I got back from the midterm break yesterday, which was oh-so wonderful, and everything I could have hoped for. Originally, I was planning on going to Mozambique for the weekend, but just because of costs and visas and time to plan, that got postponed until a later break, which I was initially disappointed about, but to be quite honest, I think that how my midterm turned out was better than anything I could have planned in Maputo.
Thursday: School got out early, and my friend’s mom picked us up, and drove us across Swaziland to their house, which while still in Swaziland, is right on the SA (South African) border. Her mom directs an NGO related to child development and permaculture, and so essentially, they live on this experimental permaculture farm that helps to train community members in sustainable farming techniques. It was so cool, with a “test farm” where they practice different techniques with all these exotic fruits and vegetables. Wound up eating my first freshly-picked passion fruit, which looked like fish eggs, but was rather good. I slept in a tent in the yard, because of a lack of space in the house, but I rather enjoyed being in a tent. I figure if I’m going to be in the middle of the Swazi bush, I might as well sleep in a tent. (Probably shouldn’t mention the cobra we found by the house later in the weekend. Never mind, Mom. It was great! :D).
Friday: Chilled around the house, and started a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. Sometime in the afternoon, we took a walk to the store, which was a total of maybe an hour and a half walking through this plantation and these fields. It was definitely a switch from Mbabane, but I really enjoyed seeing and doing something new, and seeing something different in Swaziland. For dinner, there is a couple from the States working on the permaculture and sustainability projects, and we joined them for pizza night. I have to say, their pizza definitely beats Capitol Caterer’s (Waterford’s cafeteria caterer’s) pizza by miles. Or by kilometers, I suppose they would say here.
Saturday: Got up fairly early, pulled on my gym shoes and socks (which, for those of you that know me, never happens – I live in flip-flops), and set off on a “hike” with my two friends from school, a Swazi guy who helps with IT at the NGO, and a Finnish girl who just arrived here a few weeks ago, starting three or four months working at the NGO. "Hike" was a cruel understatement for a Midwestern girl, who assumes that hiking is flat ground, and climbing involves an incline. I assure you, this was a climb.
We walked probably six kilometers through these farms along this red dirt road, which made me just think of country music, and then got to this gate. After the gate, the incline was probably 45 degrees for a while, but then we got to this final hill, and it was literally 89.9 degrees up – practically a wall. I was already exhausted, but I really wanted to get to the top of this gosh darned mountain, so up I went.
Long story short, after many breaks, and a few moments when I was sure I wasn’t going to make it, but then decided to keep my mouth shut and climb, I reached the top.
^It was a really stunning view from the top – this totally doesn’t do it justice.
^Proof that I made it.
^The funny thing is that you can see exactly where the South African border is, because there’s some lumber company right on the other side, and so the trees start right at the border. That line of trees and not trees in the picture? That’s the border. Swaziland on the left, South Africa on the right.
THEN, on the way down, I was just taking pictures, and realized what a mind-blowing perspective shift this one is. You can’t even imagine how steep this mountain we climbed up and down was. Okay, maybe you can, but it was still really steep!
See the people walking, right in the middle? Those are my two friends from school. They’re not in front of me, they’re BELOW me. Go ahead, look again. Those hills at the top aren’t in the distance, that’s the scenery BELOW us. Yes, the trees are growing horizontally.
Anyways… I got back exhausted, amazed that I walked all the way back, and just plopped down on the stoop, drank about six gallons of water, took a shower, and went back to work on the thousand piece puzzle.
Sunday: Chilled again, which doesn’t sound that exciting, but you have to understand that after six weeks of hostel, a house and access to food other than three planned meals is a miracle in itself, and doesn’t stop being enjoyable.
Also, finished the thousand piece of puzzle, which was kind of a big deal. I count it as finished, even if the cat ran away with eleven pieces.
Monday: Woke up, took down my tent, and headed back to school. We got my friend’s mom to drive us into Pigg’s Peak, the nearest town to the farm, and then took a kumbi from there back into Mbabane. (A kumbi is a mini-bus, essentially. They run within Mbabane, but also between towns, which is really convenient. They’re oftentimes really crowded, but the one from Pigg’s Peak to Mbabane was really chilled). We would have walked from a kumbi stop to school, but they had lots of school work and bags, so we wound up taking a taxi from “downtown” Mbabane up the mountain to Waterford.
Long story short, I really enjoyed midterm. It was really cool to see another side to Swaziland, other than Mbabane and Waterford. Being “at home,” even if it wasn’t my house, was really welcome break to hostel life, even if I am happy to be back in my QB at school, no longer fighting with the crazy biting bush ants. I couldn’t have imagined a better first midterm break!