Monthly Archives: August 2012

First Time Visitor

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A couple of weeks ago Brad, the girls and I went to visit a local church.  It was our first time to attend and honestly we did not really even know where we were going.  We found it…a bit late, but not as late as some others who kept coming in for the next  hour or so.

We had worship and preaching then we broke off in groups for bible class.  We took the girls to the kid class and I wound up staying because they were a little shy.  The class started off in SiSwati, but turned to English too.  We sang some songs and then the teacher (a man) started to review the story from the week previous.

The next thing I knew he was calling on me, as the only other grown-up in the room, to tell the bible story.  Glad I knew that one!  I was a little surprised and kind of laughing on the inside as I was telling the story, and wondering if anyone in the room besides my own children could understand what I was saying.

He went on talking after I was finished and not long after that a boy came in from another class down the hall.  The teacher excused himself for a minute to help the boy and when he came back he told me there was a class down the hall that had no teacher.  “Huh”, I thought as I just sat there and smiled.  Then I got it.  “Oh”, he was asking me to go be the teacher.

I agreed and started walking out of the room realizing I did not even know what class I was headed too or how old the kids were or anything else.  I asked a few questions as I hurried out of the room and laughed to myself along the way.

The class was a teenage class.  They told me they had been talking about Paul.  I tried to do a little review by asking them to tell me what they had been learning, but they did not talk to me much.  I finally got some answer that confused me and I went on talking about Paul…but really they had only got to the part about Saul.  They were confused and I was confussed…and so I just decided we should read the bible.

I’m pretty sure the teens thought I was a moron.  And just when they thought we were done with the story I asked if they sang songs.  They sang one.

You have to keep in mind I have no idea how long this is to last.  But I figured we could keep singing for as long as we needed to.  And I did what any good teacher would do…I taought them a song.  For those that know me you know I am NOT a song leader of any sort.  But there I was.  This crazy white lady teaching a song to a room full of teens who I could hardly get one word out of their mouth.  They did actually sing some.

Then I realized there might have been some extra noise coming from outside the door.  Could this mean we were done.  Class was over?  Why yes it did!  I’m pretty sure we were all glad about that.

The moral of the lesson is: always be prepared to teach wherever you may go…at least in Africa.

 

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Where Am I?

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Several weeks ago while doing grammar with Caroline we were talking about different kinds of nouns.  You know like person, place, thing.  We were talking about common and proper nouns and that particular day we were identifying proper places.

The lesson (which is very American as I’ve noticed all my homeschool books are) was wanting us to name our particular city, state, and street name.  As we got to the question that I am reading from the book, it asks what city we live in.  So, I ask Caroline.  She did not know.  Funny thing is I did not really know either.

Then we went on to state.  Well, we don’t live in a state.  We live in a Kingdom, the Kingdom of Swaziland, yes, we have a king.  So, that did not really help us too much, but we both knew we were living in Swaziland.

Next came street name.  Huh, we don’t really live on a street.  We live in the middle of a farm and we get here by a long dirt road.  It does not have a name as well as I am aware.

Then I began to think…where am I?  Even our postal address is a PO Box in town.  There was no way I really had to describe these specific things to Caroline.  It was an interesting lesson.

I have since learned if I have to say a city we live in Matsapha, but really we live in the middle of nothing, oh, except about 14,000 macadamia trees.

All this also got me thinking about some other unusual things (for a grown-up) about living here in Swaziland.

I do not know our phone number.  I have it written down, but if I was ever asked I would have to look it up.  And if I was ever out and for some reason got stuck or my wallet got lost I would be up a major creek.

Brad has a cell phone.  I have not used a cell phone since May…that is weird.  I don’t know his number either.

I don’t know street names.  I am learing my way around, but if I needed to get directions to somewhere I would pretty much have to have them start from the grocery store.  I know how to get there for sure!

And speaking of grocery store.  I have not fully grasped the whole money thing.  I understand it and I know how to figure it out, but just looking at a price of something at the store means nothing to me about if it is a good deal or not.  I try not to worry about it, but I am such a bargain shopper it is hard for me to hear my bill at the grocery store could be 400 Rand, or even up to 1000 Rand.  I try to stick to the things we need to eat healthily (which is hard here) and survive, but the numbers scare me.  (I did come across a $10  US Dollars box of cereal and I knew that was not a good deal!)

Then, of course, there is just the overall thoughts of “where am I” when we are driving around or I see unusual things.  Like the other week we were headed to church (driving) and as we passed through the orchard Brad noticed there were some cows in the orchard.  That is not a good thing.  So we both got out and had to chase them out.  Then we were on our way.  Just the normal things in life here.

So, can anyone help me figure out the big question…Where Am I?

Sick Day…or One or Two…

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For over a week now someone in my house has been sick.  Actually, everyone in my house has been sick except for Brad.  It’s been a hard week.

I’m not sure what we have…fever, coughs, aches.  I thought it was just allergies, but then when we all passed it around I second guessed my medical opinion.

We have watched more movies the past week than my children have probably ever seen in a lifetime (thanks to the Platt family who has been like our video rental store…I guess in the USA we would now call that Redbox).  I am convinced our brains are turning to mush, but the girls do not agree with me.

Have you ever had one of those days or weeks where you just did not feel well and the thought of having to get up to do something or take care of someone just made you want to cry?  Well today has been like that for me.

I am tired of hearing my sweet babies cough (especially during the night) and I am ready for us to all be well and stay well.

The weather over the weekend was extremely HOT and dry, but thankfully the past two days it has cooled off again and is nice.  I’m hoping winter will stay for as long as possible after getting a taste of what summer will be like here…yikes!

So if you think about us feel free to say a prayer of healing for our family.  It could definitely be worse, but I’m ready to move on past this!

Hope you are all well and stay that way too.

Beautiful Girls

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I ran across these recent photos on the camera. Aren’t they all so beautiful?!

 

3 Months

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Three months ago today we left Texas to begin a new life in Swaziland.  It is hard to believe we have already been here this long.  A few days later we arrived at our new home located on campus at African Christian College.

Overall, things have been really great.  Although I guess we are settled, we are still learning new things everyday.  We are still adapting to a new way of life and doing things…everything really.  I am so thankful we have this opportunity to live life in this totally different culture.  It is crazy at times, but WOW are we getting some great life experiences!  I’m blessed to be able to do this with my sweet family right here with me.  I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Great and wonderful are words I use often to describe our experience here so far.  And it’s true.  It does not mean there are not difficult times.  They have not been often, but I do have frustrations, I do miss my family and friends and some foods from home.  But life here is so much more than the few moments I’m grumpy.  Let’s face it, I was grumpy at home sometimes too.

I’m sure I have said something like this before and I’m sure I will say it again, but I wish everyone could and would take an opportunity to live out some big adventures in life.  Yes, it’s risky, but every bit worth it.  Sometimes I have these moments where I think, “huh, I live in Africa” and honestly I don’t know if I have fully wrapped my mind around that yet.  The advantages our family is gaining far outweigh the “sacrifices” or the frustrations of being in a different place.

Just the other day my girls were telling me about playing at some other kids house that day.  They told me about how the mom got 3 chickens and cut off their heads, how they helped hold one of them and carry it a bit.  And the crazy thing is this did not seem a bit weird to them at all.  We eat our meals sometimes and talk about that this chicken use to live in the chicken coop, but now it’s dinner.  I know people back home raise chicken for meat and then eat it too, but this is a bit different for us.  And we used to have chickens too.

I love that my children go around the house singing in some other language…and I don’t even know what it is.  They are exposed to so many.  We know several non-English songs, but some of them I don’t even know which country it is from.  I love that in normal conversations we talk about different countries in Africa like Zambia (where some of their close friends are from), Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, and South Africa.  My children talk about countries I did not even tell them about…and they know things about them.

I love all the culture we are exposed to each day.  I love the beauty all around us!  I love getting to be with people who are so different, yet alike in many ways.  I love the children here on campus and I love trying to have conversations with them.  I love it when they come to tell Auntie (me) the memory verse they have been learning.  I love when they come to tell me what lesson number they are on in their reading lesson book.  I love when everyone gets my girls names all confused and switched around…then they just call them “that one”.  I love that we get to live on a small communal campus and that we have our own house.  I love that Brad’s parents are here and my girls can just go see them when they want to, or get a chance to ride to town with Papa (which usually involves ice cream).  I love the singing and the voices I get to hear almost daily.  There are many things to love!

I can’t seem to find the proper word to express and encourage you to take a step of faith, to get out of the boat, to think outside the box, to live at least some of your life in a different country.  I just love it.  Don’t get me wrong when I say this, but I’m not the “All American” type of girl.  Yes, I am thankful for our freedoms and for people who keep me safe and Mexican food and all that, but to me the world is so much bigger than that.  I don’t exactly feel this huge culture shock here.  I feel so normal (in a weird kind of way).  I don’t feel there is the whole “keep up with the Jones'” kind of thing here.  I have heard about a book that some people are reading, and I don’t remember the name, but it is about living simply.  Isn’t that something many of us keep striving for.  Well, it’s pretty easy here in Africa.  Especially when you come with just a few bags (okay, well, 15, but for a family of 5 that’s not too bad, right?)  We live very simply, yet we have more than most around us.  Maybe that excludes the King’s wife’s palace that borders our campus.

It seems that so many of the things that concerned me at home, whether stupid or not, are not really an issue here.  I don’t worry that I wore the same skirt last Sunday that I am wearing this Sunday because I wear it almost everyday for chapel too.  I don’t have to wear make-up here, but at home I would not want to go out in public with out it, or at least I would not feel right.  I don’t dry my hair here unless I am really cold.  It is winter.  I have never in my life not dried my hair because I always thought my natural look did not look good.  I’m not saying that my natural look looks great, but I am saying that here I do not worry about it.  I am learning to embrace it.  It just seems that all the things that seem to bog us down or make us feel bad for some reason or another are not issues so much here.  I feel so free.  Maybe it’s just me.

All this is to say, I would really encourage you to look further than what you are always accustomed to and comfortable with.  The world is a much bigger place than where you have “always” lived.  I am not even saying you should move to Africa, but I would encourage you to live an extended period of time in a foreign place.  It will change you and your outlook and maybe even what you think is important.  The whole typical American mindset can cloud my head at times.  It is nice to be able to find a place to catch my breath.  I hope that someday you can do that too.  It is refreshing and delightful and there is a whole world of opportunity just waiting.

Bottom line is — I love living here.

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

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This is a true story.

The night before last as I was going into the bathroom to begin my getting ready for bed routine I heard this strange sound.  It sounded like a kind of popping sound and I thought it was coming from behind the door, like maybe the door was just moving a little and making a creaking sound.  I adjusted it, but I still heard it.

I carried on about my business and the sound continued.  I told Brad to come and listen and like always, nothing.  No sound.  He is just standing there listening.  I am laughing so hard imagining he thinks I am playing a joke on him or something.

Eventually the sound continues, but we can’t really tell what it is.  We know the spot it is coming from, but the only thing behind the bathroom door is the tile wall.  Brad decides there must be something in the wall.  Something as in an animal.

As I mentioned in an earlier post my fear of roaches, my fear of wall dwelling rodents such as rats is not any better…quite possibly worse!  I know our walls are concrete blocks and it seemed a little unlikely, but I wouldn’t put it past those pesky things.

As I went to bed that night still hearing the popping noise, I was also imagining rodents crawling around in my bathroom and me having to get up in the middle of the night and encounter one.  Not pleasant thoughts to say the least.

Well, the next day I did not think about it.  I did not notice the noise and just went on about my day.

That evening after getting the girls to bed I decided to take a “foot bath” which then turned into a regular bath.  As I was in the tub I heard what sounded like an army of something big (in my head it was rats!!) fall from the ceiling to the floor.  It was fast and lound and kept making a noise after the initial sound.

As you can well imagine, I was TERRIFIED!!!!!!  I was in the bathtub with the door closed and all I could imagine was me stuck in there with a million rats coming in to share my space.  I yelled, and I do mean yelled for Brad.  He had heard something and he knew if I was yelling from the other room across 3 sleeping children there must really be something the matter.

As I turned around to look at the wall (before Brad has arrived on the scene) I saw the tile moving out of the wall.  There was still the sound and whatever it was it was coming out.  Did I mention I was TERRIFIED???  I hardly have the words to express the horror I felt.

Brad came in the bathroom and agreed something was happening and we could both see the tile being pushed out.  He very quickly called his dad to come over.

As his dad hurried over, he also knew there must be something wrong.  He could tell in Brad’s voice and in his words…”come over here right now”.

As Larry and Brad were in the bathroom (and I was up on my bed because who wants to be on the floor when an army of rats is coming out of the wall, and I was still trying to calm myself) I hear another loud crash, then more and more.  (Remember the visions I have in my head?)

One tile came off the wall then the others around began to fall off too. They made a loud crashing sound as they fell and broke on the rest of the tile floor.  And somehow the girls never woke up.

Larry assured me nothing was living in the wall or coming out of it.  We still don’t know what happened, but for some reason the tiles are coming off the walls.  We still expect more to come off.  We can hear the initial popping sound and more are slowly making their way loose.  We all had a good laugh…mainly at me.

It is a problem, but I will take tiles falling off the wall any day over something living in my walls and making its way into my house.

It is very funny to me now to think of it, but I don’t think I have ever been that frightened in my life.  Brad even tells me my face looked like I was so scared…and he is right!

I do keep waiting for more tiles to fall and scare me again just because I won’t know for sure when it is about to happen.  We thought we would hear them during the night, but they haven’t all come down yet.  It is like that feeling when you know a balloon is going to pop, or at the eye doctor when you know you are going to get the puff of air in your eye, or when you have to open canned biscuits and you know these things are going to happen and suprise you, but you just don’t know when.

Maybe tonight will be the night.

Bathroom Tiles

Growing Up

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This weekend our family went to Hlane Game Park to celebrate Ellianna’s 8th birthday.  We had a lot of fun.  We thought we would get to see a lion (one big animal we have not see yet), but were disappointed to find out children under 6 were not allowed into the part of the park where there are lions.  How would we exactly explain that to our 4 year old.  Sorry honey, but I’m just going to stay back with you while the others go and look for the lion(s).  Not gonna happen.  So none of us went.  And we did not see a lion.  But we did get to see many other fun things including a group of rhino, hippo, elephant, giraffe and a horn bill bird to name a few.

Ellianna really wanted to have all her friends over for a birthday party too.  On Sunday (her actual birthday) we invited all the campus children over for cake and ice cream.  It is always fun to have the children in our home.  We had fun celebrating Ellianna and getting to be together with all her friends here.

Our family has been really blessed to have Ellianna to do this journey we call life.  She is fun, creative, inquisitive, clever, funny, sweet, helpful, beautiful, smart, imaginative and wonderful!  She is one determined little girl, which can be very good and difficult all at the same time.  I am really excited to see what all Ellianna will be when she grows up.  I pray she will use all her gifts to change the world and continue to make it a better place.  If you know Ellianna you know she is pretty special.  I’m so thankful God has given her to us for this time and I hopeful for many more great years with her.

I’ve been thinking lately as I think about my baby growing up not all parents get this much time with their children.  We are really blessed.  Each day is a gift and I hope that I can remember that…even on the days I want to pull my hair out.  We are not guaranteed any amount of time with our children and as we celebrate another year of life with Ellianna I also remember sweet friends who will not get to celebrate another year or another birthday.  Children truly are a gift from the Lord and I want to always treasure that gift in my heart!

Happy 8th birthday, Ellianna.  We love you and are excited to be part of your family!  I love you to the moon and back again…and always will!

Learning Permaculture at Guba Swaziland

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Learning Permaculture at Guba Swaziland

Rachael and I took advantage of an afternoon babysitter (grandparents!) to make a visit to the first Monday Visitor Day at Guba Swaziland. Rachael found Guba on the internet before we left Texas in her search for organic foods and farming in the area. We were excited to make the visit (especially Rachael) and even more excited when we left.

Many of the ideas and practices were familiar to us (especially Rachael), but this was the first time we had seen them being done in one place.

The guys who started Guba are Swazi and had jobs as agricultural educators with the Moya Centre (a popular local organization working primarily with AIDS orphans). Three years ago, they began to put the principles of permaculture into practice on this homestead. To (over)simplify it, permaculture is a very intentional way of sustainable living where everything is related and plays its part.

Highlights from the Guba Tour

They had detailed plans for each part of their farm and are already showing much progress. Here’s some highlights from our visit and a gallery of photos of some of these items:

  • Guba used a natural filtration system (plants that purify water) to clean up polluted water coming in from the nearby river. Then a solar-powered pump moved the water into water tanks that used gravity to then get the water to the appropriate places on the farm.
  • In construction, they are using natural materials. One finished building was built using rammed earth (which is what it sounds like — ramming earth until it is very hard as the walls). Another was done using mud bricks (stick and mud houses are still the method of the poor in Swaziland). Each used wood framing and also a lime plaster (also natural and allows for breathing) as the outer layer so you couldn’t tell they weren’t concrete construction (the other popular local method and “look”).
  • Water is not wasted with the compost toilet. In its simplest form, this toilet is a bucket with a toilet seat over it. Rather than flushing, you put in ashes (for the smell) and sawdust (to keep it dry). When full, you put it in the compost pile were it decomposes for a year. No, it didn’t smell at all — even though people had done their business in it. Currently this compost is not used for the veggies in the garden. 🙂
  • A rocket shower provided hot water in the bathroom. A large pipe encased a small one where water flowed. Pour in a little paraffin, light it and the flame inside the pipe (rocket) warms the water instantly. When finished, stick in the plate and out go the flames. No electricity for hot water! (Since we don’t have any type of air conditioning or heat — except windows — the water heater is our biggest electricity culprit).
  • The nursery provided a great place for growing seeds and seedlings to continue the cycle of crops without needing to purchase plants.
  • The garden was a beautiful place of diversity with plants intentionally growing amongst other varieties to help enrich the soil, deter bugs, and strengthen each other. For instance, the diversity places nitrogen-hungry plants next to plants depositing nitrogen; and plants that naturally repel certain harmful bugs next to plants that attract them. It certainly made it more interesting than rows of kale or cabbage.
  • We also visited the farm tractor– two large pigs in a movable pen. No part of Guba’s farm had been plowed by human-power or machine-power. Pigs root out the thick thatch grass, weeds, and anything else as their food and soil preparation.

There’s a lot more to say about the permaculture side and the amazing ways they had put the pieces together. I didn’t talk above about rainwater harvesting (and the thoughtful ways they practiced it — even thinking about what to do when the collection bins start overflowing), the compost tea, bird sanctuary, and numerous other things.

Addressing Food Security through Community Development

To me, one of the most exciting things revolves around purpose. They aren’t doing all this to feed only themselves (or only to sell to those with money). They do this to teach other Swazis about permaculture and its value for providing food to families. Food security is a problem in Swaziland — high unemployment, high HIV/AIDS rates, high food prices are some contributors.

The first big class of Swazi students graduates this month. These people — young and old, educated and illiterate — participated in a year-long education program spending one week per month at Guba and the other weeks implementing this new knowledge at their own homestead. According to Guba, success at the homesteads has been tremendous. Guba staff monitors the student’s work, helps with questions, and will continue to monitor and evaluate success for the next two years with these students (even as they take on more students in another round).

We’re planning on a return trip next week with some visitors and staff to begin imagining and thinking about ways we can be more intentional with our gardens and our campus in our efforts toward financial sustainability and faithful care of the earth’s resources.

(If you heard something you wanted to know more about or wished I had taken a picture of, please let us know — maybe we’ll take one next time we go). Learn more about Guba online at http://www.gubaswaziland.org.

Something New

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Today I did something I have never done before. I "taught" a college class. I was asked to come and be a guest speaker in a project leadership class. It was quite enjoyable and very different from teaching smallish children, which I do everyday.

The class is talking about leadership and the students are all assigned some kind of project they have to lead. This week the theme is passion and I was asked to come and speak about a recycling project I have been working on the past few weeks.

At home we were big recyclers. It would pile up and we would eventually have to actually take it to the drop-off spot. It was okay though because we had big buckets we could put everything in and they were located on our back porch so I did not have to see it, at least from inside. Recycling was just a habit and a way of life.

When we got here and got our house all set up and started doing life here for real, I realized there was no form of recycling. I tried to look around the city when we would be out, but I never saw anything really promoting it. I asked questions and found out that is not something that really happens here much. It especially does not happen on this campus.

In fact, the trash (called rubbish) goes out into the field and is burned. When I found that out, I could hardly bear to throw stuff away, especially plastic containers. We often reuse a container for something else, but there are some things I don’t really need anymore. But, what could I do with them if I did not really want them, I did not want to burn them, and I did not really have a place to recycle them? This bothered me for some time.

I eventually found something in the newspaper talking about recycling. I was overjoyed and excited! It was like a dream come true. Imagine that. Swaziland IS interested in recycling. I’m not sure anyone really knows they are interested, but I know I sure am.

So, after calling and getting some information and having the guy come out to meet me on campus, I have been working on a "project". I am going to be beginning to teach recycling here at ACC. And I guess teaching a class about it today was the first step.

The students were great and had great ideas. I did not go in with all the answers, but asked for their input on how to implement this new idea and practice on campus. They were helpful and I enjoyed getting to be with each of them in this different setting.

I am super excited about the possibilities both in the near future and further down the road that will lead us to be more environmentally friendly.

And you can be inspired to be environmentally friendly in your corner of the world too! Remember…Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

A Random List of Different Things

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I think often of things that are different here from Texas and how we’re always asked about the differences. So, here’s a short list of things that came to mind over the past couple of days. 

  • Gas stations are full-service still. I remember this from my childhood, but hadn’t experienced as a driver before. And each pump usually has multiple ready to serve you at any moment. My first experience included me leaving the girls (including Rachael) in the car while I signed for my payment inside. While waiting on them to finish pumping I notice the guy rocking the car back and forth (not a little, a lot). Come to find out, they can ‘shake’ more gas into the car this way. Now I know to say “please fill it up, but don’t rock it.”
  • When I bought an iron — which is just like the one at home, but with the right plug and voltage — it came with its own little cup with a pouring corner to fill up the iron. I really like this little cup when I’m ironing as that was always a problem for me at home (especially in hotels).
  • Though our campus is filled with fruit trees and several gardens (for the cafeteria), and we pass field after field of pineapples; the produce section of the grocery stores are pretty terrible. If you want fresh, good, produce you must grow your own (we haven’t officially purchased at the market yet, as selection is very limited and, being Americans the prices are high).
  • The hilly dirt road to town from campus has gotten so bad that we almost need a 4×4 to go down it. Now we take a shorter dirt path through the orchard and around the palace to get to a tar road to get to town. It’s a longer distance, but a MUCH smoother ride.
  • Things close “early” in the evening. At dark it is time to close. We made a mistake last week of going to grab a bit to eat at a restaurant while Rachael went grocery shopping in the evening. We arrived at the mall at 6:30p and all the restaurants were already closed. The grocery was closing at 7p. We got in the car and hurried to a nearby shopping center. Rachael closed out that grocery at 7p and we ate at a restaurant a few doors down. It was the only thing in the shopping center open (and it was open until 10 — though nothing anywhere in town was).
  • One of the little girls’ favorite places to eat is called Spur. It is a South African restaurant I liken to Shoney’s. The food is low on my list, but is the only place with anything resembling “Mexican” (yet that only includes enchiladas, fajitas (unmade enchiladas) and nachos — all made with marinara sauce). The best part is how it is modeled after American restaurants: with its American Indian theme, if you’re ‘lucky’ you get to be entertained by the entire waitstaff (which is a lot of people) line dance between the tables to really loud country music. Best part: playground for the kids (which here usually always includes a bounce house or trampoline — explaining why it is the girls’ favorite).

I couldn’t remember some of the others I was thinking earlier, but like I said — here’s a random selection of life.