My Favorite Stories of Swaziland

 

Most of you know about my missions trip to Swaziland because it's my favorite trip to date, and probably because I talk about it waaay too much. But, I have yet to really tell anyone the actual stories of the kids and teachers that I met and just the general reasons why I will forever be obsessed with Swaziland. So here are some of my favorite moments and stories of the four of us traveling around.

 


After dropping our stuff off at the house we stayed in, we immediately left to play with some kiddos. This is Lihle, who was one of the first tiny friends I made over there. She has had some serious health complications in her young little life but has recovered tremendously and is one of the cutest little girls I've ever met. At her homestead, there are about 5 or 6 other kids that run around together but most of which have different parents or their parents are deceased. Each of them immediately wanted to show us around where they live, fetch water with them, and play games. We played with Lihle until the sun went down that night playing, singing, and laughing. I felt like it was the first time in my life I knew for a fact that I was in the right place at the right time.

 


One thing that amazed me was the kids desire to learn. They were on break from school for two weeks while we were there but they wanted to know everything! In this particular picture, we didn't have any paper or pens so I was literally drawing English words in the dirt and teaching them what they meant. We would go back and forth with me teaching an English word and then one of the kids writing a SiSwati word and teaching me what it was. There was quite a bit of charades involved, but we eventually got the hang of it. They're also suuuper interested in learning English names so I wrote a bunch of those too. It just blew my mind how much these young kids loved learning so much when I feel like a lot of us in the States take education for granted. They definitely taught me more than I taught them.

 


On maybe the 3rd or so day, we went to a learning center and helped cook a massive meal for the kids there which was about 40 in total. They started off filling a couple of those big tubs with water, one for your hands and one to wash the food. Once I had washed everything, one of the ladies pointed to a plastic bag on the floor and told me to get to chopping. That plastic bag was my cutting board. Funny part is, one of the kids came in and pointed out that I was doing it wrong and showed me how (she was about 6 years old). After that, I just simply bystanded because things got a little more serious as you can see below.

 


So the women made beans and maize meal or "mealies" in these big pots. This is how they do any major cooking for all the kids. The female and male gender roles are really prevalent in Swaziland as the women always do all of the cooking and housework traditionally while the man is off working. Some of the women we met hadn't seen their husbands in months because they work far and don't have much transportation. Two of us sat in this room "the kitchen" for hours with the ladies helping and talking about their lives.

 


One of the teachers had two kids at the learning center; one of which was literally attached to me all day no matter where I went. He held on to my skirt no matter what almost the entire day which made it that much more hard to leave. His mom and I were in the classroom talking at one point and I snapped a photo of her (above). I showed it to her and she just kept saying "Wow, I'm beautiful" over and over. It was the most endearing thing because she had never seen herself in a picture before. It was one of my favorite moments there.

 


You should recognize this little girl as Lihle who I talked about in the first picture. She was interesting because she was super serious when we first got there. All the kids running around and happy to see us, and Lihle would just sit there not wanting to play much or talk to us. So one of the other volunteers Andrea and myself went to talk to her. After talking for maybe 2 minutes, she was dying laughing and having so much fun. I honestly don't remember what we said to make her laugh, but hey it worked and I got this beautiful picture of it too.

 


This is the home of a thirteen year old boy named Sethu. (Guilty disclaimer: he was my favorite of all favorites) This kid blew my mind every time he spoke and I'm not exaggerating one bit. He lives in conditions that we can't even fathom but is probably one of the smartest young teens I've ever come across. He told me all about his favorite author, John Steinbeck. He told me his favorite book was "Of Mice and Men", and that reading is his absolute favorite thing. His English was also practically perfect. Education in Swaziland is different because it's not a right. It's a privilege for those that can afford it. Sethu, thankfully, has been able to afford school thus far and GHFP will be paying for it over the next few years to continue his education. He was probably the one kid that I met there that I felt like I had made a very personal connection with. Of course, I loved all of the kids and there were a few that melted my heart. But Sethu and I had a few long conversations about his life, and I taught him how to use my camera in which he was a natural. That is one person that I can honestly say I will never forget.

 


This is one of my favorite pictures because it shows the happiness on the kids faces. The girl in the yellow looked like that all day. These kids love their lives because they don't know any different. Imagine a life where you didn't compare everything you have to what the people on Instagram have. You never want the latest thing because you don't know what it is. That's how these people live. They do what they have to do and they have what they need to have, and that's enough for them. Am I the only one that would love if everyone would think that way?

 


My last story (although I honestly have many more). First of all if this little girl's tooth missing smile doesn't melt your heart, there is something very wrong with you. Anyways, I do not remember her name because it was so hard to say and had a *click* in it which was beyond my skill set. She was actually playing with me and 3 other little girls while they were trying to all tickle me at the same time, and I just so happened to tickle her back when I felt the strangest thing under her shirt. I thought it was a ball or something that she was hiding so I asked her what she had. She said "bone" repeatedly which made no sense to me until she grabbed my hand and put it right on her tummy. Thats when I realized it was some sort of cyst or tumor on her stomach. I later found out that it was a hernia she's had for awhile. She told me that it didn't hurt and then quickly flashed that smile you see in the picture. She's wrapped in my sweater in that image cause she said it made her feel like a princess too. I know what you're thinking, and yes every kid I met was literally that perfect. Fun fact: see that boy in the yellow sweater? He was the one that held my skirt that whole day and wouldn't let go. I was feeling all of the feels.

 


Also, I got to hangout with elephants!! 🙂

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Sydney

February 25, 2017