A phrase I haven't uttered since PST, although I felt it's resurrection necessary given my moodiness these past few weeks.
With less than two weeks left in the term I am trying to keep life in perspective. For starters, it’s rather confusing to acknowledge that it is nearly December. What with the fact that it has been in the 90s, and “sweating profusely” has become my normal state of being. I am simultaneously welcoming the break with open arms and honestly terrified of it.
And like most things here, time easily molded into delicate folds of origami waiting to be tucked somewhere as a token representing a particular period of my life. It is now officially the start of break. I spent the last two weeks trying to pull the school calendar together and solidify as much as I could in preparation for the coming year. While seven weeks feels like eons of time, I know that before I know it will be January, and I’ll either be accustomed to the still silence of an empty campus, or will be anxious for it to be brought back to life with the sounds of laughter and school bells.
November was very good to me. It showed that friendships had deepen, my language had developed and solidified the sense that I am in the right place. Although I was extremely anxious about it, I was able to launch my student council, which I am also extremely excited about. It took over a month for me to put the right signs together to communicate it’s purpose and persuade the students I had rendered as leaders to want to be on board. While I do not currently have a counterpart at the school (another teacher per say) one of my best friends here, Sokuhle who teaches sign in Manzini, and is a real role model to the students, has been able to come here and help me explain it to the students and communicate it’s significance. For the time being I have six students who I am going to begin providing leadership training to. This includes how to run meetings, setting an agenda, writing minutes, and public speaking. However, part of the responsibilities we’ve discussed include how they are going to be role models to the younger students. The concept of “setting an example” is not the same as the one I grew up with, and so I’ve had to think carefully about how the group should transform, be legitimized and what role exactly the students should play. Thankfully, they are super excited and really liked the idea of building skills. I was worried at first as Sokuhle and I listed the responsibilities and expectations that they would back out. However, I am truly lucky to have Sokuhle, as he was very encouraging of the students and articulated that we were there to support them. I am intrigued to see where things go in the next year. For the time being I bought them all little notebooks to write their ideas in, so I have a glimmer of hope that they’ll think of something over the break.
In the past few weeks I feel like I finally stopped feeling like a Mlungu (foreigner). This is also evident in the realization that I am beginning to forget that I stick out like a sore thumb, and am the cause of many double takes. This is mainly due to the fact that I feel like part of a team here at the school, and have been slowly chipping away at multiple language barriers. It’s an incredible thing when you realize that people have chosen to trust you, and that the respect you’ve worked hard to exhibit is being reciprocated. I was honestly a mess back in July when I first moved in with my host family and stuttered along through the syllables of siSwati. If you could have told me that I was going to be as happy as I am now, PST would have probably (… maybe) been a lot less miserable, and full of anxiety. The fact is, I feel so fortunate to have made the friends I have, and that I was able to feel comfortable enough here to let my guard down enough to learn to laugh again, rather than feeling constantly on edge. We all joked that it was the mefloquin (malaria prophylaxis) that was making us paranoid… but I think it was just my brain rapidly trying to process everything that was around me.
For Thanksgiving we were all invited to the Country Director’s house for delicious kudla. It was really nice to have the opportunity to hang out with my fellow PCVs and some of my favorite food. I was a little bummed at first, because that meant pulling me out of school during the last two days of the term, and year. I knew that when I’d return the following day, most, if not all, of the students would have been collected by their parents or bogogo. It reminded me of the end of the first summer when I bawled like a baby after my campers were picked up… these silly kids always weasel their way into my heart. It was a pleasant surprise to see that a few were still here when I got back. I had arranged a skype date with my family (the first one in 5 months!) and I had just logged on, when they came out of the dinning hall, and the older girls filed into the teachers lounge… I don’t know how they find me sometimes. It was pleasantly fun. They hung out during the skype date and got to “meet” my family, and I interpreted as much as I could. It made me incredibly happy to see these two worlds kind of collide for a little while. They even gave them sign names, which was neat. I think in some ways that described my experience here far better than me just rattling off what I’ve been doing.
This next week I’ll be back at IDM (where I spent my first two months here), attending a training in which we are allowed to bring a counterpart with, and talk about program design.
We interrupt this programme for a breaking news update: The storms here are incredible, and I am thankful that they tend to occur in the evenings, when I am safely indoors tucked beneath my snuggie. You know it’s intense when the wind makes it through your closed windows. Usually I get tired of the lights flickering and end up chillin’ by candlelight. Also, I discovered that with enough force the rain also makes it's way through the door... so I had a lovely pool forming in my hut... oops.
Other than that, I don’t really have much else to share… save for some gems I’ve been gathering for a few topic-focused posts. But that’s for another day.