Since moving to my new home the main goal for me is to have my face seen in the community as much as possible to build face recognition.
Here are the major highlights of my first week and a half. Some are things I have done to help get some recognition in the community, some things that are just part of my new life and really have little impact on people’s perspective of me other than those in my family.
As said in my last blog, ants are an ongoing battle that require me to keep my place cleaner than I would likely do in the states (sorry mom!) Besides sweeping out ants constantly, sand is my other enemy. It is everywhere at my homestead. It truly feels like I am walking on a beach if I am barefoot outside of my hut. The neighborhood children come to play games in front of my house where the objective of the game is to fill up a large glass bottle with sand without getting hit with a ball. It’s that much sand that you can build a sand castle without trying. So keeping that out of my hut is a never ending process.
One way to reduce the amount of sand from coming in through the front door is by applying a mixture on the ground in front of and around my front door. The mixture that we use is made of water….and…cow manure…applied by hand. Once it dries and hardens it creates a crusty texture that keeps sand from spreading towards my door for at least a week. I learned how to and did this for my hut last Sunday. My arms were literally covered in water-downed cow crap up to the elbows.
This was totally fine except the timing was less than ideal. One of things I am doing to have people see me in the community is by attending all of the churches (12+ in my community). Church is such a huge part of Swazi culture, there is no better way to meet people than to attend their church. While finishing up with the task at hand of spreading the mixture in front of my hut I was requested to attend church with one of my sisters who was leaving for church immediately. I regret not doing a better job washing up before leaving in a rush for church as I am certain the first encounter many of the church members had with an American is one that consists of him smelling like crap, literally. I didn’t even want to sit by me!
Yesterday I attended the church my Make attends often and is the church of her late brother who passed last month. As I knew churches had a reputation for going on for several hours I was wise to bring an orange and water. However, I didn’t realize where the church was. I thought we were walking to a house in the community, possibly just to say hi and then go to church. Turns out that the structure was the church and I had a fragrant orange in my hand for the entire service unsure what to do with it.
After the service my Make asked if I would want to go to a gathering at one of the church member’s houses, I agreed as it would just further people’s knowing of me. When asked where it was make said it was just up the road. I now know that just up the road means anything from a few hundred feet to three miles. On the journey to the gathering I asked what the gathering was for, only to be told it was a gathering to mourn for the death of one of the church members who died this past week. While it was not the type of gathering I expected it was one that I was glad I attended for an hour before leaving early as I had things I needed to do (drink water for one). There was a great deal of beautiful singing. The Swazi are so incredible with their singing, on Sundays you can hear all the churches singing their own songs around the area. The music comes without instrumental accompaniment, it doesn’t need anything to make it better.
Last week I played my first game of soccer in 10 years. I was invited to play for a team even though I insisted that I am the worst soccer player but they insisted. So I played my first game in 90+ degree heat on a field that had no goal nets, sand and cow manure everywhere. It was awesome even though I lived up to expectations of being a terrible player! I even got what sounded to be a sympathy clap from both teams when they substituted me out towards the end of the game.
The last thing that I have been occupying my time with is making my permagarden. For this I am going to creating a completely separate blog post as it is worth its own discussion. Let me preface this by saying that I have NEVER gardened in my life and opening say this to people. However it is something I have always wanted to do and can’t think of a better time to do it than now.