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Marnie's Swaziland Experiences
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Marnie's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, December 1st, 2007
5:16 pm
In honor of World AIDS day...
This is an e-mail I recieved from a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer.
(I apologize for those of you who have both of my journals on your friends page)

Zandi's story:
Happy World’s AIDS Day, 2007!

My name is Amber Kelley and I am an Academic Counselor in the International Division for Team Asia. Before joinging UOP in March of 2005, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, serving the cause of HIV prevention and impact mitigation in the Kingdom of Swaziland, a Sub Saharan country of Africa. I served in the rural village of Dinabanye for 27 months. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, with 46% of the adult population testing positive and 20% of the children, mainly orphans, testing positive. In Arica, a child dies every minute from AIDS. Despite these overwhelming numbers, there are great stories of hope surfacing in Swaziland. One such story is that of Zandile Nxumalo, now fifteen years old. In honor of World AIDS Day, 2007, I would like to tell you Zandi’s story in hopes that in exchange for a Jean’s Day, you will support her in her body’s fight against HIV.

I was introduced to Zandile on my frist day, December 1, 2003, in my new village. She was an orphan who had come to live with extended family after the death of her parents. I had also been taken in by this same family, thus by the tradition of Swazi culture, we were “sisters.” At that time Zandi was 11 years old, but was the size of my 6 year olds in my village. Her body was covered in sores, and I had also learned that since the death of her parents, two years earlier, she had not spoken. Despite her illness and silence, Zandi still ranked number 1 in her fifth grade classroom.

It was clear that Zandi had AIDS and that her time was short. There were nurmerous obstacles to overcome just to have Zandi tested for HIV, but eventually, she was tested, and became the first child in the country to be treated with Anti Retro Viral (ARV) medications, or the AIDS Cocktail, that would save her life. Zandi responded so well to the medications that rules against child testing were overturn, the few doctors in the country became comfortable treating children for HIV, and the first ever Pediatric ARV program was begun! Zandi’s inspiration has saved hundreds of child’s lives!

Zandi was growing tall, gaining weight, her sores were melting away, and she took up the habit of singing songs of her own making almost all day long, to the consternation of her teachers. Zandi was speaking again! One of her first sentences was, “I have AIDS.” She began telling everyone, “I have AIDS, but I am coming ok because I take the medicine.” In a country where the stigma against HIV+ people ran high, I worried about our community’s reaction to her constant declarations. The response was overwhelming. Every mother and grandmother was asking how to have the children in their care tested for HIV. All of the teachers at Zandi’s school asked for training on how to help familes learn about testing and medication. The first ever HIV support group for kids was founded in our little dusty village! Again, so many children have life today because of Zandi’s courage.

Zandi was still suffering however because the Great Aunt who had charge of her was senile and abusive. The doctors informed me that Zandi would not survive the virus if she were not removed from this dangerous and stressful environment. That is when the Italian Sisters at Our Lady of Sorrows School decided to help. They agreed to take Zandile in as a boarding student. Our Lady is the best school in the country! Nelson Madela even sent his daughters to this school during apartied. Only affluent young women lived at this school so Zandi was in for quite a culture shock. This was the first time that Zandi slept in a real bed, had running water and owned a new pair of shoes.
Zandi finished her first year, Grade 6, at Our Lady in the top 25% of her class. Zandi was very disappointed in her final scores. However, having suffered from a prolonged illness at the end of that year, I thought her standing in the top 25 was a terrific achievement. What’s more, Zandi began to talk more and more with those around her putting two years of silence behind her. When she found that her peers found her funny, she abandon her role of “Class Brain” for that of “Class Clown.” She burst with personality. It was so wonderful to witness Zandi socializing and feeling comfortable with herself, that the Sisters and I decided there was no need to remind her, just yet, that her grades could be better.
During Grade 6, Zandi turned 13 years old. That year Zandi gained 7 kilos (about 15 pounds), a sign that the ARV drugs and her new environment were forcing her HIV viral load down, and her immune system up. We celebrated with lots of chocolate cake! Every time Zandi reached a new weight goal we celebrated with rich treats like cakes and cookies, as the rarity of such things in a village child’s life really allowed her to know there was great cause for celebration. Also, Zandi’s CD4s, the white blood cells in the body, often referred to as the soldier cells of the immune system, went from 90 to 193. We certainly had a great deal to cheer about in 2005!
A CD4 count of less than 200, according to the World Health Organization, is considered Stage IV AIDS, or End Stage AIDS. Once a person is placed in the Stage IV category, they are never removed, even if they show a tremendous increase in CD4s, as it is always very important for medical practitioners to know the full road the client’s body has traveled. A CD4 count of less than 200 also means that a person is still at high risk for contracting other infections such as TB or pneumonia. Zandi was not quite out of the woods in 2005, but she was vastly closer.
In 2006 Zandi began Grade 7. I was not in Swaziland to witness all of her daily accomplishments this time. My Peace Corps service ended in November 2005, so I had returned to my family in the United States. The Sisters informed me that the stress from my absence did cause Zandi to suffer a short illness, but that their constant assurances and hugs, along with my more than frequent phone calls, quickly restored her sense of security, and health. I too felt heartbreak at our parting, but my phone calls with Zandi, coupled with the wonderful reports on her happiness and health made our transition easier.
2006 and Grade 7 were full of milestones and triumphss for Zandi. At the end of Grade 7, Zandi turned 14 years old. She also finished Grade 7, as one of the top 10 in her class! It has been good for her to learn that she is in one of the better schools in the Nation now and that to keep her place at the top of her class she must work very hard. Due to minimal resources, higher education in Swaziland is only given to the best of the best. Zandi now has her sights set on a college scholarship and I am sure that with focus and prayer she will accomplish her goal.
During this past year Zandi also decided that Math and Science were her favorite subjects and she also enjoyed choreographing the dance and song presentations for parent weekends and visitor assemblies. She will also sing a solo for anyone whose listening. During 2006, Z went from 32 kilos to 47 kilos, a gain of 33 pounds! I have also heard that Zandi has grown quite tall and is now matching her classmates in size.
Even better news came in December of 2006. A friend working as a nurse at the clinic where Zandi receives her monthly ARV medicines informed me that Zandi’s new CD4 count was 564! When Zandi began taking the drugs in 2004 her CD4 count was only 90. This increase is much higher than most any children in Swaziland, and the nurses believe this is due to her stable, loving and healthy environment. Zandi now has a CD4 count of a perfectly healthy individual, meaning that the HIV viral load in Z’s blood stream has been drastically reduced. Zandi has not suffered a single HIV related illness in nearly TWO yearS!
Zandi is a favorite of the nurses at the clinic, as she was their first ever child client. Seeing Zandi’s amazing progress has also given the nurses inspiration to continue their grueling struggle against HIV in their country, villages and homes. Zandi has been a precious gift to so many.
Zandi is also the first HIV+ child to live on the campus of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Italian Sisters, through caring for Zandi daily, have learned a great deal about HIV and all of the ways that it can be defeated. Confidence in their ability to help children fight the virus has skyrocketed and they have now begun their own HIV support group for children living in the region. Father Dlamini and the Sisters fill the back of their pickup truck with children and their families weekly and carry them to the clinic where they can receive treatment and medications. The inspiration of Zandi’s life is now helping save the lives of many children.

ON September 7, 2007 Zandile turned 15 years old! She was also able to take her first school sponsored field trip to Cape Town South Africa, where she learned about the history of apartheid. At this time, she is also in the top five of her class! On January 4 of 2008 she will begin Form II, which is Grade 9.

Up until this time, I have been able to support Zandi’s financial needs on my own, but this year my situation has changed and I am worried about by ability to meet all of Zandi’s financial needs. This year Zandi will need $3,600. This covers the cost of her tution, boarding, books, exams, field trips, uniforms, clothing, toiletries, her special diet needs, her ARV medications and her monthly visits to the doctor. It is my hope that in honor of World AIDS Day, 2007, some of my friends here at UOP would be willing to donate five dollors toward the Zandi Education fund in exchange for a jeans day. Zandi and I thank you for your support!

When we set out on this journey together, our hope was to support one child, and to help one child have a fighting chance at life. We gave Zandi the resources she needed and she did the rest. Our efforts did help one child win her fight to thrive, but reality exceeded our hopes. Zandi’s life has inspired hundreds who are now involved in the fight against HIV. The tiny speechless child from a unknown village, attending a humble school is a beacon to us all … and she will guide so many more with God’s continued blessing on her life.
Please keep Zandi in your prayers so that she may continue to live a bright and happy life, and please continue to pray for the Sisters, the nurses and all those in Swaziland involved in the fight against HIV. God bless you and know that your efforts and your prayers are appreciated.
Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
8:35 am
From PCV Alyson's journal:
the world fact book- life expectancy
Swaziland has recently achieved a new distinction- the lowest life expectancy in the world, now 32.62 years of age.

Gap now has a line of clothing that helps raise money to "eliminate" AIDS in Africa. That's an unrealistic goal, but I like their optimism.
Check it out~

Half of the money from the clothing goes to the Global Fund. I believe they are made in a factory in Lesotho...a sweatshop it may be, but they have created jobs where there are none...I just hope they are getting a fair wage making those $150 jeans.

Added by Holly:
"During the week of September 11, 2006, $4 million of (RED) money flowed to Swaziland. Derek von Wissell, director of National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS, described where the money will go: "First, a large portion of the money will be directed to orphans - feeding them, keeping them in school, protecting them and offering them a future. Second, some of the money will help support the treatment of people on anti-retroviral therapy. (RED) is saving lives. (RED) is helping orphans survive and giving them a better future. (RED) will make a difference."

--this is lifted from the (RED) site: http://joinred.com/globalfund.asp
Tuesday, September 5th, 2006
10:06 pm
Fond Memories?
I found this poem on a advertisement for a hostel in Swaziland while I was traveling in Maputo. I took a picture of it and I've added it to my Power Point slide show. I will type it out on the handout with websites on ways to help Swaziland.
It's not perfect, and I doubt that it's written by a native siSwati speaker, but I like it and I thought I would share.

"Has it been written, as lines on your hands, that life would lead you to Swaziland.
All the mysterious things on this path created dwinely to lighten your heart.
"Sawubona", "I see you" the Swazis will say acknowledging your "being" in a timeless way. Your spirit has slipped into Swazi time.
Now you smile at things you find...a traveler's place...
A house of mirrors where people just like you linger...
they tell secrets of lines on their hands...and how life lead them to Swaziland."
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006
10:24 pm
Long time no call...
I finally re-charged my phone card and called my Swazi family tonight.
Sometimes I put it off because I'm afraid of what they might tell me. Tonight they told me that MaSwazi passed away. This was a man who approached me and my Make to talk about how he was HIV+ and he wanted me to talk to his wife. She's better off without him because he wouldn't allow her to take the medications.
Babe also told me that Zanele is "mentally disturbed". He says that she started having affairs with men right before my departure and it's caused problems all these months and they can no longer trust her. She's living in her grandmother's homestead...and I thought she moved there to care for Maria's children...but he tells me she's only staying there because she has no where else to go. I don't know what to believe, but I think my Babe would tell me what he knows.

It sounds like the Young Heroes orphan project has been going well in my community so far. My Make says that NERCHA is keeping her busy because she is the community contact. One of the family members has spent the money from Young Heroes and Make turned her in and they are asking her to give the money back for the children. Now they have to designate a new family member who can be trusted better. This corruption is common. Drastic times call for drastic measures and I have a hard time blaming anyone in their situation...although it's not fair that the money raised for the orphans didn't get to them.
The youngest member of the largest orphan headed household (Melusi's) has also passed away. She was born with HIV...and lived to be 4.

Today after Umphakatsi my Swazi parents are taking someone to the Dr. because she is critically ill. She started taking the ARVs and then didn't know when to go back for more (because she's illiterate and couldn't read the paperwork they gave her)...so she's been without for many days and she's very ill because of it. Stopping the medications kills people. I think the Dr's see so many cases every single day that they just assume everyone knows the drill and they don't take the time to make it clear to each patient.

They are upset that my village didn't get another volunteer, but they told me that Meredith is living with a new volunteer who will replace her. I guess the water project that Meredith spent so much time on and raised the money for still hasn't started...but my village has electricity~ go figure. How practical.
I'm glad I didn't waste much time on either one of those projects.
Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
1:08 pm
wrote May 11, 2006
This is a letter I wrote for the PC staff in Swaziland...

Read more...Collapse )
Wednesday, April 26th, 2006
1:26 pm
Just in case anyone is interested I finally have all of my Swaziland pictures online...

The newest albums are from the last 4 months of my time there and they are labeled...
Reed Dance

I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, February 3rd, 2006
12:03 pm
Finally! A year's worth of hard work...
The families in my village are listed under Endlovini. The MAFU family of 4 children are related to Zanele.

Peace Corps Helps Create Sponsorship Program

Tiny Swaziland in Southern Africa has the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS. A generation of Swazi children is growing up without the basic necessities of life, because their parents are dying daily.

Now, you can help these orphans by supporting Young Heroes, a new program created by Swaziland’s National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), with the help of the U.S. Peace Corps. Through Young Heroes, you can sponsor an orphan family with funds for food, clothing and education fees.

You’ll find complete information about the program at http://youngheroes.org.sz, and in the press release attached to this email.

We particularly hope that young people in schools, churches and other groups will be motivated to help their less fortunate peers by sponsoring an orphan family. But adults can be Young Heroes, too.

You Don’t Have to Be a Sponsor to Help

Even if you choose not to become a sponsor, you can help these orphans right now – with very little effort.

How? By helping us spread the word. We’re a new program in a poor country and we’re trying to make the most of a small budget.

So, we’d be very grateful if you’d take a moment to do three things for us:

1. Send the attached email to your local newspaper, radio station or TV station and urge them to tell your community about us.

2. Give this information to someone you know who has a group that would be willing to consider becoming a sponsor. If you’re in school, bring it to your class; your fraternity or sorority; your team; your club; your Scout troop; your church group. If you’re an adult, give it to a teacher; a church leader to put it into your church newsletter; your department at work; your golf foursome; your book club…

3. Forward this email on to your friends, and ask them to send it along to their friends.

The AIDS orphans of Swaziland are in desperate need of food, clothing …and hope. We’d be very grateful if you’d help give them that by helping Young Heroes in any way you can.

Thank you,
Steve Kallaugher
Project Supervisor/Young Heroes

Steve Kallaugher is a former executive at The Wall Street Journal. In 2004, he came to Swaziland as a Peace Corps volunteer to do HIV/AIDS work at a grass-roots level in a rural community. While there, NERCHA asked him to create a program to help find sponsors for orphan families. The result is Young Heroes. Mr. Kallaugher now works for NERCHA. You can contact him at skallaugher@nercha.org.sz.

Press Release:Read more...Collapse )

Current Mood: excited
Thursday, February 2nd, 2006
11:11 am
Young Heroes NERCHA project
I'm not sure how many people still check this journal, but I wanted to update a little about the progress of the orphan project I was working on.

I found 6 families in my village that were orphan headed households in need of assistance. Most of the parents died of AIDS.

One of the PCVs in my group quit Peace Corps to work for NERCHA, National Emergency Response Counsil on HIV/AIDS. He has been working on this Young Heroes project for nearly a year now and it is finally launching this week!
That means the families now have ID cards so they can collect money from their nearest post office in order to feed, and clothe the children. The money can also be used for soap and toiletries. Originally the project was going to cover school fees as well, but this became a very hot issue and it will now not be included. These children should already be sponsored through the government for free school fees because they are double orphans. This is not always the case, because many of these children are forced to work to help their families or they become pregnant due to poverty circumstances...which prevents them from further education. Even if they are getting free school fees this won't cover their uniforms or books that need to be purchased. The money raised through this project will help pay for these needs.

This means NERCHA will need donations! As soon as I have the link to the website and I get the ok from Steve (former PCV) I will be e-mailing everyone I know for donations. Every little bit counts, and the American dollar goes a long way in southern Africa.
I'm not positive, but I think I can direct people to the exact families from my village.

I know it's not always easy to come up with money to help projects like this, but it would help a lot if you continued spreading the word around by forwarding the e-mail or a link to this journal. NERCHA has a very limited advertising fund so it is counting on us very resourceful Peace Corps Volunteers.

Current Mood: excited
Friday, January 27th, 2006
9:37 am
Emer'gen C juice packs
I may be home, but I'm still trying to help...I hope this works!

LetterCollapse )
Wednesday, December 7th, 2005
7:10 pm
More observations
My Space seems to be the biggest online craze lately...I've noticed it come up in conversation multiple times. Must update my account.

It was 14 degrees F yesterday. I can't get the same kind of exercise here because only crazy people walk for miles in weather like that! There's at least an inch of ice on all the streets in Cashmere.

I nearly hit a deer on the way to Ron's house last night. Here we don't have to slow down for cows...it's deer that irratically jump in front of cars.
One of the days last week when it snowed all day I watched a herd of deer walking through Grandpa's front yard looking for food. It was a beautiful sight.

People are actually wearing capri pants with big tall hooker boots (I'm assuming to keep their legs warm)!?

Yesterday I went to the Ear Nose & Throat Dr for my ear issues and she put this little metal tube sucky thing in my ear and started ripping out all kinds of build up from the 2 different kinds of drops I used in Africa! It was so painful the Dr. actually stopped and suggested I use some other drops to loosen up the debris so I can return for the pain next week. I'm so tired of ear drops! This is the 3rd try!
Sunday, December 4th, 2005
8:50 am
Well folks, I've been back in the USA for just over 2 weeks now.

Yesterday I decided I would treat myself to new make-up since I've never had anyone do my make-up and suggest specific colors. Yes, I did learn that there's much more important things in life than wearing foundation and mascara, but after 14 months in Africa I need a little help feeling pretty...

After having someone at Nordstrom's apply Mac make-up on me I spent over 45 Rand just on the tax for the make-up I decided to purchase! What a waste!

Then while I was eating lunch at Claim Jumpers with some old friends I looked out the window at the mall parking lot and noticed that 80% of the cars were SUVs! It only snows in the Seattle area about twice a year (it's actually happened twice this week so maybe this year is the exception) so it's not actually practical to clog up the streets and parking lots with huge vehicles that pollute the earth and cost a fortune to fuel. (Some of you in Swaz may be happy to hear that gas prices have gone down and I saw $2.25 a gallon). These people must have too much money to waste going to the ski mountains a couple times during the season...

Not to mention that all these people driving fancy SUVs were also spending thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts!
I just can't deal with Christmas this year. I just spent over a year in a country where very few people can afford to do anything different for Christmas so it's treated just like any other day (except they may pray a little more).
I always do Christmas cards and I won't even do those this year. I don't want any gifts and I can't afford to get anyone gifts either.
I wasn't big on Christmas before Africa, but now I just see 364 other days during the year when you can tell your friends & family you love them without forced gift giving...
Like I said before...there's more important things in life.
Bah Humbug.

Today I am meeting Tegan's parents at Tully's for tea! I'm delivering them a gift from her and I'm assuming they will have lots of questions about Swaziland and life in the Peace Corps. I invited my Dad & step-mom to join us since they have been especially interested in my time there as well. The Cougar fans will have to sit on one side of the table though...

A few other things I have noticed:
Big eyebrows are big again.

Everything in the USA is BIG...dogs, bags of chips, chunks of cheese, cars, houses, restaurant meals, RVs (don't exist in Africa as far as I know), family size shampoo, high heels, birthday cakes...you get the idea...

I hate the fashion available this year. Apparently the sequin craze is worldwide. Ruffles, lace and little sweaters or jackets that only cover the breast area are also HUGE.

Mountain Dew actually has 3 flavors now...original, Code Red and a Baja Blue one. They have their own energy drink too (as if Mt Dew didn't already have enough caffeine)!

My friend Jason actually thinks I look younger. I feel like I aged 10 years in Swaziland!

The mother I lived with in Swaz is now at home recovering. The diagnosis...too much oil in her body pushing down on the baby? Sounds like crap to me...but I'm glad she's home and getting healthy.

I talked to Zanele and she was thrilled with the NATICC workshop for people living with HIV/AIDS. She somehow managed to get 20 people to sign up for a HIV support group! YAY! She also talked to a high school on World AIDS Day for a PCV on Dec 1 and another World AIDS Day for a different PCV on Dec 2. She's keeping busy!

Current Mood: awake
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005
4:44 pm
Home Sweet Home
Well, I made it home smoothly on Friday night. I went from Swaziland to Johannesberg, South Africa, to a little island off the coast of Senegal for gas fill up to Atlanta to Seattle to Leavenworth for dinner to Wenatchee for clothes and then all the way to Lake Chelan for sleep. It was a very long 2 days for me.

I tried to update a couple more times before this, but I haven't been able to find the words.
It's good to be home, but it's real strange at times. Actually it's been easier to return to home than it ever was to return to my village after a vacation. Home is always easy to return to.
I still haven't attempted a grocery store or Walmart or a mall. I think all of that can wait until after the crazy Thanksgiving shopping chills out a bit.
My driver's license was expired when I got home so I couldn't get it renewed until yesterday. Driving again made me nervous at first but now it's normal again.
Yesterday I spent about 3 hours at a walk in clinic to get my ears checked out. The patients and traffic there was quite a different experience after seeing Hlatikhulu hospital. Everything in America is so clean and steril! There aren't any crazy recovering crack heads in the clinics in Swaziland either.

What have I noticed since I came home?
Most people who have cell phones now have picture phones.
There's new tv shows and movies that I've never heard of.
It's so cold here I can't wear any of the skirts I've been accustom to wearing daily.
Taco Bell tastes just the same as when I left. It's gross actually and I can't believe how much time I wasted wishing I could eat it when it wasn't available.

On a sad note...the mother I lived with has been really sick. She was in the Nhlangano hospital, but got transferred to a hospital in Piet Retief, South Africa yesterday. I'm worried, but I know she's normally healthy so I have faith that she will be ok as long as the medical care is ok. There's not much I can do about it from here. Like always the symptoms Babe told me are vague...horrible headache, knee swelling, pain all over, and vomiting. I have no idea what that could be? She wasn't feeling well the day I picked up my belongings either.
I've tried to call Zanele 3 times, but haven't been able to talk to her.
I did talk to Meredith for nearly an hour a couple days ago. She says it's really different in our village without me. She's getting ready for a month long trip home for Christmas.

I know I need to take it easy and soak up this time without a busy schedule, but I've been so bored in Africa that I'm really anxious to get a job here and have a schedule. Everyone I know has a full time job and other adult responsibilities so it's awefully boring during the day with nothing to do. I wasted enough time in Swaziland feeling worthless so I'm ready for a new reason to get out of bed.

Carley asked me last night: "What was the best and the worst about your experience?"
The worst: Going to a place to help and feeling helpless...like the problems were constantly over my head.
The best: Being able to travel around Southern Africa...and living with the Sangweni family.

I'm not sure how often I'll continue updating this journal. Eventually I would like to make a power point presentation with pictures about my experience and I hope to start a little fundraiser for my village with my wish list for them. I'll keep everyone updated.
The YoungHeroes NERCHA orphan project should be online and ready to accept donors in January. When it is, I can direct people to the 6 families from my village.
Thursday, November 17th, 2005
8:38 am
Emotional Goodbyes
Yesterday I had to pick up my belongings from my homestead and say goodbye to my Make (mother), Zanele and Gcina (my 3 yr old). I've never seen Make cry, but she did. It was short (thankgoodness), but heartbreaking. Meredith came to help pack up my things into the PC vehicle and come back to Mbabane with us.

Last night Dr. Delouis from Baylor College of Medicine came to Happy Hour to catch up and say goodbye. He truely is one of our (PCVs) biggest cheerleaders, more so than even the PC staff which is sad. He has a lot on his shoulders here dealing with the Ministry of Health and getting the Center for Excellence up and running. So far there isn't a Pediatrician hired so he's worried he may have to fill that role as well when he's been hoping to come see some of our sites and meet some of the amazing people doing HIV awareness work at the local level. He really wants to meet Zanele.

Most of the last hugs with my fellow PCVs have been teary eyed.

I just wanna get on the plane and get this over with.

Today I have my exit interview with the Country Director, which should be painless. Then I get on the plane at 2 pm and arrive in Seattle at 12:30ish pm on Friday. My Dad and Terry will drive me to Wenatchee and hopefully I'll be able to spend that Fri night with Ron in Chelan.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2005
12:01 pm
Close bank account: check
Last dinner with PSN/friends at Nono's (Uncle Tom's treat!) : check
8 am complete physical with PCMO: check
10:30 am dental exam & cleaning: check

Now I have a million other things to do but I can't complete them until I know my flight information and collect my belongings from my homestead. So far it doesn't look like any of that will be accomplished today.
I just wanna go home.
Monday, November 14th, 2005
9:22 am
ET day
Well, for some reason I can't send e-mails from this computer in the PCV lounge, so I guess I'll just update here. I gave the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) a heads up last night that I wanted to start the ET (Early Termination) process today. Right now I'm waiting in the lounge for her to talk to me. After I talk to her more in depth about my reasons for leaving and my medical issues I'm not really sure what's next. I'm guessing I need to talk to the CD (Country Director) to get the process started. I hear I have to have a exit interview with this woman in the office that I have no relationship with who is suppose to be my supervisor (substitute APCD, since ours had a brain tumor and left 6 months ago and his replacement isn't coming until Feb). The only time I've ever asked her for assistance it wasn't helpful at all so I decided to skip dealing with the office.
She was just in the lounge and didn't even acknowledge my presense so this should be fun.

I'll update when I can. This could be the longest 4 days in Swaziland.
Saturday, November 12th, 2005
3:43 pm
Early Termination update:
I hear that Rebecca is leaving Swaziland on Tuesday.
Then 4 new PCVs that just finished In Service Training have decided this isn't the experience they wanted so 2 are going home and I hear 2 are staying in Africa for a while until they figure out their next move.
That's Katrina, Kaitlin, Rouge & Colin.
Sounds like Peace Corps Swaziland is losing 6 people early within a week or two.

I'm having a great time in Durban but it looks like I'm not gonna make it to the beach. I'm exhausted and I spent way too much money at the Victoria St Market today so now Meredith, Steph & I are relaxing back at the hostel and Holly, Kate & Michelle went to the beach for a while.
Tonight there's a new restaurant/lounge opening up at Suncoast Casino and the theme is Madonna which sounds like fun (but mostly we wanna go to make the Diva mad that he missed it). There's a hefty cover charge so we might not make it.
Yesterday Steph & I hung out at the mall waiting for the girls to get here from Swaziland. We got hairs removed at a salon and spent an hour in the Pick & Pay supermarket (the same one I had a panick attack in with Seema & Monica in July). My Swazi purse broke in the mall so I bought 2 new ones. I actually bought another new one today...3 new purses in 2 days is a little outta control.
Last night we ate Indian food and had drinks at a place called Bean Bag Bohemian. We had a frosty drink that was served in a actual tea pot.
Tonight we're going to Thai food.
Tomorrow all we'll have time for is breakfast and travel back to the Swaz.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!
I'm 27!
Friday, November 11th, 2005
8:59 am
Mi Vida Loca
Greetings from Durban! We're at Hippo Hide Hostel again (my 3rd time).
Yesterday Steph & I had quite a birthday! First, we scored a free ride to Durban with one of my Afrikaans neighbors who was going anyway. We ended up joining their family road trip to grandma's house. Me, Steph, Dad, Mom and 3 kids piled into a Toyota Corolla for a 6 hour drive. It was so funny! We even stopped at a rest stop and they bought us lunch!
We got here super fast for free and a free meal!
Then we cleaned up at the hostel and went to find some food. Holly & Val (who both just finished their PC service and are now traveling) surprised me and found a MEXICAN restaurant!
Afterwards we went to the movies and saw GOAL, which was one of those feel good sports movies with a cute Mexican boy who had a hard life and ends up going pro in England.
It was a fabulous day!

The birthday weekend isn't over yet though...
Meredith, Kate & Michelle are on their way to Durban right now. So, the 7 of us girls could do some more damage!

I guess I can write about it here now...
On Monday I plan on going into the Peace Corps office and telling them that I'm ready to go home. I haven't been able to tell them yet because they want you to leave the country right away and I wasn't ready yet. I have no idea when my flight will be, but I hope to be home by the 18th.
I hope to fly into Wenatchee and I won't have any money for a couple weeks so I can't go to Seattle until I get my check. There's a wedding I want to attend in Seattle the first weekend in Dec though.
Hopefully I'll see you all soon!

Current Mood: content
Monday, November 7th, 2005
2:48 pm
My Make is pregnant. This will be her 7th child (she's 36 yrs old). All together this will make 9 children for Make & Babe combined. It took me about 6 weeks to really accept this news. I hope it's a girl so they can name it Ncedile.

My chicken decided the pit latrine was a good place to lay eggs. So she sat on them for 21 days and now she's got chicks. Now I have to fight with mama hen everytime I want to use the toilet. She made me bleed!

We named the pig Blondie.
Monday, October 31st, 2005
4:57 pm
More Progress
Happy Halloween everyone who's in a country that celebrates Halloween. My second Halloween in Africa...and it feels just like any other rainy Monday. No candy corn here.

Wanna know just how amazing my friend Zanele is?
She's now giving lessons on HIV/AIDS at her house! She has about 18 men & boys (and a few women) collecting condoms from her house and they keep asking her questions so she decided to ask them to tell their friends and schedule a day to talk about their questions. On Thursday she had 13 men & boys show up at her house to hear her talk about living with HIV and prevention and anything else they asked. One girl showed up and she decided to leave and tell her friends to come the next day. On Friday Zanele had 19 women & girls in her small front room! After the lesson one of the boys who has been collecting condoms heard about the lesson and asked Zanele why she didn't tell him! He was bummed he missed it and asked when the next lesson was planned.
I have been wanting people to approach me and ask me about HIV the entire time I've been here...with very little luck. Zanele says the biggest barrier is that I'm not fluent in siSwati.

I was busy during both sessions so she did it all on her own and came to my house to tell me about her lessons afterwards. She gave the lessons in siSwati, but wrote her lesson plan in English. She's willing to make this a regular event, but she hopes next time it can be under a tree somewhere instead of on her homestead.

Yesterday Meredith and I went to talk to Zanele about the NATICC support group she joined and the upcoming events around our area. I asked Zanele if she would be willing to talk to the Anti-AIDS (horrible name, I know, but it's common) Club at the school Meredith helps at. She's not only willing to talk to the after school club, but she said she was willing to talk to the whole school! This is more than amazing because this is the high school she attended and these are the children of her community members and she's willing to tell all of them about her status! She says, "I am not afraid."
I am now going to tell all the volunteers that I know a HIV+ woman who is willing to talk to people about her status for meetings, boys & girls camps, youth groups, classrooms, clinics... As long as the transport is payed for and she's not busy with other things I'm pretty sure she'll do it. It's one thing for us to be teaching about HIV/AIDS, but it's a lot more powerful if the message comes from someone who is positive, was once very sick and is now living a healthy, active life.

I e-mailed the article I wrote to the Dr. that lead the Baylor College of Medicine workshop I attended in June and he passed it around to everyone he knew. He also suggested that I ask Zanele if her story could be printed in Swaziland. At first I was really reluctant because I know another woman who is HIV+ and doing outreach and she left her child with extended family members and they starved it to death because they considered the woman's outreach a way of tarnishing their family name.
Zanele only found out her status in July so I wanted her to take her time and go through the baby steps it takes for a person to get used to their new life and sharing it with others. It sounds like she's ready and she's not going to let anyone hold her back! I'm not sure if the story I wrote about her is what should be published here, but if I could connect her with a NGO with a widespread newsletter and they interviewed her that might be better. Dr. Delouis would like to meet her someday after reading what I wrote about her.
Friday, October 28th, 2005
3:14 am
I've been published!
This article was just published in the Cashmere Valley Record (my hometown weekly newspaper):

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