, it is certainly an upgrade!

Old House

Old House

New House

New House

I got to go on another shopping trip and bought supplies for further home improvement. I may have hand sized tarantulas and hoards of ants in my room, but I am determined to make it homey. I managed to gerry-rig a makeshift closet from a plank I sawed (by hand!) and some rope hanging from the rafters. Along with my new found adult qualities I now wake up between 4-4:30 am…without an alarm. I understand for most people that is not impressive, but considering I have a propensity to sleep in as late as possible at home, even with an alarm, I consider it an achievement. I’ve started using this time to workout which is nice, but when it’s only 6am and babe sees me red faced and sweaty I have to learn a new vocab word-exercising. As in, I am not sick, I am exercising, in my house, which swazis have never heard of. They may think I am just naturally the color of a beet in the morning.

This is my handcrafted closet contraption.  I am very proud of my skills. My handcrafted closet

An American Girl With a New Years Resolution

I never thought my most meaningful relationship would be with someone born in 1961. Yet, Thursday I happily celebrated my six-month anniversary with the Peace Corps. I hit the quarter mark of my service and the new year, prompting the question “what will you resolve this year?” I find myself looking back instead of forward. The obligatory lists of resolutions and goals have been circulated across my Facebook newsfeed and for once they do not make me feel inadequate. I did not make any resolutions last year, and yet seem to have hit many common resolutions that show up on a number of lists.

2013: Live abroad-check, quit your job-check, keep a journal-checl, adopt a pet-check, change your hair-check (I tried and failed to go blonde), start working out more-check, make new friends-check, learn a new language-check, allow yourself to be selfish-check, write a real letter – check, face a fear – check, and the lists go on. Somehow, without really trying, Peace Corps has helped me accomplish a healthy portion of common goals. The past half a year (and really the months of preparation leading up to it) has given me the time to better myself that I would never have had working a 9 to 5 job in the US. This year instead of looking at deficiencies in my life I am happy to instead appreciate my accomplishments thus far. I have finally learned to focus on the check marks rather than the empty boxes.

With new friends celebrating an early Christmas

With new friends celebrating an early Christmas

If there is one lesson I have learned that I can share for the New Year; notice your own envy. When I saw everyone getting jobs after college and settling down with new relationships and apartments it made me more panicked than covetous. Instead, it was the people who had taken a year off, moved to a new country, not worrying about what people expected their career to look like that made that little pang of jealousy resonate. The most telling emotion I have found is the little green flash when you hear good news from someone. What part of what they said appeals to you, and how can you learn from that? So my resolution for this coming year is simple: be jealous. Notice what you are jealous of, congratulate that person, and learn from them. Channeling this emotion has led me to find what makes me truly happy, and appreciating people doing great things rather than resenting them has allowed me to benefit from their success. While you are doing that, help those who have a reason to be envious of you.

While I miss my family and friends at home, I could not be happier to greet 2014 here in Swaziland. So my simple advice for the new year for all of my fellow Americans back home is, if you are feeling a little jealous of those around you as the ball drops, resolve to ask how they do it.

Thankful for all the packages and letters I get from my loved ones back home

Thankful for all the packages and letters I get from my loved ones back home

Being a "deviled egg" for halloween

Being a “deviled egg” for halloween

 

P.S. If you want to ring in the New Year by helping create a library for my grade school to be proud of (and maybe inspire other schools jealousy?), please see the link below. We are raising money to create 30 libraries across Swaziland to promote literacy, English proficiency, and all the wonderful benefits literature has to offer. https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-645-001

 

One of the kids I live with who will get to use the library you can help build.

One of the kids I live with who will get to use the library you can help build.

The Training Wheels Off

 

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

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.

My homestead for the next two years.

Another picture of my homestead

Another picture of my homestead

On the Job Training

The next morning I woke up and was sitting outside writing when my host make comes up holding a rooster, I was so happy it was a rooster because I know they are too stringy to eat so whatever she was saying it was not asking me to kill another chicken. She kept gesturing to it and asking if I liked it so I said yes, and she looked happy walked away, and slaughtered it….Apparently, some people do eat the roosters.

Image

How I do my cooking now

I sat with babe and make as they plucked and cooked the chicken, which is a bloody task and not my favorite. I was pleasantly surprised babe sat with us in the cooking hut, as some Swazi men think cooking is a woman’s job. We finished

cooking and ate the rooster for breakfast, which was not exactly what I was craving for breakfast, but such is life. My SSA had said she’d come and meet me at 9am to show me around the community, which in Swaziland translated to 10:30. We walked and saw the clinic, school, hair salon and little store that sells very basic staples and the tour was complete. It is a very small community. We went to the kagogo center (literally “Grandmas’ center” which serves as a community center) and I met my SSA’s business partners. I was a little confused why they were pouring peanuts into buckets, but just sat and watched. All of a sudden they said “ok let’s go catch the bus,” but I did not want to leave since I only had a day to get to know my community. I tried to explain I was supposed to talk to people and see as much as possible, but did not really have any power since I could not refuse to go and be left alone. So, we all hopped on the bus to the next biggest city and carried the peanuts to a World Vision center where you can pay to use a peanut grinder. They all set to work, each having their own task of cleaning, sorting, or organizing to prepare to make peanut butter. I just sat there uselessly and watched. It is pretty cool they just add oil and salt to the peanuts and grind it into little plastic containers. It’s sugar free, organic, and natural; everything health food stores overcharge for at home. The smell of the peanuts being ground was amazing, so overall it was not a bad day even though I did not really get to accomplish what I was supposed to during the day. That night I ate dinner with the family, and was so exhausted from barely sleeping the night before coupled with no electricity and sunset at 6pm that I fell asleep very early. With the limited transport, I had to leave at 7am the next morning which was unfortunate because I wanted to spend more time in the community and with my family.

Image

Image

Making Peanut Homemade Peanut Butter

Peace Corps organizes someone from the group of volunteers that has been there a year already to host you for the last night of OJT and show you around your shopping town. I stayed with one other girl from my group and a G10 volunteer who is blessedly close to my site if I ever feel the need to speak to an American. We saw my shopping town, where we ground the peanuts, which has 2 little stores, bomake stand which sell fruits and vegetables, and a hardware store as its main amenities. Things could be worse, there’s no internet nearby, but all my basic needs are met. It was really nice being able to talk to someone who has already braved their first year and can give advice and answer questions PC staff cannot.

The next morning the 3 of us took a khumbi into Manzini where our G10 host showed us around, which was more than she had to do. It was great to get a tour of spots we might not find on our own; cheapest internet café, best coffee, post office, etc… and to get a feel for where things are. We all had lunch and headed back to the bus rank to go home.

The next couple weeks I was feeling sick whether from stress or something I ate during OJT I’m not sure. A lot of the days I just slept 12 hours, attended training, and slept some more. It was not the highlight of PST.

Gardening and Cooking

The language learning is once again stalled. All week we worked on technical training, and our language lesson we were supposed to have got cut from 2 hours to 20 mins because my teacher had to run and fix his debit card. My family is trying to speak more SiSwati to me because I’m way behind the people whose host families only speak SiSwati…WAY behind.

This was my favorite week of training so far, mostly because we got to be outside for a portion of it (I’m paler in Africa than I was in Wisconsin). We finished our garden which was crazy. The soil was basically cement so as we were digging instead of each strike with the hoe breaking up a clod of dirt, you could see exactly where it hit ad chipped away just a wee bit. It was tough work for sure. We spent half a day double digging our 2x1m garden. The coolest thing though was before we started digging we took a stick and pushed it as far as we could go into the ground to simulate the ease roots can grow down. (If they can grow down they don’t grow as horizontally and you can plant crops closer together because they don’t share as much nutrients, which is easier to weed and water, uses the land more intensively, and creates a healthier garden) Our “roots” could only go in about an inch and a half easily which means anything planted there would grow roots very wide and shallow. After double digging we tested our rots again and it could easily go almost two feet! I was a little skeptical of the process, but seeing that comparison really made it click. We planted a papaya tree, peppers, chillies, onions and beets for the kagogo center to use when they feed kids lunch. Hopefully, if people see how much you can grow on that little plot instead of the giant, weedy, untended fields they use as gardens some people in the community will want to learn how to do permagardening themselves.

The other part of this week’s focus is cooking healthy by encouraging small steps to change the swazi diet which consist usually of a giant helping of starch (rice or maize meal), maybe some meat that’s been heavily salted, and MAYBE if you’re really fancy a teeny tiny side of oily salty spinach. So Thursday we were tasked with locally sourcing a traditional Swazi meal and making it healthier. If you were to make a salad for you family they wouldn’t eat it (my family thinks I’m crazy for buying vegetables more than starch). So in my group we decided to make chicken without all the oil and aromat (lovely salt and MSG flavoring they put on everything), spinach, onions, mushrooms, and a small side of mashed potatoes instead of 80% of the plate being starch. Not super healthy, but the point is to make something close enough to their food they’d want to make it themselves. It was not a good experience.

The day before cooking we walked around our village and the next one over randomly bothering people to buy their vegetables (none of which are in season) because we obviously don’t have a garden. Our teacher said he’d buy a chicken f rom his host family and we would meet up the next day to cook. We met at 9am to make lunch ready by 1pm. I was all excited to cook, but then my teacher showed up with a chicken in a grocery bag. Not chicken pieces….a live chicken in a bag…because that’s normal. I was under the impression he was killing it the night before, but he wanted us to kill it our selves. I’m not a vegetarian, I know my meat was once an adorable happy animal, but that doesn’t mean I want to look it in the eye before eating it.

We took the chicken, a knife and a bowl into the yard, and so began the most traumatizing 5 minutes of my life. My teacher took the chicken out of the bag and although its feet were tied it could still flap its wing, squawk and otherwise make its displeasure known. My teacher tried to get me to hold it while he slit the throat but I couldn’t. I felt so bad, that chicken knew what was up and it was fighting for its life. Thankfully Matt held the chicken while our teacher held the knife. He had to hold the wings down, the legs up, and tilt it so the blood would drain instead of getting into the meat. At this point I was feeling pretty silly for not just holding it, it didn’t look that bad. Then he slit the throat, and I became a vegetarian. Blood spilt out of the neck, but not as much as I would have expected. That was not fun, but not so bad. Then, the bird DID NOT DIE. It kept right on kicking, flapping, and visibly breathing for at least 4 mins as the blood switched from a stream to a geyser. The blood started spurting out spraying Matt’s pants and staining them, but he couldn’t let go because it would run away headless. He had to stand there as the bird kept twitching and heaving until the life ran out of it. Poor guy was visibly upset and tearing up, I started gagging, and my teacher thought it was hilarious. What a great way to start the morning. Plucking the chicken was equally disgusting. Really the whole process was a lesson in why I value modern grocery stores that do all the dirty stuff for me.

After being thoroughly traumatized we spent the next couple hours cooking everything, trying to flavor it without salt and make it taste good. We finally finished 3 plus ours later and served it to the family and us. I thought it was delicious, we boiled the chicken with lemon and chive and onions instead of just adding salt and oil, and I really thought they would like it. Well ‘ll never know and neither will the family because before they even tried it, while I wasn’t looking, they poured aromat on everything! After all that work they didn’t even end up trying our healthier food. It was a huge let down.

The other days we’ve had more training and more of the same. Today we all had a cooking competition in our groups because starting this week our families are not feeding us anymore, and a lot of people don’t know how to cook I guess. It was one of the better days we’ve had so far, although the morning was tense because a bunch of people missed the bus home yesterday and were none to happy.

Today after dinner my family and I were sitting around and they asked me in Nicki Minaj’s body is real….I’m not an expert, but okay I’m American I’ll field this one. She says it’s real, some people think she had butt implants…moving on right? NOPE! Apparently my brother is convinced that Nicki MInaj is fake and has no ear which is why she wears wigs, the real Beyonce died in a car crash long ago and the one we see is actually the devil, Rihanna, JayZ and Kanye West are all devil worshippers (as proven by the run this town video because they wore bandannas), the list goes on. I was shocked. My family is super cool and modern compared to most of the other families, so I was not expecting that AT ALL. I knew my brother is pretty religious, but didn’t know he doesn’t  listen to rap music because they’re all Satanists. All my sisis at least don’t believe it, but there’s apparently a two part documentary on all the “facts” (coincidences) that prove this. So next week on my one day off this month I will be watching a documentary on all the sneaky ways American hip hop artists encourage Satanism. Oh, and going to church with the family first, of course. I’m still shocked by our conversation. No matter what I said, or tried to explain my brother was convinced he’s right. I asked how a fake Beyonce could have a kid, but apparently there’s no pregnancy photo so it doesn’t prove anything. YIKES. If anyone has suggestions on how to explain this all let me know. I told him a lot of those people are actually Christian and spiritual, but he was having none of it. So yeah, I learn things about America here I would never have known otherwise.

*disclaimer I did eat the chicken because I didn’t want to waste it
to rap music because they’re all Satanists. All my sisis at least don’t believe it, but there’s apparently a two part documentary on all the “facts” (coincidences) that prove this. So next week on my one day off this month I will be watching a documentary on all the sneaky ways American hip hop artists encourage Satanism. Oh, and going to church with the family first, of course. I’m still shocked by our conversation. No matter what I said, or tried to explain my brother was convinced he’s right. I asked how a fake Beyonce could have a kid, but apparently there’s no pregnancy photo so it doesn’t prove anything. YIKES. If anyone has suggestions on how to explain this all let me know. I told him a lot of those people are actually Christian and spiritual, but he was having none of it. So yeah, I learn things about America here I would never have known otherwise.

This cutie's name is really Beyonce.  Some people in Africa do like the Pop Queen after all.

This cutie’s name is really Beyonce. Some people in Africa do like the Pop Queen after all.

Beyonce with one of our Volunteers

Beyonce with one of our Volunteers

*disclaimer I did eat the chicken because I didn’t want to waste it