Last night as I was falling asleep that familiar feeling crept over me; I haven’t felt this in the last year in the states. It originates deep in my emotional core, an aching recognition of isolation and loneliness from living in a strange place on a continent 8000 miles from home. Washing over me for a minute or two it is enough to jolt me back into the reality of the choice I have made to depart from family, friends, security, and comfort to seek adventure, teach, and explore a new culture.
For a fragment of time, it gives me pause to doubt my choice yet somehow it passes and I can move forward….
I am featuring Zoey in this blog; she is with me every moment and I miss her every day. She gave me the ultimate gift of complete freedom….and I am so grateful, but my heart still aches over the loss of her beautiful spirit.
Our abbreviated training in Swaziland started on the 15th after spending 10 days in DC in training. We have been immersed in language and cultural training, safety and security, Swazi nursing practice and education, and PC policy and procedures. Housed temporarily in a training site, dorm style, we were all anxious to move to our permanent housing and settle in where we can cook for ourselves and have some privacy.
I have eaten enough fried chicken and fish now for a decade. Our meals have been prepared daily (wonderful luxury) and they are plentiful and overall pretty healthy. LOTS of veggies, rice, potatoes and usually chicken or fish for dinner, eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, and lunch a mix of things. We take our meals together and classes together so we are pretty tired of each other but all in all our group gets along well. Age range is 28-70 and there are 2 trailing spouses, 9 volunteer nurse educators.
Our housing is at University of Swaziland (UNISWA) though I work at Southern Africa Nazarene University, about a 10-15 minute drive. There are 6 of us at this housing site which makes it nice as we can share transportation and play games at night. No tv or wifi, but the wifi was installed yesterday and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it works tomorrow. Using the phone as a hot spot works as long as there is 3G network, but very unpredictable.
Swaziland, nestled in the northeast corner of South Africa, has a pretty good infrastructure in terms of roads, power, and water supply and is fairly modern compared to Malawi where I was for 2015-16. However, the country was devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and is still recovering. Here are a few statistics:
- Population roughly 1.14 million
- 17, 000 square km
- 35-45% is HIV + (age and sex dependent)
- new infections have decreased by 44%
- average life span for female is 56, male 49
- US gave $68 million in PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS in Swazi in 2017
- Average annual income is $3135 (World Bank 2015)
- 5% unemployment
With that background, the seemingly up to date infrastructure takes on a new meaning…..things are not what they seem. This country has one of the few remaining monarchies. King Mswati III was crowned at 18 and has been ruling ever since. He is 49 and has been King since 1986.
Polygamy has been widely accepted on the African continent since the beginning of time. To that end, King Mswati has recently chosen his 16th wife and he has 32 children. The king is chosen on the death of the ruling king when he is the only son of one of the king’s wives, regardless of age.
Time for dinner and more fried chicken! One of the bonuses here is returning home from a long day and picking up some chicken to go at a local BBQ stand. They call it chicken dust because of the dust collecting on the cooking chicken as it deposits from passing road traffic. Gotta have a sense of humor!!!