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Liz’s new home sweet ekhaya

We made it! I am finally living at my permanent site in the Battlefield Region of Kwa-Zulu Natal. We left Mpumalanga right after our swearing-in ceremony and arrived on Sunday night.

My new host family consists of a mama and two high-school-aged boys. They all can speak intermediate English and want to learn more from me. However, I want to learn more isiZulu so this will have to be a two-way trade! Unfortunately, my mama’s husband passed away last year. My mama speaks isiZulu because of her husband, but is Sotho. Apparently both groups live in my area. My principal gave me the African name of “umpho” (a gift from God in Sotho) to honor my mama’s heritage.

My host brothers are polite, shy and very curious about who I am and what America is like. Now that I’ve gone through this host-family thing once already, I can say it takes at least a month to really warm up to each other and to start understanding each other; there’s always that awkward transition phase. It also doesn’t help much that I was ill when I first met my family and neighbors and had a hard time talking because all I could think about was how nauseous I was (everyone gets sick eventually in the Peace Corps and I would of course get sick on my first day at site — ngiphetewe isisi (my stomach hurts). It’s also freezing cold and storming here, so I can’t help but curl up in my two blankets, onesie, jacket, sweatpants, beanie and three pairs of socks to try to keep warm. I’m not worrying too much, though, because I’ve got two years here — people will get used to me and I will get used to them.

Anyhow, here’s a glimpse into my new ekhaya (home in isiZulu):

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The Kwa-Zulu Natal Battlefield Region, ain’t it pretty?

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Home sweet home

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My bed, which my host family let me borrow and buckets for bathing, laundry and dishes

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My makeshift pantry and wardrobe because I have no furniture and my host family let me borrow extra stuff they had

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My makeshift kitchen. I’m living without a fridge for two years and cooking on hot plates. The buckets are filled with water I fetch from my yard for cooking and bathing purposes. 

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View from outside my house in the pouring rain. The main tar road is the only road that runs through my village to town.

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