Sunday, August 16, 2015

...moves to the beat.

"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." - Bill Bryson

You know what's a good way to start your day? Country music…especially if all you've listened to as of late has been kwaito music. I personally have really enjoyed our thishela’s collection of country the last week, mainly consisting of Long Black Train by Josh Turner and a few Dolly Parton throwbacks. Getting back to kwaito music though we went to the heart of kwaito music in Swaziland this past Saturday, Manzini. Kwaito originally started in Jo-burg but it has spread like wildfire ever since and is now a prominent component of radio all over Swaziland. Hipsters, kwaito, country, cowboys, traditional Swazi’s, all can be found in Manzini. The cowboys and country music are rare but trust me I've seen them. For those of you who don't know, Manzini is the largest city in Swaziland (if it isn't well that's what everyone would have us believe), and it is also the transportation hub for the rest of the country. If you want to get somewhere in Swaziland, odds are you go to Manzini first. This past weekend we went to Manzini to hunt some traditional wear for our swearing in ceremony (remember Manzini has a little bit of everything). Full blown traditional wear consists of 2 emahiya (lihiya - a simple rectangular cloth consisting of some pattern) and various accessories for women and 3 emahiya plus a lijobo (animal skin loincloth) for males. On our way to buy the materials we learned a lot about how to wear the emahiya by observing the traditionally dressed people walk along the streets with the hipsters and cowboys. Now, most of the female volunteers bought a portion of the traditional wear because it is not necessary to buy two emahiya, a combination of skirt and one lihya will do fine. For males, either you go whole hog or you don’t go at all. The lijobo is the most important part of the men's attire and one is rude/naked to wear a lihiya without it. That being said, the lijobo costs 400 emalangeni, so I settled for a modernized lihiya shirt, but Grace got a lihiya and a head scarf because she is married. There should be some interesting group photos from the swearing in ceremony, and don't worry we'll be sure to share! Now, since we’re already in Manzini I'll give you some additional features of this great little big city. We ate lunch at Thyme Café at The Hub, a Pick N’ Pay shopping complex with a nice pub, a bank, and a post office. Near The Hub is an agricultural supply store, one of two in the country that sell compost for new permagardens, hence our interest in such a place. There are also two malls in Manzini, the Riverstone Mall and the Bhunu Mall. The Riverstone Mall is a very new, very chic mall that we have not visited yet, but the Bhunu Mall is just about the center of the city and it has several great stores. Then there is the famous bomake craft market which is like a one stop shop for any and all Swazi souvenirs both traditional and untraditional, and a vegetable market which features some of the cheapest vegetables in the country at 3 emalangeni a bag. Nearest the market is the also infamous Manzini bus rank. The bus rank catches a bad rap from tourists because it is a busy place (remember it's a transportation hub for the whole country) and because you cannot go quietly through the bus rank like you can the rest of the city. As soon as you set foot in the rank you will be approached my multiple Swazi men speaking very quickly and gradually encircling you. You may even be lassoed by an arm around your shoulders. All of this is completely harmless because all they want to know is where you are going. Once you tell them they will kindly point you to where you should be, and usually about 2-3 guys later you're on your bus. It gets a little tricky when there are multiple buses and the conductors get a little more pushy because you're a fare that they need. If that happens it's important to remember that they’re just trying to get you where you need to go. The bus rank seems to intimidate many volunteers, but after finding our own community bus home on Saturday after our shopping, we are feeling more and more comfortable. Well, that's Manzini in a nutshell. The place where different cultures collide with traditional Swazi culture, making for an interesting little big city with plenty of places to explore. If you're interested in staying there before you come on to Ka-Langa to see us, you can check out the George Hotel, and as a bonus the hitching point toward Ka-Langa is just outside the hotel’s gate a few meters up the road! We’ll be happy to function as tour guides as well, we only charge a cup of good coffee at Thyme Café or Baker’s Corner!

Now, you know what's a good way to end your day? Hanging out with good friends. Grace and I threw our first Swazi dinner party on Saturday for our great friends! We came back from Manzini behind the main PC group because we wanted to see more of the city, and frankly because we wanted a little freedom as young adults, but that's beside the point. We took the community bus home and we cooked pizzas for everyone at our place. We are beyond blessed to have found such a great group of friends, and the pizza was a hit, as was the wine! Our friends brought Lindt chocolates, peanut butter M&Ms, and cookies over for a dessert and we just ate and talked, all thankful for a good moment of relaxation after all the PC training. We finished up after dark which concerns local Swazis because only people with “bad intentions” are out after dark. It wasn't a big deal though because we had notified all our families and I walked everyone home underneath a beautiful starlit sky! So there you have it, a great way to start and end your day with a little something to do in between. Lala kahle bangani!

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