Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life in Dec 09 and Jan 2010

December 7 – 11 2009- Painting Health Signs: As a way to motivate my health club, I suggested we paint health signs around school grounds as a daily reminder for students. I researched appropriate health-related messages, and approved them with the Head Teacher the week classes ended. The three most active members agreed to help me during holiday break. On the day we slated to begin drawing, my sisi, also a member, called the other two members. One was busy without giving a reason; the other was taking her mother to the hospital. So I began drawing the signs; my sisi helped me with the last three, which she picked among the 20 that were approved. It only took us one morning, about 4 hours, to draw the words. The following 3 of the 4 days, I painted the words by myself. Again, there was no word from the other two members, and my sisi was busy in the field, weeding the maize. I convinced Justine to help me one of the days, in exchange for cooking dinner and buying chocolate for dessert; not a tough sell. The signs turned out really well; I even painted the AIDS ribbon next to quotes related to HIV/AIDS. There was a little activity at the school on the days I painted; people stopped to ask what I was doing or to read the signs. The responses seemed positive; I take that as a success.
Below are the messages I painted:
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt

Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela
The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response…it requires solidarity… Kofi Annan

The feeling of being valuable - 'I am a valuable person'- is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline. M. Scott Peck

…never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant. Bishop Desmond Tutu

Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because [that is] the only way to make it appear like a normal illness. Nelson Mandela
One Love: Talk – Respect – Protect. One Love Campaign
The Head Teacher would like me to paint a new motto for the school; currently the walled gate as you enter says: Fight the Good Fight. He wants the school motto to be a bit more uplifting and positive. He also wants me to paint messages in the assembly hall, which is sometimes used by the community. We’ll work out the details next term. I‘m hoping my health club is more active when that time comes.
December 12 2009- Visiting the Orphanage and 21st Birthday Party: Tim and Jamie Cook have been eager for several months to visit Pasture Valley Children’s Home; Justine and I decided to take them this weekend since we planned to be in town already. We’d been invited to a 21st birthday party of the daughter and niece of Make Simelane, the woman we house sit for. The birthday party was supposed to begin at 10, and in true Swazi fashion it began late. Under a tent, the two birthday girls were flanked by friends at a table toward the front of tent. The guests of honor were dressed in hot pink, as were their friends. Their dresses resembled bridesmaid or prom attire; being PC volunteers, arriving everywhere in jeans and t-shirts or well-washed skirts and tees, we felt considerably under-dressed. The celebration was to honor Samke and Khetsiwe for not only turning 21, but also for not getting pregnant or loosing their virginity. Many relatives and friends spoke highly of the girls’ integrity, as well as their passion for education; both are at university. Make narrated the slide show with pictures of them growing up together. The guest speaker, a former teacher of both girls, ended her endearing speech with a toast to long life and happiness. We ate lots of food—also a Swazi tradition at any gathering—drank sodas, a new tradition, and finished with dry cake. We’ve known both girls for about a year but not well; they are genuinely nice every time I see them, and seem ready to share their home or food. I was happy to share this important day with them. It was interesting to me the reason for celebrating a 21st birthday here. When I reflect, it’s also about celebrating a life endured. Had either of them already had sex, both would probably be HIV positive. I don’t want to even think about how being positive would dramatically change their present situation but I can say with certainty that neither would have finished high school much less gone to university. Then I think about the reasons for celebrating a 21st birthday in America. I know every situation is different but we really have forgotten to celebrate LIFE in America; we are too eager to drink our weight in shots or sign up for military service and put our lives at risk. My appreciation for the sanctity of life has gradually taken new meaning thanks to my interaction with Swazi people.
We returned to the children’s home to work off our full bellies with play. The boys were eager to have a male figure to play with; Tim was more than willing to romp on the jungle gym, play tag and teach the boys to throw a football American style. Jamie, being a former cheerleader, taught those willing several cheerleader jumps and gymnastic moves; I followed with yoga poses, namely headstand, crow and bridge. Justine’s approach was cheering and holding the younger children. Eventually the Lego tub came out, and Tim set to building airplanes with eager children sitting around him gleaning his skills. We all took turns holding Gracie, the 5 month old, then ended the afternoon with hugs and high 5’s. Since Michelle and Peter, the owners, were away for the day, we stayed in the cabin behind one of the orphanages. It’s a two bedroom place with shower and combined kitchen and living room. We spent the evening telling stories of the past, listening to Moth and NPR podcasts and lots of music, and drinking wine. Eventually we cooked dinner and I displayed the contents of the package retrieved earlier in the day from the Post Office.
It’s rare that Tim and Jamie stray from their homestead, so it was a real treat to spend a weekend with them. Tim is a writer and Jamie is a PT; I feel like I have a lot in common with each, so we never want for conversation. They are the oldest couple in our group; Tim is several months older than me. We always joke about being mkhulu (old man/grandfather) and bogogo (grandmothers). It is also their goal to visit more volunteer homesteads in the coming year; I hope to join them on a few visits.

December 14, 2009- Learning Another Lesson:
I’m not sure I wholly believe the adage, “home is where the heart is.” I believe that home is where you are happy or where you are able to have a little happiness in some moment every day, wherever you happen to be. I believe this because I have obtained happiness here but my heart is sometimes elsewhere: in Vermillion with the Farmers Market, Coffee Shop Gallery, in my massage practice or with my fabulous friends; at my parent’s place, on the farm, in Nebraska; wondering through the pasture near my parent’s farm; with my family, at holidays or impromptu gatherings; in Sioux City with my massage friends; in the Old Market in Omaha; in the mountains in Colorado; in yoga class; in France; or in places yet to discover. Surprisingly, I find my heart in places I visit here, with friends in my community, and fellow volunteers, as well as with my Swazi family, especially my bosisi. So I’ve discovered my heart is in many places, whether I happen to be happy there or not.
I’ve been reading the book “A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose” by Eckhart Tolle. In a beginning section he talks about the secret of happiness, saying that “being at peace and being who you are, that is, being yourself, are one.” That being at peace, having peace, is letting go of the ego. And that being one with life is being one with Now. One should not seek happiness; if you seek it you won’t find it since happiness is elusive. However “freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, but facing what is rather than making up stories about it. Unhappiness covers up your natural state of well-being and inner peace, the source of true happiness.” Oh, how many times I tried to seek happiness when I first arrived, only to fail and become even more despondent. I thought actively searching for happiness or things or make me happy would make it okay to be here, would make me feel better about being here. Oh my vanity! Oh my ego! It wasn’t until I let go of controlling what would or would not happen, living each day as they came, being as present in each day as possible, that I found happiness had been at my doorstep for months. My fickle friend but of my own making.
Even though some days may pass without much recognition of whether I am happy or not happy, and at time I may become melancholy and ride the rollercoaster of emotions, happiness is apart of my every day, apart of me—I am not trying in vain to seek it. It’s just there when I am present enough to feel it.

December 15, 2009- Fatty Comment w/ an Ass Pat: I was wearing jeans today, so of course Make made a comment about my bum becoming bigger. “My daughter! She is getting bigger and bigger. Look at her bum. She is becoming like me.” She even went so far as to pat my butt and right thigh as I passed her. Thanks Make. Little does she know that earlier in the day I bought a pair of jeans a size smaller than the pair I bought when I first arrived. My main reason for buying jeans was to have a pair that actually fit for my Cape Town trip. Secondly I thought it might be nice to have a pair that weren’t as tattered as the pair I brought with me. And finally, they were only E40; in US dollars that’s less than $6. After purchasing them I was excited about how well they fit and looked on me, as well as the good deal I got. But after returning home to an ass pat and fatty comment, it’s more about a battle that I won with the war on fatty comments from Make. No matter it’s a silent battle between us, and I’m the only one who knows the war is on. Today I won!

December 17, 2009- Plaiting my Hair: My sisi Nomdumiso offered to plait my hair last week, and today I decided to take her up on the offer. I wanted just the front plaited, thinking it wouldn’t take long and thinking it would be nice to have a few braids here and there. We didn’t have the same vision in mind. She plaited everything from my ears forward. Once I realized what she was doing, she was already too far into the process for me to stop her. So I decided to sit quietly, hoping it would turn out. And as things usually do, it worked out well. The small braids took over 2 hours to create, and they were very nicely done. I was very happy with the results. She wants to plait my hair again, next time with colored extensions or with a zigzag design. I’m not objecting.

December 18 – 20, 2009- Celebrating my Birthday, Hiking to Mvubu Falls, & Early Christmas at Pasture Valley: Since the people I wanted to help me celebrate my birthday would be at a children’s camp, we met the night before at Café Lingo. An out of the way place in Mbabane, we sat outside drinking wine and eating pizza for the better part of the evening. An African jazz group began playing around 9, and we danced to their upbeat grooves. Then a few of us ventured to House on Fire for more music and dancing. The following afternoon, Victoria, Justine and I set out to find Mvubu Falls. Just a sort distance from Mbabane, Mvubu Falls is an easy hike to 3 beautiful waterfalls. The afternoon sun was warm but since the walk to the falls is mostly tree covered, the only thing we found troubling was the tree snake we happened upon at the beginning of the hike. On Sunday, Justine and I rode with the Country Director and the Medical Officer to Pasture Valley. They wanted to bring Christmas presents to the children and Peter and Michelle, their way of giving at Christmastime. Justine and I sat in the circle of children, helping the little ones open presents, installing batteries and removing tags. To see their faces light up upon discovering the treasure behind the wrapping paper… I cannot even describe how priceless that moment. Then there were treats Michelle made, as well as candy sent from a former volunteer at Pasture Valley. For most this was their first Christmas celebration; for others a reinforcement that they have a family, a home.

December 24 – 28, 2009- Celebrating Christmas: Make Simelane asked Justine and I to house sit during the holidays. We gladly accepted. The house was full, as a few Group 7 volunteers stayed with us before they headed out to Durban. No matter. Justine and I were occupied with spending Christmas at Pasture Valley. Peter and Michelle invited us to the Christmas celebration they were planning with the children on Christmas Eve: reading the Christmas story, opening presents from Michelle’s father and sister, opening presents from their neighbors, eating Christmas treats, singing carols, and watching a movie. It felt more like Christmas than last year, and I heartily welcomed the change. Christmastime seems more festive when children are involved; their wonder and excitement at presents, eating too much food and learning Christmas songs is endearing, especially the children at Pasture Valley. Everything they were given was accepted with a thank you, a knee bend and a smile, no matter what was being given. They were genuinely appreciative, and that would warm the heart of any scrooge.
The next day, Christmas Day, Justine and I took sugar cookies we’d made the night before to lunch. We made green and pink icing before lunch, then after we showed them how to decorate their own cookie, many enjoying theirs piled with green and pink icing. After playing games, coloring and teaching them how to use their new outdoor toys, we headed back to Make Simelane’s and joined G7 in Christmas dinner. The next day G7 left for Durban, and Justine and I enjoyed a quiet house, watching movies and eating our Christmas dinner—orange chicken—after cleaning the house in preparation for Make’s arrival the following day. It was not the most relaxing Christmas I was hoping for but the time with the children at Pasture Valley was uplifting, and just what I needed, for me the essence of Christmas.
December 29-30, 2009- The Train Trip to Cape Town:
The land outside Jo’burg resembles the Midwestern
plains—lots of farm land, many trees and herds of cattle.
Shortly, the landscape gives way to rolling hills and scrub brush, reminding me of eastern Colorado. The sky holds 3 shades of blue, and
increasingly fills with clouds as we traverse west.
Each of us in our own zone.
The train is crowded, and we struggle for our own space.
Except for the mix of languages I hear around me, I could easily be traveling thru the heartland of America, searching for mountains I love and seeking wine country in the distance.
Road tripping with three unforgettable friends. Oh the adventures to come.

A rain cloud directly over the train, it begins to rain. I reluctantly edge the window up a little to avoid getting wet, and at the urging of a fellow passenger.
But I don’t close it completely; I want to feel the cool clean air on my face and smell the fresh crispness it brings.
It keeps the train car from becoming too stifling, keeps me from smelling my own sweat and the stench of 80 others in this car.

Back to more scrub brush and flat land.
Several windmills rapidly spin in the wind.
In the distance, a storm brews, the sky is a blue grey.
Rays of sunlight pierce thru clouds but the sun doesn’t fool me.
We are driving into a storm, and I anticipate the erratic energy it will bring.

The rains come again, at a slant, struggling to fall against the wind.
I love storms, and on the train it seems even more romantic and ominous. Sadly the rain doesn’t last long; the drops are enough to wet the windows.
We’re back to blue skies peeking thru the clouds.
I open my window once again.

December 30-
My sleep is fitful, and I grow cold toward morning so I rise to look out my window. The buttes in the distance are mist covered, the plains and scrub brush a solid tan. The sun rises 30 minutes later, around 5:30, like a precocious child, quickly and without remorse, transforming everything into golden.
The train is mostly quiet, still.
My companions slumber without want.
Several travelers shift in their sleep, trying in vain to
find comfort in their seats.
A two-year-old chatters to her groggy mother.

The train pauses and more people begin to stir, some rising to stretch, others stumbling their way to the toilet.
It’s morning time in Africa. The day always begins early and immediate with activity.

With the sun at my back, I slowly thaw and begin my coffee daydream.
As we discovered last night this train doesn’t have a kitchen car.
Coffee will remain a daydream. My eyelids become increasingly heavy, and I resist the urge to let them close fully.
Sleep deprivation triumphs, and I fall asleep for another hour.

We’re heading toward the Western Cape.
Mountains spring up, sharp and rocky, reminding me of Colorado.
My spirit feels renewed. I feel alive and refreshed. I feel like I’m home.

Nestled under the foothills are rows and rows of grape vines; wine country is near.

The train’s multinationals talked politics and passion for their country since last night. Mugabe. The state of Zimbabwe. Apartheid in all nations. Language and terminiology. Lack of jobs. The division of the Congo- now two separate countries. Some conversations become heated usually due to inebriation.
Those people walk away or someone works to keep the peace. But most people become fast friends, even thru the arguments, and look after each other.

Several groups have adopted us—making it their mission to make the only white girls on the train comfortable and welcome.
The men from the Congo give us tips for places to visit in Cape Town. One woman walks us to get food during a train interlude. Another buys us ice cream for breakfast. A man offers his wife’s hair dressing services; he says she would plait our hair and make us really beautiful.
The two-year-old takes turns playing with each of us, inquiring about our belongings in Zimbabwean.
Siswati is somewhat similar, so I ask her questions.
But her English isn’t bad, so I point to things and she repeats what I say almost perfectly.

We arrive in Cape Town to afternoon heat,
anxious to explore the city but desperate for showers.
Cleanliness wins out, and we hail a taxi to the backpackers.

Anne’s plane should be landing.
I am anxious once again, waiting for her call.
We meet a few hours later for pizza and beers.
We meet Ryan, her PC friend from the DR and his fiancé, Ali.
We make plans to hike the next morning.
I go home with them.
Anne and I talk as long as we can before sleep beckons.

She is in Africa.
I am on vacation.
Life is good.

December 31, 2009- Cape Town, Day 1:
Hiked Lion’s Head
Lunch at Café de Cuba on Long Street
Exploring Long Street, hoping to find a cute dress, to no avail
Finding Green Market Square
Happy hour at the No Happy Hour bar, watching taxi
drivers play cards in the trunk of one car.
New Year’s Eve celebration at Green Market Square- coffee and hummus
at the Kurdish place, dinner there later w/ the girls,
salsa music playing at the Kurdish place,
bands begin to play, we begin to dance.
New Year’s Eve with a few fireworks, anticlimactic,
but enjoyed with friends. It’s 2010; I’m
in a foreign country.

January 1, 2010- Cape Town, Day 2:
Bo Kaap district- Malay community, we
discover a festival, a minstrel show to honor
their culture and the new year; traditionally
the one day per year
they got off from work.
People of all ages in each group, dressed
in bright costumes, playing instruments, singing
and dancing, marching thru
the streets where vibrantly colored houses
stand, celebrating life. We watch
for hours, each group louder and jollier
than then last. Bystanders and community members
get caught up in the action,
and sing and dance with minstrels along
the way. Everyone is laughing. Everyone
is enjoying.

We learn later that it’s become a competition
among minstrel groups, who can play and
march the best. The competition begins
at 11pm, and groups march throughout
the night along the main street, with
the top groups giving a final performance
at the stadium. Sometime is takes
two days, sometimes 3. They celebrate
for as long as they need.

We decide to get food, Vietnamese, then
venture along Long Street for possible night life. We
discover many bars open and people sitting along
the festival route, finding
good seats. We get a beer at one place
with a surly bartender; out tip is minimal.
We watch the festival begin, then
shortly make our way to sleep.

January 2, 2010- Cape Town, Day 3:
I sleep until 9, the latest I’ve slept in a long
while. Anne’s jet leg is kicking in; I tell her to
sleep as long as she needs. I call
car rental places, hoping something is available
for touring wine country. Nothing is
available until Monday.
The day is hot but Table Mt is clear, a
first since our arrival; I want to
take advantage of it. Anne says she
will take the cable car to the top. The
other girls want a cooler day to hike, and
opt for Simon’s Town. I hike
it on 2 hours, 20 minutes. The route I take
is like climbing stairs in an old house, narrow
in some places, steep, and immediate. The altitude
bothers me at first, but after trekking
one-fourth of the way, I find my chi
breath, and take my time climbing the stair steps.
I meet Anne at the top, feeling a huge sense of
accomplishment. We discover later the high for
the day was 44 degrees C (or 111 degrees F). I pat
myself of the back again.
We make our way to the V & A Waterfront
for Thai food and cold drinks with
pineapple garnishes. I hear Hot Water playing
at the amphitheater; they played
at House on Fire last New Year’s Eve.
Thai food and good music, perfect combination.
We meet the girls at the
Green Dolphin Jazz Bar later for drinks.
We make plans for tomorrow.
January 3, 2010- Cape Town, Day 4:
Anne and I both sleep in; the girls
are hiking Table Mountain, and we’re
meeting them once they finish.
We walk to the Table Mt entrance, then take
an expensive cab ride to the Botanical
Gardens. It’s beautiful. I seek out
my favorite African flower, Protea,
along the way; I need to see nothing else.

The girls go back to their hostel to
shower; we will meet them at La Med
later. Anne and I walk towards the
promenade. We eye a gelato shoppe
along the way. She gets granadilla aka
passion fruit; I abandon my standard
chocolate for lemon. We happily lick our
way to the Indian Ocean, and
imagine we can see all the way
to South America. Would we see Brazil?

La Med is the happening spot for the 20 something’s,
hipsters, and wanna-be’s. As Anne says,
“it’s the scene!” We feel slightly
outta place, but enjoy the scenery. The
bar, complete with outdoor patios, is on
the beach. Goldfish is slated
to play. Anne and I leave early; only Goldfish
remixes are playing, and we want to say
farewell to Ryan and Ali; they are headed to
Thailand tomorrow.

January 4, 2010- The Trip, Day 5:
We pick up the rental car. Hurray,
they have an automatic. We pick up the
girls and head to Simon’s Town to see
penguins, and the gorgeous beaches. We long
to stay. We drive back up the coast to
Muizenberg. After lunch at an
organic coffee shop, we bid
Vic and Mar adieu. Jenn, Anne, and I
begin our journey back to Swaziland
via the Garden and Wilderness Routes.

Anne quickly masters driving on the right
sides of the car and road. I try my skills
later, once she tires of the wind
and concentration of passing people…there are
no rules for passing in Africa; you go when you can, where
you can.

I haven’t driven a car in 18 months. Surprisingly
it’s like riding a bike, and I remember
instantly; after 5 minutes
of nervousness about driving on
the right, I’m like an old pro.

We decide to stop in Knysna, a quaint town
famed for it’s lagoon harbor, protected
by the sea by two sandstone cliffs. South
Africa’s largest commercial oyster-farming
Center is based in the lagoon. We
find the backpackers quite friendly. The
friend of the owner shares his extra veggies
with us; we make a curry dish and
grilled cheese sammies. They also
recommend a close bar to enjoy
a few Windhoek, a beer made
in Namibia. During the
night, the owner rushes in to
alert the drivers of a white Toyota
that it’s been vandalized, and to come quite;
the police are waiting. We panic for a moment,
then remember out white car is a Chevy.

January 5, 2010- The Trip, Day 6:
After yoga and a long hot shower, we
pick up coffee and breakfast. We head to the
lagoon look-out point, enjoying scones, hot
coffee and the view.
How far will we drive today? Let’s see
where we are around 5. The Garden Route
is a majestic stretch of coastline, encompassing
mountains, rivers, lagoons, lakes, beaches, and
indigenous forests. In 1780, the French
naturalist, Francois Le Vaillant, wrote: “Nature
has made an enchanted abode of this beautiful
place.” Enchanted is it, and each town is
quainter and boasts more activities than
the next. Jenn decides Coffee Bay, along
the Wild Coast, is our
final destination for the day. The Wild Coast
is an adventurers paradise, with rugged cliffs,
untouched coastlines, sheltered bays, pounding
breakers and dense coastal forest.
Beautiful. Yes. It lifts our spirits
until we discover the road to Coffee Bay
is littered with potholes and 62 km from
the main highway. It took 2 ½ hrs to drive. We
arrive dejected, exhausted, in need of food, and a
bed. We’re welcomed by Rasta look-alikes, old hippies,
young hippies and extreme sport enthusiasts. We lurk on the
edge of the excitement, waiting for the manager
to assign us a dorm. Then Jenn says, “maybe we
should gets beers while we wait?!” Anne and I
nod in agreement; might as well join the
festivities. Eventually we’re
shown to our beds, but after quick
discussion and since the beers have
already gone to our heads, we
join the crowd around the camp fire
and drink more beers. Anne and I realize this
is our first time getting drunk together. We cheers
to that. Close to 1 am, Anne and I stumble to our
beds, leaving Jenn catching the eye of a
fellow camper.

January 6, 2010- The Trip, Day 7:
After little sleep we rise to get an early
start on the final leg, the drive
to Durban. We traverse the
potholes in half the time it took
last night. We stop for breakfast and
coffee at a rest stop, and look thru
the guide book for a place to stay. Anne
is tired of backpackers; she offers
to spring for a nice place. I make
reservations at Durban Manor. The
drive is uneventful; Anne and I take turns
driving and sleeping. Jenn sleeps most of the
way. We pass the edge of Drakensberg Park, and
I must resist the urge to steer the
car that direction. Another trip.
We over-estimate the amount of time
it will take; we arrive in Durban during
rush hour, but successfully find the drop-
off for the rental car, and walk a short distance
to the Durban Manor. It’s a turn-of-the century
mansion. The room is spacious but the
hall is eerily quiet. It feels mysterious, and quite like
a haunted house. We crash on the
bed and turn on the television. We unwind
watching a movie, then shower, get ready, and
walk to Roma’s Revolving Restaurant. The Italian
food hits the spot and a
360 degree view of the city is lovely
but service is poor; we wait
45 minutes for our bill. Once back to the
mansion we feel like we’re being spied on; I
wish is explore this haunted place but sleep calls
to me strongly.

January 7, 2010- The Trip, Day 8:
One no is moving quickly. I lazily hit the snooze
alarm twice. I finally force myself up; Jenn and Anne
reluctantly follow.
Breakfast is served in the breakfast nook,
where we’re waited on by a butler, of sorts,
dressed in a black waistcoat, and carrying a
towel over his left forearm. We feel transferred
to a different time and place, but our dress
makes us feel out of context.
The receptionist hails us a cab. We want
to make one stop before heading to
Swaziland. The Victoria St. Market, a market filled
with smells, tastes and wares from India. We smell
incense, taste spices, and peruse over 100 stalls, selling
everything from jewelry, fabrics, spices, ceramics and clothing.
The building is striking enough; it features 11 domes,
each modeled after a notable building in India. The
bazaar is noisy, but crowds are minimal today. I buy
two pair of earrings, one made from banana
leaves, the other from springbok bones. I buy
sandalwood and nag champa incense, and vanilla beans;
I want to try my hand at making vanilla essence. Later
I wish I would have bought masala spice. We
wait for 2 hours for the khombi to Swaziland to leave.
We pass the time eating litchi, listening to music, and
recalling the long drive, each of us longing to return to
explore a different place
along the Garden and Wilderness Routes. The drive
is mostly uneventful except for a moment near
St. Lucia. Two vehicle-loads of men dressed in all black
with machine guns pile out and surround a truck with 2 men
inside. As we speed quickly passed, we hear gunfire. Our
fellow passengers say SA is cracking down
on criminals. We hope they had the right perpetrators; I saw
one man’s face—he seemed surprised and scared.
We cross the border at Lavumisa, and I breathe a sigh of
relief. It feels good to be home. Anne removes her camera,
to capture the rainbow that appears after
a short rain. She says, “This looks like Africa.” It’s my
idea of Africa too. We stay with my
Salesian friends in Manzini. Their shower
feels amazing as I remove the travel from
my body.
January 8, 2010- The Trip, Day 9:
We take our pile of dirty clothes to the Laundromat. After
coffee with we head to the Manzini market
and Jenn heads home. The market is quiet for
a Thursday, normally it’s biggest selling day. Anne
finds great gifts for family and friends; I find
thin acrylic yarn, perfect for braiding necklaces. Once
we pick up our laundry, we run to catch the last bus to Nhlangano
with only a few minutes to spare. I become
increasingly excited to share the journey to my
place and my site with Anne. In Nhlangano we
purchase fruits and veggies then hop on the bus
to my site. Bomake greet us; Anne comments on the
friendliness of the bus and it’s occupants, and I smile. This
is my bus. These are my people. I am on my way home.

We arrive at site to find only Zandele home. Make has
been gone since before Christmas; she is staying
with Babe. As I unpack
Anne reads my walls and looks at
all the pictures I’ve accumulated. She thinks my
place is homey. It really is. I need water, so
she helps me fetch it with the wheelbarrow. I make
popcorn for supper, and we spend the
evening listening to music and chatting.
January 9, 2010- The Trip, Day 10:
I take Anne to see the primary and
secondary schools; I want to show her
the health signs I painted. On the way home,
the neighbor boy hands me one of Make’s
chickens; it had gotten out and he caught it.
I reluctantly take the chicken, and carry it
home. Anne thinks it’s funny and takes a
photo. I give her a disgusted look. For lunch,
Anne teaches me to make bean burgers. We sit outside under
the rondoval to eat; my hut is too hot. After lunch,
we continue sitting outside; I teach her
to crochet. We crochet all afternoon. She makes
two potholder for me. My sisi
visits us from time to time, and I share the
chocolate Anne bought me with her. Eventually
her friends visit, and we dance, and perform head-
and handstands in the front yard. Anne records
them on her Flip; they are fascinated. She requires them
to perform if they want to be filmed. A few sing the
Swazi national anthem; others dance.
We make my Mom’s cereal treat recipe, and I
write it down for Anne; it’s her favorite treat
and memory of my mom’s house as a child. I make
liphalisi for supper—maize meal and water cooked. I
show her how Swazi’s eat it with their hands. She
enjoys the experience as much as the taste.
January 10, 2010- The Trip, Day 11:
I make maize meal pancakes for brunch as
Anne begins a scarf. She helps me make
fabric beads, and I begin putting together
a prototype mobile. It takes space nicely. We
walk to my friend Phindile’s house in the afternoon,
taking her some cereal treats. She offers us mango,
and we gladly accept. It’s my favorite type of
mango, the large ones without stringy palp, sweet
but not too sweet. We stay a few hours, then head home
the back way. I boil water for Anne’s first
bucket bath. In the DR she had a tile floor with
a drain. I tell her not to worry about splashing
water on the cement floor; it wipes up
easily. I create a makeshift curtain; she bathes
while I begin preparing supper, veggie pizza with
mangos. I take a piece to Zandele and
invite her to hang with us. We play UNO, then
teach Anne to play sisu, a Swazi card
game; sisu means stomach. Zandele has a cold;
she leaves early to go to bed. I download pictures
to my computer from Anne’s camera.
January 11, 2010- The Trip, Day 12:
I make New Year’s treats for the clinic staff. We
both repack our bags, and I try to clean my hut
as best as possible. I introduce Anne to my clinic
family. They instantly love her. I give her a tour, and
take her to see the project I’m trying to help
them with. She makes a video of the buildings
as well as me explaining the need for the project; she
wants to put something together for my blog and
perhaps Facebook. We take the 11 am bus, and meet Justine
and Jaci in town for lunch at Richfield’s. I catch up
with them; we talk about out trips, upcoming
projects, upcoming trips. Then Anne and I head
to Pasture Valley. We play all afternoon with
the children. She loves the painted preschool room
and the map. Buhle falls asleep in her lap; Piwa in mine.
Michelle arrives late afternoon. We
go with her to their house. We chat about the craft
project. Peter joins us later, tells us there is
too much craft talk, and offers us a beer. We
eat supper with Michelle and Peter and their children.
January 12, 2010- The Trip, Day 11:
Michelle offers us a ride to town; we gladly accept
and talk crafts all the way to town. I tell her
I want to be as involved as possible. I think
she’s relieved to know there will
be help. I tell her I want to extend my PC
service at Pasture Valley. She’s excited. For how
long? Will 6 months work? Yes, of course. Yah!
Good! Anne and I venture to
Manzini; we find the khombi that will take us
through Ezulweni Valley. Our first stop is
Rosecrafts and Swazi Candles. We have lunch
at Sambane Tea Garden, then go to Swazi candles
to watch crafters shape the candles. One guy has
worked there for 20 years, another for 10 years.
Then it’s Baobab Batiks, the weaving place, the
jewelry place, and finally the individual vendors. She
finishes her gift list. Our second stop is
Malendela’s. We shop at Gone Rural, and she
finds grass placemats for herself. We have a
few beers, then tour House on Fire. She’s amazed
at the detail in the carving on the walls. Our
wait for the khombi to Mbabane is short. We make
our way to Jason’s backpacking place. We drink
wine in the backyard; she sits in the hammock, I on
a lounge chair near the pool. We make
gazpacho for supper, and go to bed early.
January 13, 2010- The Trip, Day 12:
I take Anne to the PC office; I have a mid-morning
VAC meeting. I log her onto a computer, and she
happily uses the computer, content to be in
our lounge, as if she’s a PC volunteer again. She meets
Jason and Connor, two guys in my group, as
well as many staff members. Victoria stops in
too, and they keep each other company during
my meeting. My meeting is short, and while
I wait for her to finish in the internet, I
open a package from my former boss. It’s filled
with everything I was needing: chocolate, new flip flops,
lotions, Christmas decorations, lip balm, books. The letter
is sweet, and I gladly read and think of work times.
We repack one bag to take with us, necessities only, then grab
borrowed tents and sleeping bags. We meet Jenn, Jaci and her PC
friend from Moz in Manzini. We find the bus to Lomahasha; it
will take drop us by Hlane Game Reserve. We reserve
space on the 5:30 am game drive. After
getting passed an ostrich to get to the camp
and setting up our tents, we walk to the
watering hole to watch the rhinos and hippos
frolic. A few warthogs sidle up to water’s edge. We drink
Windhoek and watch their nightly routine. Afternoon
slowly slips into evening, and we think about building
a fire to roast hotdogs and coconut marshmallows. An
elephant grazes on the opposite side of the
fence near our camp while we cook. The girls want
up-close pictures, and tip toe toward the fence.
I hang back, screening my body with
the trunk of a tree; I am awed
by elephants’ power, majesty, peacefulness. The
camera flashes disturb him, and he rushes
the fence a few times to warn us that he
is boss. By 8:30 it is dark, and we retire to
our respective tents, trying with great effort to find
comfort on the solid dirt ground.
January 14, 2010- The Trip, Day 13:
Five o’clock comes early. We rise quietly, apply
sunscreen, don hats or bandanas, and saunter
toward the office. Our driver is ready. The
game drive is 2 ½ hours and we manage is spot
warthogs, impala, ostrich, elephant, inyala, white
rhinos, hippos, a lone lion, two turles, several golden
spiders, a blind snake and a few crocs. Our driver
tells a story about a drive he did a few
years ago where an elephant charged the truck,
knocking it over and injuring several passengers. He
is apprehensive about elephants but had no problem
getting quite close to the lion. According to him,
lion’s don’t care; when they are tired of the attention
they will walk away. So he drove us very close
to the lion. Had I been outside the truck, I could have
taken 2 steps and been right next his hind legs. A little too
close for me. After breaking camp, the girls showered.
A guide offers us a lift to Manzini for free; we patiently
waited for him. We go our separate ways in Manzini Mall. I have
another meeting at the office, which gives Anne the chance
to check her flight status. Then we get some Indian food,
and eat it blissfully at the outside tables. Back
to the backpackers, we take showers, then
sit on the patio wanting to enjoy the last
hours of sunlight. Anne transfers her
purse contents into the new purse I’d given her, giving
me things she doesn’t need anymore. Once
it grows chilly, we sit at the table inside; I
write the siSwati words and phrases I taught her
in her journal, as well as my Swazi friends’ names.
We play Scrabble in later; she beats my by 10 points.

January 15, 2010- The Trip, Day 14:
We sleep in until 9; it feels good.
I want to do yoga, and Anne joins me wanting some
stretching before the long hours on the plane. Fresh
mangos and litchi, one last time, for breakfast. Jason
gives us a lift downtown. We negotiate a
fair ride with a taxi driver to the airport. Her
flight leaves at 2:20pm; we wait in the lounge.
I teach her to crochet a flower; it’s confusing. I
promise to send her instructions. She’s
disgusted with her scarf, and pulls it out. She
confesses that she planned to wait until on
the plane to redo it, so I wouldn’t know. But I
tell her that I knew she’d do that; she’s a
perfectionist, like me. Boarding begins at 2pm;
I bid her farewell. I’m sad to see her go, and
wait to shed tears until I leave the terminal,
keeping a happy face on until she passes security
and out of my view. It was a great
visit. I beginning walking to town; a khombi
offers me a lift to Manzini. I catch the half 3 bus to Nhlangano
and the 5 o’clock to my site. My vacation is over. My
cousin is gone. I am back home, felling slightly
blah, but ready for the month ahead. I have
projects to accomplish; I’m eager to start and
finish them.

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