Space to Breathe (Plus Giraffes)

(This was written about two weeks ago but I've been without internet! I'll hopefully post soon about my time exploring the Makhanda Arts Festival.) 

It is often hard to get a chance to take a breath at Waterford. Life usually progresses at a frenetic pace and we have to run to keep up or risk getting run over. My friends and I were joking that there's no relaxation time - you're working or you're sleeping. It's a weird phenomenon here, that it's nearly physically impossible to relax, because if you're not concentrating on something, you fall asleep. If conversation flags a bit if you're spending time with someone, it's not unusual to just fall asleep on each other. Unintentional naps are a bit of an issue.

This past weekend, my friend from New Zealand invited me and another friend to spend the weekend with her link at a game reserve a few hours from the school. We were staying at a ranger's house and there were dogs, a shady lawn, a bench sw…

Bringing Dental Dams to WK

Today, Waterford welcomed visitors from the Swaziland Ministry of Health and Rock of Hope to hold a queer-specific sex-ed talk and provide some information about the HIV epidemic within eSwatini. Organizing this talk has been somewhat of a pet project of mine for a while. Last term, I got picked as one of the heads of Pride Week here. During the interview that last year’s heads held, they asked what ideas I had to bring to the event, and this was one of the main ones.
When it comes to sex-ed, WK mainly preaches abstinence. This is due to the fact that sex on campus is strictly banned, and with the new laws in eSwatini, sex under 18 is considered statutory rape. However, this becomes somewhat unrealistic when you shove 600 teenagers on a remote mountaintop in a high-pressure environment. I’m lucky to have been educated partly in Canada, where sex-ed, (at least in my province in British Columbia) is comprehensive, fairly inclusive, and begins at a young age and continues throughout a …

Pride on the Down-Low: Swaziland and Queerness

When I came out to my parents as bisexual, we were in South Africa. South Africa was the third country in the world to legalize equal marriage. When I began to embrace my identity as a queer woman and became involved with the community, it was in my city of Vancouver. Canada's prime minister frequently comes to our annual Pride march. June is a month of rainbows and flamboyant celebrations and affirmations of #loveislove written on everything from yoga mats to lattes. I'm now spending my first June, my first Pride in eSwatini.

At one of the talks we ran during Pride Week, a guest speaker explained a custom. If you are found out to be a homosexual, she told us, you would be sent away from your community, and told to cross five rivers before you could stop. eSwatini is a very small country. If you can cross the required number of rivers and find a community, you would then have to explain why you had to leave your last home. If they find out that you are a homosexual, they won&#…

The Power of Naps

I’ve been taking a lot of naps lately. It’s an ongoing struggle to feel less guilty about this. A few blog posts ago I wrote about my cancer’s father diagnosis. He’s doing great – his radiation treatment is well under way and he doesn’t seem to be having too many side effects. Regardless, that was stressful. Shortly after, I ended up getting mono, (I’ve heard way too many jokes about my love life of late) and that ended up meaning I pretty much spent the last two weeks of term two in a fog, along with a fair chunk of my holiday. At school, they told me I had laryngitis, gave me broad-spectrum antibiotics and some mildly dodgy cough medicine, and sent me to class. I don’t think I really remember much of what we learned in the last two weeks, and I pretty much passed out every time I sat down on my bed.
I’m still really tired. The fatigue aspect of mono is affecting me more than I thought it would, and it brings back bad memories of the fatigue I experienced when I had Zika virus. So …

Bringing the Fire: Bushfire 2019

The road was clogged with cars. Stalls selling hot maize packets had sprung up around the entrance to the festival, and taxi drivers leant out the windows yelling at each other. Four of us were crammed into a small cab with our camping supplies and grocery bags. The Bushfire Music Festival is one of the largest music festivals in Southern Africa and it attracts an estimated 20,000 people each year over its three-day runtime. It’s located at an eclectic, sprawling venue called House on Fire – a crazy mix-match of tiki torches, intimate amphitheatres, extensive fields, and secluded bars in the forest. Over the week preceding the festival, construction workers built fences and erected market places and stages over the grounds, preparing for the deluge of festival-goers.
A number of my friends and I were camping at the venue, and it was a one and half hour mess trying to find our campsite. First, our taxi dropped us at the main entrance with all our bags, where we were informed we had to…

WK Vocab

When first got to Waterford, I was deeply confused by all the acronyms and slang that people tossed around - a mix of IB acronyms, Southern African slang, and Waterford idioms. Mostly, this was because I hadn't read the handbook that the school emailed and honestly didn't have much of an idea of what IB consisted of, let alone the acronyms used. I got most of the Southern African slang, but Waterford slang took a bit longer. In the hopes that some incoming first year might find this blogpost, I've compiled a short list of WK vocab.

IB acronyms:
EE or E squared - the Extended Essay every IB student has to complete as part of the diploma
TOK - Theory of Knowledge, a mandatory philosophy type course for IB students
CAS - Creativity, Activity, and Service. The three central components of the IB
IA - Internal Assessment, essays that are graded by your teacher, rather than an IB examiner

Additional slang:
Guans - I'm not sure if this is how it's supposed to be spelled? E…

Leaving Home/Coming Home

Written roughly 12 hours ago 

I'm on hour 13 of my trip back to Vancouver, and I haven't left the ground yet. It started this morning, loading the crowded school bus at six in the morning. The mood was strange. On the first way to school, the atmosphere was nervy and excited - new students tentatively testing the waters with each other, and IB2s reuniting with friends. The buses for midterm were relaxed and low-key; people teasing each other about their plans for break, glad to have a rest for the five days, happy to spend time with each other off of the somewhat restrictive campus.

People were quiet this morning. It started to hit me that while two years is a long time to be away from home, it's an incredibly short time to accomplish all that you need to during the IB, and an even shorter time to forge the friendships that UWC alumni describe as some of the most meaningful of their life. It must have been even harder for the IB2s.

First term break is a chance to relax and…