Friday, April 20, 2012
Since I spent most of this week bumming around I read 2 books, knit my first sweater while watching complete seasons of Gossip Girl, and I also restarted my garden. The garden was a complete failure last time. I am crossing my fingers that something will grow this time!
Today I visited my a neighbor. The Gogo there makes the beautiful baskets that I learned shortly after arriving at site. They also grow cotton on their homestead. Cotton has a really pretty flower before it makes the cotton and the cotton looks just like the cotton balls from the store. I know that sounds really stupid, but I have never seen a cotton plant before. It makes me think back to when I was a child, I seem to remember some campaign to male sure that inner-city kids realized that milk came from cows and not just a carton (or a powder).
I am going to use the cotton to stuff the stuffed animals I have knitted. I thought that using local cotton would be a nice finishing touch to my animals. So today I picked some cotton and then spent some hours ripping the seeds out.. not an easy job, my fingers hurt. Thankfully some of Make's family is visiting and were eager to help me. When we finished I used the seeds to practice the kids counting skills and because I was curious. There were 925 seeds and less than a grocery bag full of seedless cotton. My thoughts as I was picking the seeds was that Eli Whitney should be more famous, how much does a cotton gin cost, what does a cotton gin even look like, and can I buy one in Africa. Its times like these that google images and eBay would really come in handy!
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Thursday, April 12, 2012
|Mom, Kelly's Make, and Kelly|
"The background of April the 12th is that on this date in 1973, political parties were banned in Swaziland by the late King Sobhuza II. So on this date political formations in country use it as a day to "make noise" in a quest to push for the unbanning of political parties in the Kingdom."
I have not heard any 'noise' this year, but it has given me the opportunity to reflect on how thankful I am to be American. I know that we are in the midst of the election season back in America and you are probably tired of the repetitive campaign 'news' and polling that seems to be the only interesting stories to reporters. Honestly, that is one thing I am happy to miss in America, but the fact that we have a choice and a say in the way our government operates is not a right that everyone in the world is able to enjoy (or the opposite of enjoy: how we love to complain when the only thing on the news is a discussion of how a candidate's religious views will affect the Latino vote or something along those lines).
Another thing I have thought about is how awesome our Forefathers were. It is pretty spectacular how successful our government is, a system that they essentially created from scratch. And you can see the proof of how spectacular it is when the news programs take a break from talking about a politicians' infidelities for 30 seconds to talk about the actual news as countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq and many others including Swaziland struggle to create democracy (or at least a government that is more representative of the people's needs). Creating a whole new government that the people accept and fight for to protect its values is a huge accomplishment that I always took for granted. Good job forefathers!
I am not trying to say that our government is perfect. Actually, it is imperfect in a lot of ways, but the writers of our Constitution had the foresight to allow us to change it as our needs changed. As Americans we are brought up taught to ask questions, we make our own decisions on what we believe, and we hold our leaders accountable to serve our needs: the people's needs rather their own self-interest.
I must admit that politicians have a really tough job. I can only compare it to the brief time I was a soccer referee. During one winter while I was still in high school I worked for a short time reffing the 5 year olds indoor soccer teams. It was the worst job ever. Every time I blew my whistle to make a call some coach or parent would start yelling at me telling me how awful I was. At any given time half the people thought I was doing a terrible job. On top of that, I always felt myself becoming partial to the underdog(not the best quality for a referee). Soccer refereeing is definitely not the job for me. I learned that pretty quickly and I hope that those 5 year olds weren't too adversely affected. I am sure my experience as a soccer referee is nothing like what being a politician is like other than having 50% of the audience hate me all the time except for a politician its worse since the audience is more than a million times bigger than mine was.
I think more than anything, my time in Swaziland has solidified the feeling that I am proud to be an American. I am happy to reap the benefits of a democracy that was created a couple centuries ago and glad that we didn't have to wait until now to achieve democracy because given the current political climate I don't know if they could ever come to an agreement of how to run things.
39 years ago, political parties were banned in Swaziland and although they make progress seem slow in America, political parties and their politicians have made our country what it is today: a great place to live, but always a work in progress.
On a lighter note, today I spent a couple hours hand washing the clothes from my vacation last week. Patty and Mom made it back to America safely, and now I am heading out to work in my garden. It failed miserably the first time I planted it, but I am hoping that the cooler weather will bring more success this time. Crossing my fingers!
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
They arrived in Swaziland 10 days ago and we have been busy traveling around the country and seeing the sights ever since. When they arrived at the Jo'burgh Airport, they had no trouble finding the transport we arranged to bring them to Mbabane, Swaziland, the capital city where I met them and from there we took a taxi to the first place. We stayed at a backpacker's hostel called Sondzelas at the Mlilwane Game Reserve. We had a private round house to ourselves with a beautiful view of a valley and mountain range on the game reserve. We could look out our window impala and warthogs in our 'front yard' and zebra in the distance. One morning I was brushing my teeth and looked out the window to see three warthogs staring at me. At dinner we watched impala grazing, monkeys climbing the trees, and birds diving for fish in the pond the restaurant overlooked. We went on a safari there, saw tons of animals and watched the sunset over the mountains.
Next stop, we moved to a hostel called Lidwala's Backpackers which is located on a main road between Swaziland's two main cities: Mbabane and Manzini in the Ezulwini Valley. We used public transport and taxis the whole time, so by staying at this location we could easily get to the Handicraft Markets. We visited Ngwenya Glass Factory where they do glass blowing and glass art. We watched from a balcony above the factory floor as they made wine glasses, vases, and glass hippos. Also at Ngwenya they have some of the higher end craft shop boutiques in Swaziland. Gone Rural and Tintsaba Crafts feature their sisal basket weaving, Rosecraft has beautiful scarves that I wish I could afford made from bamboo fiber, Imvelo eSwatini makes ceramic bead jewelry that I am in love with and the unique paper jewelry of Quazi Design. Check out these companies. Most of them support rural women in Swaziland and Ngwenya Glass helps gives money to the Animal Reserves specifically to save the rhino population.
On Friday, we braved the public transport and the Manzini bus rank with all our luggage to go to Mkaya Game Reserve for Endangered Species. This game reserve is the closest game reserve to my site, it has four of the Big Five Animals (rhino, buffalo, elephant, leopard, but not lions), and they say that this park rivals Kruger in South Africa because of the accommodation which was so unique and awesome and the amount of animals you are able to see. At Mkaya we went on three game drives where we saw tons of animals: rhinos, hippos, buffalo, elephant, giraffes, a crocodile, hyena, impala, and many more! We stayed in this cool hut that's stone walls only went half way up so we were basically sleeping outside and we were surrounded by forest so no one would see in. There was no electricity since we were so far in the bush, so at night everything was lit by lantern which gave it such a pretty, and romantic feeling. It felt like a different world, it was hard for me to believe a place like this could exist. In the morning we went on our third game drive at Mkhaya. It was early, before breakfast and as we were driving to the fence that separates the camp section from the elephants' section our guide discovered elephant tracks on the wrong side of the fence! Uh-oh! Unknown to us we had been sleeping with 13 elephants very close to us the previous night! He said they would need to get a helicopter to come to herd all the elephants back to the other side of the fence. That sounds expensive!
After breakfast we were dropped off at the closest bus rank where buses and khumbis come to take me to my site. we loaded ourselves and all our stuff into a khumbi and waited for enough time to make Patty and Mom become anxious. The khumbi took a while to load but it eventually did and we took off down the dirt road for 1/2hr to my home. When we arrived at my homestead, Gogo was the only one there. She instantly cried seeing my family. I'm not sure how many white people she has seen in her life, but I can't imagine it is many. Anyways, we got settled and then headed back to the bus stop which is the meeting place and center of my community. We met with some of my counterparts and friends who arranged a tour for us to drive around my community. They explained a lot about life and culture in Swaziland and some of the history of my community. Afterwards, we went to the butchery for a braii (bbq) of chicken and beef with lipalishi (corn porridge). This was the first time Patty and Mom ate lipalishi which is a staple food here they eat at every meal, and we ate it like real Swazis: with our hands!! I am accustomed to eating with my hands now, but it was funny watching Patty and Mom figure it out and put unhygienic-ness out of their minds.
The last stop was the Mountain Inn Hotel, a luxury hotel with a beautiful view that is located in Mbabane and really close to where they would pick up transport back to the airport. We went from staying in the bush of rural Swaziland to a hotel with TV, showers, and free WiFi, but the best part was the view. I could never get tired of looking at the mountains and the valley below dotted with homesteads. Simply breathtaking!
We had a wonderful time together! I was able to show them the many facets that exist in Swaziland, and I think they got a taste of what my life is like here. Please look out for pictures and hopefully a post from Patty once they return back to America!