Monday, February 22, 2016

...traveled to Ntjanini.

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." - Henry Miller

On Saturday Sean and I boarded a bus to Ntjanini in 105 degree weather. We got on the bus an hour before it left (at noon) because it is the only bus from Manzini for the entire day, and fills up fast - unlike our buses to our site that run about every 30 minutes from 6am to 6pm and we can hop on anytime. We left at 1:00pm and went about an hour on tarred road before spending the next 2.5 hours on a dirt road. Again, unlike our site, just 1.5 hours on an all tarred road. It was a hot day and all transport is always hot so it was a balancing game of drinking enough water to stay hydrated but not enough to have to pee on such a long ride.

We arrived to Ntjanini around 4:30pm. Ntjanini is rural, about 1 hours from a big town (Nhlangano) and it is very mountainous. Unlike where we live, close to a town and very flat. We have no fruit trees and our maize is stunted from the drought. Ntjanini has a plethora of fruit trees yet the ground and maize is completely scorched by the sun. Both areas are full of children, have a clinic, primary and high school. People speak more siSwati in Ntjanini. 

We walked about 2 kilometers down and up a hill to the Simelane homestead. The walk from our station at home is approximately 50 meters. The homestead is run by Gogo Nhlabhatsi who is 89 years of age. She was one of two wives to Babe Simelane before he passed away. Gogo speaks no English. She has a helper who lives on the property with two small children. She speaks almost no English. Also, Gogo houses 5 students who her oldest son (age 70) pays school fees for, because he believes in education. They speak okay English. Unlike our home where there are no small children, a monogamous couple and excellent English speakers. 

Ntjanini and the homestead of Gogo Nhlabhatsi is the home of anther Peace Corps volunteer and close friend. We have spent the last 8 months with her, sharing in holiday celebrations, out of country trips, and the chaos of the country we chose to be our home for the next 2 years. But this was the first time to see her home. It was the first time to experience her lifestyle and see the people and the town she loves. We met her family for the first time, visited her community store, talked with the French teacher at her high school, and laughed with her neighbors. 

Leaving today, in the rain, as we walked down to the station it was clear that a short visit changed things. We can picture her life when she talks from now on. We can ask more in depth questions and she can explain things easier now that we have seen what she sees. Her life is similar to ours but so very different. 

So on our long bus ride back to site today, and thinking about all of this, it makes the excitement and anticipation of our families coming to visit even more appealing. Our world, our life, which is so extremely normal to us now, can be experienced together with the people we love and miss the most. We can't wait to share in this experience face to face, knowing that when the visit is over a richer experience together begins.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

...needs more porch sittin'.

"Sometimes, we are so attached to our way of life that we turn down a wonderful opportunity simply because we don't know what to do with it." - Paul Coelho

Question: What are you giving up for Lent? 

Grace and I have done a lot of thinking on the subject this morning and we’ve had a few realizations we’d like to share. For instance, we have successfully given up fast food (Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, etc.) for 231+ days now! Don't get me wrong, there's been mornings when we’d love a grande venti whatchamacallit latte (it's too hot here lets go with frappachino), but we don't miss waiting in long lines of people both patient and impatient to get it. There’s a lot of other things as well that although we desire them on occasion, we’ve realized we get along just fine without (231+ days and counting). Some of that list includes the common things we would normally try to give up for Lent, thinking we were sacrificing something that would make life difficult and thereby honor God and remember the trials of Jesus in the wilderness. The list includes TV (Netflix, News, Sports), sweet tea, milkshakes, and social media sites (really just Pinterest here because it eats up all our data). As we’ve sat and talked through what we’d like to sacrifice for Lent, we’ve realized that all the things we’ve been tempted by in the past are gradually fading away. Sure we’d love a milkshake every now and again and missing the Super Bowl and upcoming NCAA basketball tournaments is a bit of a bummer, but we relish the time that the absence of what we don't really need gives us. The walks through our community, stopping to talk to school children, laughing with our family out on the veranda, relaxing in the hammock, the early morning sun peeking through the trees while working in the garden, but beginning to identify what we can and can't sacrifice isn't all we’ve realized. We’ve begun to see some of the things that we take for granted that millions of people all over the world and here in Swaziland live without everyday. The most notable among them…machines. Specifically, washing and dishwashing machines. Much of our time on weekends that has been freed up by the absence of football on TV or a milkshake run has been replaced by laundry. If you really want to challenge yourself for Lent consider giving up your washer and dryer! All in all, we've begun to really appreciate/admire the resilience of the everyday living and I think we’re beginning to understand the difference between what is a temptation and what is a necessity.

For those of you who are wondering our Lent plans, we’ve resolved to add some things to life here because we’re not quite sure what to give up. At the top of the list is to drink more water. A necessity we don't consume enough of. Also, we’re going to try to wake up earlier and join the Swazis who start their days early to avoid the heat, and we’re also going to limit talking to things that don't talk back. I don't how to explain about the last one…it happens. Finally, we’re going to spend more time out on our porch, enjoying the time we’ve been given to appreciate God’s grand creations and enjoying some of the simpler things in life, like a cool breeze. 

Happy Ash Wednesday.