Published: August 7th 2009August 6th 2009
I start with Fundza on Monday! I have begun working on a website for them, and I am optimistic about being able to do some good through this program. The only problem is that aid and grant funding is so short these days. But one of Fundza's main goals is to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDs through education, so perhaps that will encourage some donors to contribute money. My co-worker/boss Nonkululeko is really introducing me to Swazi culture in a way that S. can't. She is also really is a comically bad driver. Well, it's actually not funny, but perhaps it would be if I didn't have to be in the car with her. I am going to be attempting to get an international drivers license so that I can do the driving. After quite a lot of practise, since the idea of shifting with my left hand is daunting. Oh, and driving on the left hand side of the road, and not hitting pedestrians will also be a bit of a trial, but at this point it will be less frightening than being a passenger.
I’ve been working on my Arabic, and also my SiSwati with Thembi's help. She taught me how to count to 6-10, and is helping me to understand the grammar a bit more. I now know how to say "I am going" (Ngiya...), and various places I could be going… ngaphandle (outside), edolobheni (in town), liposi (post office). Graham Greene once said that (a tad more eloquently than my paraphrase) 'yellow voices sing, black voices gargle, and white voices just speak...and give an impression of numbers.' But I think that's just because white voices speak so damn loudly. SiSwati has a very melodic and rhythmic pattern to it--it seems more natural than English in many ways, because it just flows together. Perhaps I wouldn't think so if I spoke it more fluently, but for now I like listening to it.
I didn't go out today, just stayed around the house on the off-chance I was actually needed for something. There seem to be more birds singing here than I remember at home, but perhaps it is because I grew so accustomed to the sound of them that these new, foreign-sounding birds catch my attention better. At night their sounds is replaced by the barking and yelping of wild dogs that comes from all around the mountain and valley. Also at night, I hear the sounds the wind in the trees, an also of creatures living in the trees. I can never tell which I am hearing, unless I can hear the tell-tale sound of lizards scampering across the leaves of the coconut and banana trees. There is also the sound of the water-filterer, and the occasional sound of a car passing on one of the main streets. It is very peaceful, but also strange. I keep expecting to hear a passing siren, or people talking outside the gate, but by 9pm, none of those sounds can be heard.
State of affairs in the house are quite busy at the moment, with people flitting around to get things ready for the reception that will be held here. I have been helping where they will let me, but I am mostly attempting to stay out of the way. There are portable space heaters that look like excessively large standing lamps set up on the back patio, and both the barbecue and bar area is getting set up for the 50+ visitors that will be here later. The bar is indoors with a large counter that has a metal door and additional white steel grate facing the back that has been opened up. It is not a huge house, so I imagine much of the party will spill over onto the patio. I was going to post this before the party began, but considering the guests who will be there, and my paranoia after the political officer found this blog, I think I will wait.
Wow, so, what a night. There were a lot of people, and the party began to wind down around 20:30 (people call it an early night, I suppose). I know I am usually very good at working a room, but with 50 people in Sarah’s house, I spent some time talking with people, but a good deal of time hiding in the kitchen with Rosie, the delightful caterer who saved me from being completely overwhelmed. Perhaps next time there is a function, I'll be more of a social butterfly, but today I allowed myself to be 'shy', and decided my limit was talking with 10-15 people. I supposed when I actually have to be sociable, I can do it well, but I figured I would enjoy the few functions I can with the staff in the kitchen. I definitely enjoyed talking to the people I did talk to: most of the guests were from Africom, the U.S. military (all branches except the Coast Guard and Navy), the Swazi military, the U.S. Embassy and some local big-shots.
Rosie, however, was beyond hilarious, and an seemed like an overall interesting sort of person. She is British, but has lived in Swaziland off and on for something like 30 years. We discussed small arms disarmament, and she inquired why I was going around the world trying to take away other people's guns when one of the biggest firearm problem was in the U.S. (To which I replied: because I might someday want a job in U.S. politics). She also told me about one of the former Ambassadors or DCMs from a few years back. Apparently, he was placed in Swaziland after working in Iraq to give him some downtime, but instead he was bored out of his mind. First his wife went back to the U.S., then his son. Shortly after they called back for the dog, he said: "Screw this" and left before his time was up.
But this came back to gun control because shortly after the incident where Dick Cheney shot his hunting partner, this gentleman found a refrigerator magnet that said “I'd rather take a ride with the Kennedys than go hunting with Cheney."
Another story was about a friend of hers who got into a traffic accident (this came about when we were discussing knives...I'm afraid she found me a terrible contradictory person, seeing as I was not adverse to knives). Cattle are perhaps the 3rd leading cause of death here, because they like to step out into the roads. One of her friends hit one, causing a massive accident. He called the police, but before they got there, a kamby pulled up, and some men jumped out, and proceeded to hack the cattle to bits and toss it in the back of the kamby and drive away. This left the gentleman in his car at the front of the accident, with only a pool of blood in front of his car when the police got there. The police, lacking any evidence of the cause of the accident, proceeded to accuse him of reckless driving.
I had the impression there was no end to the interesting things she has done in her life. The food was fantastic as well; so I am certainly not averse to seeing Rosie again.
There were some other quite interesting people there; I got to share the many different Air Force jokes I picked up with John with all manner of military officials (whenever I would start to tell one, or when they would start to tell one, everyone knew it already). And I now have a few military contacts, which is great. Rick sticks out in my mind the most--he was an older gentleman who has retired from the Army four times, but they keep dragging him back. And now they send him to Africa once a month, which he was not entirely thrilled about, though judging from his personality; it was partially to get a laugh. Aside from beating myself up for not mingling more in after-thought, it was a delightful soirée, but it made me wish (not for the first time) that John was here.
Tomorrow will involve helping to clean up, bugging Thembi to teach me more Siswati and taking a long walk to burn off the samosas I ate tonight.
Sala Kahle, all.