The first goal of the Peace Corps is to help people of interested countries meet their needs for trained manpower…strengthen capacity, etc. So our meeting last week was with our counterparts working on project management, capacity building, and achieving sustainability. With my background in microbiology, I have often joked that the Peace Corps would probably use me to dig latrines. Last week, with my counterpart, I learned that Siteki has suffered from drought in the winter—not enough water to flush, so she gave highest priority to digging pit latrines on the campus. We’ll see if it remains a joke. Besides the drought, she thinks it would stop the kids from ‘watering’ the row of banana trees. (Doubtful: A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see at least one guy relieving himself by the side of the road when I go out for a run.) So I’ll now be researching the construction of pit latrines.
The other highlight of the conference was a guest speaker who presented for about two hours. She was a Swazi, woman attorney, who was dynamic, articulate, enthusiastic and not afraid to speak out and say things that we are not allowed to say. She was passionate when discussing women’s rights in Swaziland (they don’t have any), and constitutional law (usurped by tradition).
I hinted in my last post that we would feel some relief from the heat and humidity while in Mbabane. Not so. We saw the thermometer hit 36. Those of you with metric experience will remember that 37=98.6. One night, we experienced one of those Swazi storms when the thunder never abated and shook our innards. The next morning we awoke to a cloudless, blue sky, with the sun poised to broil us again.
So when the conference ended, we found a kombi to take us to Ezulwini valley (tourist alley) and treated ourselves to a movie and a good meal in air conditioning. Air conditioning is very rare here. The Gables is a somewhat American style shopping mall, so new that it isn’t fully occupied, and we found a four-screen cineplex with lights, speakers, screen and chairs similar to what you might find in an American suburb. I was assigned the most comfortable chair I have sat in for nine months, had a cup holder to put my drink in, and we watched The Tourist. –in air conditioning. For E56 for the two of us (the equivalent of about $4 each). (A reminder here that 70% of this country lives on less than $1/day.) It is a good movie and we appreciated watching it on a full screen, especially when compared to watching on our 14” laptop.
After the movie, we ate at a restaurant which seemed to have been moved from the heartland of America, decorated with tipis, American bison, ‘Indian’ chiefs. Go figure. But it was good American fare finished with an “American style” brownie with soft ice cream. In air conditioning. None of which we can find in Siteki. The clientele were all mlungu. If we see another white in Siteki, we know them personally. And topping it off, we had time to shop at what must be the kingdoms’ best grocery store. We could have been in Fairwood because we found good cheeses, sauces, and spices, and even a bakery where we got a hearty multi-grain, and a calamata olive Italian bread. It was good to enjoy a day that could have taken place in America, perhaps Atlanta taking into account the heat.
So there is a brief synopsis of our week. We boarded a broken-down bus and headed for home with the Swazi noise they call ‘music’ shaking our eardrums for two hours (even with earplugs deeply implanted) completely drenched in sweat. It was good to be back.