First Three Weeks

*This post was written on October 12th*

Being a Peace Corps Trainee is not easy. Our days are filled with two hours of SiSwati lessons, and then hours of training lectures. After all that, once our brain is turned to mush, we go back home to our homestay families. We cook and hang out with our respective families, sleep, and then begin the process all over again.  It is exhausting, overwhelming, and exciting. Your emotions are all over the place as you are thrust into this extremely new environment with, in my case, 45 other people. With no Wifi or data, we have to learn to depend on each other and you become incredibly close to your cohort very quickly. I have been blessed with an amazing cohort filled with a mix of personalities that somehow all mesh together very well.

Between getting to know my cohort and the long training days these past two weeks have honestly been somewhat of a blur. There isn’t much to say but here is the little I have to say:

My SiSwati name is Mantwa, it actually isn’t a SiSwati name and is Zulu. In fact, none of the other host Make’s (pronounced ma-ge, means Mom) understood what my name meant when my Make proudly announced my new name to them. Mantwa means a strong women, a warrior women, a fighter etc. you get the point. I honestly think it really fits me and I quite like it.

I was placed in a small homestay family. There is only my Make and my Niece, who is really more like my Sisi (sister), as she is 16, and my cousin. Other members come and go, but its mostly just the four of us. My Make is a hoot and all three of them speak excellent English which is definitely somewhat hindering my need to practice SiSwati but it is nice to be able to communicate with them. I’ve been helping my Sisi, also called Mantwa, with her maths and just having a generally good time with her. On Saturday since it was just us two at home, we cooked together, sang and danced around the kitchen, then watched the first half of The Dark Knight since she had never seen it before.  The homestay experience is such an integral part of Peace Corps and I am so blessed to get along so well with my family.

My Hut

Our neighbours daughter is getting married and in preparation for the wedding woman within the community have been coming together to practice the traditional dances for the wedding. I got to do some dancing on Sunday and again on Thursday. It’s such a different movement then what I am used to but the songs are absolutely beautiful (though I have no idea what any of them mean) and it is fascinating to watch. It makes me even more excited for the traditional holidays here and to maybe attend a wedding in the future.

And now some random tidbits of thoughts I’ve had over the past couple of weeks:
-When your host family asks how your day was, better to not use the term bullshit even if they are all adults. Luckily after a brief reprimanding by my Make (basically her saying my name “Mantwa” in a stern voice), she along with the rest of the family got a good laugh out of it.
-When you have to choose between going outside in the pouring rain to the pit latrine or peeing in a bucket, you will ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS choose peeing in a bucket.
-You get comfortable/used to peeing in a bucket surprisingly quickly
-Tomato flavoured lollipops aren’t actually that bad, in fact they taste nothing like tomatoes and are quite delicious
-Cutting vegetables with a dull knife is incredibly difficult. The knife was so dull in fact that I was using the wrong side(as in was pushing my finger down on the “sharp” side) and didn’t even realise till a couple of minutes in.
-I haven’t exactly turned into a morning person but my body somehow has. To all those you truly know me you understand how shocking this is but I’ve been regularly waking up at 5:50 naturally and have been getting out of bed between 6:00 and 6:30am (voluntarily!!!)
-If you’re sneakily feeding the dog, whom I’ve named Spunk, don’t take your eyes off of her as she will steal your container and destroy it. #rip to my best tupperware from home.

And that’s all for now.

Salani Kahle Bangani (stay well friends)

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