The true meaning of community

 

“It is possible that we have been brought together at this time because we have profound truths to teach each other”- Malidoma Patrice Some

For me its never been about proving whos right or wrong. It’s never been about othering or placing one’s beliefs above one another. I truly believe that there is no one way of doing things but that solutions to various different problems require us to enlist perspective. Perspective for me is the defining factor and its our perspectives that make us unique. I joined the Peace Corps to share my culture but also to learn about the swazi culture that has whole-heartedly embraced me over these past 9 months. My community has taught me so much about life, the power of collectivism and teamwork when it comes to even the slightest tasks.

“Community is important because there is an understanding that human beings are collectively oriented”- malidoma patrice some

Inclusiveness across the board and
the consulting of everyone throughout the process is what I’ve learned most over this journey.
I can remember my first emphakatsi meeting like it was yesterday. We all gathered under a huge shaded tree with our grass mats and lihayas all for a chance to meet with the inner council for guidance on projects we’d like to implement in the community. In most communities across swaziland, no one person can just go off and start any project without consulting the inner council. The inner council is comprised of various elected officials from the community. Some of these officials include the chief, bucopho, indvuna, community runner etc. All of these people are elected by their peers to oversee the inner workings of each and everything that happens in the community. This very sense of collectivism in the decision making process has been much difficult for me to adjust to than what I had originally imagined.

I’m used to doing things myself. The quick and easy way is what I call it. Or the saying “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself”. Its safe to say that that frame of mind doesnt exist here nor would it flourish if it did. The true essence of ubuntu and collectivism reigns supreme and that’s something that I’m learning more and more each day.
It becomes quite frustrating to me as I perceive experiences as “oh we’re wasting time”, “but why do you need permission? “and “can we just get on with the project?” But ultimately I ask myself what’s the rush? I think I do it because I want to feel that I’ve accomplished something or the fact that I want to do as much in my power for the youth in my time here. Two years seemed like alot of time in the beginning but when I began to look at my calenar the days are flying.

I’m making strides by making friends but for me tangible projects or things are slim to none. I’m hopeful but at times I grow weary. I recently started an English club at the high school and the amount of support and participation from the students has truly been rewarding. They are eager each Wednesday as we all crowd in to the schools library which is sadly not in use to conduct fun activities in English. They seem to really enjoy the activities and the time we spend together. This past meeting we translated the popular song Tigi by the swazi artist Sands into English and the students loved it. They worked in their groups fearlessly for the two hours as they debated over the translations of words and the true meaning behind the song. One group said that the song is very powerful because it teaches us to never use the word Love if we don’t mean. I was very pleased with that answer and proud that the students were able to go so deep into the meaning behind tje song and effortlessly articulate their thoughts. Im excited for whats to come with the English club and the improvements that the club can potentially have in their English speaking, listening and overall confidence when it comes to speaking English.

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