Edit Blog Post
Published: November 8th 2015
Whilst staying on the pine plantation we received an offer we could not refuse - Ivy, the Housekeeper, invited us to pay a visit to both her homestead and that of her parents.
It was raining hard when we set off and thunder was rumbling across the tops of the hills. The start of the rainy season was well and truly here, hopefully ending the drought that had been afflicting the homesteaders and undermining their efforts at subsistence.
We drove as far as we could towards Ivy's parent's home but ended up parking about half a mile away, on the opposite side of a small valley. After the previous night's adventures I didn't want to risk the combination of poor road, two-wheel drive car and deluge of rain. We walked down the track and then up the steep hill cutting across the grass on the far side of the valley. By the time we arrived we were soaked. The rain had turned the earth to mud, the kind which clings and leaves bright red stains on whatever it touches, including my best trousers.
Ivy's Parent's Homestead
We walked in past a rough kraal, home to
the family's sheep, towards a thatched-roofed, stone-built, plaster-clad building. We waited outside the house until a door was opened to us. Inside it was very dark as there was no artificial illumination and the only window had a rough curtain over it.
As our eyes adjusted we saw that the building was occupied by two elderly people. Huddled in a corner, sitting on a chair and wearing a tattered old jacket was a wizened man who clasped our hands and gave us a warm animated welcome. He smiled a huge smile revealing the missing teeth at the front of his mouth. Seated on a floor mat on the opposite side of the room, was a quiet old lady. She was dressed in a lime green silk blouse. She also had a radiant smile and despite not speaking a word of English, and hardly being able to get a word past her husband, made us feel very welcome in her home.
Ivy brought chairs for us and we sat down. The door was left open to cast what light was left of the day into the room. Through the curtain of rain we could make out banana trees. Inside,
by the door, was a stack of blankets. On the opposite wall was a cupboard full of bits and pieces. Above this, next to the old man, hang a couple of straw hats. Between myself and the old man was an open doorway to another room. The light in there was so dim that I couldn't make out much, but I could see a bed completely covered in things.
We had brought a gift of a blanket and we gave them this to their utter delight. Never have I seen a gift so warmly received. The old man took off his jacket and put the blanket around his shoulders, clutching it to his chest. He then gave it to his wife, explaining that they would share it. She clutched it to herself too and then didn't take it off whilst we were visiting.
Soon, we were joined by a group of other people, Ivy's sister-in-law, her daughters-in-law and her one-year old granddaughter. These ladies all came and sat next to the old lady on her floor mat. One of them was sent out to retrieve something and came back clutching a huge bunch of green bananas straight from
the tree. It was an amazing gift, which we really valued, despite not knowing what we would do with 60 unripe bananas as we crossed the border the next day. In the low light I took some photos of the family that had warmly welcomed us into their home and opened their hearts to us.
When it was time to leave, the old man and his wife escorted us out through the rain, which hadn't relented, to their gate. We shook hands, posed for a few more photos and then said goodbye. The whole visit was a babble of two different languages with poor Ivy struggling to translate a torrent of words from all directions... but that didn't really matter. We couldn't understand much of their language but we did understand how much our visit was appreciated. We had made an old couple very happy just by crossing their threshold. For our part we were absolutely delighted to be there, to get an insight into how people from a culture completely different from our own lived. We had made a connection with these people and all of us came away enriched for it.
Our visit was not over though, we still had to go to the homestead that Ivy and her husband share. We walked back down the fields to the car on the other side of the valley. Whilst we had been gone the road had deteriorated from the downpour. Patches had turned to mud and other areas were now little ponds. It was a real struggle to turn around and to get the car back up the hill. Eventually we made it to Ivy's home. As the road was rapidly getting worse I parked facing home and just hoped that the puddle we'd just driven through wouldn't get too much deeper whilst we were inside.
It was a short walk to Ivy's home and she was beaming with each step. The fact that we had chosen to visit was such a blessing to her. The first we saw of her homestead was a rough fence of poles. Beyond this, sheltering in the shadow of a building was a flock of goats.
Ivy's homestead was better built than her parent's place - it probably helps that her husband is a builder who has built homes in Mbabane. There were several
small buildings, each well plastered and well thatched. The property didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing. It did however have a water pipe in the yard which Ivy told us she had been able to connect to the mains through the local school - she had just had to pay for the piping.
First we were taken to Ivy's kitchen hut. In the doorway was a dozing cat who was not at all perturbed when we climbed over him, just so long as he didn't have to move. In the middle of the round room was a dying fire. Around the edges of the room were pots of different foodstuffs. Aside from a few utensils there was nothing else there.
We were joined by Ivy's youngest child, a girl of about eleven, and went into Ivy's living hut. This was quite a nice two-roomed, stone-built hut with a large porch. Inside there was little furniture. Here we met Ivy's husband who was very quiet and seemed bemused to have us there.
We gave Ivy a present of another blanket and some stationary to share amongst her children. Ivy and her daughter then sang a Swazi worship song
for us. It felt appropriate to offer to pray and Ivy was delighted. I thanked God that we could meet as brothers and sisters across different cultures and languages and then prayed for blessings upon the home and for the rains to continue.
By this time the rain had paused so we took the opportunity to wander around the homestead and saw all of the trees that Ivy had planted there. She was particularly proud of her mango tree, which she said everyone had told her wouldn't bear fruit but which was starting to produce just a few mangos. There were also a lemon tree and a peach tree. Aside from fruit, Ivy also grows mealie (corn) which she manages to sell to contribute towards her children's education.
Ivy and her husband led us to the gate and we said goodbye. Ivy seemed genuinely sad that we were leaving. We were too, this had been a lovely time but our trip to Swaziland was drawing to a close.
Tot: 2.637s; Tpl: 0.081s; cc: 10; qc: 30; dbt: 0.0379s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb