Safe, Settled (and already sweating) in Swaziland
Problems with Arrival?
After my passport frenzy, I finally made it on the plane and had a 16 hour flight to Johannesburg. I slept surprisingly well on the plane, watched a few movies, and made friends with two young kids from Botswana to pass the time. Swazi is four hours from Jo-burg, so I had previously arranged for my friend Musa to pick me up at the Jo-burg airport and drive me back to Swazi. Initially, (without the passport dilemma) he and my friend Ncobile were going to pick me up because they both did not have to work. But because I had to delay my flight, Musa wasn’t sure he could get off. He told me of course that he would be there, but I still was just a little nervous that he was going to “try to sneak out of work around noon.” I was mostly nervous about this because there was no way to ensure that he was going to be there on time or at all, and there was no way to contact him once I got there. But I figured I would be just fine. When I arrived, I gathered all my luggage bags and headed to the main arrival waiting area. I scanned for Musa…so many people looked like him, it was hard to tell if he was there or not. I waited awhile and scanned some more…still no Musa.
Problem 1: what do you do when your ride is not there?
As time passed, I grew more and more nervous. Jo-burg is NOT the place one wants to be as a lone female. Several taxi drivers kept coming up to me and ask if I needed a ride. Getting a ride seemed a little sketch to me, but as an hour passed, I started thinking about plan B. Should I wait longer? I don’t want to wait too much longer and be at the airport alone at night….but how much longer should I wait? Is he coming? Did something happen that he couldn’t come? I tried asking people if I could use their phones to call him. But it wouldn’t go through. I then exchanged my money and headed for the pay phone. I called and it finally went through…but his phone was out of service. I called my friend Ncobile to see if she could get a hold of him for me…hers was out of service, too. Eish. I am such a dependable person and am not often left independent, so it was scary for me… but good all at the same time. Another taxi driver approached me, and I told them if my friend didn’t come in a little while, then I would use their services. (Taxis here are different from the yellow taxis you see at home…their aren’t necessarily taxi businesses, but just individuals with taxi services, which is why it can be a little more sketch.) I decided to roll my luggage cart to the center of the waiting area…then I opened up my bible to give me some peace of mind. Not 5 minutes later, I look up to see my lovely friends with big smiles on their faces quickly approaching me! I’m learning to wait…I was in no rush, but in my anxiety, if I would have done something rash and gotten a taxi, things would have been all messed up. So with the comfort of my two Swazi friends, we hit the road.
Problem #2: What happens when the border closes at 10 p.m.?
“Musa, drive,” Ncobile says agitated at Musa’s cautious driving. “Push, push, push!”
“Eish, I know…” he responds after looking at the clock. He starts speeding up a little.
“What’s the rush?” I ask.
“The border closes as 10,” he responds. It was 8:30 by this point and we had about 2 hours left to go.
“So…what happens if we don’t get there in time?” I ask.
“Well…we will have to sleep in the car,” he says seriously.
I definitely do not want to be sleeping in the car after a long plane ride. He picks up the speed but the fog picks up, too. It so thick at one point, we were just crawling. He started praying with a bit of urgency, and then started singing. I couldn’t help but smile that in a stressful circumstance he was just singing away. Anyway, as time approached it looked more and more like we weren’t going to make it, but we were getting close.
“Grab your passport,” Musa instructed me, “and get ready to run.”
We whip into the parking lot at 9:56 p.m. Musa grabs all three of our passports and runs with us to the check-out of South Africa counter. We jump back in the car and drive a few more yards when we are stopped by the border patrol officer; he wants to check my luggage. “Eish!” Musa sighs. “This will take too long.” He opens the trunk for the officer and I hear some muffled SiSwati. Musa hops quickly back into the car, then reaches over to “shake” the officer’s hand and slipped some money to him. Before I could ask, we had to park again, jump out once more and run into the “Welcome to the Kingdom of Swaziland” border check-in. On the way out, we are stopped again by the other border patrol officer; again Musa pops the trunk and slips some cash to him. Apparently, if he wouldn’t have paid off the officers, we would not have made it through the border on time because it takes for ever to check in all my luggage.
As we enter Swazi we all cheer with excitement. Wow, what an arrival day!
After that late night, I slept on a less-than-comfortable mattress on the floor in the room of a complete stranger (turns out she’s a really great roommate…we went to mass together this morning). The actual mattress is so thin it feels like I am sleeping on broken pieces of wood..oh, I am. But it’s better than a plane seat! Jetlag anyone? I guess I didn’t really have much of it…or maybe I just convinced myself not to because I started my first day at school the next morning! But it wasn’t so bad…I went with a few of the other volunteers and met the “headmaster” as well as Joyce, the woman in charge of the teachers. She placed me as teaching Grade 6 and also wants me to help put together some teaching workshops for the Swazi teachers because they have never really had teaching training. I start teaching Grade 6 on Monday, so until then she put me as a substitute for a Grade 4 remedial class. “Eish…I don’t know if I want to do that to you,” she said at first. “They are naughty. Very naughty.”
“It’s okay; I don’t mind,” I offered, thinking it would be a good challenge for me, if nothing else.
“Are you sure? They are the kids we got right off the street, so they are in this remedial class until we can place them according to ability,” she explains.
“It’s okay,” I smile.
“You can try?”
“Okay…” she gives a look like, good luck you crazy umlungu (white person).
So I started in that classroom yesterday. Wow, she was so right. Naughty. Very naughty. The boys are all around 13 to 15 years old, and they definitely did not respect me as the teacher. I shouldn’t say “they” because it was mostly just a few of them who made the trouble. Some of them refused to listen, refused to follow directions or refused my discipline. The Swazis hit their students, so they are used to physical discipline, but since they know I won’t give that kind of discipline, they tend to push buttons right away. They would talk to each other in SiSwati (they know they are only supposed to speak English during class) and laugh and I would have NO idea what they were talking about. But the most frustrating part is that they had no materials…they had no pencils ojr notebooks with them and teh office woman was gone so it was locked and I couldnt even get them pencils. They had no books, so it was a good thing I brought my book of poems just in case. I had to fill four hours worth of class using one book of poems. I started thinking of plans right away but those soon fell through when I found out how much they struggled to read. Most of them were at about a 2nd grade reading level, so it was very difficult to do activities. I ended up playing a few names games and listening games with them, and it was over soon enough. I as dreading coming back today but theywere so much better and much more behaved. I actually wish I could stay in that classroom because I think I could really help them learn a lot.
(a picture of some of the boys)
I also went to Mangwaneni care point where I spent most of mytime the first summer I went. Man, it was justlike home again. As soon as Ryan and I got there the kids raced up to us and pushed one another to reach us first. They literally just want to be touched; it still breaks my heart that they are so starving for love. Pununu, one of the boys from the first summer, lit up when he saw me and Londe took me to her sister Temu. It was so great seeing my kids again! Temu walked all the way throughtown yesterday to find me. She found me as I was walking past the bakery shop, so i asked if she wanted something. Instead of getting a treat she asked for a bag of bread buns. We sat down and had a lovely conversation. her English has greatly improved and she is now sponsored by someone so she can stay in school. She really loves it and says she wants to go to high school and then to be a teacher. She told me more about Tanele, and though I haven’t seen Tanele yet, I know I will.