Guest Blogger: Jane Semrow

Daily Life in Swaziland – Oliver and Rebecca live in a cozy concrete house on the school grounds and have a thriving garden. Rebecca has made their dwelling a comfortable home and has every room organized just so. With limited space, having things so well organized helps their household operate at maximum efficiency and helps with the upkeep. Oliver shares the chores (e.g. cooking and laundry). During our visit, he taught me how to make guacamole and introduced me to salmon – both were delicious. The day before we went on one of our overnight excursions, Oliver and I got up at 5 a.m. to do laundry by hand using what is referred to as “green bar.” I had to smile when he told me that we didn’t need to be so concerned about the dark clothing but needed to scrub the light colored clothing really good. After 20 minutes of intense scrubbing and hanging the clothing on the line we were finished just as the sun was coming up.

School was still in session when we arrived so we got to observe morning assembly, computer class and library time. Oliver and Rebecca are a vital part of this community and are using their gifts and talents to the fullest. I enjoyed watching Oliver teach the first graders in computer class and Rebecca leading the 2nd graders as they recited poems they memorized in the library (e.g. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Like to Eat and My Motor Car). Later in the day, we watched the ending of the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox with the 6th grade class since they just finished reading the book. The children were very engaged in the lessons Oliver and Rebecca prepared.

We ended the day with a special treat – S’mores with the children that live in the school hostel. The school hostel is for orphaned and vulnerable children. Oliver and Rebecca (aka “the kids”) have taken the initiative to plan special activities with these children. A bond has been formed and the children look forward to their interaction with “the kids”.

To summarize this segment, Iife in Swaziland can be challenging especially with the limited availability of transport options and the absence of running water. It is common for “the kids” to walk 5-10 kilometers to buy staples like a loaf of bread. Some days the store may be closed unexpectedly or the bread may have been depleted from the shelves and they turn back empty-handed. Daily life requires intense planning, communication and incredible resilience. Oliver and Rebecca have mastered all of these attributes in their short time in Africa. Life in Swaziland can be rejuvenating. The views from their front door are amazing with the mountain not far in the horizon. The setting is tranquil (e.g. no TV) and offers the simple pleasures of life (e.g. gardening, cooking from scratch, making a bookshelf out of the materials on hand). Life in Swaziland can be rewarding. There is a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 200 students which helps to offsets some of the daily challenges.

Life as a Backpacker – During our time in Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, we stayed in a type of accommodation referred to as a backpacker/hostel. Each facility had a special uniqueness but had one thing in common – a community of diversity and inclusion. One of the amenities I found most “fascinating” was the kitchen area – unclean by my standards at home but somehow intriguing in this environment. The kitchen is where I met people from all parts of the world. Made up of mostly “20- somethings” traveling the world in search of X, Y, and Z, our presence increased the average age considerably. It is an inexpensive way to travel (e.g. less than $15 a night) and offers something for everyone.

Sightseeing in Zambia and Zimbabwe – The highlights of our trip to Southern Africa have been Victoria Falls and the lion and cheetah walk. Victoria Falls is the Seventh Natural Wonder of the World and we visited during peak season. Five million liters of water fall per second down a 108 meter drop along a 1.7 km wide strip in the Zambezi Gorge. There is a perpetual mist that soaks visitors on the path overlooking the falls and a residual mist that even reaches travelers 1-2 kilometers away on the main road bridging the countries. We walked the main road with suitcases in hand – getting wet on both trips. This was the most fun I have had in a long time and the falls were simply breathtaking from the Zimbabwe side – well worth the trip and a must see if you are ever in the area.

Another recommendation is the lion and cheetah walk in Zambia. We walked with two lions, a male named Simba and a female named Nellie. They were very affectionate and playful. Pretty amazing stuff. We later walked with three cheetahs, a male and two females named Lydia and Susie. At the end of the cheetah walk we got to see them run. We got some great pictures and we all enjoyed our time there.

In closing, we set out to accomplish two things when we left our home in Oshkosh – to be reunited with “the kids” and embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Done! We have been so blessed to share this experience with Oliver and Rebecca. They are extremely gracious hosts and very knowledgeable about what to see and do if you are thinking about planning a visit.

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One thought on “Guest Blogger: Jane Semrow

  1. Hi Jane – What a wonderful guest blog, … and what great photos on this blog site! While a long way from home, it’s clear Oliver and Rebecca are “living life abundantly”. You and Bryan must be very proud of “the kids”.

    -Don and Karen Draxler

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