The kids came back Monday and, for someone like me who loves kids, especially the energetic grimy kind, everything became even better. We are waiting until Monday to start any of the educational projects I will be working with, so this week has been mostly preparations and then sitting on my porch getting climbed all over by dirty little children.
This morning was the guardians meeting, where the guardians of the children at the hostel (for Americans, this place would be called an orphanage, but in Swazi culture family ties are incredibly important, so this word is avoided and special efforts are made to maintain the children’s relationships with their families), come for a meeting with the staff here. It was all in Siswati, but still interesting to watch, and I got to read the minutes (in English) afterwards.
Mozambique has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world, currently being reported at 11.5% (when I joined Peace Corps in 2009 it was reported at 16%). But in Swaziland during that same time period it has gone from 33% to 31%. HIV was a constant part of our lives in Mozambique, but it is even more so here. One thing I am struck by is what I perceive as a more open culture. Perhaps this is due to the higher prevalence rate, so you are more likely to be around people who are HIV+. Perhaps this isn’t true of all Swaziland, but only where I am living now. At the orphanage where I lived in Mozambique there were two HIV+ girls, but this secret was closely guarded from other girls in the orphanage, students at school, and people in the community. Here, everyone knows who the 25+ positive kids are. Their having HIVs is discussed as openly as the fact that some kids failed English last year, are deaf, are having behavioral issues, or come from bad family situations. I do appreciate this openness and, in this accepting environment at least, I think it’s far better for everyone, both positive and negative.