Sunday, September 25, 2011


Occasionally I thought of hosting an “American” evening for our Swazi friends but, of course, it never happened because the resources (good meat, familiar dishes, condiments, sauces) were not available. In many respects, we were fish out of water, so we did our best at “learning to swim in Swaziland”. Arriving home, we were eager to tell of our adventures, but usually found our audience had a very short attention span when the subject was ‘eSwati’. Now, after a month back home, we are experiencing reverse culture awareness. Here are a few examples:

We can hear and we understand the spoken language. Early after our return, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant and the waitress greeted us with, “Hola!” We were both speechless for a moment searching for the proper response, trying to avoid either ‘hello’ or ‘sawubona’. We have found that we do miss the friendly, smiling greeting of the Swazi. When we start a conversation with servers, with ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’, expecting a response elicits odd looks from them.

Things are simply ‘not quite right’. The seasons are reversed again and the sun has found its rightful course skirting the southern sky.

After first setting foot in America, I was impressed with the use of mirrors. Frequently, I can see my whole body reflected, rather than just my chin.

Shopping is over the top. Leaving a hard-found, little display of greeting cards in SD, we found a 75-foot aisle, brightly lighted, with cards on both sides in our local Safeway; the produce section is a gigantic work of art; and the selections are mind boggling. No Swazi could comprehend two adjacent shops, one specializing in black and white, the other in ‘just pink’. Getting all the ‘plastic’ back has been an experience; the Costco card, the Safeway card, the QFC card, the…… and then trying to remember how to use them is a challenge.

At home, we marvel at the washer/dryer, the dishwasher, and the microwave, each of them saving us hours. We now take for granted, hot, running water.

We’re still adjusting to the traffic, and we’ve noticed all those ‘senior citizens’ out and about. And one last thing; sorry, but the American is certainly a sloppy dresser

Highlights of our first year in Siteki
• Successful “nesting,” turning our apartment into home
• Becoming friends with the Swazi’s that we work with on a frequent basis
• Being accepted in our work place
• The library and map project at the school
• Providing a safe haven for other PCVs who need some “posh corps” time.
• Christmas giving/party at the Neighborhood Care Points
• Acceptance and love from the kids at the school, many of them becoming well known personalities to us
• Vacations in Cape Town and St. Lucia
• Ability to volunteer without being proficient in SiSwati
• Learning sign language
• SKYPING with loved ones at home, seeing Evelyn within 14 hours of her birth.
• Opportunity to learn a new culture and see our own culture from a different perspective
• Sharing our adventure with one another… and with our blog readers.

“ Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Before, after, and detail pictures of "the Map Project".

(Double click to enlarge.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Debbie wanted to be home by Aug 24 to prepare for Evelyn’s baptism on Aug 28. Initially, we planned to tell PC of our plans to ET on Aug 22, but we didn’t feel comfortable cutting it so close. In stages, the date was pushed back to the 15th, a Monday; then realizing that the 72 hour countdown was more effective over a weekend, she decided to make her call on Friday, Aug 12. Not knowing when the clock would begin ticking, she called late afternoon on Thursday, hoping to fly out on Monday.

Our driver promptly picked us up at 10 Friday morning, whisked us to Mbabane where we were given a fistful of paperwork to be completed, we saw our PCMO for a while and were taken to a dentist’s office for a complete checkup and then overnighted at a backpacker. We were able to complete an interview and do our homework and finalize banking (ridiculous red tape—Swazi style) over the weekend and even took the time to visit Swazi friends (Tim and Gloria) in their home. Monday, we ran the checklist including exit interviews and returning materials, then tripped over the only glitch in the process: Gary had to be driven all the way back to Siteki (in the rain) to close the account with the electric company (getting a signature) and return to Mbabane. Otherwise, everything was efficiently organized; the 72 hour countdown seems designed to accommodate the deposit of three poops.

Monday, we learned that Libby would be replacing us at the School for the Deaf and enjoyed a pleasant evening visiting with her.

Tuesday, we were driven to the airport with the load of baggage we brought fourteen months ago, gifts for America replacing items left in Swaziland for various reasons. While waiting in the lounge area, we observed the royal jet and surrounding area being secured and prepared for the presence of his royal highness. But after a circuit of the red carpet, he boarded his jet without even acknowledging us.

The flight to Jo-burg is 50 minutes; we had about five hours layover to eat, shop, exchange funds (only after securing a boarding pass) and go through security three times (and a fourth for me—penalty for looking shifty); the flight to Atlanta was fifteen hours, thirty-five minutes, but not too bad because we had bulkhead seats. We got to Atlanta at sunup and spent our first US$ at a Dunkin’Donut. After almost four hours on the ground (including customs), we flew five hours across the continent through cloudless skies to SeaTac where we were greeted by three of our kids and our newest granddaughter. It has been a whirlwind of activity ever since.