Monday, October 3, 2011

Crossing streams with Make

 I apologize that I did not keep my weekly promise/ritual of updating my blog yesterday. It has been a crazy few days.

Let me start from right now and work backwards, like that backwards episode of Seinfeld- the wedding in India. Okay, maybe it’s been a while since I’ve seen that episode or any Seinfeld for that matter, but just go with it, ok?

It is raining buckets, literally, and has been since about 2:30pm this afternoon (it is now 7:00pm) with the addition of some hail every here and there. Make and I just started ‘harvesting’ the rain water about half an hour ago (except for the really big barrel Make has, that’s been out the whole time, under the one dripping gutter) and we have already filled 13 buckets, the smallest one is 25 liters, and we have filled her 125L (This is a guess, it is for sure bigger than my 100L barrel but I don’t know how much, and believe it or not I am erring on the small side) barrel two times now! We fill our buckets with big openings and then use them to fill barrels kept inside and the ~25L jugs with smaller openings, then fill the first round of buckets again. Every single bucket possible is filled with rainwater.

When I got caught in the storm as it started this afternoon, the roads were already turning into colliding rivers. And remember that there is only one paved road here, so they are nasty mucky rivers. Even more nasty since I passed a Gogo this morning, on the way to school, with the back of her skirt hitched up around her waist just slightly hunched over a bit of grass on the edge of the road. This is not a normal occurrence, as far as I know, but hey, emergencies happen. And now whatever it was that has graced the road since our last rain is floating around in the rivers we are forced to walk through to get anywhere. I can’t even imagine driving, or at least driving and getting very far.

We saw the storm approaching as we (2 teachers and I) were walking from the prayer service all of the teachers attended at the families homestead to mourn the death of a student’s mother, who was also a nurse at our clinic, in the bus accident last week. We were going to deliver scones to the Gogo of the sons whose bus crashed, killing the mother, and several others, we had just been praying for. The sons brought Gogo to their home to receive visitors offering their sympathy for the devastation of owning a bus that has killed people. The bus was actually sitting in the side yard with a tarp over it. It seems funny, coming from a culture where we always look for someone to blame, to think that people are sympathizing with the bus service/owners for bearing part of the responsibility of that tragedy (the bus operator was also killed in the accident). The Elders of the woman’s family, she was also a Dlamini (like me, so technically, but not really, we were related on some level), were the ones at the homestead sitting in an empty house, with the exception of mats for visitors to sit on, receiving anyone who might stop by offering to mourn with the family. This is viewed as their job and they never leave, even to cook and feed themselves. So they rely on other members of the family to feed them.

We left school at around 1pm and went to pray. We sang a few songs and our school’s pastor (not exclusively) led some prayers in SiSiwati. Even though I could understand so little of it, it was incredibly moving. It made me think of a part in ‘The Poisonwood Bible’, that I am reading right now (huge spoiler alert!!! And for any one who hasn’t read it, go do it now! Really now, run.). It is when Ruth May has just died and Orleanna, the mother, puts her body out on the table under a traditional alter and all of the other mothers in the village, many of whom have also just lost children under different circumstances, come crawling on their knees to help Orleanna mourn her lost child. And whoever is the narrator at that time realizes that this is the same pain that these other families have been feeling this whole time; that they are not exempt from the pain and possibility of losing a sister/daughter in Kilanga. I think that I did a terrible job explaining that, but hopefully if, or once you have read the book, you will understand the comparison and realize, if you haven’t already, how anyone who has lost can help mourn and feel the heavy fog of sadness. Even when helping to mourn someone that you have never met, and never will. Just knowing that they were someone’s mother, daughter, sister, someone is enough. Then on top of that feeling, realizing that this is something that, as a part of their culture, Swazi’s have seemed to understand and accept more than I could ever imagine without coming here and seeing it for myself.

That pretty much covers today. For now I will skip the weekend and continue with the heartbreak and tragedies of last week. This bus accident happened last Thursday evening. A tire blew on a bus that travels from Manzini to Matsamo border post, SA. The accident was in Dvokolwako, which is about 30 min south of Mkhuzweni, and Mkhuzweni is the next to last village before Matsamo. So this hit our community hard. The news of this accident arrived on the same day that a boy in Grade 1, about 7, was deserted by his mother for eating his little brother’s fat cake. He showed up to school with his eyes welled up to brim with tears and a grocery bag not near that full of dirty clothes. We are still trying to figure out what to do. Last Friday also happened to be the day that we received an official SMS (text message) from our CD about 2 more volunteers leaving the program.

Talk about a bummer.

Luckily, Mia and I had already planned (thanks to Shauna who is the current Volunteer Swimming instructor) a pretty fun weekend of swimming lesson introductions, and an over night with some awesome people and awesome food. I actually got in the water and swam with the kids some, even though it was freezing. My own swimming instructors would never believe it, since one of the most prominent things I remember about swimming lessons was complaining as much as possible before I actually got in the water. So, now I will be teaching swimming lessons every, or every other weekend!! After integration we are also allowed to overnight any time we need a get away. Unfortunately, being so emotionally exhausted after the previous week and then physically exhausted after swimming lessons I was plum wore out on Sunday.

However, now I have rearranged my schedule to accommodate everything and myself. It looks like this: School Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Girls soccer after school on Friday; Swimming lessons on Saturday, and Sunday to Monday are free for whatever, maybe more community work, but I’m not sure if I have that kind of energy. Re-reading this I know that it doesn’t sound like a lot for how exhausted I have been, but think about doing everything you do in a day with people all around you speaking a different language, all of the surroundings different and walking at least 30min to get anywhere, including to catch a khumbi these days, in scorching sun or pouring down rain.
The way my schedule at school is going it looks like I will be sitting in on classes for this week, and attending a few meetings, then organizing on Friday. Hopefully, the following week I will be able to start surveys with the teachers and the students. I am actually supposed to type the teacher survey tonight, but I am just too tired and now with a roaring headache. The rain has stopped and my head has filled in the now missing constant pounding of rain, with just pounding.

Alright, next week I will post again either Monday or Sunday with happier stories.

Love you all and Miss you!! Please take care of yourselves and remember that everyone is someone’s someone.

1 comment:

  1. Emma,
    grieving is hard work and exhausting. As I can tell you from personal experience, living and integrating into another culture is hard and exhausting, too. That you are doing so well with so little time for yourself and for reflection shows what a strong and resilient person you are. I admire how well you are dealing.