My big project, Finishing the Ward 4 AMICAALL/Nhlangano Town Council Social Center, the PCPP


Peace Corps Partnership Proposal (PCPP) with the Nhlangano Town Council (NTC)

First application draft submitted Feb, 2011
Approved & Funding Begins on PC website May 17th
Construction started on Oct 24th.
All exterior construction done by Dec 20th.
Grand Opening Jan 5th, 2012
Round 2 of the Funding arrives in early January.
Interior Only Construction Restarts Jan 16th.
Construction all done Feb 16th (minus a million tiny To Do's)
Project Officially Closed May 4th, 2012

Let the children play, learn & be safe.

As of Aug 25th, 2012, I am no longer a PCV, I am now RPCV (Return Peace Corps Volunteer). This blog is my experience in Swaziland between June of 2010 & Aug of 2012. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Final Blog Post

So today I have been away from Swaziland exactly one month.  And in the United States for 23 days.

The first question always is about how is the readjustment going.  Well?

I still very much value the easy all the time available HOT SHOWER.  No doubt.

Next the GREAT FOOD always available and easy to get to.  (Cheesecake Factory, Multiple Mexican places, LA hamburgers and Ice Cream)

And how easy it is to go see movies.  I love the fact that I don't have to plan an overnight trip, travel 2 hours in 2 different Khumbis one way just to get to the only theater.  (Although for the record, I loved going to that theater and having those escapes where I watched all 5 movies that screen offered, usually 4 in one day at a theater which only had 4 screens & no 3-D in the Ezulweni Valley)  

I have spent these 23 days at my parents place eating my Dad's great cooking, working with my Mom on a photo picture book of the South Africa & Swaziland trip they took with me in Dec & Jan.  And hanging with Rachel & Cy and her belly.  So the closeness to family is great.  Plus, visiting my local comic shop to pick up 186 GI Joe comics they have been holding for me since May of 2011.  (I returned then from Swaziland to pick up 109 GI Joe comic books).  So for the record that's 295 individual GI Joe comics that I didn't stop collecting during my service (June 2010 to September 2012) even though I wasn't in the country.  And again for the record, I will find a time to read them all in hand, maybe. (I have read all them digitally, yes the digital comic is great)

I have started to really get my 2 years of experience story wrapped up into the short conversations I get to have with people about my time there.  I have seen numerous HIV/AIDS/Condom/Safe Sex billboards all around LA and look at them completely different now. I try to spend most of it talking about my Social Center project since it is what I am the most proud of and was a huge accomplishment for me that will have a very long lasting effect on Nhlangano.  But the conversion always seems to veer towards HIV.  I certainly am qualified to talk about it having just lived in the worst region in worst country for HIV in the world.  (At least % wise and death rate wise).  Which of course is not a positive topic.  But it was a huge part of my service, so like coaching soccer and helping a couple of Swazi's on personal level, it is what I accomplished there.

I am one of the lucky PCV's I didn't have any major problems during my service, no serious illness, accidents or sickness.  I hardly had any problems with other PCVs, no serious emotional attachments (ie girlfriends/relationships) and only minor conflicts with the PC staff and PC policies.  Which in the long run where pretty minor and pretty much only at the beginning.  I was able to integrate into my community very well even though I was very unsuccessful in learning the language.

I have art sitting in my parents place waiting to be framed that will always remind me of my time there. And have a huge new appreciation for art since Swaziland as country very much lacks creativity in art and thought.  And I have created my own style called Dotillism (kind of like Pointillism). Art is such an important aspect of life and when it goes away it is the kind of thing that lowers life's experience.  The Power of Art is one of the most underrated world powers.  Hollywood has cornered the market on it and maybe someday some how it will really figure out how to help make big change through it's work instead of just entertaining the world.  But the world outside the US almost needs the entertainment more then we do.  In Swaziland, the lack of art is something that needs to be addressed on top of many of the issues that appear in the newspapers. Because creativity helps solve problems and creative thought is something to be encouraged.  There are lots of individuals working daily to figure out how to make their lives better, Swaziland is a young country and small with both of those type of insecurities but technology like Facebook, internet and cell phone are transforming the people there.  In the 2 years I was there pretty much every Swazi joined Facebook, got a much better cell phone many now have Blackberrys (or the Chinese knock off versions) and they communicate through status updates & messages more than talk, phone or email.  Since it is the best & cheapest way to communicate there.  I hope the best for the country as it struggles to find its voice in the big world and for them to find democracy.

I realized from the first day that I arrived in Atlanta on June 24th, 2010 that Peace Corps always, ALWAYS had an ending date.  I never had the intention of staying, sure the possibility was there, but it wasn't home.

But somewhere in the 2 years it did become home and then like most of my life, it was time to move on to go somewhere else.  I have lived one of the those lives that fit into no model and rarely has kept me in the same place with the same people.

Peace Corps has helped me realize that I was not meant to be in one place with just one person doing just one thing.  Sure Hollywood kept me around for 12 years, but those jobs are the epitome of the previous statement.  During my service I really hoped that I could find a job working outside the US and only return to visit then head off to some job somewhere.  But God has his own plans.  And for the time being it appears that is for me to stay around in LA for a little while.  A perfect living situation with a good friend renting a room in house with a pool & pool table & regular poker game and its cheap came around.  Easy to move into which in the last few days, I have moved all of my few items left in my life into the house (which pretty much is a few boxes of life mementos & my GI Joe comic book collection and stuff I brought back).  I bought a new bed & desk & a chair.  So just as I sold those items away in Swaziland I acquire them back here in LA.  Although much more expensive here then there plus this was my money not PC "settling  in" allowance.

And since this is written on a Tuesday by this Friday I will be in Florida working on the Obama campaign til November 6th (yes, a paid by stipend job) as a GOTV regional director.  That GOTV stands Get Out The Vote.  I will be on the ground in one of the most important battleground states in this upcoming election literally organizing to get people to those polls on election day.  AND even more important helping them early vote, absentee vote, etc.

Then when I get back to LA in November it will be time to welcome a new title for me which is Uncle. 

I have joked with my sister for the last 2 years my life and adventures in the Peace Corps have hogged the spotlight in the Eggebeen family.  But now the spotlight moves directly to her as she brings Mazzy Little Rose into the world.  Her Grandpa, Uncle & Father already have the phrase Mazzy will hear a bunch down, but we need more practice at "Don't tell your mother."  I did call my sister the other day and ask her if I could take Mazzy to a movie tomorrow, but she was busy kicking around a soccer ball in her mother, so couldn't go.

Anyway, I am very happy to be home.  That doesn't mean anything negative towards Swaziland and the friends and people I left behind.  But PC has a time limit.  And for me I was a PC volunteer exactly 2 years and a day (that would be a Leap Day in between).  I have a whole mess of new friends who will be spread out across the world.  I have learned that my management skills learned in the film business translate literally very well to managing projects in other countries in other languages and cultures because set work is controlled chaos at best and total disaster at worse.  And living and managing projects in another country under their rules, styles, cultures and pace is exactly that managing chaos.  Something I know I do very well.  My goal for the future is work in the disaster relief business helping organize the people who are supporting the people.  And Peace Corps was the first step in that direction and I hope to keep volunteering with organizations like the Red Cross & Habitat for Humanity in order to find a path to a job being sent to places that have just been destroyed and need to be put back together.

And so with a parting Thank You to my most faithful follower Charlie Escoffrey, I am now officially apart of an elite and special group of people called Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) which Charlie joined decades ago.  Many others paid attention to this blog and it received 8,873 pages views.  With most likely more to come. So Thanks to all of you and them.

So this final blog post wraps up this adventure.

So if the above wasn't enough then how to wrap up 2 years of service to ones country in words.

Well, I guess the best way is to say

"I just spent 2 years outside of America helping it look good and doing good and now I am back inside it's borders and I want to help keep it looking good and help keep it doing good in the world."

Thank You

Josh Eggebeen
RPCV Swaziland 2010-2012

ps If your reading this and want to get a hold of me directly find me on Facebook and send me a friend request/message saying you read my blog.   I will answer it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Adventure Home day 17 (Back in LA)

So as I type this the first morning in LA as former Peace Corps Volunteer.  PC has paid me my readjustment allowance, I have health insurance through one of their carriers and now its time to move on to a new life.

But a few things to finish the travel story home. 

Time in airplane: 45min Swaziland to Joberg, 8 hours Joberg to Dubai, 7 Dubai to London, 2 hours London to Iceland, 5 Iceland to NYC, 6 hrs NYC to LA = 27 & 45min hrs

Time in Airport: 3 hours Swaziland, 4 ½ Joberg. 7 hours in Dubai, 6 hours in Heathrow, 2 hours in Iceland. 5 hrs in JFK, 1 1/2 LAX = 29  hrs.

All of that just to get home.   It was so nice to see the family, they even had "Welcome Home sign"

It is nice to be back, no doubt, I kept saying that PC always had a  time limit and it seems like just how involved my trip back worked out so great, proved it.

I do have a new claim to fame.  In the evening after returning to LA my Dad & I did what we do go and see movie, The Expendables 2, which gives me the claim to fame that I three movies in three days London, New York City & Los Angeles.  Actually, I have new bucket list idea, I want to be able to say that I saw movies in tons of different countries, so when I visit different countries in the future, I am going to try do that see more movies in more countries.

So nice to be back.

In a few days I will do my final Swaziland Reflections post to wrap up my service.

My Adventure Home Day 16 (NYC)

So I stored my bags in the airport took the train into the city.  By the time I exited in Mahattan it was around 930, probably being the only person in NYC without a phone, I found internet at a hotel business center, where I did several things look up movie listings, look up locations of food and how to get between them.  My original plan was for a full blown meal, but looking at the movie schedule I determined it one or the other since I would have to catch the 10pm movie.  So I rushed down a few blocks to catch Lawless.  Sense the whole point of this over night in NYC without actually sleeping was to save money on the airfare, I realized I could do a trifecta.  3 movies in three nights in the 3 biggest movie cities in the world.  So post the movie then I decided that I would like to see the World Trade Center area, so I walked down to the area grabbing some pizza on the way.  Of course at 1 am it was closed so I just walked the area looking at the changes, the last time I was in NYC was fall of 2002 the holes were just the empty cleaned out pitts now those pitts are filled with waterfalls.  Wish the timing of visiting when it was open would have been an option.

So at around 230 as I was headed up to find the train back to the airport, I stopped a familiar site, people walking with garment bags eating pizza.  A whole group of them which to my trained eye = extras.  So I walked to where they were coming from and got some free pizza.  Then later I spotted a bar right next to the train stop so I had a few drinks then made my way back to the airport to check in.  All smooth no hassles.  I did notice a huge difference between London & NYC in London there was lots of friendliness and open PDA (public display of Affection) in NYC I saw 3 couples arguing and one lady jump out of cab cussing at the driver.  Plus, multiple prostitute proposals.  During my college years at Syracuse in 90’s I was down in the city a lot, so I am familiar with it but after exiting the train for the first I was star struck at the sizes of the buildings.  Only a few days removed from Africa NYC is really quite unique with just how tall the buildings are and how many of them there  are.

So as I type this on the plane, I am drifting off to sleep. Since I didn’t sleep a wink.

Time in airplane: 45min Swaziland to Joberg, 8 hours Joberg to Dubai, 7 Dubai to London, 2 hours London to Iceland, 5 Iceland to NYC, 6 hrs NYC to LA = 27 & 45min hrs

Time in Airport: 3 hours Swaziland, 4 ½ Joberg. 7 hours in Dubai, 6 hours in Heathrow, 2 hours in Iceland. 5 hrs in JFK = 27 hrs.

One airport left to go

My Adventure Home Day 12-15 (London)

So arriving in London late on my birthday, I dumped my bags at the airport walked out with the backpack I dragged around Swaziland.  I was sitting on the train (or tube as they call it) when a friendly British guy asked me if I had been traveling, he said I looked like I had (not sure how physically tired I looked but I was in shorts which was out of place in the beginning of fall in London, which started a conversation about what I have been doing for the last two years, in that moment I realized I have to speak about my PC experience in past tense.  And will have to figure out which of the stories most entertain and are short sense in most cases I doubt I will have long conversations.

And so in that moment I truly felt like my Peace Corps service was over.  The timing of traveling on my birthday was all by my own design (or God’s timing working through me).  So it being my birthday also helped to emphasize the point.

By the time I arrived at my hostel, by the way Clink 87 is an awesome huge hostel, checked in sorted myself out it was 11:30.  I had missed the chance to hang out with my friend PC Gena on my birthday.  But we had plans for the morning.  She just a few days before had arrived from Nigeria where she got food poisoning from a 5 star hotel.  So after much debate I decided what I think is a PC tradition when arriving back in the 1st world was to eat McDonald’s.  And it was tasty.  

So the hostel is near the King’s Cross station so it was centrally located and easy to get around and safe.  This was my first time in London, of course it is post Olympics but the Paraolympics was just starting, so the town is still covered in Olympic advertising and signage.  

The first day was non-super famous site seeing.  Gena took me around a lot of cool areas and ate lots of good food & gelato.  I have so missed being in big city where there is a night life.  

Over the next couple days, I saw Big Ben, Parliament (Hey’s kids look Parliament), Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, spent lots of hours at the Tate Modern Museum, a super excellent designed museum that was formally a power generation plant, so the interior design is extremely unique for a museum.  Went to the Damian Hirsh exhibit with the cut in half cow. 

Each night Gena, still suffering from the food poisoning left me to wander in the evening.  So since London is very safe city with extremely great lighting no street seemed dark and on most corners there was some form of business open.  I had numerous one drink stops in lots of pubs, I ate fish & chips from this little side shop at 1am, Gambled in casinos and walked a lot just marveling at how great big cities are and the benefits and opportunities that can be had.  It was nice to not be walking on dirt streets and be out at night with something to do, both of those were rare in Swaziland.  Although, the hostel had hot showers they were on timers, a smart idea to save water, so about every 30 secs, you had to hit the button, but I figured out if just held the button in between start & finish the water would just run.  My hostel had tons of people moving around in wheel chairs. So I still very much felt like I was traveling.

And my final night in London was spent doing what I like doing the most seeing movies.  It was cold & rainy just miserable outside kind of weather, so I found a theater playing a double feature.  The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  By the way earlier in the day I spent it at The British Museum, which has the actual Rosetta Stone and tons old stuff from Greek & Roman times.  Now I may have seen the first Terminator in the theater & definitely saw the second numerous times but back to back was just a great evening of movies. And for me one of the things, I want to claim in my obituary is how many different countries I have seen a movie in.  Not its Canada, Spain, Swaziland, South Africa & England including the US its now 6 (missed chances in Mozambique & Mexico) .  I hope in my future travels I can make this a habit.  Fantastic to see them & with super movie fans who are super knowledgeable much like the fans at the New Beverly Cinema in LA.  My kind of people.

So as I type this I am on the plane having just left Iceland which was is a stop over to final final night of my adventure home and will be the final conclusion to my 2 years & 2 months trip to Africa with the Peace Corps.   And it will be in New York City of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

 By the way just from flying over it and spending 2 hours in the airport Iceland is now my bucket list of places to visit.  From the air I saw one of the smoking vents of the volcano the island is.  It looks like super cool, amazingly beautiful place to explore and the advertisements on the plain so some insanely beautiful rugged terrain.  I want to come back & visit.

I will be in New York City for just the overnight til my am flight.  It was much by several hundred dollars less to fly from London to NYC & then stay overnight flying in the morning to LA.  So I have one more night left of my adventure to & from Africa.  Then I am back home and can tell the stories that this blog has contained to everyone in person.

  Time in airplane: 45min Swaziland to Joberg, 8 hours Joberg to Dubai, 7 Dubai to London, 2 hours London to Iceland, 5 Iceland to NYC

Time in Airport: 3 hours Swaziland, 4 ½ Joberg. 7 hours in Dubai, 6 hours in Heathrow, 2 hours in Iceland.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Adventure Home (Day 11 in Joburg-Dubai-London))

 As of 12:01 on August 26th, I was no longer a PCV.

So the plane arrives in Dubai right on time from Joburg.  8:30am the connecting flight leaves at 9:40am.  They unload us passengers on remote part airport where we walk down to the runway and get on buses.  And then the adventure begins.  The bus takes a torturous 20 minutes.  They unload us and several us begin to run to the new gate.  Which of course is on the other side of the huge airport, Twice, the carts that drive people around are empty with no drivers. So I arrive with 2 girls just after a guy followed by 3 others who all arrive between 9:15 & 9:20.  They tell us the gate is closed, the plane is sitting there, and then they let several more people on the plane.  It turns out due to the close timing of the transfer they took  us off the plane without telling us and sold the tickets to others, presumably stand byes, priceliners, etc.  Well, after listening to some pissed off passengers they gave us a free lunch and booked us on the next flight.  6 HOURS later.  So 3 South Africans, 3 British & 1 American sit around bitching about the airlines have some laughs and wait it out.  Now I am typing up my blog again.  But learned that this plane actually has wireless, its not free, but wireless on an airplane is something new in the last two years.

By the way, it’s my 40th Birthday. God is sure just pulling some funny timing in my life.  Basically its totally no big deal in the end only a few hours.  So next up is London.

Time in airplane: 45min Swaziland to Joberg, 8 Joberg to Dubai, 7 Dubai to London
Time in Airport: 3 hours Swaziland, 4 ½ Joberg. 7 hours in Dubai.

Adventure Home Day 10 (Leaving Swaziland)

I arrived with a group of 38 Americans on a rainy cloudly day, road a bus with the entire group all the way to the training facility looking out through fogged windows hardly being able to make out the new country I would be living in for what turned out to be exactly 2 years & 2 months.  We all come together but in the end we all leaving on our own.  The journey in between  was where we became new friends and worked together.  But the PC always and I mean ALWAYS had an end And today was that day for me. 
So I started typing this on the plane from Swaziland to Joberg but finished it on the way to London but in the same day.

On the way out today know totally knowing exactly where I was and where I was going but on the same highway as that bus ride, I took a taxi to the airport by myself with less baggage (both literally and also mentally) then I came with.  It was a beautiful bright clear and hot day . In most likely the exact same plane since Swaziland basically has the same plane that just flies back and forth to Joberg 8 times a day, I left.  Before I left I SMS (texting) good byes to the people left in country that meant the most to me during my service.  With names like Dennis, Liz, Sabelo, Sherlie, Titi, Brian, Jenn, Joseph, Mike & Gail  and the Movie Theater Manager Sanele. 

As I leave it leaves only 7 Group 8 PCV’s remaining official, there is one former Group 8 member who is living in Swaziland for the foreseeable future.  Who is not part of those 7.  My good friend Liz leaves in September and will the leave the 6 remaining for the next year Group 8ers.  It is now the responsibility of Group 9 to lead the Group 10 PCV’s and the constant rotation of Peace Corps just keeps continuing.
I know I made my mark both with people especially Dennis, Titi & Sabelo  & with the Social Centers I helped improve.  I feel as if throughout my entire service God was controlling the timing, I worked hard, I did the best I could but there were so many times when just amazing timing happen that was so out of my control that it just had to be God.  I am blessed and as I now type this on the tiny 50 person plane, I look down at a tiny country trying to figure out how to transition to the modern world and yet keep their heritage.  This I am sure is a world wide issue. And an even more important reason for the Peace Corps and us Americans to keep bringing with us our technology and knowledge and spreading it to parts of the world that need it.  If countries don’t actively try to keep up, even if they are hopelessly behind, the world will move on  and stop supporting these countries.

Swaziland is trying.  They have the struggle of being run by a absolute monarchy.  Until that is solved its will be interesting to follow the news of the country, if it can be found in America.

And now after landing in Joberg and hiring a tour guide to drive me around and to the Apartide  Museum, which is fantastic and is one of those places that proves that humans want to be able to make their own decisions.  It doesn’t matter the color or sex or sexual orientation. Freedom  & the rights of the people are what every group of people strives for.  One of these days Swazi’s will find their voice make the serious stand that Mandela lead against the white rulers.  I was so glad I made the trip to see the museum. I feel now like I have really seen a lot of South Africa from Cape Town to Durbin to Joburg to Kruger.  The only part I missed is the far north area where the Kalahari Desert is located.  People asked when I would return, I seriously doubt anytime soon but I would come back to see that desert.

So I am now typing this on the plane to London with a stop over in Dubai, a country I never been to and hope I can come back visit.  But the real designation is London.

A city I have only been in the airport.  So more stories to come.

Time in airplane: 45min Swaziland to Joberg, 8 Joberg to Dubai, 7 Dubai to London

Time in Airport: 3 hours Swaziland, 4 ½ Joberg.