Sunday, July 5, 2015 full of celebration!

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. –Oprah Winfrey

Saturday July 4th:  Happy Birthday Jeff McCord! Happy Birthday America! Today has been a wonderful day! We started the day walking across the road to thishela Shongwe’s house for a 1 hour language lesson where we learned the eight different noun classes and simple sentence structure for siSwati. After an hour and a half lesson, the bus showed up to take us to SIMPA.  Once at SIMPA we collected our SIM cards for our phones as well as some extra cash because we brought compatible phones with us to Swaziland.  The large group of us broke up into smaller groups of about 8 with each group led by a G12 PCV.  Hannah led our group and we departed for the siteshi in Mahhala to catch a khumbi to take us to Mbabane (Swazi’s say baban…).  Baban is about a 20 to 30 minute khumbi ride depending on if you get stuck behind some cows on the highway or not…it turned out to be just a 20 minute journey for us at a cost of 15 emalangeni. When we arrived we headed for the local phone shop to have our SIM cards cut to size.  Mbabane definitely has an urban feel to it and it noticeably affects the culture of the Swazi’s living there. Greetings aren’t as important and dress is not as modest.  Also, the downtown area is about the size of Kingsport’s or JC’s. Anyways after we got our cards cut we went to purchase “airtime” from Pep, a sort of small Target-esque store. The only carrier/network here is MTN which is owned by the king.  We purchased airtime which we then converted to data so we could  use Whatsapp.  If this process sounds confusing then you have the right idea. My account activated immediately but Grace and the others had to wait because we seemingly flooded the network from a single point in Baban…it was odd. While we waited we went to a café in what they call the corporate place to get real coffee (which was great!) and get wifi.  As we attempted to upload a blogpost we noticed a few things. One, the internet here is slow, spotty, and hard to find. Two, our computer was backed up with emails, notifications, and updates that made it impossible to upload our post. Third, we realized that the best way to communicate was through our phones.  Hence, I'm typing this post on my phone.  We will update the blog via phone and upload pictures from the phone to the blog. We will still continue to take better pictures but with access to wifi being so limited we’re committing to our phones. Also, if you would like to contact us you may but Whatsapp is our primary option so please use it when you call/txt us. After all of this we went to Pick N’ Pay to get some groceries for cake baking and American dinner night on Monday. We returned to our group after grabbing some lunch at Galito’s (a fast food chicken place) and we headed back to the siteshi. After a thirty minute ride back to Mahhala…yes…the cows…we walked to SIMPA to catch our bus back to Sihhohhweni.  Upon arriving at our stop we found Khombi and Letho waiting for us so we walked back with them. We met up with Simiso who we asked to teach us how she does the laundry. It's quite simple to hand wash in buckets we’re just not used to it so we spent some time in the yard hanging out with our bosisi and make. After laundry make asked a family friend to stop and cut down a banana tree to get the bunch of bananas down so I got to step in and help which was fun. Then during dinner prep Grace and Simiso baked a chocolate cake for my birthday tomorrow and it was great to see them having so much fun together.  We have a wonderful family here and we were so thankful to talk to family back home today but know that we are in great hands here with the Shabangu’s. Happy 4th and happy birthday Jeff! My thumbs are tired now. 

Sunday July 5th: I love this day. It is probably my favorite day of the year. This day has made my life immensely better.  On this day my sweet, handsome, kindhearted husband was born. Oh yes and Evan. So happy first birthday in Africa to Sean McNeil Collins, I love you so much. We had plenty of time before church today. We took our time getting ready and talking siSwati. We left at 11:00 to go to Revival Life Ministries, where our make and 3 bosisi go to church. Founded on Ezekiel 47:9, the small church welcomed us openly. They translated their service into English with the help of a few members including Simiso. We were asked to introduce ourselves and Sean did a wonderful job of thanking the community, the Shabangu family and Revival for welcoming us. It was a wonderful service. At 2:00 church ended and we stopped at our house to change before taking a walk to explorer the community we now call home. Simiso was our guide and we stopped at another volunteer’s house to talk. I think it would be very hard doing this by yourself. I have a great deal of admiration for those who set out on this journey on their own. Once back at our homestead I brought out the cake that I had baked for Sean. We sang happy birthday and he made a wish, which I explained to the family was “a thing we do in America”. We met two older sisters while eating cake. They live in Manzini. Homemade cake is a hit here so it might become a weekly staple. We are now in our home tackling our bucket baths getting ready for a night of wine and cards, aka our best effort for a birthday party. Happy birthday Evan. I am grateful  for you as well, I promise.
Pictures: outside our home before church; cake celebration 

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