Monday, November 29, 2010


(Sorry, the pictures got entered in reverse order. Go from bottom to top.)

So we’re back home after In Service Training and Thanksgiving in Mbabane, and because a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let a few pictures describe our trip. But first, a few updated facts about the Kingdom—the reason we’re here. Revenues are down 60%; the unemployment rate is 40%; 70% are living on <$1.00/day. (In contrast, Mo just calculated we are living on roughly $20/day.) 18% of the Swaziland GDP is from civil service (the highest in Africa), and 40% of that is security related. So of 35,000 civil servants, the IMF is recommending cuts up to 10,000. The incidence of HIV is unchanged at 26% (in the general population), but in the “productive” years, that translates to about 49%, so almost every other person we encounter between the ages of 15 to 49 is HIV +. With those stats, Thanksgiving had significant new meanings this year.
Most days we were so tired after classes we didn’t even go out but watched a movie in the conference room. One day was an exception when Mo went to the CD’s house (which is near the embassy) and shared some pre-Thanksgiving baking with a few other PCVs, while I found brunch with PCVs downtown. We even had classes Thursday morning, so it was a real treat to board a chartered bus to go to the Ambassador’s house. The last picture shows me standing on American soil. Typical Mbabane weather was cool and threatening in the morning (it felt like Thanksgiving), but it cleared when we got to the embassy.

The sixth picture is the back yard of the embassy. Notice a few did get in the pool, but the weather was cool and the water was cold.

Picture 5: Ambassador Irving consults with his chief aide-de-camp. Notice nobody else is around, suggesting a very high security conference.

Pic 4: We enjoyed hors devours and drinks before dinner. (Drinks provided by PCV contributions. PCV and drinks: a natural combination.) Around 130 of the American community in Mbabane (about 70 PCV, the remainder from the embassy) were present and we shared nine turkeys and all the typical dishes that go with Thanksgiving. AMERICAN FOOD! It was great!

Pic 3: There were three groaning boards for the main course, but this is a picture of the dessert table. Our usual dessert at home, when we have it, is out of a package of cookies.

Pic 2: Our last classes were Friday morning. After a shopping trip to pick up some things we can’t get in Siteki, Mo had arranged a night at Gloria’s B&B in observation of my birthday. (We last visited Gloria for Mo’s birthday.) We were so tired, each of us was leaving three tracks, so we collapsed upon our arrival.

Pic 1: Happy Birthday to Me from Gloria. (Coincidence: We learned that her daughter-in-law works for the Gates Foundation.) (Following tradition, after returning home, we watched “The Music Man” on our laptop.)

I’m writing this off-line (Sunday afternoon) while another storm passes through. It was very hot and humid today, so we’re hoping the storm will bring us a cooler night. The lightning and thunder here are MOST impressive. We always eat dinner by candle-light. Romantic? Well, actually we expect the power to go out at any moment. …and I just tried to connect to the internet and failed, so I don’t know when you’ll read this.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We finished writing our report, submitted it electronically, and tomorrow morning we're off to IST and ten days in Mbabane. Some got the message that we would have Thanksgiving at the CD's residence but that has changed. We've been invited to have Thanksgiving at the Ambassador's residence which has a pool. The catch is that we've been having cool, stormy weather--in fact we were without water again today after terrific winds last night--hardly conducive for a pool party. Never-the-less, we are looking forward to a good American meal (and with the variations in weather here, it might be extremely hot by then). So this will be the last post until we return home after Thanksgiving and we wanted to offer a few thoughts of thanks.
We are thankful for:
running water (and an indoor, flush-toilet to use it in);
hot running water (and a shower to use it in, and the friends who use it);
double-ply toilet paper (you would be too, once you've done without);
our health (we work hard at it);
electricity (when we get it);
finding ourselves in Posh Corps (We are living better than 80% of the natives.)
and our family and friends back home (that's you).

Have a Happy American holiday. We'll talk more when we return.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Celebrating our anniversary with a South African wine in the garden of Gloria's, MBabane.

The grounds of Gloria's.

This is a picture of the hospital taken from above the campus. Buildings in the lower right are Good Shepherd schools (both primary and secondary). The reason for taking it is to show you the blue blossoms of jacaranda which have been blooming for the last several weeks--recently knocked down by the heavy rains and terrific winds.

Mo inside of Gloria's where we celebrated our anniversary in MBabane.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Technical difficulties have prevented posting (this is Swaziland), so I’m behind the times and need to bring you up to date on our travels.
In an effort to not become site rats, we’ve ventured out away from our palace for some trips. The first was to celebrate Mo’s birthday with a day trip to Manzini which included a new experience: We traveled by bus rather than Khumbi. Buses are scheduled, and if two people find a seat for two, you’re pretty sure nobody else will sit with you because the excess will stand in the aisle. So as the bus filled up, I did have a chicken riding next to my elbow for a while. And BONUS: There was no painfully loud music. (Did the driver forget or was the system broken?) Everyone was well-dressed, the kids were well behaved and got up to offer their seats to adults when necessary, just like in the 1940s. (Some of you might remember that.) Mo and I were comfortably dressed in tech running shirts, while numerous people were in winter coats, wool caps, scarves, etc. But spring is coming, and the fields were turning green and the jacaranda were in bloom. (Never mind the guys relieving themselves along side of the road.) Our excuse for going to Manzini (justifying the birthday trip) was to broaden our shopping experience with things we can’t find here. We were rewarded by finding spices, mixes, condiments, and pastries. And with a celebratory lunch, it was a pleasant day. (I’ll tell you about travelling and Swazi music in another post: part 2.)
We had an NGO meeting to attend in Mbabane, so we tacked on an over-night and celebrated our anniversary at a B&B known as Gloria’s. The PC uses Gloria’s for PCVs on medical leave so we met two from Group 8 who were staying there and we all shared Happy Hour. (I finally found a RSA wine that was decent—perhaps suggesting that you need to spend a little more than $3 to get a pleasant wine. We splurged for the occasion on our PC budget.) Gloria has a beautiful house and garden (reminiscent of southern California) and I took lots of pictures which I promise you will see eventually if they aren’t attached to this posting. The road between Mbabane and Manzini is through the Ezulwini valley and is very scenic. I can’t promise pictures of that, though, because it’s not possible from the bus. We enjoyed the trip, and it was good to get away.
A week ago, we were invited by two other PCV couples to join them at the Country Club in Simunye for lunch and a swim. Entry is free for PCVs. It was a warm, clear day and only a 45 minute Khumbi ride away, so we had another pleasant day off site. Simunye is a clean, modern, plaza-type shopping center created by sugar cane money—a nice divergence from Siteki. We enjoyed the day so much (and the best pizza we’ve had in five months) that we plan on returning to use the pool during the next few months of summer.
By the way, realize that we are at least twice as old as some of the PCVs and much older than most. It is very gratifying to be invited and visited by them. I’m sure they value our warmth, wit, and wisdom (or could it be our shower, pantry and kitchen?)
We will now be burning this keyboard by preparing our community assessment report, so there is the possibility that you will not hear from us again for the next three weeks. Duty calls.
I wrote the above a couple of days ago. Since then we have been without electricity, without water, and without ‘phone connection. Life in Swaziland. We’ll talk more later.