“I cannot say goodbye to those whom I have grown to love, for the memories we have made will last a lifetime, and will never know a goodbye." - Unknown
It has been an absolutely incredible experience living and working in Swaziland, but today, Grace and I informed the office staff of our decision to leave Swaziland and head home. To say that this experience has been incredible is actually a gross understatement of what it has been but then again what we have witnessed here within ourselves and our community borders on being indescribable. If I could walk the border and describe all that we have experienced in one long-winded paragraph, it would read like this.
A year and a half ago we came to a small country with a bus full of nervous excitement, wild expectations and fast friends. We studied for months the culture and language, learned the ins and outs of our service, and stayed with an unfathomably welcoming family. We set forth on our own, leaving behind our new family and separating from our friends into communities only a few kilometers apart in distance but seemingly days away in reality. Awaiting us was a new equally welcoming family and a house to make a home of for the foreseeable future. Our community held limitless opportunity thanks to the efforts of the organizations and people we worked with, and limitless it proved to be! We taught HIV/AIDS prevention and education using basketball, dug and planted gardens, restored and added to an aging library, supported local women chicken farmers, handed out a ton of teddy bears, updated the hardware and software of a high school computer lab, made Vaseline with a group of bomake, built a new playground for community children, held a basketball camp for local kids and worked to renovate a church. Now, as we’re due to depart, we have new sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, and friends.
This is the point where I'm not sure how to continue…the words dance around in my head amongst the memories I’ll never forget but every time I reach for a word I see a smile on a face, hear a voice of wisdom, smell the morning after a rain, taste the chicken off the braii, or feel a high five from a small hand. I know Grace feels the same way. The truth is that we have received far more than we could ever hope to give back through our work. We owe a tremendous thank you to all of you who have supported our work here with both time and money. Every effort you made had a lasting impact on our community and on Grace and I. We are so blessed and thankful to have those that love us supporting those and that which we love.
Finally, we are forever indebted to all of the authors of those unforgettable memories and experiences that escape the words to describe them. We have come to know some truly wondrous people here. None of our work here would have been at all possible without the help and support of our community members and our families. We will always cherish our time spent with family playing cards or having a braii, with community members laboring together in the hot sun, with our church family worshipping on Sunday's and slinging plaster on Saturdays, and with our friends enjoying a good hike and a night out.
Once again, the end emulates the beginning and we find ourselves saying goodbye to those we love. We love you all, from beginning to end, so let me just say this. Salani kahle bongani betfu na bomdeni betfu, sitawubonana masibuya.