30 Years Ago Today, I was part of a group of 14 Peace Corps Volunteers whose flight landed in Matsapha Airport in Swaziland. We came together 4 or 5 days earlier in Philadelphia for orientation and pre-training. We spent the next 11 weeks in training at the base of Sibebe Rock. That was followed by a 27-month contract at our appointed jobs. Most of us were math/science teachers. I was assigned to St. Paul's Secondary School in Manzini.
I admit that I sometimes go weeks and months without ever thinking about Swaziland. And yet, it was a transformative experience for me at 22: my first real job, teaching 200+ students and living abroad.
My students broke the school record for the most number of A's on the J.C. exam.
Did some hikes with the Prince Makhosini Award Program.
Traveled in Southern Africa, East Africa & West Africa.
Attended the coronation of King Mswati III in 1986.
Finagled my way to become a judge for the Miss Swaziland Beauty Contest in 1987.
At a Peace Corps party, I remember thinking that Reed Hastings would go very far in life. He's now the founder of Netflix.
Nonhlanhla Dlamini, my former student, is now a member of parliament.
In 2008 I saw Without the King at the Film Forum. It's a documentary about Swaziland and its king and the leaders of a rebel group called PUDEMO which wants to overthrow the king and establish democracy. On screen, my old friend Mphandhlana Shongwe said 'I don't want my bombs to blow up buildings. I want them to kill people.' For the record, he & I never discussed politics.
In 2008, my former colleague Dan Mavuso, was visiting America as a representative from a sports organization in Swaziland. When he got to Philadelphia, I told him to get on a bus, then gave him the fastest 5 hour whirlwind tour of Manhattan.
The Peace Corps Recruitment Motto is The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love. So true.