So I am nearly finished helping with our new siSwati language manual. I am spending a lot of time looking up words in our handy siSwati>English (and slightly less handy) English>siSwati dictionary. It is actually entertaining to read the siSwati to English section as it seems to contain a fairly large and varied selection of words (especially compared to the English to siSwati section). For instance, I ran across:
“-yembeti: Aqueous humor (a transparent fluid occupying the space between the crystalline lens and the cornea of the eye)”
*sidenote: vitreous humor, the part that is probably more noticeable, was not found
Not as helpful as if numerals were included (in the English>siSwati section) but it was funny for a bit. I still don’t know how to count in siSwati.
The next day I had to start my journey back home. For most of my vacation I thought I was leaving Cape Town around 1:30pm however the day I was to depart I looked at my ticket and saw that I was not to leave until half 5. I had a day to kill! Unfortunately that meant that I had to drag all my belongings with me until then as check out was 10am. At least it was a great day. It was cool but the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I was even able to snap a picture of Table Mountain from the backpackers’ parking lot.
I wandered around for most of the day. I spent most of my time in the Company Gardens which was quite pretty and then decided to try the South African National Gallery. I particularly enjoyed a collection of sketches depicting a handful of southern African peoples in traditional attire. I especially liked seeing things that I see fairly regularly in rural Swaziland.
On the way out of town I met another PC Swazi volunteer, Sophia, who was beginning her vacation. We had a rushed dinner as I had to get to the bus terminal and leave town. It was nice to see a friendly face and have good conversation before I got on a bus for hours.
The bus ride back went quickly. I was given seat 1 which was on the top deck in the very front. It had an excellent view but there were leaks around the windows and windshield and no heat which made for a frigid night. Seriously, the guy two seats over was shaking. I wish I had worn shoes. That would have shown adequate foresight.
The ride from Jo’burg to Mbabane was uneventful except for an extremely long delay at the Oshek border post.
So there is an abbreviated version of what seemed like a very abbreviated vacation. I have decided that Cape Town is definitely a place I will have revisit.
I will upload a few photos of the vacation to go along with this post.
Oh Table Mountain. It is probably the most noticeable thing in Cape Town, when it is not raining which it was during my time there. Sunday morning seemed beautiful outside. I had met a Norwegian, Henrik, who’d just finished a volunteer program in Zimbabwe. We decided to hike Table Mountain and set off from the backpackers. I was a little sore and my left knee felt destroyed from the run the previous day. I was also wearing a nicer outfit since I had planned to go to an Easter service. The walk up to the base of the mountain was long enough. Once we got there we asked a worker how long the cable car would be running. We had hoped to take it down from the top. We were told that it was going to be closed due to high winds and incoming rain. For some reason we decided to climb anyway.
It was rough. And it started to pour and my cotton khakis and leather dress(ier) shoes were far from appropriate. Before we had even really started to climb I was regretting my decision. My knees were shot and I knew it would only be worse on the way down. However, I figured that I was already here and who knows if I’d be back. At least I had a hiking partner who could talk as much as I can and the path was pretty much deserted. The rain continued in waves but the fog was thick enough that the city below was quickly obscured.
We climbed over a few waterfalls and some pretty large “steps” until we reached the top. The wind was quite strong and it was blowing the fog around in a way that reminded me of a blizzard. I was surprised at how much standing water was pooled at the top. We slogged through some puddles and finally got to the buildings. As we assumed, everything was closed. We huddled under a small recessed doorway and peered in at all the food and drinks. It was now after noon and I had only consumed a bowl of museli with raisins and a glass of grape juice. I hadn’t really planned my day well.
We felt pretty miserable and decided to see if the bathrooms were open. AHA! The men’s room was open and we quickly headed for the hand dryers. Soon we were joined by a family which we had passed on the way up. They all had rain gear and whatnot and soon they headed back down. We stayed for over an hour waiting for the rain to let up. I found a couple garbage bags and we put them on (I told myself I was staying my hatred toward wearing bags out of necessity) and headed back down.
The way down was as bad as I expected. Henrik asked if I’d like to run down. Heh. I would have actually but today was not the day to do it. I was having enough trouble stopping myself as we jumped down from step to step. Luckily there are scattered “handrails” made of barbed wire which catch your hands or clothes if you get to close. Actually I am pretty sure they are there to keep people on the paths however at times I had to use them to keep myself from falling over.
Finally we reached the bottom. We decided to ditch our bags into a trash can since the rain had stopped. It then started to pour, just as soon as we got far enough away so that we didn’t feel it was worth going back and retrieving them.
One nice thing about the whole event was that I did not spend a single rand. That was nice. By the time we got back near the backpackers it was almost 6pm. I was really hungry and it was about dinner time so we ducked in to a nice little noodle place called Simply Asia. Check it out, it is very reasonably priced and both the food and service were great.
That afternoon I washed my clothes with a washing machine. This was and still is a big deal to me. It was a process: waiting hours to get the tokens, then having to walk to a shop to purchase soap, waiting for the washer to be vacant… but my clothes were super muddy and I figured it would be totally worth it. It was.
An aside: As I write this I am soaking a load of laundry that I previously washed two days ago. That had been the second time I’d washed my clothes using a sink hole near our fields. We had been without rain and water for quite a while. I do not want the kiddos to have to schlep water from the river up the hill to the homestead for me to wash my clothes so I opted to wash at the sink hole. It seems clean enough and I am pretty sure the snails I pick out are not carriers of anything. Anyway, later on that day we got an amazing storm. It filled our tanks and barrels…and hearts. It also soaked my clothes. This is nothing out of the ordinary, especially in the summer, and we all just consider it a second rinsing. Today however, I noticed something that was out of the ordinary. Nearly all of my clothes had been targeted and bombed by birds. I guess I needed some adversity thrown in to balance out the gifted water.
Anyway, I liked being able to use a washing machine aaaaand more importantly the dryer.
Once I had my clothes all nicely packed away I decided that I should get some food. It was around suppertime anyway. I headed down to the waterfront area and watched the people as I ate a strawberry frozen yogurt, get this, in a waffle cone! I walked around to nearly every single restaurant there and looked at menus, seating areas, view, etc. hoping to be inspired enough to choose one. I walked by a pizza place and got a big floppy piece of “Deluxe.” It really shouldn’t have been called “deluxe” but it was tasty enough and I hadn’t decided where to eat yet anyway. I walked around for quite a while looking at more seafood options until I found myself at McDonald’s ordering a McChicken and a large fry. Don’t judge me, it was great and McDonald’s has class in SA. It’s also a lot more expensive.
At 4 am I woke with probably a cumulative 4 hours of sleep due to staying in an 8 person dorm and being nervous about my first 21kay. I ate breakfast and hitched a ride with Kelly and her family to the University of Cape Town where the race was to start. It was packed. There were a ton of people wearing stupid plastic garbage bags. We commented on how dumb they looked. That sentiment only became more negative when the race started and they stripped them off and threw them on the ground. There were countless bags and probably even more trips and falls. I really disliked those bags.
We walked probably the first 2km. There were 16000 (?) people running/walking down single lane residential roads so it was pretty difficult to advance. There were a few near collisions. The first half flew by. We had a nice long hill in the beginning which was meant to break up the pack. Maybe it worked but it seemed to just cause congestion. Once on my way down the other side it was significantly less crowded.
I have never run a race like this before and found the water/powerade delivery interesting. Both came in plastic bags. Pretty efficient but the water tasted like plastic. Still, I took at least one water and one powerade at each stop. Every once in a while you could hear a “POP!” as someone stepped on a dropped bag. Not so fun when it shoots a stream at you but soon it didn’t matter anyway.
That is because it rained. Some people did not appreciate that but I LOVED IT! I thought it felt really nice. Sometimes it was a light rain but at times it was fairly heavy. The puddles were my favorite. At one point some of us ran through a body of water that was above ankle depth.
I found the crowd to be very motivating. There were a lot of spectators and a few choirs, bands, and sound systems set up along the way. I heard my name called quite a few times and remembered that my name was written in large letters on my number. Kinda cool that so many people came out to support the 21km. I wonder what the 56km route was like. The only thing I wish I hadn’t noticed was the smell of grilled meats. I could have done without that.
The last hill seemed to take up the last quarter of the race. It was undulating, zig-zaggy, and so tiring. I was running too slow that people could have walked passed me (I bet some did) though I kept passing a few people who were doing a run/walk. I was surprised at how easily I was breathing but not at all surprised at how very weak my knees were. I really should have strengthened them more. At one point I had to stop to tie my shoe. My knees were so weak I almost fell over. Motivation to get going!
The finish was out in the university’s athletic field. It was all muddy by 2:27 with thousands having ripped through it before me but I made it over. It was a cool feeling and one I hope to have many more times.
Once I had finished I realized it was extremely cold. I noticed that everyone who had one of those dumb garbage bags on seemed happy. Unfortunately I did not have my pullover or my phone. I did find my way to some rooibos tea and though I was shaking so hard that I slopped it all over myself, a few cups in warmed me up. Eventually I found Kelly and her parents. By that time I think everyone was ready to get out of the rain and get warmed up.
The next day I walked down to the Waterfront and saw the fun run precursor to the next day’s race. I saw flags from both the US and Swaziland so that was pretty cool.
I wandered around and gaped at the stores in the mall. It was so odd to see all the shops selling their designer whatnots (think dedicated Haagen-Dazs, Louis Vuitton, and Le Creuset shops). There was even a shop selling biltong and an “Old’e English Shaving Shop”. Imagine the draw! I can always eat jerky and I have lost both my strop and my shaving soap. Unfortunately I couldn’t really justify the prices.
Later I saw someone shoot heroin and another huff something out of a paper bag on my way to the race registration. Never seen that before so I guess that was an experience. I probably should have taken a taxi.
At registration I perused the sports vendors’ wares and saw all the cool things I had no ability to purchase. Puma was sponsoring and had a massive selection of 2 Oceans merch that looked pretty cool. I got shirt in my goodie bag so I was happy enough with that.
Earlier I had run into another volunteer, Kelly, and was invited to dinner with her and her parents. We had a very enjoyable seafood filled time down at the waterfront. That area is very pretty but filled with tourists. I was one of them though so I cannot complain.
I went to Cape Town early April. The reason was to run my first 21km and get a little vacation time. I ended up getting a ride from Swaziland to Nelspruit from a friend and then hopped onto a khumbi to Johannesburg. I had been advised to go to a grocery store and get some food for the ride but standing some 15 people from the front of a line to use the parcel counter did not fit into my sched.
As it was, I just managed to get the last seat on a sprinter bus to Johannesburg. I shelled out the cash and we were off. It went really well and I was even able to get some shut eye until we got into Jo’burg. Then there was an explosion. The kid next to me had a 2L orange soda which he had been sipping. I don’t know how but as we were driving around, in what seemed like a circular route, his bottle top shot off and orange pop sprayed all over as the bottle tipped and rolled around. I quickly reached down and somehow found the cap and twisted it on. Both my bags were among the casualties and I noticed that everyone now had their luggage on their laps. Yay.
Not going to lie, I felt scared at the bus rank. Not necessarily scared for my life or anything just that I felt that I really did not belong there and that I wanted to get out as soon as possible. I pretty much ran to a neighboring KFC and hid in there while I tried to figure out where to go without having to pay someone to show me. I ended up buying some chicken and hanging with a little sisi and their giant bags of purchases while her mum stood in line for their food. For some reason I had believed I needed a 5-piece and a side of fries. After eating a few I realized that my stomach had no business trying to finish it and gave the rest to the little girl. You can do that here. It was good to make a friend. I was pretty uneasy in this bus rank.
I wandered, though tried to make it look like I knew exactly where I was going, through the bus terminal in search of a bathroom. Found one and but it was closed. Walked hurriedly to the opposite end and found another. Closed. Finally I asked one of the 10000 security persons in sight and she pointed me to the one and only open men’s restroom. It was a terrible experience and I would suggest not relying on public restrooms in the Jo’burg bus terminal. No tp, no toilet seat, floor was covered in…stuff. Good thing I had brought travel wipes and strong quads.
During my random roamings in a quest for the facilities I found the Intercape terminal where I would depart. I had over an hour before I would need to get in line so I sat down on the immaculate floor (seriously there were always at least 3 people in sight who were cleaning the floors at any given moment) and read a little. At 5:15 I got up and walked to the line which had already formed at the gate. For some reason we remained there for nearly an hour and a half. It was strange. I was the only one who was not getting upset about what was happening. During a discussion with another passenger I mentioned that I was traveling from Swaziland and that I considered this to be quite normal. Many thers started chain smoking as soon as we got out the door.
The bus was pretty nice. It was a double decker and the seats were able to open up an advertised 150 degrees! I sat down, passed out, and didn’t leave my seat for the first 16 of a total 20 hours. I felt kinda bad about that because after I had boarded, the lady next to me said she would be right back. I figured she was using the onboard facilities but when I woke up later she wasn’t there. After our first stop she came back to her seat. I asked her if she had changed seats, though she had left her bags, and she said that she had gone inside the terminal and when she came back the bus was gone. Luckily there were two.
I originally booked the bus because I figured it would be cool to see the SA countryside since I would be crossing so much of the country. Around 11am the next day, and a little after 16 hours of sitting in my seat, I woke up as we pulled in for a pit stop. So much for seeing the countryside. Actually, the ride reminded me a lot of riding through the central Midwest. In other words, not too interesting. A couple hours out of Cape Town became more interesting. We hit some mountains and in a valley there was a bit of wine country. There was even a really long tunnel thrown in there. Fun stuff.
Cape Town is pretty big. It took quite a while to get through it to the terminal. It felt pretty weird to see all the businesses, hotels, and touristy sites along the way. We arrived around 3pm and the place was packed. One thing I noticed was all the White people. That may not be the most politically correct thing to say but it is true and part of a different discussion.
If you stay in Cape Town and you do not have a lot of money, around 20USD will get you a bed at The Backpack. Go there, it’s GREAT
This last weekend we had some new additions to the homestead. We got three visiting young’uns on Friday to bring the total to 12 people on the homestead. One of the kids was my brother’s daughter who had previously been living with us but was now schooling elsewhere. She had loved my popcorn before (she could down a 5 quart sized batch easy and she’s less than 25kg) so I decided to make it while she was visiting. I stumbled through the dark with my four batches of popcorn, dodging dogs and attempting to keep them from jumping up and pulling the bowls out of my hands. Unfortunately the wind was picking up and blowing kernels onto the ground. Wah wah. Once inside, everyone was gathered together and my popcorn was demolished, even the two batches of slightly bitter/burnt kettle corn (never used refined white sugar before and it didn’t work). We watched SA news and part of Beowulf. It was a good bonding time with some pretty funny moments. At one point half the family started exclaiming their surprise while watching a news interview. I didn’t understand until I noticed that the woman was holding a child who looked to be 3+. Apparently the child was hungry so she just whipped one out and started feeding her kid. Apparently I was the only one who didn’t notice. Instead I just seemed to not find it weird. Then I saw a commercial for internet connections. It went through a series of rooms in a house with family members all connected to the internet with their computers and other gadgets. I got a little excited as I had just read an article about internet in southern Africa and how it is being upgraded to a level more comparable to connections in other countries. I was more than let down when I saw the advertised speed was 1Mps. Later there was this really sexy commercial with hot couples jumpin around and all. Then this lady’s voice came on and was all like “masculine this” and “sexy that.” I figured it was for some crazy designer fragrance but then the visual cut to a bottle of Brute. Wow. Pretty sure I bought a 10oz spray can of that at Walmart for a few bucks. It was shook up and tossed into Brent’s Jeep with its nozzle duct taped down. He probably felt super sexy.
I was hoping to see some wildlife while here. So far I have missed chances to go view the big cats, elephants, and whatnot. I have seen some zebra, hippos, deer-like things and a lot of birds, snakes, and insects. I had an altercation with some wild donkeys a little while ago. I say they were wild because I was told that they do not belong to anyone. You’d think that in rural Africa I would not have to cheat but I’ll take the win anyway.
Anyway, I was all alone on the homestead, typing away on a new siSwati manual for the new kiddos coming in June, and I heard what sounded like a group of cows trudging through our corn. I looked out and saw a little family of donkeys wandering around. Being a townsperson I could only guess that this was not alright and decided to get them out. I opened the gate and ran out after them throwing rocks and yelling (in siSwati I might add). They ran all the way to the far end of the field and so I followed chucking my rocks which just bounced mildly off their backs. I finally got them turned around and through the gate. But now they were in the homestead. I had forgotten to open the main gate. By now the dogs were awake and helping me. They did a good job rounding the donkeys up while I ran to open the gate. It was pretty easy to shoo them out. I just flailed my arms smacking about while the dogs barked. It may have been fright or a last ditch attempt to cause me trouble, but one of the donkeys screamed and let loose what must have been the whole contents of its gi tract. I proudly missed getting shot but ended up stepping in it anyway. You can’t win all the time. Once it was all well and done, I thanked the dogs and looked around to see if anyone had seen/heard the ruckus. Happily I didn’t see anyone or hear laughing. I get enough humiliation when I go to the dip tank and chase the cattle.
On a more serious note, I keep reading about poachers getting killed in southern Africa. A few got it here in Swaziland a couple months ago and I see 5 were killed in a gun battle with rangers in SA. I know that cancer and impotence are bad but are rhino horns really the answer? And you don’t have to convince me that ivory looks pretty but I think it looks more majestic on a live elephant’s face. I would have thought that poaching their own rhino species to extinction would cause some of the governments in Asia to take at least a real stance on the demand for and illegal importation of rhino horns. Maybe spreading a ridiculous lie in Africa that the severed right hand of Asian apothecaries cures HIV would highlight the issue and bring more attention in Asia.
It seems to me that the situation is only feeding on desperate people in both continents and causing them to partake in illegal activities which may kill them. Who knows? Maybe rhino horn does battle cancer. Maybe it cures impotence (I hope not, I’d rather not have our next generation relying on rhinoceros horn. Besides from tv and magazine ads, other options are much cheaper and readily available). Back in the day, in the time when today’s traditions were born, people who used it may not have had cancer. They may not have worked long hours with carcinogens either. I am not a medical researcher and I do not know the benefits of ground up rhinoceros horn. What I do know is that while I am here I want to see a rhino that isn’t lying dead with part of its face cut off. I’m sorry if that sounds like I am putting my viewing pleasure ahead of someone else’s health benefit, but really I’m not (Oh snap! That had a double meaning. And both are true!)
So my community was given bed nets as part of a malaria prevention initiative. It was pretty cool. Representatives from each family were given enough nets for each person and training on how to properly use/maintain them as well as a brief run-down on malaria symptoms and such.
The nets were similar to those that PC issued us volunteers with their handy tie loops on the corners. Even better, they came with little plastic strings to tie them up and they were blue instead of just plain white. People were pretty happy. I was at least mildly happy. The super snazzy tie-ups work for a person like me with exposed beams forming my roof. As you can see from the pics posted in September, I am awesome and have a gloriously designed mosquito net system. But it only worked because I have something from which to hang the net. The nets do have little eyelets which one can screw into soft wood or like material.
I was helping my Auntie hang up a net and noticed that she has a ceiling made of panels which are much too hard to allow anyone to screw in the eyelets. I used my knife to make a small hole and got the eyelet started. With much effort I was able to get it screwed in all the way. Well I got in into the ceiling. What I managed to do was grind through the sheet rock (oh yeah, found out it was actually asbestos), depositing all the fine dust onto my face, and make a hole too large to hold the eyelet. Failure. Those on my homestead have the same problem though they have hard wood panels which you cannot screw into.
So for now the nets are sitting somewhere unused. It seems that this is the case for many of the homesteads around. Maybe someone can make a cool, albeit see-through, dress or something until we find a way to secure the nets in a proper fashion.
A little while ago I was writing a letter when a bat flew in through the tiny slot between my burglar-door and frame. I reached up smacking it out of the air mid-flight, flicked it outside with my notebook, and continued with my letter. TIA…
So I am now training for my first 21km which will take place in April. I was suckered into it in a pact I made with another volunteer. The deal was that if I ran in the Half, she would jump Vic Falls. Three things have affected this plan. One - she’s injured and is no longer running the race this year, Two - I found a much better bungee (216m fall!) that does not include having to get a visa and travel super far, Three - we were informed that some poor girl’s bungee came undone and she fell to the bottom. She’s reported to be okay but the reputation of the jump is not. Anyway, we pushed it back to next year. I however already signed up for the race and I have been hoping it will motivate me to run. Today was special. I walked to Mgululu with Babe wam’s (Babe wami, “my father” my attempt at being trendy with what has been coined BroSwati) at half-passed five and stood around in the sun until we stumbled home after noon. Oh yes, we complained the whole way bahaha. But it is a long walk. Over the past few months we have been taking shorter-cuts but we now go through a river, around one mountain, through some, sadly dried up, river beds and over a final mountain. Babe is in his mid 70’s. I just like complaining.
Anyway, as soon as I got home, I changed and washed my clothes (2 hr affair). Then I vegged for a bit and snacked on: two bowls of msg-flavored popcorn (thank you Nicole), two forgotten sour candy canes (thank you sisi wam’s), aaaaand a partial bag of beef jerky (thank you David). Sounds like something one would eat when struggling through a boring college lecture. I really should have taken a mat out and napped under a tree like everyone else. Oh yeah, to bring some nutrition to that mess, I ate a fruit leather that I had lying around.
So immediately after that I figured I should do my run. I had decided on a different route to keep things fresh. I was going to run up toward Bulandzenistesh which is all uphill. I would then run down to make it about a nice easy 40min. Yeah. We were hit with a nice tropical storm a couple weeks back which caused some pretty significant soil erosion and the road was like running on a never ending treadmill of sand which has its elevation setting cranked up. A better way to describe it was like running up a sand dune again and again. For some reason my mood was very positive despite the feeling in my stomach and the dehydration. Having Swazi kids run after you screaming encouragement was nice and it helped me continue up the incline albeit in a zig-zag fashion as I dodged trenches and fought the nauseated feeling. Overall, the experience reminded me of my last semester when, after a long workout, I quickly ate 2 McDoubles and 2 McChickens (one which had jelly beans on it. Dan Cychosz you are a master of fusion cuisine, by the way I miss seeing how late we can stay at Parks “studying” and seeing how many Tootsie Rolls we can fit in our mouths). Ah, I miss fast-food…
Here’s how hot it has been. I had just finished speaking with someone and as he tiredly turned and walked/staggered away he accidentally kicked a napping dog in the head. The pooch was lying on his side and the kick came right up under his chin. The poor dog’s head snapped back and the physical shock seemed to open his eyes a fraction and pop open his mouth so his tongue fell out but other than that it did nothing and the three of us continued without miserable afternoon as if nothing had happened. None of you would believe me but I’m pretty sure I didn’t even laugh at the comedy of it until much later.
The weather takes up a lot of conversational time I have. Some of it is due to my restrictive siSwati but a lot of it is cultural. I hear a lot of “Hawu Zama, lilanga liya shisa man!” (Exclamation: It is hot). It is usually followed up with “Ngifunamvula” or some similar desire for rain, which we seem to be cheated on this year. Such a conversation is at home in (insert something)-ville, of Midwest USA. Speaking of imvula, it is raining right now!! There is a really good chance that you have no idea how great this is.
I have not bothered to heat bath water in nearly three months. That’s a lie I suppose since I added some leftover shaving water to my shower reservoir today. All in all I much more enjoy as cold a shower as I can get, especially for my late evening shower. Plus, the cost of refilling my Handigas canister is enough to offset any benefit being extra-uncomfortably hot has. The monetary cost is not the main deterrent but rather the fact that I have to schlep a five kay uphill with a substantial gas canister over one shoulder and then return with an even heavier one. I suppose the return trip has the convenience of being down a significant incline but Handigas it is not. Really, I could take a khumbi but I am too stubborn to pay the amount of a loaf of bread when I can walk and talk.
For some reason, many people tell me that I write a lot about food. Good chance seeing as how I occupy a lot of my time thinking about food. I cannot help it. For Christmas, I made supersized batch of pancakes. The family was overjoyed. A visiting bhuti from Johannesburg asked for a recipe and two of them each snagged a grocery bag with a few for the road. They even poured syrup into their bags. I laughed and was happy. Afterwards I ate with Babe and bobhuti. Our first round was a substantial cow liver, second was a goat head, and third was grilled pork: It Was Delicious. Later I had roasted potatoes and pork with Aunti and rounded off the day with a massive plate of food back at home (including fried chicken, beet root, and potato salad!). It feels good to be full. I ended the night with a passage from Isaiah and a few from Luke which I read to the family in siSwati.
New Year’s brought iPitsa! I had built up a nice little supply of mozzarella and even a salami. Babe and a visiting sisi cut up some firewood and prepared a fire in the stove for me while I started my dough rising and cut up tomatoes for sauce. I don’t think they expected five pizzas but that’s what they got. They had a lot left over and saved it for lunch the next day. The next day I had planned to visit Aunti and cook with her. We set up shop and pumped out two pizzas in record time. Gogo of the homestead was overjoyed as was Aunti with the meat and veggie pizzas. I swear, each time I make pizza it gets even better than the previous time. The warm weather really makes for a fluffy, chewy crust that I find perfect to my liking.
I realize that I miss a lot of food from home but that here I have easy and affordable (free) access to many foods which I do not get to have frequently at home. The fact that a neighbor can drop off a free bag of produce worth well over 50USD is pretty crazy. We have guava, mango, papaya, avocado, marula, and incozi trees on or near our homestead and I have seen peach and banana trees on nearby homesteads. When you visit you always get a healthy serving of fruit, or a large meal.
I could still go for a JJ’s #9, a pot pie, an American burger, and a Samuel Smith. One meal. Just sayin’. I would actually rather substitute the pot pie with Grandma’s chicken hotdish. I suppose I will have to start a “Food Reintegration List”. Fyi Hampton, your eggrolls are already on that list.
The other day [note: this was back in the first week of December] I got a bookshelf which I had commissioned and partially paid for in August. Make burst out laughing when I told her in my broken siSwati that I had ordered this one the same time as my last one (which I ordered and picked up in August). It looks darn nice next to my other shelf. I will have to post a picture or video tour sometime.
In addition to my new shelf, I also added some mosquito netting to both doors and two windows. I can now have my doors and windows open with minimal bug interference. I still get little ones that like to crawl up in my clothes and bite me but TIA and anyway I could get those at home. I am pretty proud of my handiwork. I have the netting stretched over the burglar doors and secured with Bostik and rubber cement. To access the padlocks, I have cut rectangular holes in the netting and secured flaps with Velcro. There are still gaps which I can worry about later. I’ll wait and see if I get another snake or mouse. So far so good. I have had the occasional lizard on the wall and I once smacked a bat out of the air and tossed it into the yard for the dogs.
The Velcro I got from Mum at home and I went into a sort of frenzy. I am not sure if it was the heat or the sugar from the m&m’s (and PEZ *thanks Fam and Linda Rud*) but I put Velcro on a LOT of items around the hut. UN-necessary. It was almost sad but at least my “improvements are utilitarian. I also hung up some maps of the world, USA, and Minnesota which have proven to be useful on several occasions. Seriously, I felt like I was 6 and just opened a much sought after Christmas present of Scotch Tape. FYI engineering friends who have been or do work at 3M, I found some branded tape that looked like it came from the 90’s.
I also Bostik’d up a Chevron ad from a Wallstreet Journal which my dad had sent me. It was a two pager with an African girl and “AIDS IS GOING TO LOSE.” in large print. It was an ad corresponding to World AIDS Day on December 1st. I still find it encouraging despite the lack of World AIDS Day support on World AIDS Day in my community (seriously, ONE person wearing red?! and that’s all we got?). Must not be doing my job.
Today I got to enjoy a bit of Oregon Trail: Swazi edition while riding a khumbi the conductor jumped out as we approached a steep slope leading to a bridge. He came running back saying that the bridge was visible. We went slowly across and people were pretty tense, we were all dead silent (well, except for the khumbi which was coughing and sputtering as always, seriously they smell like two-strokes). It actually was not all that bad. There was all of an inch or so of water going over the top. The night had brought less and less of a downpour and by late morning it was more of a medium shower with moderate to heavy intervals. Anyway, it was fun to pretend that I was fording a river even though the risk of drowning was negligible in this instance. Sadly, the threat of snake bite, dysentery, cholera, etc. are not so farfetched.
Because we are well into the summer months, the community has been engrossed in field work and tending its homesteads. I have tried my hand at helping a few times. Very early on, I was told that I must purchase some boots (Wellingtons). I assumed it was to keep my shoes from getting all messy but found out later that boots are good for snake protection. I got my boots and tried my hand at plowing (happy with my spelling Mom, TIA we say plough). I was not very good. As with the majority of community members, we use a walk behind plow which is pulled behind a cattle team. Look at the MN state flag or in a museum if you don’t know what I’m talking about. It is long work which is made more difficult when the ground is hard from the lack of rain. The time I tried to plow was when the ground was such. The family was very happy with my desire to help and though they surely found it hilarious to see my pathetic attempts, Babe and Bhuti were supportive. Even I laughed when I dropped the plow and ran after it as the cattle kept pulling without regard to the sideways plow bouncing around behind them. I was told that it is much easier when the ground is compliant. The fact was we needed to plow now regardless of the rain’s arrival. I found out that one does not need to constantly manhandle the plow but to guide it along. It was actually rather fun. I am sure the novelty would wear off if I had to wake up before 4am, plow, go to class, return to plow until evening, and repeat. Rural students have a very different life from those townskid with their hair and whatnot.
The community has at least 4 to 5 tractors which pull three-row plows as well as ferry water, firewood, building materials, and people. A neighbor came to plow with a tractor once or twice but for the most part, the fields tended manually.
Time is now spent weeding the fields. This is likewise done manually row by row. I have been out a few times with Babe and Make. We use large hoes to weed around the plants. As can be imagined, it takes a quite a long time and tiring when the sun is hot (almost all the time). I usually help out in the afternoon to evening. I go to the Emphakatsi to weed the OVC fields on Tuesday and Friday mornings. We start at 6am which means I leave home around 5am. We usually weed until 9am or so. We range from just an elder and myself (we have a hard time not showing our disappointment those days) to well over a dozen people helping. It makes me happy when we have a nice turnout to support the orphaned and vulnerable children.
Last Friday I also carried an open tray of 30 eggs. That was fun. I actually dropped one while I was trying to adjust my hoe which I carried in the crook of my arm. The tray was floppy before I started sweating on it and I was tired and sluggish before I started stomping around the rocks and sand in my boots. I was walking up an incline and the hoe was slipping. I watched in slow motion as the edge of the tray furthest from me (I was attempting to support the closest edge with my chest) bobbed up and down and shot the corner egg up into the air. I let the hoe slip and tried to absorb the motion of the drooping try in an attempt to keep more of the eggs from falling (30 eggs at E1 apiece is a nice chunk of cash). By grace the egg missed the rocks and landed on a little mound of sand. I took a break and decided that Make had been right to question my decision to carry them and the hoe as I stumbled to emphakatsi at 5am.
So I now have a lot of projects. The first and foremost is to encourage people to move from the discussion stage of our projects to an active stage. It has been a difficult past few months. People are busy with the fields, it is hot, schools have been out (they just opened last week Tuesday) and many are visiting other places. My work is primarily in the community. I have contacted a primary school and a high school this new term and have spoken with the head teachers. I am preparing some proposals for lessons, clubs, and ideas for improving the communication and cooperation between the community and the schools as well as with school personnel. I am working with some government initiatives and NGO’s, trying to help them increase their efficiency and effectiveness. I also discuss any and all issues that youth bring up: drugs, alcohol, school, bullying, lack of jobs, etc . as well as bouncing ideas of job opportunities with some older, out of school youths. I have no idea if they will be accepted and really I don’t care right now. They have been requested and after so much effort just trying to get people to ask me questions I am happy with that.
I came with the idea that I could not force my agenda. That has only been reinforced. I am happy for that. It keeps me in check. One thing I did not expect was the lack of questions during meetings and more formal sessions. I figured when I asked for feedback on possible lessons, they would come. They didn’t. Things are starting to change now which is soooo nice. It all comes with increasing relations and comfort levels. I am being told things that are completely counter to what I was first told and despite the fact that they are mostly problems, I am overjoyed.
In the beginning, people were saying, “Oh Zama, Bulandzeni is nice. We are happy. Things are good.” Yeah. It was frustrating. I would ask about issues and all I got were the same ones over and over: we need water, we need food, we need sponsors for school fees. It is difficult to come into a community that you know/understand next to nothing about (at least nothing deep or fundamental) and say, “I’m here to help” and then have to repeatedly say that you cannot offer the help that is requested. I am happy that now I am getting into what I consider the real issues which deal with problems in communication, MOTIVATION: to stay in school, to work, to try to improve one’s condition, etc., and cooperation. I am happy to have deep enough relationships with a few people, of roughly each level social standing, who are comfortable enough to discuss these issues with me.
I can finish my PC objectives quickly if I want, it would take less than a week. I’d round up some kiddies and adults and teach them about HIV: sciencey/statistical background, prevention, treatment, and effects on individuals and society, then work with service providers and improve their ability to work. I wouldn’t be doing my job however. I may be able to call it good after that. All that was intentionally vague. Our work is like that until you get down into the causes of issues our objectives address. I can teach about HIV to a bunch of kids but like back at home, they probably won’t listen to me until they want to. Adults, oh man, that is a much more complex issue.
I saw a saying on the wall of the high school head teacher’s office.
“Paradoxically, a teacher’s role is not to teach but to cause others to learn.”
Semantics aside, I thought the saying was pretty interesting. In English, we have the infinitive “to teach.” We define it as to give knowledge or instruct. This seems to imply that you can just insert skills or knowledge into people’s brains and let them go from there. It places the responsibility of transmission solely on the “teacher.” In siSwati there is the infinitive “kufundza” often translating to “to learn” There is also the verbal extension “-isa” which when added to a verb changes its meaning to be “causes to _.” So, “kufundzisa” has the meaning “to cause to learn.” To me it implies that one initiates an action in another to take on the responsibility of learning. The responsibility of knowledge transmission is shared. It starts with the teacher. The teacher has knowledge and a desire to give it. The student does not have the knowledge and may or may not have a desire to learn. If the student wants the knowledge the teacher gives it causing the student to learn. If the student does not want the knowledge, the teacher must somehow persuade the student to take the knowledge which also means the student learns.
To me the siSwati phrase, “Thishela uyafundzisa” (The teacher is causing learning), has a much stronger meaning than the English colloquial equivalent of, “The teacher is teaching” (The teacher is giving knowledge). The English teacher could be teaching and yet students may not benefit in the slightest. If the Swazi teacher “uyafundzisa” then the children “bayafundza.” Now whether or not either teacher is causing children to learn is a different conversation but in in my opinion, in the pure denotative sense, the Swazis have a better version of “to teach.” I tried to explain this to a few Swazis but they had no idea what I was trying to say. It makes sense I suppose. They may have been taught that our English “to teach” was equivalent to their siSwati “kufundza,” at least the opposite was true for me.
So yeah, that concept has been heavily on my mind for a while but seeing that saying really put something tangible to my thoughts. I cannot force my knowledge and skills on my community. I must cause them to learn them if I am to fulfill my job description. That is my hurdle. After that I get to look forward to application and behavior change. That will be fun.
Wow, time is flying! When looking at the larger picture at least. I have been attending a lot of meetings with inner council members as we get ready for the construction of the new high school in Mgululu. Babe and I walk there which is a nice hike of about 6.3km around two mountains. Sometimes when we have to get there early, we take a shortcut which is not not through a river. We are told to stay out of bodies of water to keep from getting worms.
Yesterday we left “half past five” to help set up for the party we had at the school’s future site. The Chief arrived with his entourage to give his permission to start construction. It was a very nice event filled with discussion, “meats”, discussion, discussion, more food, a lot more discussion, more “meats”… A government official laughed and told me, “You are experiencing Swazi culture. There must be consensus.” in reference to the round and round and round conversation flow as every discrepancy was investigated. Luckily, /not so much, I had been to countless multi-hour meetings where these issues were hashed out. The day before we had almost that very discussion.
On the more interesting side, I got some nice pics and a couple videos. I spoke with quite a few officials who were happy I have come and they explained different aspects of the event. I sat with the Chief’s Praiser and we shared a roasted piece of liver on a stick. He explained how you share with everyone as a man from the group next to us gave me a nice hunk of red meat. Delicious! He also said I must be introduced to the Chief but we ended up hitching a ride home before I got that chance.
Right before we left, I was dragged to the front part of the VIP food line that had rice, porridges, meats, veggie dishes, and such. People were impressed with my adventurous attitude toward the “insides” and other traditional Swazi foods. To be truthful, I preferred the fried chicken but that ran out right before I got to it. At least the intestines are growing on me.
Today we went back for another meeting. I must say that I was not there mentally. I have been a little siSwati-ed out after the sensory overload of the past week. As it turns out, every speaker said the same thing. Another Tsabedze, sitting next to me, said, “These people don’t know how to summerize.” Haha sometimes I am reminded of what I must sound like to others. At other times it gets a little irritating when we have to go so far for literally the same information that has been discussed previously. Truly not like the meetings I’ve had back in the States where the goal is to be short and sweet. Here everyone gets to speak, even if he (almost always a he) says the same thing as the previous five, or things that do not even need to be spoken let alone reiterated…again, and again.
At least today we got some food at the end haha, well sorta. I got my second lesson in dismantling a cow head using an axe and machete. I even got an early taste of the “meat” to come as a particularily lucky (or unlucky) strike sent a glob of tissue right in my face. I am actually looking forward to my turn. Lunch consisted of the head and legs from one of the cows we ate yesterday. I was pulled to a circle of men around a plate of the mixture and ate a few pieces. Some were what we in America call meat. The rest were bone and connective tissue. I don’t know how the others were able to bite the stuff into pieces small enough to swallow they were eating so fast! I then had my second helping. I miss steak. It is neat how everything gets eaten. Everything.
Met a new, for me, community member today on the way back from the shop. I had meant to buy some onions but they were sold out for the second day. What. A. Bummer. We talked a bit. I mentioned how I had not done any real work for a while and that I felt useless. She told me that was nonsense and basically made me feel better about myself. We discussed my plan to educate myself on pretty much everything and she said that I have already begun without realizing. We bounced some ideas ranging from networking for community issues to me joining a year 5-7 siSwati class at nearby Bulandzeni Primary!
I was so happy to meet this make. She is one of two community police officers but due to it bringing in E0 and in fact costing her money, she does not have much to offer except support and knowledge. Hey we are like two peas! Except that she knows WAY more than I do about this community and its resources. How did I end up running into her so randomly? I ended up walking in the opposite direction I was going and we ended up at another homestead not too far away. Here we were greeted by another make. She led us into her home and into the bedroom. There I met her son. I am always forgetting the names of everyone I meet. I will not forget his. His name is Bongani.
I used to think I knew a fair bit about HIV. I have sat through hours of class, I have read books, played games, spoken with people living with it, I can regurgitate incidence figures, names of OI’s or Opportunistic Infections, I can even draw a very boring picture of the virus and its lifecycle. But I have not yet seen it reduce another person’s physical self to the extent that I saw today. Bongani and bomake tell me about his medications and conditions, “Why is it that my hands are so swollen…”, “His legs are locked but see how the one twitches so…why?”, “Look.” (pointing at his midsection which is completely sunken). I tried to explain what I knew in siSwati and in English. I apologized for not knowing more.
It was a lesson in humility how Bongani and his mother asked me to view the side-effects of ART mixed with the damage from the disease itself. It made me uncomfortable how easily they could speak so gravely in one sentence, in fact they brought up an upcoming funeral, and in the next be in fits laughter while trying to explain how great my siSwati is coming along. All I could do is give a very awkward chuckle while I looked from the man around my age in front of me to what looked like football attire hanging on the wall, cologne and other novelties sitting on a nightstand. So much for being known for my laugh.
As we were about to leave, Make jumped up and presented us with apples and emafethi (somewhat like 3in doughnut holes…delicious). They smiled and told me to eat. The apple was one of the best I’ve had in my life. Make said she got them in Buthleni, I’ll have to check that out. They asked about America and out staple foods. A little more chitchat and we made our way out. Before I left Make gave me two onions to take with me. She had found out I was I had failed to get any at the shop. I cannot describe how I felt when she laughed and wouldn’t accept any money but said, “It is because I love you…may God bless you.”