Swaziland: population 1 million, sits in the northeast corner of South Africa, smaller than New Jersey, the king has 14 wives, and boasts the highest rates of HIV in the world. It’s like a rural small town – that is a country. The 4-hour drive from Johannesburg, South Africa looked at first like anywhere-mid-west USA. Flat with endless cornfields. Crossing the Swazi border things transformed into a beautiful painting – rolling lush green mountains with huge trees and an epic lightening storm! Trying to capture it with my iPhone was harder than I thought, and surely the other passengers were thinking, “Geez this white chick is acting like she’s never seen a rain storm before.”
I’m here visiting Ginger. We met in 2009 volunteering in Nairobi, Kenya. She lived in Chicago and we each traded visits to our ‘hometowns.’ Both Mid-westerners at heart and always drawn to Africa, we were fast friends. She joined the Peace Corp shortly after returning home to her life in a cubicle, and was placed in Swaziland the following year. After a year into her placement she “field separated” after choosing a permanent life here outside the Peace Corp. A very wise decision on her part she says, but a very difficult one too. And somewhere along the way she fell fast in love and is now engaged to a wonderful Swazi guy. They plan to marry next summer. Wedding fever I tell you!
You can read Ginger's blog here : http://gingerinswaziland.wordpress.com/
*I should note that she would not deter anyone from joining the Peace Corp, and definitely recommends it – especially if you really want to get to ‘know yourself.’
Here for a month, I told her keep me busy and I’ll help out wherever possible. This led to a little video-editing job for an NGO she does marketing consulting for. She also does freelance graphic design for several local business (whom desperately need her services), teaches art, mosaics tables, and other random crafty stuff. So I’ve basically been her shadow to work wherever that may be, and am making a slow start at the video thing. Somehow I’ve made myself busy with little personal projects that consume lots of computer time. Just getting wifi here is a mission in itself and is not cheap. It is nice to be more conscious of time spent mindlessly online, as I usually have over 10 browsers open … so dangerous for my ADD.
Swaziland is a massive playground for the outdoor enthusiast like myself. We’ve done a a couple 4-hour hikes and they all offer up 360 views that don’t disappoint, rolling hills and pastures, wildflowers, neon colored rocks and caves, and the occasional (very) rural homestead. I’ve made comparisons to the likes of Hawaii, Thailand, and northern California. But it’s a unique place, and home to a surprising number of expats (lots of Americans). People here take great Swazi pride, and those that have adopted it as their home speak of the ‘pull’ it had on them.
Just like anywhere, it’s about the people and the connections you make. But most importantly as Ginger pointed out, "I like who I am here." You never know where you’ll end up calling home.