Emails from Afar: Swaziland Edition

When people go away, they send the best emails. In a new, occasional series, we air them out. We are surviving quite nicely...

When people go away, they send the best emails. In a new, occasional series, we air them out.

We are surviving quite nicely here in Swaziland. A week ago Friday we were invited to a farewell party for one of the assistant directors who is going back to the U.S. Since we would have had to spend the night in another village it seemed like too much of a hassle so we passed it up. Good decision. First, we were sick on that day. Second, one of the volunteers had swine flu and passed it around at the party, unwittingly. So we saved money and time and were not exposed to swine flu. Apparently lots of people have gotten sick but everyone is on the mend.

Our week went by fairly rapidly. If we are occupied, time flies; if not, it crawls. Anyway we continue to recover. We have now visited three schools with another one scheduled for tomorrow. We may postpone that one because we have run out of gas. We have LPG with one tank. When it is empty, we are done until we swap it. No big deal in the U.S.-throw it in the car and drive to town and swap it. Here it means hauling it a quarter mile to the bus stop by 7 a.m. Getting it on the bus, riding a fair distance, swapping it out and getting a khumbi back to one village, and then getting a pickup back home. With a car, it would take about three hours. Without one, it will take the day and we will not get much else done because we will be stuck with the canister (it is big). Of course, if we were like most people, we would be gathering wood to cook with so we are way ahead of the game.

This coming week, we have the appointment with one of the primary schools on Monday and will probably try to hit another as well as some nursing care points that day. Tuesday is looking like get-gas day. Thursday we are going to a school to teach basic computing (spreadsheet, word processing) to some teachers and start reading a book about AIDS with some seventh graders. It is a story, The Heaven Shop, by Deborah Ellis, about AIDS in an African country. It seems pretty realistic from what we have seen. Get a copy from the library. Since we will only have one copy, we will have students read out loud and then discuss it chapter by chapter. It should be interesting.

We are struck by the fact that on a 40 passenger bus (with 65-plus passengers on it) one half of the people have HIV/AIDS. It makes you stop, most sobering, and wonder if this small country will still be here in ten years. How much behavior change needs to occur...and how fast?

David Frechette is a retired ER doctor who joined the Peace Corps with his wife, Cee Cee. The were placed in Swaziland. Photo (CC) by Flickr user Julien Legarde.

NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

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