August 30, 2011
During integration, we get one night away from site each month. Oliver and I decided to use ours to go to Ezulwini Valley Sunday and Monday.
We had to head out at 4:45 am on Sunday morning. We took a 3 kilometer walk down the road wait for a bus that we were told comes by at 5:30. That never showed up and as there were no other transport options, we started the 17 kilometers walk to the tar road where there is actual public transport. Spirits started out high. It wasnt hot and the sun started to rise so it was very beautiful. We walked probably about 8 kilometers when a truck, the only car to pass us until then, pulled up next to us when we waved (it looked like a white khumbi coming over the hill). It stopped and the driver told us he wasnt going far but would give us a ride until he had to turn off that road. At this point in the walk, or what was turning out to be an out of control hike, we must have looked pretty pathetic for him to offer. He gave us a ride for about 5 min, which still shaved a considerable chunk off our walk. He dropped us off and we walked the rest of the way. Once we got to the tar road, we caught a khumbi right away, switched to another in Manzini and then soon arrived.
We stayed at Legends Backpackers which was in a really great location and the room was nice (and had some free wi-fi!). They also have some monkeys that live around the area and they were fun to watch. One even came up to our room and pulled back the curtain through the open window. We did some grocery shopping at picknpay and looked around the stores. The only movie theater in the country is at this shopping center so we finally got to see the last Harry Potter that night. I love being in Swaziland, but it was really nice to be in a real movie theater and kind of forget about everything for a while.
The next day was the Reed Dance ceremony. It was pretty confusing trying to figure out when it started so we went to the royal residence in the morning and walked around for a while. It turned out that the dance would start at 2 pm so we walked back and had lunch with some other volunteers. That was a lot of fun and very relaxing. We had amazing pizza, supposedly the best in the country and I concur. Finally we all headed back to the Reed Dance area.
Because of our perilous transportation system, Oliver and I had to leave at 2:30 in order to get back home before dark. That was a major bummer because the whole point in coming was to see the dance but I think we still got to see enough to get an idea. About 80,000 girls participated this year dressed in traditional attire. The Reed Dance is one of the things Swaziland is known for so there were quite a few tourists and a lot of volunteers made a point to come and check it out as well.
To get back home we got on a khumbi across
the road from the Reed Dance and went to the Manzini bus rank. We started asking around for a bus that would get us closest to our house and finally we found a bus going down the tar road somewhat near our community and got dropped off at a gas station. This was a different area then we had used the day before, we were trying to find anything that would be quicker. The gas station was 16 kilometers from our house so it only saved 1 kilometer by going this way but when you are walking, every little bit counts.
We started walking and got a ride in a womans truck for 5 minutes and then began walking again. Lucky, so so lucky, a car passed by that offered a ride and it turned out they were going to our community because they are night security guards for the machinery that is going to build a road in our area (and it is much anticipated!) We walked the last 4 kilometers home and made it to our house with the very last of the days light so its good we left when we did (and if we had left any later we wouldnt have gotten those rides as what little traffic there is drops off pretty quickly).
That night my sister called me because it was her birthday the day before (shout out to Nicole!)
It was great for Oliver and I just to get away from site, relax a bit, and enjoy luxuries like hot showers and Chinese food. Its a bit hard for me even to believe how difficult transportation is out here. I think once integration is over, most of our trips away from site will have to be two nights to make it worth the hassle. -Rebecca
Rebecca is Reading: The Girl Who Played with Fire
Oliver is 9% of the way through: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations We are watching: Blue Planet, Modern Family, West Wing