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Below, in chronological order, are some selected journal entries and other writings from the first half of the year I lived in Swaziland.

August 24, 2002

I'll be heading to the Kingdom of Swaziland with the Mennonite Central Committee's (MCC) Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program! I'll be living with a Swazi host family in Matsapha which is about 15 km from Manzini (just about in the center of the map below). I'll be working with Faith Bible School (FBS), a network of Swazi (Zionist) churches. Specifically, I'll be assisting my host sister, Sithembile Dlamini, the coordinator of a group of youth who give programs of drama and song in aneffort to educate their audiences about AIDS.

October 01, 2002

My appreciation for Maytag (or whichever brand you prefer) grew considerably today. Tuesday's are usually washing day at this Dlamini house, however, the maid who normally does the washing was sick. Today was such a perfect washing day that I couldn't let the laundry pile grow any larger. We're not too busy at the Health Team office, so I decided to take the morning off and wash my clothes. I had washed my 'underwears' (as they say) before, so I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to do the rest of my laundry as well.

My endeavors with the green Sunlight (all-purpose soap) bar certainly brought some smiles to the faces of my family (as you might imagine). It was pretty fun at first, even though I wasn't doing it properly and required some coaching from my older brother Dumisa (apparently my brothers are liberated enough to wash their own clothes).

I think it took me a little over an hour to wash it all and rinse it, but I don't know for sure. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, but my back was tired from bending over, and I was beginning to bake in the hot sun. I carefully hung the freshly cleaned garments on the clothesline behind the house. I was kind of short on pegs (clothespins) so I had to just drape a few things over the line.

About the time I was feeling pretty proud of my work, the wind began to pick up. Underwears began falling from the line, and then a couple of socks. Soon my shirts were trying to join them. I quickly rinsed off the dirt and tried to shuffle some things around to make some more pins available.

If washing (and hanging) had taken a bit longer than I'm used to, drying was quite the opposite. I don't think even a Maytag could have dried my clothes as quickly as the African sun did today. I'm not sure what we'll do when the rains finally come. I've got plenty of time to read, so if you'd like to send a letter my way, feel free.

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November 15, 2002

I think I'd enjoy being a kombi conductor. The conductor for the kombi I took to town today was either new on the job or just not cut out to be a kombi conductor. He lacked the panache of his younger counterparts. The ones who always have an air of confidence evident in the way they close the door behind them, perching precariously in front of their squished patrons. When they shake their moneybags looking for the correct change people know it's time to pay up. They're courteous too in helping heavy-laden customers stow their boxes of produce or bags of mealie-meal and directing passengers to change seats as needed. The driver is so in tune with his conductor that even a barely audible "siteshi" (sounds like 'stish' or station) will bring us to a halt at my stop.

I didn't sense much harmony in this kombi. In fact, if my siSwati is not mistaken, I think today's driver even referred to this one as Mkhulu, which means 'grandpa.' I guess that's a respectful title here, but I think everyone in the kombi was laughing at heart, if not unashamedly.

Leaving the bus rank later that very afternoon the kombi driver drove slowly, looking around expectantly. I noticed that we lacked a conductor but I imagined he would come running to catch us as we left. He didn't come. At the first stop it became apparent that the side door didn't open from the inside. So the driver had to stop, walk around and open the door as well as collect the fare.

When the seat in front of me opened up, the one closest to the door, I moved up there and assumed the responsibilities of the conductor. Having seen such dysfunctional doors many times before, I knew that a good conductor would simply reaches out the window to open it from the outside. The driver was glad to remain seated for the rest of our journey to Mbikwakhe. When only about a half a dozen of us were left I even collected their fares. Needless to say, I had a big smile on my face when we reached the last stop, 'ka mavusa', my siteshi. The driver and I exchanged thumbs up saying, "sha'p" (sharp) to each other in gratitude. I pondered the irony of the day's events and thought it would be nice to draw some fancy conclusion or something, but for now I'll just revel in the coincidence.

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December 26, 2002 (Boxing Day)

Dad was right when he used to say, "Hard work ain't easy." (with a twinkle and a smile). Today ended up being "fertilize the maize day" too. Ish! I'm tired now. We started by putting some granular fertilizer at the base of the four-week-old plants and then we hoed dirt around covering the "manure" to defy the eroding power of rain. I really enjoyed myself but I was certainly glad to be done after about four hours.
Seeing the end near usually lifts my pessimistic spirits. Today was no exception and the braai that Muzi prepared afterwards continued the upliftment in addition to filling my hungry stomach. Today is probably the first day I've felt like I really earned my lunch in a while. It was good to be at home and work with my Swazi father and brothers.

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other writing:

Swaziland 2002

Swaziland 2003

Intercultural Communication

Medical School Personal Statement

 

2006:

Riddles

Double Cousins

Coincidence

Cows Are Tough

Intercultural Communication

update in progress