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January 26th 2011
Published: January 26th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Oh the land of Swaz is a funny funny place...

When Mike and I crossed the border from Mozambique into Swaziland he was a little scared. He said that based on what I had told him about Swaziland that he was preparing himself for a fifth-world country.

The drive in apparently did not support what I had prepared him for. There were rolling green hills – he was expecting the dusty dirty slums of New Delhi. He was shocked that there weren’t many people around, or that there aren’t many towns. Swaziland has a few towns; the rest of the country is scattered homesteads. I tried to explain that people may have some place to live in, but they have no money, lack basic food supplies, and if they have health needs, they don’t have direct access to health care.

We were almost to Manzini when he saw a huge billboard for KFC. It was like Christmas had finally come. “You have KFC? Can we go there?” I hate KFC, and since they offer no gluten free goods I don’t really go there. There is no McDonalds in Swaziland, it probably wouldn’t make it since Swazis love chicken, chicken, and then more chicken. I stopped in at the office to find out if my article would be due the next day and then took him to KFC. Apparently Mike said they were the best fries he has ever had, and whatever wrap thing he ordered, well they need to bring that to Canada.

After meeting the roomie and taking a tour of our ghetto pad – mike’s response was “Shar, how do you live here.” He was quite concerned about the water damage/mold in the bathroom – he doesn’t think it is good for my health.

The next day I had to go to work so I dropped him off at the Kombi rank (the “bus station” which is where all the 15 passenger vans that are falling apart leave from) for Mbabane. You pronounce it as – soft mmm, baa – as in the noise a sheep makes, baa – again, neh – the sound a horse makes. When I dropped him off I said ok –where are you going. I am going to mmmbaba. Oh Christ!

He managed to make it safely. Marina also had to work so Bart picked him up and the two set off for a man-date through Swaziland in the crappy rain. They had plans to hike in Malalotja, but no luck. Instead Bart took him to Milwane Park where you can get out of the car to see the animals. Mike was quite excited to get out next to a pack of zebras. Apparently this is what they should let you do in Kruger. (The difference is the only dangerous things that Milwane has is hippos and crocs).

That night I met the boys and Marini in Ezelwini (rich part of Swaz) for dinner (sushi – a very bad idea in land-locked country) and to go to the new movie theatre that has opened. On Wednesday nights it is only $2.25 to see a movie. Very exciting. The movies are a little outdated, and the assigned seating is annoying, but for Swaziland it is a very very big deal.

After seeing some of the sights in the posh part of the country, Mike was beginning to think that Swaziland wasn’t so bad. (Probably because he got to hang out at Marina’s 3-bedroom condo in Mbabane (which her organization pays for). He was convinced that people couldn’t be that poor and you certainly couldn’t guess that almost half the population has HIV.

Mike's Last Day in Africa with Sharman

Before he had to leave back for Dubai we went up to Ngwenya Glass, a very cool project started by some Swedes up near the border that makes glasswork from 100% recycled glass. You can watch them making things in the factory – it was so hot in there but so cool to watch the glass blowing and how a wine glass is made. In case you are wondering, it is made into a bubble, and then the top is cut off to make the cup.

We drove over a huge damn and then up to see some rock paintings that are supposed to be 4000 years old. Our 19 year old tour guide had memorized her speech but couldn’t answer most of Mike’s random questions. It was very entertaining, but sad that there is nothing in place to protect the paintings or prevent goats from crapping very close to them. The paintings are in a pretty remote area (the poor Polo had a hard time on the crappy dirt road), and I think Mike got to see how some of the rural people are a better reflection of life here than the rich part of the country he was hanging out in the day before.

The drive back from the Piggs Peak area is slow and full of curves. Then, add in the random fog that came out of nowhere and it was a fun drive back in hopes of getting to the grocery store by 7. Mike thought I was crazy because clearly the grocery store would be open til 10pm. Uh… not in Swaz. All public transport basically stops around 7 pm. Things close here when it gets dark because it was dangerous. I managed to get to a Pick n Pay off the highway before 7, while I was getting something for dinner Mike snuck off to get one last dose of KFC before he had to leave in the morning.

It was sad to say goodbye to Mike after spending every day together for 3 weeks, plus he is the only friend who will probably come visit (insert guilty jab at all of you not coming for a visit). Thanks for an amazing holiday Michael - even if you did make me cry when you forced me to do a zipline in Zim... I still heart you. After I said goodbye to Mike I realized just how tired I was from all the insane travel and everything we did. I went to bed early that night, just so I could get up at 6 am to join Gemma’s walking group with a hike through Milwane.

The beginning of operation lose all the weight I put on in 2010

Gemma’s walking group consists of pervert Chris (close to 60?) from New Zealand and Carly from Australia (mom age). She had missed a bus 36 years ago in Swaziland, met a boy and fell in love. They are a riot to be around and inspiring since they are both in better shape than me. We did a 5.5 hour hike to Execution Rock (they literally threw people off it back in the day) and then chilled in Milwane watching the warthogs and monkeys try to steal picnickers food. Highlight included a Roan Antelope who is clearly not scared of people follow us for quite some time, probably in the hopes of being fed.

I spent the night in Mbabane at Marina’s – taking advantage of the two empty bedrooms. Sort of funny, her Canadian roommate when to the Seychelles for Christmas, and because he didn’t have a flight back to Swaziland from Jo’berg (he was just going to take the shuttle), they wouldn’t let him on the plane. There is only one flight per week and the next one was booked - so the guy was stuck for an extra two weeks! He had friends to stay there with anyways, but sounds like my kind of x-mas vacation.

So as part of my get in shape girl new attitude I tried out spin class at the old gym in Manzini. Figure this one out – it is 10 dollars for a drop in pass for the gym, but if I just want to do spin class, it only costs 3 dollars. Random. Thursday classes are 2 hours which is manic, but I lasted a full 90 minutes before I was so sweaty and gross I had to leave. Back home I do hot yoga – here it is like hot spin class. There is an air conditioner in the room, but nope. Can’t turn that on now can we? Instead you sweat yourself silly in a 1000 degree room. I went back on the Tuesday and it still hurt to sit on the bike – if my vagina has a bone – I think I broke it.

In all attempts to hike anything in Swaziland – Sierd and I tackled Sheeba’s Breast in Ezelwini valley. It is a nice little hike with lots of water hazards, spiky tree hazards, and well we also ran into a herd of cows. The top is very steep and yet someone found the time and effort to put a metal container to look like a nipple at the top. On the way down I had a decent wipe-out that had Sierd saying I must be flexible… because that looked painful. Later while we were crossing a wet wood bridge he stopped me to look at a huge ant. He wiped out and almost took me with him. So happy to have other clumsy people in my life.

Challenges of working in Swaziland

In work news I am slightly frustrated with the Times of Swaziland because they keep changing my articles on me, this is because penis is a dirty word. You wouldn’t believe the smut they write about in this paper, but for some reason you can’t say penis or vagina – which is confusing since I write for the “let’s talk about sex” section. So… my article on male circumcision – what women need to know got altered. It changed from – male circumcision is the surgical removal of foreskin from the penis to… male circumcision is the surgical removal of foreskin from the manhood.

Seriously? Seriously. Then… my latest article on female condoms got changed. I told my contact that if she can’t write vagina, womanhood was not an acceptable change. Instead, it now reads that the female condom fits comfortably inside a woman’s private parts. It drives me bonkers. Swaziland has the highest HIV rate in the world from heterosexual sex. Every day the paper has a story about a teacher raping a child, a pastor sleeping with a 15 year old, or a relative impregnating a 16 year old. Clearly everyone is having sex here – but we can’t talk about it. Me trying to say penis in the paper is the real problem in Swaziland…. Because that is just vulgar!

Had a slight problem with the cleaning lady. Our neighbour Salima sorts out a woman to come to the place 3 times a week to clean the dishes and push things into the corners. With Salima in India and Stephen off to Zim... she got a little excited and started taking things. So far I realized she took clothes (my fave shorts), my leave in conditioner... but this is what got me. The woman made herself comfortable one day watching dvds and eating MY GLUTEN FREE CRACKERS. I had been waiting to buy cheese and really enjoy them - I bought them in South Africa before we went to Kruger. That was the last straw. She denied it of course and I told her she couldn't come in the apartment til Stephen got back. She failed to show up to work the next two days so Salima has a new woman who I have yet to let in the apartment.

In other news I finally got the package my mother sent me 2 months ago. She paid way too much to make sure I got it in 3 days. I did not get it in 3 days – partially because it got sent to Switzerland. Then I had to pay $50 in tax to get it from the corrupt government worker at the post office. Very thoughtful but too much hassle. I’d rather spend the money to drive to South Africa where I can get tasty gluten free treats at less corrupt prices (and give me an excuse to get out of Swaz.)


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