"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hands, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life." - Robert L. Stevenson
It's been quite awhile since our last post…ncesi! In any case, we thought we’d take this lazy Sunday afternoon to talk about three things: cows, church, and crystal light/coffee. It just so happens that everything starts with a C so we’ll call these the three C’s of Peace Corps life in Swaziland.
First things first, cows. These delightful yet devastating creatures roam all over the country largely unfettered. In theory, all cows have owners, yet in Swaziland, this theory is put to the test unlike any where else. Cows can be seen all over the country, wandering along roadsides, laying on the sidewalk, grazing in the mountains and yet it is all but guaranteed you will never spot their owner. It's hard to say what the reason for this really is considering cows represent wealth here and each cow is valued at around E7000, but nonetheless, we see tens of thousands of emalangeni trotting about everyday with no owner in sight. Now there are a couple of reasons we have surmised as to why cows are free to roam here. The first is that Swaziland is a very small, very peaceful country. No one here wants to steal cows because everybody is too nice to steal cows and if they weren't odds are it would catch up with them because they can't go very far. (Mozambicans on the other hand…eish…they steal several million emalangeni worth of cows from Swaziland every year) The other reason is that we are in the midst of a terrible drought. Terrible drought means no grass on or around the owner’s homestead for cows to graze. Hence, those who can afford to pen up their cows and buy hay at a cost of around E900 per bundle do so, and those who can't, set their cows loose every day/week to eat what they can. The result is ravenous hordes of starving cows. Have I mentioned our permagarden lately…no?...well we are very proud and very excited about our permagarden, and apparently, all the cows are too. Our garden has been raided by cows on three occasions. The first time was just a few days after we planted our seedlings and they were just starting to take root. A group of ravenous herbivores jumped the 4 foot fence separating our garden from the roadside and ate almost everything on the outside of our garden. We were obviously dismayed and a little angry but we figured it to be a fluke and we still had all of the vegetables in our interior beds so we resolved to push through the attack and revive what we could on the exterior. Not long after, the fence was hurdled again by a new group of acrobatic herbivores and the destruction was widespread. The healthy interior beds were eaten except for our lettuce (strange enough) and a few green peppers, and the exterior berms were twice eaten except for our green beans and a few onions. After this second attack we realized that starving cows are incredibly athletic in their desperation and babe and I raised the roadside fence about a foot to challenge what I can only hope to be a cows vertical jump PR. Over a couple weeks we nursed the surviving plants in our garden back to life until one fateful evening a jackass invaded with a crew of cows. Now to fully appreciate this attack you must know something about our homestead. Our homestead is a very large rectangle adjacent to the road. It is approximately 40 meters in width and nearly a football field in length running parallel to the road. The only gate into the homestead is on one end with our garden on the other, nearly a football field away. In between are 6 houses and another fence just before our garden that stretches about 2/3 across the homestead. In order to get from the gate to the garden you must travel diagonally across the homestead with no clear line of sight due to the houses, avoid the fire-pit, find the gap in the fence, then hang a Louie and cross the homestead along its width to reach our garden. The dog that's lived on this homestead for four years can't even figure that out. Apparently though, donkeys are smarter than dogs. In short, the gate was left open by our Sisi and a donkey with a crew of cows navigated through the homestead and enjoyed what was left of our garden…save the lettuce…go lettuce! In response, babe and I fenced the gap and strung barb wire across the top. We now have what we hope is an herbivore-proof garden. It is a little sad though because Grace and I both love cows and seeing them in a starving state and dying along the road isn't very fun, but neither is having your garden eaten before you can introduce the permagarden concept to the community that needs it more than ever due to the same drought that's killing the cows. Water is by far the most precious resource here, oil is an afterthought.
Second things second but it very well could be first, we have found a church home here in Ka-Langa! We have visited three churches here since moving a couple months ago. The first was a nice church across the road that meets for two hours and everything is in siSwati. It was a great church but it's hard to stay connected with our limited siSwati. The second was a very nice church close to Siteki. It is by far the largest church we have been to in Swaziland with a three hour service mostly in siSwati but a translated sermon. The third church we visited meets at the high school in one of the classrooms for two hours and the service is run primarily by the kids before Sunday school, and then the adults take over. The third church is called Christian Revival Center and it is the church we plan on calling home for the next two years. We love how focused the entire church body is on the youth. The praise team is all youth including an incredible 15 year old keyboardist, and they control song selection and the order of the first half of the service. During the second half when the pastor takes over, the youth all go out to Sunday school, and after church is over they all get a sandwich made by the bomake of the church. The pastor is a great man who, seeing us, gave the sermon the past couple weeks in English with a siSwati translator, saying that they should be welcoming of all people not just Americans, and English is the most common international language in southern Africa. He also is one of the most understanding and compassionate individuals we have met thus far concerning the plight of the PCV in leaving our families and homes in America to come to Swaziland. All in all it’s a great fit for us. I am also quite convinced that nobody worships and sings praise to God better than the Swazi people, especially at CRC. Despite not understanding a single word, we know without a doubt that we are praising God while worshipping here. It such a wonderful feeling everyone should come just for that experience!
Third things third, although they could be first or second, crystal light and coffee. As everyone who reads our blog is bound to know by now, it is hot here. Some days very hot. The purchase of our little mini fridge will be a highlight of our service for that reason. Another highlight of our service, receiving packages full of crystal light. We drank water everyday for a couple months of PST. Then, for about a month after we bought our fridge, we drank cold water everyday. A remarkable improvement over just water by the way. Now, we drink fruit punch, lemonade, orange juice, kiwi-strawberry, and peach mango green tea everyday. It is beyond my capability to describe how something so small has now become a key to our happiness and survival here. Thank you so very much to our bomake eMelika for supplying us with these glorious little sugar filled pouches that keep us hydrated, energetic, and happy. Another small happiness of ours despite the heat?...coffee. You might be thinking why would they love coffee so much when it's 100+ degrees there? Solid question. One reason is that by 6am if the heat hasn't woken you up yet, the animals will, and at 6am in the morning there are few things that make Grace and I as happy as good coffee. Another is banana pancakes but I digress. The other is that for two people who enjoy a good cup of coffee simply to enjoy a good cup of coffee, it is nearly impossible to find good coffee in Swaziland that we can make at home. Thanks again to our bomake eMelika for sending us good ground coffee, tea and Ricofy just don't cut it like good coffee out of the French press (shout to Grandma Jane and Grandaddy for the press!).
In the end, it's funny how our lives are changing here. Cows play a huge role in day to day life. Praise and worship is just as good if not better in a foreign language. Crystal light and coffee are keys to happiness. Three things I definitely don't think we anticipated before coming to Swaziland, but now true all the same. I know we say are lives are boring here and our work sometimes is, but give us a couple years and our lives just might get a little more interesting. I mean when's the last time you heard about a cow jumping over a four foot fence then skippin the lettuce?