Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aug 10: Chapter 14 - Parting is Bitter Sweet

Our final day.  Rob, Gillian and Tommy headed out early today to tie up some last minute loose ends at SACRO while the rest of us enjoyed a more leisurely start to the day.  Once we were all back together we headed off to the Pre-School in Mbabane for a visit with the little ones.  Upon our arrival we were greeted by the welcome wagon - smiling faces all ready to play with us.

As it was a 'cold' day (it felt like it was maybe 15 degrees celsius) most of the students stayed home and school was being let out early (kind of like the Canadian version of a 'Snow Day').  As we huddled  in the classroom we played with some clay and applied "I Love Canada" tattoos on the children's hands.  We wonder how the children explained that to their parents.  With a few new toys in hand we moved the party outside to play catch, attempted to blow some bubbles and engaged in a dance-off. So you think you can dance? Wait till you go head to head with a Swazi child!

After saying goodbye our group took the short drive over to the SACRO Drop-In-Centre for a visit.  It was pouring rain so forty plus children and a dozen adults crammed into the little building.  Unfortunately our soccer match was no longer possible.  As a consolation Rob attempted to teach them a song complete with hand motions.  While they seemingly had no idea what he was saying they were quick to pick up the words and actions and seemed to enjoy the experience.  Despite the rain the children were sporting their newly donated soccer uniforms and purple "JP 2113" t-shirts.  After another round of goodbyes we headed back to Manzini.

The evening found us back at the Road Lodge once again around THE BIG RED COUCH with our friends from SACRO.  After two weeks of getting to know one another we couldn't think of a better way to bid our farewells than with a party.  Finger foods, libations and plenty of dancing were enjoyed by all.  Who knew Bob and Gillian would be the "Dancing Queens" of the group?!  As a token of appreciation SACRO presented each of us with a gift, a traditional Swazi wrap complete with a picture of the king.  And for our fearless leaders a special bowl for Rob and a Knobkiry for Tommy.  As the evening came to a close we exchanged our information, hugs, and many wishes for the best. 

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster ride of emotions, people, scenery, conversations, and experiences.  It's all good!

Lessons of the Trip:
Tommy - Some of the best smiles and warmest hugs are among the poorest of the poor.
Gillian - Things change. Again.
Rob - Make a difference.
Mirella - It's all about the heart.
Kelly - Connections are key.
Bob - Dancing is the universal language.
Chris - A little listening goes a long way.
Anya - It's the relationships that make it beautiful

Disclaimer - After fourteen days of blog writing Kelly is still saving me grammatically.  You're an amazing teacher Kelly, I'm just a slow learner!

Anya Malda
DWC Participant
Swaziland, August 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

Aug 9: Chapter 13 - A Walk On The Serious Side

Bright eyed and not so bushy tailed we all gathered around the newly installed garage doors at SACRO for a serious photo op. Word has it that we're going to be in the local newspaper tomorrow. Hopefully it will be some good advertisement for SACRO and hopefully Shadrack isn't too offended that he's not in the picture. After all, we have no doubt about who ran the show and made sure the work got done right.

On the road again we took a trip out to the rural areas of Manzini, particularly Nsoko and Lubulini. One of the cool things about this was that the community we visited was where our friend Sibusiso grew up. We met the Chief of the community (see photo below) who also acted as our tour guide for the day. As we walked on the beaten path we were able to see the living conditions, livestock, and children playing. It was an opportunity to observe and fully absorb all that we were witness to. The images are extremely stark and raw and yet the people maintain a vibrant spirit and sense of life.

As we continued on our journey we were able to visit several schools, both primary and secondary. The school day was in full swing. The children and teachers were more than willing to welcome us in and say "Salebona" (aka hello). We toured various classrooms and engaged with some of the kids via photos and games. Seeing the conditions of classrooms, desks, and kitchens is in huge contrast to their eagerness to learn. For many of us today the impressions will be long lasting.

Through all the experiences of the day the images and various levels of poverty were pervasive. It was in stark contrast to our personal experiences and left many of us with more questions than answers. It was truly sobering and humbling. It is definitely going to take us a long time to realize the impact of those images and what we choose to do about it in our own personal lives.

Lesson of the Day: We are truly blessed beyond measure!

Anya Malda
DWC Participant
August 2013, Swaziland

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aug 8: Chapter 12 - Variety is the Spice of Life

Today was a mishmash of all sorts of activity. Some of us assembled new numbers and signage for each unit at SACRO (kudos to Gillian for her computer pizazz, painting skills and ability to spell). Our hope is that this will help increase business and curb appeal. As a result of today's activities the energy of the current renters seemed positive. They seemed appreciative and are looking forward to marketing their skills. While that was going on, others of us assisted in editing a Grant Proposal and a Strategic Plan for the Ministry of Health (by 'others' I mean Kelly, who was completely in his professor zone). The Grant would enable SACRO to further it's mission in working with at-risk youth. And while that was going on, Chris and I were off in search of age appropriate toys for our re-visit to the pre-school for Friday. In the process we found ourselves accompanied by five children who were on their way home from school. We had an impromptu tea party on the lovely grounds of the Road Lodge, aka the shaded portion of the parking lot by the security guard's hut. After having our fill of tea and cookies (aka chips and juice) and some photo ops, our little friends took their goody bags (some oranges) and were on their way. A good time was had by all!

Lesson of the Day: Every little bit helps. Do what you can when you can.

Disclaimer: If you're ever invited to my place for dinner don't be surprised if you're served chips and juice (aka brownies and wine).

Anya Malda
DWC Participant
August 2013, Swaziland

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Aug 7: Chapter 11 - Learning and Growing

My mom would always tell us when we were sick, "too much excitement eh?". It turns out that the party last night may have been a little too much fun for some of us. This morning had Tommy and Kelly down for the count and Chris and Mirella not far behind.

Our mission today was to plant a vegetable garden for the children at the SACRO Drop-in-Centre. With a quick stop at the local garden nursery we gathered the spinach, peppers, lettuce and cabbage seedlings. Once at the Drop-in-Centre Mirella, Chris, Bob and I set to work on clearing and tilling the earth. In contrast to previous days this one found us with tools in excess. Within a few hours we had created a beautiful 15 x 30 veggie garden.

With some time to spare in the afternoon we made an impromptu visit to one of the local pre-schools that Rob and Gillian had visited earlier in the day. The children were just beginning to eat lunch and our arrival seemingly halted all thoughts of eating. Each of us found our place and the children found our laps. And our hearts. We had such a wonderful time that we're going back with the rest of the crew on Friday.

Lesson of the Day: Seedlings come in all shapes, sizes, and flavours. And they all need watering!

Disclaimer: I swear my brownies had nothing to do with half the team being sick!

Anya Malda
DWC Participant
August 2013,Swaziland

Aug 6: Chapter 10 - Victory is Ours!

We arrived on site today to find that Shadrack worked on Saturday and managed to successfully install two new garage doors. Rumour has it that this was SACRO's way of apologizing for being so disorganized at the beginning of the week. Really our suspicion is that Shadrack just wanted to work in peace and without us constantly being underfoot. Regardless, the man is a godsend. With energy to spare we cleaned up the old garage doors and skillfully hung the final two. That makes seven! Mission accomplished!

While the last two doors were being hung the rest of the group cleaned up and disposed of the old garage doors. With Bob and Mirella at the helm the remaining garage door was dismantled. It didn't stand a chance against Mirella, Xena goddess warrior, and her hacksaw.

With the sweet taste of victory still on hand we gathered around the Fat Cakes lady's 'restaurant' for a lunch of curry chicken. Not sure which was better, the chicken or the victory.

The afternoon found us hustling home as we had to prep for our dinner guests. We were thrilled to open the doors of the Road Lodge and host the staff of SACRO. With a variety of appetizers and libations we entertained 9 new friends in an atmosphere of food and friendship. It seems the evening helped the SACRO staff connect with each other. We hope the spirit of the evening lives on. For us it was fun to get to know the SACRO staff in a more social setting as the individuals they are. Their spirit is something that has left a lasting impression on us. Mission accomplished!

Lesson of the Day: You don't have to look very far to find good people.

Disclaimer: Just because there's a fire in the oven doesn't mean the food is going to taste bad. No need to panic!

Anya Malda
DWC Participant 
August 2013, Swaziland

Aug 5: Chapter 9 Part 2 - With Nothing Else to Do...

With the rest of the afternoon open six of the group members decided to hire our friend, Muzi, to drive us to Mozambique for dinner. For the group this makes three countries in less than three weeks. As we travelled to the Swazi/Mozambique border, we experienced one of the most breathtaking sunsets ever. It looked like orange lava burning. And yet ahead of us was this magnificent rainbow. The contrast was inspiring and moving. Nature continues to sing a pretty tune.

Once at the border we were surprised to find that we were meant to have a visitors visa in order to cross. After hitting a roadblock at the counter Muzi used his Swazi finesse and some "international negotiating skills" to secure our safe passage.

As we progressed to our dinner destination on the ocean we witnessed some of the most heartbreaking poverty most of us have ever seen. It almost made Swaziland appear 'rich.' Almost. In spite of the living conditions the people of Mozambique continue to make their own music being small scale business owners who are using their skills to provide the necessities of life.
After a few more hiccups along the way we finally arrived at a hopping seafood restaurant on the ocean's edge. While eating some fresh delicious seafood we reflected on the experiences of the day. There was no BIG RED COUCH available so the BIG GREEN PICNIC TABLE had to do. With our friend Muzi sitting at the head of the table we shared our own sounds of the day and made beautiful music by the ocean side.

Lesson of the Day: There is no greater teacher in life than life itself.

Disclaimer: Who needs a passport? I am a passport. Thanks Muzi!

Anya Malda 
DWC Participant 
August 2013, Swaziland

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Aug 5: Chapter 9 Part 1 - The Harmonizing of Culture

After a relaxed start to the morning, Rob headed off to celebrate the baptism of a good friend's child. The rest of us visited the nearby traditional Swazi Cultural Village. We had an informative tour and learned about traditions, practices, and family relationships. We were then serenaded and entertained with singing and dancing. As we listened to the melodic tones and beautiful harmonies we found ourselves swaying, tapping our feet, and smiling. During the audience participation portion of the entertainment Mirella was chosen to demonstrate her sense of African rhythm. The program ended with more harmonies that were pleasing to soul.

We continued our experience with a nature walk to a nearby waterfall. On the way to and from a different chorus of sounds could be heard. The sounds of nature also stirred our souls.

Anya Malda 
DWC Participant 
August 2013, Swaziland

Aug 4: Chapter 8 - Lions, Rhinos and Elephans... Oh My!

Today was way 'funner!' After dropping Rob off at the S.O.S. Children's Village in Siteki the seven of us headed to Hlane in search of the Big 5 (Elephants, Rhinos, Lions, Leopards, and the ever popular Water Buffalo). With time to spare before the safari we spent some time bonding at the local watering hole, literally. In less than thirty minutes we were enjoying our morning coffee with the Rhinos (1 down, 4 to go). To not be out done several hippos decided to join the party as well. Even though hippos are not part of the Big 5 they are just so darn cute!

As we continued to pass the time watching the animals in their environment we were very much aware of the calmness and stillness of the experience. We commented to each other many times on the dichotomy of their beauty and the potential danger in their behaviour. For all of us we found ourselves in a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind.

Just before taking off on safari Mirella (aka Sunshine) came running to the group professing to have spotted the infamous Water Buffalo (2 down, 3 to go). With camera in hand and gunning for the Jeep Sunshine also called " Gun Shot!" To the rest of us this is also known as "Shot Gun."

With Johannes as our guide and Sunshine Co-Piloting we started our safari adventure. We rounded the first bend and boom, we spotted several female elephants and their young (that makes 3 down, 2 to go). Not far up the path we saw two giraffes. Interspersed we saw impala (the animal, not the Chevy car), warthogs, an assortment of birds (including the 'banana beak bird' and cape glossy starling), a crocodile, Egyptian geese, and many termite mounds.

We spent some time searching for lions but seemingly to no avail. As we were leaving the gated area the jeep in front of us had spotted a lion. And not just any old lion, but one with a huge mane and a huge attitude. We sat and admired his presence. And then we admired some more.

As we exited the park most of us checked off 3 of the Big 5. However, Sunshine is able to check off 4. Game on!

Lesson of the Day: Be quiet and keep your eyes peeled.

Disclaimer: Do not be fooled, the word Dichotomy was all Kelly. Definitely the word of the day.  No humans or animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Anya and Kelly
DWC Participants
August 2013, Swaziland

Aug 3: Chapter 7 - All Hail the King!

While Shadrack and Rob stayed on at the work site today, the rest of the group headed for a cultural experience with the King. Thousands of Swazi people and seven white people (plus maybe four others) gathered on royal ground (including cow dung; therefore it is royal cow dung). Today the King was disbanding the government and setting into motion the nomination and election process for the new government. As we waited to enter we walked around and saw many people dressed in colourful traditional attire. We had a variety of smells and sights on the tour of the royal grounds, complete with various soldier regiments.

Entering the fenced in area, men and women were segregated. After a quick pass through security and entering single file we were quietly seated and tried to avoid the royal cow dung. The silence of the crowd was impressive and almost eerie, like a quiet anticipation. Without much fanfare or a marching high school band, the king made his grand entrance. As he remained seated (no one is allowed to stand) we were only able to see the three decorative feathers on the top of his head. The king's speech was in S'swati so we were thankful for the Cole's Notes translation from our friends at SARCO. As the King ended his speech all chaos broke loose as people headed for the exit and free food, compliments of the King. Some families walked for miles just for the food as they know it is the one day where they will receive a guaranteed meal.

Finally, after making it through the crowds, we set off with our driver to revisit a roadside chef who specializes in roasted BBQ chicken...mmm! While there we picked up a few groceries (Costco style) and set out for a return visit to the infamous Candle Factory.

While we were very much observers throughout the day, we've come to realize that we too are being observed. As we are in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings we are using our eyes and our ears to take in all that we can to make sense of a new culture. We are reminded constantly of the perspective we have that does not always work. Likewise, we have found the local Swazi people are watching us and learning by using their eyes and ears. We hope the cultural exchange is as meaningful to them as it is to us.

In the culture of new technology, this morning found our kitchen somewhat "raided" and the owner of the Road Lodge discovered the culprits by watching the playback. So remember, someone is always watching and listening.

Lesson of the Day: Be open to new cultural experiences. Use your eyes and your ears. And commit!

Disclaimer: Chris stepped up to the plate tonight and was the third person assisting with tonight's entry. The more the merrier!

Anya and Chris
DWC Participants
August 2013, Swaziland

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Aug 2: Chapter 6 - The Sweet Smell of Success...and Fat Cakes!

What a fantastic day! It began with a few of us participating in Bob's Bootcamp as we waited for the work to begin.  Don't let his sweet smile fool you; the man is a Drill Sargent.

Shadrack arrived and the work began in earnest.  With plenty of tools, plenty of know-how, and plenty of strength we successfully installed two functioning, lockable garage doors.  HOORAY!

As different members of our crew worked on the installation of the doors, other members successfully supported a neighboring business owner by purchasing her delicious Fat Cakes. The sweet smell of Fat Cakes lingered over the work environment to the point of distraction.  Numerous trips were made to purchase the local delicacy as a way to sustain our energy level.

The spirit of success continued throughout the day.  A couple of field trips to Bolts and Nuts Hardware also led to successful interactions with local textile owners and a seamstress.  By next Tuesday Mirella, Chris and myself hope to be wearing original Swazi-made skirts.  Check us out next week on the runway. 

As the afternoon progressed with a second garage door being completed, an intense game of board-pong (our word for the game, not theirs) ensued.  The game was highly competitive, required expert eye-hand coordination and the winner was our eight year old Swazi friend, "Clay."

At the end of the day we cleaned up our mess, pre-ordered lunch for Monday (always thinking ahead) and high-fives were given all around.  We stood back and admired our work feeling satisfied and actually looking forward to garage doors three, four, five, six, and seven.  We felt good about putting in a full honest day's worth of work.

Lesson of the Day: Success comes in many forms and is somewhat dependent upon your outlook and expectations.

Disclaimer:  Although Bob is a Drill Sargent at Bootcamp, he has the tendency to get involved very deeply in his work. The first aid kit is never far away.  

Anya Malda
DWC Participant
August, Swaziland 2013