Sunday, April 17, 2011


We've scheduled our trip to Cape Town beginning Wednesday, so don't expect any posts for a couple of weeks. To get you through, I'm publishing pictures of Mabuda Farm--site of my training trails, and a recent hike with Mo. I trust you will find them unusual because it is an oasis, or even an apparition, in this area of poverty in the mid-veld. The house is over 100 years old, from the Colonial period, now owned by a white physician who employs many Swazis for operation of the largest dairy farm in the kingdom. It appears to be something from an Agatha Christie novel.



These pictures were taken from the cow trails when we hiked a week ago. Views into the valley...then Mo takes a break from birding, then points to over the ridge where we live.
I expect these pictures to surprise you, but note that they are not typical of any other place we've seen in the kingdom.

Click to enlarge.

Back in two weeks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This is a quick post just because the situation here suggests reassurance of our well-being.
The “April 12 uprising” has come and gone. The only sign of anything different in this area was a squad of ‘peacekeepers’ in the middle of the street near our town center, and a strange silence—almost eerie, knowing the facts—which was also noticed by another PCV. Part of the fizzle was because the Prime Minister declared, last week, that any demonstrations would be illegal, and so there were numerous peremptory arrests. Those who did demonstrate were met with water cannon, tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets. …That, and the fact that Swazis operate on APT (African People Time) which means that the Tuesday uprising might still manifest tomorrow. There are continued rumblings that the police action has merely pushed things under the surface and the uprising will erupt again on the King’s birthday anniversary next week. And I’ve just read a lengthy statement by the Swazi Solidarity Network which blames the public for not getting involved, not taking action, and other things—forcefully stated—that I dare not repeat here.
There were hints that other communities might have demonstrated, but we feel that our quiet corner of the kingdom was never in question. We are fortunate (well, unusual) in that we have rapid access to the internet.
Some of you accessed the New York Times article; others know the facts as well as we do. So just briefly:
King Mswati is one of the richest men in the world; 70% of the nation live on less than US$1/day.
The nation is run under “emergency rule”; political parties are banned, appointments are through the absolute monarchy.
Individual rights are determined through the inkhundla system (see above) and corruption is reportedly rampant.
HIV is 26%; unemployment 40%; revenue down 60%;
57% of wealth held by richest 20%; 4% of wealth distributed among poorest 20%
The king supports his 14 wives in an opulent style and is planning an extravagant celebration for his anniversary on the throne.
When approached with complaints from within his kingdom, the New York Times reports that the king responded with these inspiring words to his public, “Work harder and sacrifice more”.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Woman’s rights, Swaziland Style (by guest writer, Debbie)

We have been in Swaziland about ten months now and it still shocks me how half the population doesn’t have any voice. Our Swazi sisters are a beautiful and stoic group of women. They work hard; digging ditches for new water pipes, plowing the fields, washing the laundry, taking care of the children, cooking the food, and on and on and on. Many of the children are being brought up by the GoGos (grandmothers) as their mothers have died of HIV/TB. A whole population of what would be mothers and fathers have been lost here as treatment for HIV did not find its way to developing African countries until about 6 years ago. But I digress. Gary and I always notice when a male is parenting as it is so unusual here. Gary has caused quite a stir on campus “doing woman’s work”, sweeping and even doing the laundry when I didn’t feel well one day.

Women are not allowed to enter into contract or to have property except for some specific household goods like a cooking pot. So how do women start a small business? If a woman is widowed here, the property goes to the husband’s family, and her father, regardless of her age, makes all the legal/contractual decisions for her. If she divorces her husband for, say, physical abuse, her children are taken from her and given to the father’s family. No wonder the divorce rate is so low; who would want to lose their children? An attorney told us a story regarding a woman who did manage to have a successful business. She dutifully gave her profits to her husband who in turn used it to pay “Lobola” (number of cows given to the father for the right to marry a daughter) so he could take a second wife. She had no legal recourse. If there is not enough money to buy school uniforms or to pay school fees, it is the girls who will stay home. I can go on and on.

What makes you want to weep is the loss to the country of all the talent and creativity that is wasted by keeping half of the population as second class citizens. It is the women in most countries that fight for social issues such as good schools, healthcare and a future for the kids. To a large measure their voices are silent here as I expect it is in many African countries.

We women who live in the United States are blessed, indeed. I am most grateful that our daughters and granddaughters will have opportunities that women in many parts of the world only dream about. My daughter and I used to jokingly tease my son by singing Helen Reddy’s “I am woman” to him in the car. I only now really understand the significance of the lyrics. It is my dream that as I continue my volunteer “career” here and in the states that I can somehow volunteer in such a way that perhaps just one woman in a developing country can sing this song loudly and proudly. Anyone want to join me? Watch me grow, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.

And now, for something totally different: (by Chief blogger, Gary)

This is a primary school campus so there is probably enough material each day to create a post if I had the time. Attending to Very Important Work, however, prevents that. But let me tell you a little about an event last week:

Friday was the final day of this term; exams were the previous week and much sports activity last week. Being a residence school, the kids were excited and keyed up in anticipation of leaving for home. The schedule was unstructured and the library is a comfortable, secure and interesting place to visit, thanks to the supervision of the kindly librarian. Being primary students in this situation, I was constantly going around pouring cold water on volatile situations as they arose, my attention being called by hearing screams in various sections of the library. After responding to one such “emergency”, I heard a scream from clear across the room. This one was different: sustained and meaningful. Investigating the source, I found one of my “favorites” on the hard wood benches with her head—up to and including her ears—firmly wedged between seat and back-rest. My first instinct was, of course, to push her head back out. It wouldn’t budge and I felt her pain. Next, I attempted to lift the back slat while pushing down on the seat. It is heavy material and nothing gave; but while in that position, I looked around and realized that everyone around me was deaf. They couldn’t hear my frantic voice requesting help, and my hands were occupied so I couldn’t sign. Making no progress, I reverted to the original plan and forcefully pushed her head out, perhaps using her ears as a spacing mechanism. Talk about a painful delivery. As soon as she was extricated, three mothering, older students led her away before I had the opportunity to check her out. So I convened court on the spot and interrogated the most likely suspect who, of course, pleaded innocence. The case was dropped for lack of evidence. A short while later, I found the victim (a genuine cutie) on the floor of the pre-reader section, in the fetal position, sucking her thumb. I signed, “How are you?” and only got a morose look from her. Later in the day, she was up and about with ears attached and as cute and happy as before.