It's time to start telling you all about my trip to Swaziland! I wrote a (loooooong) letter to my family and friends that sponsored me on this trip, and I want to share it with you as well. I will do a little bit each day. It was 9 pages of stories and pictures... my heart on every page! xoxo, E
Unjani? How are you? Ngikhona, ngiyabonga. I am fine, thank you. That’s about all the siSwati I know. Well, I know one more word. My favorite word in the language is “yebo” which means “yes.” However, it’s also a more casual greeting, similar to our “hey.” In Swaziland, similar to America, there is a series of greetings that happen: “Hello” “Hi” “How are you?” “I’m doing well. And you?” “I’m fine.” We don’t think anything about these exchanges... until you need to have the conversation in a language that is completely different from your own. Solution? “Yebo!” When a Swazi greets you by saying “Sawbona,” you can avert the remaining dialogue by simply saying “Yebo.” Needless to say, I used it a lot.
This trip was hands down the most amazing experience that I have had in my life thus far. I wish I could videotape myself telling you all about it. I’m not sure I can completely convey God’s “awesomeness” in this letter, but I’m definitely going to try.
We arrived at the Oklahoma City airport at 5:00 am on Thursday, March 11. Our travel included layovers in Chicago, D.C., Dakar, and then we finally arrived in Johannesburg (Jo’burg for short) on Friday at 6:00 pm local time. Our first night was spent at the Good News Conference Center. We were all so excited to finally have a real meal, shower, and sleep in a bed. The next morning, we loaded up our Kambis (mini buses) and departed for Manzini, Swaziland.
We had a six hour drive, but it seemed like 30 minutes. I am still amazed by the beauty and majesty of South Africa and Swaziland. I took so many pictures of clouds and mountains. There is no doubt that Africa holds a special place in God’s heart.
After we went through immigration at the South African border and arrived in Swaziland, we stopped at a petrol station and guess who was there? The Prime Minister of Swaziland (imagine bumping into the President at the gas station). I was shocked that we had the opportunity to shake his hand and speak with him. His security was nearby but did not intervene. We found out later that the only reason we had this opportunity is because we are white. The Swazi people are not allowed to get close to the Prime Minister. It seems sad to me. The Swazis are his people, and we are just merely visitors to the country.
We arrived at the Tum’s George hotel and settled in. After three days of intense traveling, we were all pretty beat. But take a look at our hotel. This was right outside our room. Absolutely amazing.
When we got into our room, we discovered a few surprises. First, this little guy was hanging out on our wall when we walked in.
Sarah (my roomie on the trip. She is a junior at Southern Nazarene University here in OK and we became fast friends.) and I knew we couldn’t take care of him because we were squirmy and giggly in his presence. Jason, our hero, captured little lizzy and released him back into nature. Second, two windows had been left open and we had quite a few mosquitos in our room. Under normal circumstances, mosquitos are simply annoying. However, in Africa they are disease carriers. I went to the front desk to ask about bug spray and the woman handed me a can of “DOOM!” Man, that stuff works! I sprayed the room (quite aggressively) and then we left for dinner. When we came back, no more mosquitos!
We attended church while we were in Manzini and then had lunch at a game reserve. After we ate, we walked the grounds. There were no predators on the reserve so it was safe to walk around. We were taking in the beautiful scenery and there were two wort hogs grazing nearby. Greg, one of the guys on our team, accidently spooked them a bit, and while one ran off, the other turned around and stared me down. I froze dead in my tracks and told Greg, “If this guy starts charging me, I’m running straight for you!” Sarah, captured this moment. Please notice my wort hog friend in the background... he doesn’t look too happy.
I have to share this too. Sboniso, one of our drivers for the week, had on a Tarheel sweatshirt! He has mighty good taste!! He was excited to take the pic, don’t let that serious face fool you!
(more to come tomorrow!)