Loneliness in the Peace Corps

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My thoughts have become a dangerous place to be left in. As if my mind is some sort of toxic landfill. My pen and paper have become my saving grace. Typical days like this in the states would be filled with the company of both family and friends, grad classes, field placement, work, activities, night clubs, music concerts, stimulation, common language and the list could go on. Most days here are the polar opposite.

You get lost in the idle time. Lost in your thoughts. Lost in yourself. The very things that once worked for you are not suffice enough to quench the thirst of stimulating conversations, familiarity, convenience and ultimately all the things that once masked the loneliness that was maybe always there. There is no real busy here because there is always time for reflection.

There is always time for introspection. Like you really get to know yourself in your alone time because sometimes no matter how full the homestead, classroom or community meeting is you still find yourself feeling alone. It’s like that song “cranes in the sky” where she talks about her use of distractions to rid herself of the loneliness and past pain. I wouldn’t consider myself pain ridden or hurt but I must admit that I’m struggling. I am struggling in all the places that I thought I had figured out. Like myself. I’m ever-changing, I’m constantly evolving  and reliving old experiences while experiencing new ones. It’s like my feelings are all over the place and I can’t get a grip on them at times.

The Mother Bear Project

“The Mother Bear Project is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear.The simple gift of a hand-knit bear with a tag signed by the knitter has touched children with the message that they are unconditionally loved”.(taken from motherbearproject.org)

I had the great priviledge of partnering with this organization this past week to deliver teddy bears to children in my community. The smiles on their faces were priceless. Here are a few pictures from the big day

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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.

20’s

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Sometimes we want it to work so bad that we stay too long

Waiting for things to change

For people to grow into who we want them to be

And in the process we wound up loosing patience

And loosing ourselves

When they ask me how I spent most of my twenties here’s what I’ll say:

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I spent it finding myself

Like truly

Deeply

Like right down to my very core

My deepest convictions

My wildest fears

A yearning to grow closer to God

Falling so deeply in love

Trying to love again

A wanting to be loved and to love

someone

with everyone ounce of me

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I spent it traveling the world

Experiencing new cultures

Hearing new sounds

Tasting exotic foods

Fumbling across unspoken words

Staring at the moon

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I spent it listening to children’s laughter

Making fun of myself

Writing poetry

Feasting from my own garden

And learning to write my own story

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You see as the days go by and the night’s grow longer I take the time to reflect on ME. To check in with myself every step of the way. To be present; like actually in the now. It’s important to me because it’s all apart of my journey.

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Who is Nosmilo Mamba?

Who is Nosmilo Mamba?

Gugu Mamba this post is dedicated to you. Thanks for making me feel at home.

I think the hardest part about being a Peace Corps Volunteer thus far is balancing self. By that it’s understanding who you are in accordance to the current cultural norms in which you have chosen to live under for the next two years but still staying true to who you are. It’s truly a balancing act and as exhausting as it can be at times to strip away your self, to take on a new name and the ultimate identity as A Peace Corps Volunteer its worth it. Its officially been six months into my journey and walking the tight rope hasn’t been as much of a balancing act as it started out to be. I told myself that this is truly a cultural exchange and as much as I find myself altering my dress, behavior and voice at times I also find myself being unapologetic about who I am and what I believe in the process.

In my community I’ve become really close with a woman who I call sisi. She is the daughter of the community runner and is such a genuine and vibrant spirit to be around. She’s helped me so much in understanding Swazi culture and acclamating myself within the community. I’ve also served as her sort of Wikipedia to American culture if I do say so myself. Shes so interested in what my life was like before I decided to drop everything to answer the call to service.

I can remember the first day we met as I nervously visited her homestead with my counterpart. Ekhaya I yelled which is customary when entering someone’s homestead. It’s a way of alerting them of your presence. I greeted her in my broken siswati with assistance from my counterpart. She then began speaking full out siswati only to be told by my counterpart that I was actually American. The look on her face was priceless. It was a mixture of disbelief, confusion, excitement and ultimately curiosity. Although I couldn’t respond I understand many of the questions that flowed from her mouth like the way the water often times squirks out rapidly fdom the bohole (water tap) when you first open it. She began asking questions like: Are you sure? But her hair is like ours (in reference to my locs), But she speaks siswati (guess my greeting was just that good), etc. Then after shes done with her questions, she looks to me and introduces her same in perfect english. “Hello Nosmilo. My name is Gugu and you are my sister” (not literally but because we share the same surname of Mamba we are seen as sisters in Swazi culture).
Most days we lie together on the grassmat of her homestead under the jacaranda tree and just chat about life and all the possibilities for growth and projects within the community. She gives me hope that I can do this thing called Peace Core.

Just recently I started wearing more clothing items that reveal my tattoos. I was tired of feeling like I had to cover up and also it’s the dead heat of summer so cardigans are not an option. I told myself that ultimately despite my tattoos or way in which I choose to live people are going to like me for me. So of course Gugu says to me one day, “Hey Nosmilo I noticed you have tattoos. How come?” And of course I tell her my reasoning and how tattoos aren’t seen as a big deal in America. She was shocked. Lol she told me that in Swaziland that if you have tattoos than people assume that you’ve done time in jail. She then looks to me and laughs and then says “well I’m certain you havent done any time in jail so you are alright lol. Next we discussed my nose ring and she explained that people who wear nose rings are seen as Satanist. We both paused for a while and burst out in deep laughter. I replied so you think I’m a satirist? She laughs and replies of course not. You are my sister. It’s in these conversations where I feel free to be myself. Unafraid of what people will say and unapologetic in my convictions around who I am.

So who is Nosmilo Mamba?, I still sometimes ask myself. Shes the swazi version of Akirah. A ligusha and lipalishi eating, people lover, laughter enthuist, youth worker from Jersey who’s Queening in the magical kingdom of Swaziland. I’m enjoying the journey and taking it one day at a time. I remind myself that its not a Sprint but yet a marathon and I’m pacing myself, beinf interntional and staying present in the moment.

Book Review

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Have you ever felt like someone was speaking to your soul. This book right here just speaks to my soul. Her vulnerability and openness is so refreshing. This is truly a must read peeps so check it out. I literally read it in one setting.

25 ways in which God has spoken to me over the years

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1. follow your heart even if you don’t know where it’s taking you

Luke 12:34 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

2. no dream is too big

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”

Hebrews “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”

3. you do actually like tomatoes (who knew)

As a kid I was a pretty picky eater.  Sorry mom. But now as a sort of adult, I can’t seem to get enough of tomatoes. I can eat them raw or cooked. They are just so delicious. I have so been missing out all these years..

4. there’s nothing wrong with a good old cry

Psalm 34:17 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles”

I used to think crying was a sign of weakness but that belief isn’t true anymore for me. How can god help you if we pretend that there is no suffering. There has been a many of times when I let pride get in the way of a good old cry and I paid the price whether it be me lashing out on others or literally holding it all in until I had a breakdown. I am all about cleansing the soul and a good ugly cry every now and than is good for me. It’s just what I need to pick myself up from all of the uncertainty and sometimes crappy experiences I may go through.

5. family is important

Proverbs 11:29 “Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise”

6. find peace

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Psalm 34:14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”

7. do it yourself; its apart of the learning process (DIY)

8. happiness is in accordance to circumstance so always seek joy

9. embrace ambiguity

10. pace yourself

11. patience

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”

12. love hard or don’t love at all

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.”

13. speak your feelings

14. enjoy the journey

Jeremiah  29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

15. write stuff down

16. listen and not just hear

17. don’t be Afraid of the gospel

Psalms 37:4 “Take delight in the lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”

18. laugh a whole lot; like a lot especially at yourself

19. pray

Philippians 4:6-8 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

20. change is good

21. let your actions be a reflection of your character

1 John 3:18 “Dear children let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”

22. self reflection is important

23. there is just something about sunflowers that I love so much

24. find community where ever you go

25. fear is all in your head

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Hair Story

As  Black women, our hair tells the unique story of our ability to grapple with societies strict and yet limited standards of beauty while learning to embrace our own. I never once wanted a perm to fit into the norm of straight, long and flowy hair like most of the women in the magazines. I was quite okay with my corn rows and wooden beads that I would beg my mom to add to my hair. And besides; perm smelled like rotten eggs to me and I was told that it burned if you put it in your hair. I also remember seeing how often people with perms had to go to the shop to get their hair done and I was like nah. The every two weeks of getting my hair braided was just enough for me. I liked my hair despite the long hours of combing, detangling, breaking brushes and asking to go to the bathroom just so you could see how much longer my cousin had left of my hair. Also my mom rocked her natural hair unapologetically so I wanted to do the same.

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7th grade rocking the fresh corn rolls with my signature zig zag braids

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Summer of 8th grade rocking the fro

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Senior Dance of High School

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Prom

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Summer before entering freshman year of college

Summer of freshman year of college

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Thanksgiving sophomore year

Something changed around this time and all I can remember is me straightening my hair an awful lot. I’m not sure what it was but as you can see it was killing my hair. It become weak, brittle and could barely hold a curl. Something had to change.

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Heat damage starting to show from too much flat ironing

No more heat damage; fresh cut

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Study abroad in South Africa; Junior Year of college

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Peep the curl pattern; my fro was growing so fast

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Summer after graduating from college

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Wanted something new so got a hair cut

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Tapered Natural Cut

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Loving my hair

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The move to Michigan for graduate school

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Hair was growing so FAST!!!

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Protective Styling for that in between phase

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Finally decided to loc my hair y’all

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Started with two strand twist

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No washing for the next 6 months; How sway?

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First wash after 6 months

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First time retwisting my locs

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Vacation in Myanmar

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Exploring Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

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Trip to Bangladesh to visit Kelsey

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9 months strong

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Could Finally make a ponytail

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Girls trip to San Diego California

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Officially one year loc’d

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Back to Michigan to finish my second semester of Graduate School

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National Association of Black Social Workers Conference in New Orleans

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Enjoying the warmth in Michigan

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A Few months into service as a Peace Core Volunteer in Swaziland, Africa

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Thanksgiving 2016; Country Directors House; Impromptu Photo Shoot

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Almost reaching that two year mark. As I look back on my journey, I can’t help but admit that its been an enjoyable one. Looking back, I would not have changed a thing.

Weeds

Weeds

Love is an actionary word

And ive always been a visual learner so show me

Its been raining a lot and growth is starting its process here in Swaziland

Its also plowing season and everyone here is franctically preparing their fields for the planting of crops like maize, juju beans, squash, etc

I too am also working on my garden (both literally and figuratively)

Planted a few tomato seedlings a few weeks ago and they have taken root

For the most part atleast

A few seem to have disappeared from my garden though

I’m thinking they were swept away by the wind but something tells me it was the chickens

Darn chickens

No matter how much fencing you put up they still just seem to find their way in

So today despite the dreary weather I decided to work on the other half of my garden that I have been neglecting

Ive decided to do a little each day considering the last time I kinda overworked myself

Today I planned to turn some soil to prepare my next bed for planting and get some weeding done

No matter how much you plant weeds can sure take a toll on the lively hood of your garden

But not on my watch

According to websters a weed is a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants

This word is synomous with phrases like isolate. separate out, sort out, sift out, filter out, set apart, segregate, eliminate, get rid of, remove, cut, chop or informal lose.

All these suggesting that they must go.

You see weeds suck the life out of things and have no intended good

Yet me clip them off on the surface

Failing to dig depper

And catch them at the root

Hence why they keep coming back

As if you never pulled them up to begin with

Outside of wanting to finish my garden today

I also needed to clear my head of some things

Today I got some news that a guy who I really care about was sick and my world just literally stopped for a while

My heart began to race and I immediately messaged him with a few encouraging words and prayers

But it wasn’t enough

I had to hear his voice

So I called

And of course he picked up

Last time we talked it was just a bunch of loose ends

Still yet tied but we left it like we always do

I had to let him know that even though we didn’t talk every day I still cared hence why I was calling him after all this time

He said it was okay and reassured me that he was doing fine but still awaiting the news from the nurse

I told him I would check in on him again this week or so as I tried to hurry myself off the phone

But you stopped me

Its like you knew

You said “wait I have to tell you something”

And I said what without even thinking to prepare myself for what you were going to say

“I love you, and I’m not asking for a response. I just wanted to let you know”

I was speechless

Like what do you say to that?

Like what was I supposed to say

All I could say was okay

I learned my lesson along time ago when using that word

And although nothing in me doubted the emotion you had behind those words, I just knew I wouldn’t say them back to you

You see Love is an actionary word

And when you say it, there needs to be some action behind it

Show me better than you can tell me

Like my garden I myself am growing

I’ve dug deep and pulled a few weeds

Still trying to decide if you’re a wild plant growing

Or if youre actually a flower in disguise

The Color Purple

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Shug: More than anything God loves admiration

Cealy: Are you saying god is vain?

Shug: No he ain’t vain. Just wanting to share a hood thing. I think it pissed god off if you walk past the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.

Cealy: You saying it just wanna be loved. Us sang and dance and holla. Us just trying to be loved. Look at them trees. Ever notice how trees do everything to get attention like we do?

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I thought about you today

I thought about you today and how

We used to shoot breeze like the summer time

And catch laughter between the palms of our hands

Because that’s how we’d learn to share with one another

The jacaranda trees remind me of you

The faint lavender I see as I look out into the distance

Your tint I noticed amongst the bustling hills of banana tres

You weren’t there before

But now you’re all I see