Saturday, March 29, 2014

Waterford Kamhlaba - UWC Day 2014

Today was Waterford's annual UWC Day here on campus! So, since we're such a diverse school and everything, a lot of the times we forget exactly how diverse we are. I mean, I sit between a Tanzanian/Rwandan and a Swazi in maths class, and live across the hall from a Zimbabwean, so it's pretty obvious that "diversity" is kind of an everyday thing for us here.

So, once a year, we have UWC Day, which is our big international festival. Oversimplified, we dress up like ridiculous patriots and traditional people from our respective countries and cultures, make lots of traditional food, and then watch each other singing and dancing traditional pieces.

The great question every year is "what do you wear for a national costume if you're _____?" In my case, what the heck was I supposed to wear as an American? Last year, because I did Indian dancing (my lovely Indian friend in the blue above did it again this year), I avoided the question. But, this year, as the Russian choir I was singing in didn't have a set outfit, I was left to dress like an American - here is what I came up with.

Overall, the day was definitely a success. I performed with the Russian choir, and then spent essentially the rest of the day hanging out, watching different performances (I'm going to attempt to post some videos later today), and eating lots of different kinds of food. Some of my favorites were the banana creme pie from the Britain stall, and the burfee from the south Asian stall, and of course, the caterpillars from the Lesotho stall. There was a specific name for the caterpillar, but I was too busy making this face as I ate it to remember...

Let me tell you - that was not a small caterpillar. Strangely enough, once I got over the fact that I had just ingested a two-inch long insect larvae, the taste wasn't all that bad. Kind of spicy, actually.

At the end of the day - I'm tired, thirsty (from eating Zambian salty snacks) and with aching feet, but I'm also smiling and chilling. Just as I think the "UWC Day" is over, my friend from South Africa walks into my room, and I realize that it's not over, at least until we graduate. And then a Zimbabwean comes in and asks if I've seen her phone, and I hear a Tanzanian laughing in the corridor. Thing is, I haven't thought of anyone by their nationality in a long time. I guess it's just today, and tomorrow, I'll forget we're all from different places, and we'll all just go back to complaining about teachers and homework (some things are the same everywhere).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waterford Kamhlaba - Inter-House Athletics

First of all, on Sunday we went hiking, and so here is an obligatory "awesome-Swazi-rocks" picture of me and my wonderful IB1 from Ethiopia.

Anyways, yesterday was Waterford's annual inter-house athletics competition. The way that inter-house competitions work in these parts is that the entire student body is randomly grouped into three houses. Here, the houses are Henderson, Guedes, and Stern, named after the founders of the school (in very proper South African boarding school style).

So, I'm in Henderson, which is the best house, and also happened to be the winning house of the day, with six hundred and something points. My small contribution to that was my winning six points in running the 3000m race! Now, I am wonderfully sunburned (again, whoops), and quite honestly not looking forward to going back to classes tomorrow.

Here are some of the highlights photos from those that I took yesterday:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Control Your Husband Using a Remote?

This is a post about the classified ads in Swazi newspapers (The Times of Swaziland, in this case). It's a lovely paper, with questionable credibility, cited sources ranging from "The Google" to "Wikipedia,"  and pictures from stock databases. But, the one thing they do have are the most amazing classifieds - they start rather similarly to newspapers in America. But then, after a few pages, you reach the sangoma (witch doctor) ads. (Sorry to make you turn your head - the internet doesn't like me, and the connection is simply too slow to do anything about the rotation).

 But seriously - this is no joke. You don't mess with the sangomas.

Friday, March 21, 2014



Last August, I went on a grand travelling adventure. and then never actually posted anything about it on here. Sad.

In April and May, I have another term break, and will be going on another grand adventure, and so to lead up to that, I'm going to try and post a few of the stories that I've been hoarding from August. I know, this is really not in a timely manner, and goes against everything the internet stands for in terms of being "instantaneous," but whatever. I run on Swazi time.

Without further to do, I present to you...


This is a story that is hard to start, because it's kind of an epic saga that takes three days to build up to. So, I'll start three days beforehand. I was hitch-hiking from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, making my way up into Zambia, and then just further north and north up into Zambia, where I would take a sharp right and head over into Malawi. And taking a right was about as specific as my directions were, because I didn't bring a map on this adventure.


So, one night, a truck drops me off in Mpika, Zambia. Here are a few maps for your reference in this story: the yellow country on the first one is Zambia, and the red dot on the second one is Mpika.

I find my way to an inn, pay my fee for the night (a whopping 2 USD), and settle into my room. After showering in a standing shower for the first time in about four days, I head outside, and try to figure out where I'll be heading in the morning. I'd heard that there were few towns further north of Mpika along the road, so I figure it's about time in the adventure to think about that right turn into Malawi.

So, I walk back onto the road, and see a group of men and women sitting around in some lawn chairs. After introducing myself, greetings, and answering the typical questions of what in the world a girl like myself was doing in Mpika (do I need to say that Mpika is really, really off the tourist route? Because it is. The tourist route doesn't even know Mpika exists), they decided to take it upon themselves to draw out my route for the rest of my Zambia trip, into Malawi.

After a solid half hour of really intense debate, which I only understand a tad bit of, because English is not the lingua franca in those parts, they presented me with a plan.

"Sistah," the man said proudly. "There is a bus tomorrow. You will take it back to Lusaka, and then over to Lilongwe."

Now, Lilongwe is in Malawi, but please look back at the two maps that I've just posted of Zambia. I had just come from Lusaka. Lusaka is three days trip from Mpika. I was not about to retrace those steps. I described this to them, and they all looked at each other cautiously, before offering their next piece of advice.

"Sistah," a woman started slowly. "You may go north to Isoka. It is on this road. They will know more than we do. But, there are no roads to Malawi from there." I was frustrated at the lack of roads. Google Maps, which I had referred to back in Swaziland while planning my route, showed several roads leading from northern Zambia to Malawi, and I asked her about these.

"THOSE roads?" the whole group laughed. "Sistah, those roads are dirt trails through Chinese mines! And they are missing all the bridges! Nobody can pass on those roads." (Dear Google: Please add a maps option to avoid Chinese mines and missing bridges. Thanks.)

Anyways. Seeing as how I really didn't want to go back to Lusaka, I figured my best bet would be to head up to Isoka. At the very least, I was here to adventure, and this was an adventure.


I hitched a ride in a lorry from Mpika to Isoka, where I was dropped on the side of the highway. I took the driver's phone number, not because I wanted to call him, but because I knew that if I anyone was being creepy, having a local phone number was a great way to back up the pretense that I was visiting a friend from around here.

I walked three kilometers down a side road into Isoka, which turned out to be quite a bustling little village, especially compared to Mpika, which felt like a ghost town compared to this. There were no paved roads anymore, and everything just seemed to wind in and out of itself. The building were all corrugated iron, but there were a lot of them, and somehow none of them looked like they were about to fall down.

By this point in my trip, I knew that I was going to stand out, as I am mzungu - white. But, I think this was the first time I was in a place where I genuinely wondered whether people had ever seen a white person before. I tried asking for a place to stay, but literally nobody spoke English, and I was met with wide eyes - some that were curious, some that seemed scared. I didn't quite know how to handle my position, and must have looked increasingly lost. A group of women sitting in between two of the shacks called out to me.

"Mzungu," the oldest woman called. They were sorting through a massive pile of colorful clothes.

"Yes, ma'am," I said, walking over. They were smiling, which was a good sign. I remembered the name of a guest house the truck driver had mentioned. "Do you know Luangwa?" (For all my Americans, that's pronounced ROO-ANG-WAH.)

She smiled, and nodded. She called over a group of kids, maybe four or five years old, all barefoot, and talked to them rapidly in a language I don't understand. I wish I knew what it was called, but the language in Zambia changed between villages, and on such a trip where I moved on every few days, I could never remember the name of the language of the day. After giving them the instructions, she shook my hand, and motioned for me to follow the kids.

I really hope that Luangwa is actually the name of a guest house.

Anyways, it was. And when I got there, I was met by the funniest woman I have ever met. She said her name was Annie, and spoke a very amusing sort of English. Nonetheless, it was completely comprehensible, which was an achievement.

"HELLO SISTAH!" She greeted me in a high pitched scream, which turned out to be the normal tone of her voice. "YOU STAY HERE TONIGHT YES?"

"Yes, ma'am," I nodded.

"YES YES YES!  COME SISTAH, ON CHAIR YOU SIT!" She motionned to a chair inside the doorway, while she scurried around the corner into what was a little booth, presumably her office.


"Just one night, ma'am."


"I'm going to Malawi, ma'am."


"Sorry, ma'am, I meant Malawi."


This went on for five minutes, until I gave up (little did I know how wrong I was). Anyways, we shall leave this for the time being. Annie showed me around the guesthouse, and showed me all eight different toilets, all which were equally disgusting. But, I couldn't help but smile, because she was so proud.

Later that night, a man and a woman came to my room. I mean, seeing as how I was just travelling around, I was not expecting visitors, but here they were! Turns out Annie had run around outside telling everyone that I wanted to go to Malawi in the morning, and they were here to explain the route to me.

"Sistah, the journey will be hard," he declared solemnly, as if trying to go to Malawi from here would be some sort of pilgrimage. "There are no bridges on that road, and you will have to cross the mines."

"Can I do it?" I asked, hoping the roads weren't entirely impassable.



After a night in the guesthouse, Annie burst into my room at five in the morning, grabbed my arm, and dragged me awake, handing me a piece of bread and a cup of water.


I always have my backpack assembled when I sleep, so I just grabbed it, and she grabbed my arm, and we ran through the streets of Isoka, the sun barely risen. Everywhere we went past, even places I hadn't yet seen on my explorations of the previous night, people were yelling goodbye, as if I knew them. It's strange.

So, we reach what appears to be the bus rank, except that where in Swaziland people would have been piling into kombis, people here are piling into the backs of pick-up trucks and lorries. Annie pushes me onto a truck, and says something quickly to the driver. I ask the woman sitting next to me where we are going. She smiles, and replies, "Muyombe."

Muyombe? Come on, Annie. I'm going to Malawi, not Muyombe! I get the driver's attention, and he comes over. We greet each other, and I am happy to find he speaks perfect English. I ask him where the truck is going.

"Muyombe. Nobody here knows how to get to Malawi. Muyombe is closer to the border. Maybe they will be able to help you."

Well, I guess I'm going to Muyombe! I hug Annie farewell, and try to position myself well on the back of the truck, which is becoming increasingly chaotic. It's a lorry, with a metal frame on top of the back. There are people sitting in the back, on the frame, in the front, and on top of the cab. I counted forty people, and there are still more climbing on. Men are loading crates of gasoline, tires, and several dozen chickens on the back with us. I position myself on a wooden board, leading against a metal pole. I didn't know it when I sat down, but I was going to be in that position for the next ten hours.

We set off soon after that, after the truck had been overfilled past what I thought was considered overfilled. Now, the first thing that was greatly apparent to me what that I had no idea what I had gotten into. The moment we took off, everyone suddenly came up with these fabrics and masks and headscarves. It looked suddenly like what you would imagine the Middle Eastern deserts to be, with people protecting their faces to such an extent that everyone looked like colorful Bedouins. I pause, and then reach into my bag and pull out my Swazi mahiya, which I wrap around my head and over my mouth, not quite sure why.

But, that too soon became apparent. As it was dry season, the red dirt was essentially dust, ready to be flung up by the tires as a kicked along the dirt path. Especially driving in and out of the mines, where no plants grew to hold the dirt down, the dust was suffocating, and coated everything with a thin layer of redness. I was more than grateful that I had something to cover my head.

Now, let's refer to the above map for the rest of this journey. First, find Isoka, and then follow that "road" east (I've learned that on maps of Africa, at least from what I've seen, any dotted or thin "road" lines denote something more along the lines of a path). Ironically enough, the lack of a bridge didn't matter, because everything was so dried up and dusty that the river was more of just a downhill, which was essentially ignored, and we bumped across it like it was flat ground.

Speaking of flat ground, please look at the map. Zambia had, until this point, not been particularly hilly. But reflecting on this journey, I've realized that Muyombe is, as far as I can tell, right there where it's 2000m, in between those two mountains there, next to Malawi.

Let's just say that your overfilled truck had some issues with some of the hills.

But, as we went along, I realized what the purpose of all the supplies was. As we bumped along, we'd stop at random points along the path, where groups of ten or twenty people would be standing. They'd take some gasoline, some maize meal, and whatever else the wanted, paid the driver, and walked back away from the road with their purchases. For such a rural area, it appeared that I was riding along with the grocery truck.

At one point, all the attention of the truck seemed to turn to me. It was one of those awkward moments where everyone was looking at me, and clearly talking about me, but because they had wisely chosen to avoid English, I had no idea what they were saying. I glanced over at the woman next to me, who I knew spoke English, hoping she might translate, but she just smiled and shook her head, laughing a bit. I figured I'd better just do the same, and listened, trying to figure out what they were saying with a slightly confused smile pasted across my mouth.


Eventually, we made it to Muyombe, a village of what seemed to be all of four buildings and a pool table in the center of the square. As I got off the truck, I asked the woman where I might find a place to stay for the night, as it was about four in the afternoon, and I didn't think I would find any continuing transport that night. She told a young boy, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, and then told me to follow him to the guesthouse, which was just down the road.

In writing this, I amaze myself at how trusting I am. And then I get amazed again at how trustworthy the world I run into seems to be.

I arrive at the guesthouse, meet the owner, pay another whopping 2 USD for my room, and start to settle in. But, not thirty second after I'd paid, the boy comes bursting into the doorway, mumbling something about "truck" and "Malawi." He clearly didn't speak English, but clearly wanted me to come back to the town with him. I started to follow him, but he grabbed my bag, said something to the owner, got my money back, shoved it into my hand, and started to run, motioning for me to come with. I had never seen such urgency from someone, and so I followed him down the path at quite a fast run.

We got back to the center of town, and I was met by a circle of ten or fifteen people, including the woman who had set next to me on the first truck. 

"Sistah," a man started. "You are going to Malawi?"

"Yes," I replied, wondering if I was about to be told when and how.

"We are going to Malawi. You will come with us."

I glanced over at the only vehicle left within sight. It was an old pick-up truck that looked like it could fall apart at any moment. I wasn't sure I really wanted to go to Malawi on this truck.

"Will we use this truck?" I asked, pointing to the pick-up.

"Yes, sistah. This truck leaves tonight. The next one will leave next Wednesday."

Five days in Muyombe? I guessed I'd be taking a ride on the scary pick-up truck!

"Okay. I'll come with you." And so it was decided.

I chilled in the village for a few hours after that, as the men prepared the truck for the journey. I found that another girl would be riding on the truck with me, which made me feel slightly better. She was from Malawi, but had been staying in Muyombe for a few weeks, and so she showed me around the village. There really wasn't much beyond a small building, which was the social center and restaurant for the village, a shop or two, and a small circle of houses. Everything was made of dirt, and yet everyone in the village was well-dressed and clean. I wished I weren't quite so covered in the red dust from the previous trip.

A group of men was playing pool in the center of the road, where a pool table seemed to have been dumped there. It too was immaculate, and I wondered under what miracle the dust had stayed away. Anyways, one of the men walks up to me, and is obviously drunk. But, it's not a malicious drunk, and his friends are laughing at him, so I play along.

"Sistah!" he cries. "You are going to Malawi! Me too! I'm driving!" I feel my second doubt at the safety of this ride, but it's soon pushed away by the following laughter, the kind of laughter that only comes when somebody says something so ridiculous it can't possibly be taken seriously.

"Sistah!" he continues. "Have you evah had sugah cane?"

"No," I replied.

"AH-AH!" He's practically screaming. He runs into the restaurant, and comes back out with a two-meter stick of sugar cane, and hands it to me. I pause, break it in half, hand half to the other girl, and then hesitate, not quite sure how to approach eating what looks like a bamboo stick. I watch the other girl rip off the outside with her teeth, and then chew the inside pulp like some kind of tobacco. I follow suit, and am surprised at how good it is. I mean, I know, it's essentially just sugar, but it doesn't look very nice.

So, we sit there eating this sugarcane until the truck comes back, ready to go. Six large barrels of petroleum have been wedged into the back, and in the space left, a few bags of coconuts, personal luggage, and one that is only rubber flip-flops. The driver shouts, and all the people who have been lounging around the restaurant and buildings stand up and load onto the truck. I count thirty-four people. In the back of an already loaded pick-up truck. To describe to you how we're sitting - nobody's seat was lower than the top of the cab. We were sitting on top of a load that was already an overload. And this time, I had no board to sit on and no pole to lean on. 

"Let's go!" someone screams, and so we go.


I never travel at night. Actually though, I never, EVER, hitchhike at night. I mean, except for this.

By the time we had left Muyombe, it was already dark. I found myself wedged between a young man from Zambia, who spoke great English, and the girl from Malawi I had been talking to before. We were piled so high onto the truck that we essentially just held onto each other, in one big mass. That way, if we tilted too far to one side, as we did every few minutes, we'd just hold each other on. There were only two girls on the truck, and they made us sit in the middle so that we wouldn't fall. At first, I protested, thinking this was sexist. Then, I realized that this was rural Zambia, and so feminism took a different form here than in America. Feminism here was going to be saving my life from falling off the scariest truck in the world, and so I moved into the center. I soon found that I was grateful for the place, as the truck swerved and tilted so far over I was surprised it came back upright again.

Driving through this area at night was strange. I knew that there wasn't going to be any electricity, but what happens when people don't use electricity is that they use fires and candles. Riding along the back of a truck, I couldn't help but be touched by the repetition of it. In complete darkness, we'd pass a small flame, visible only as some vague brightness away in the bush. A  quarter hour later, another one. And then, another.

We weren't even driving on a road anymore. The driver slowly made his way through the bush, weaving in and out like he was driving in circles. Our group on the truck had grown silent, although looking around, I could tell that everyone was completely awake and alert. We drove like this for hours, just listening to the tires crunching over the bush, and the sounds that insects and animals make in the nighttime.

That is, until out of nowhere, we hit tarmac. After not having seen pavement since Mpika, I've jolted back intop consciousness, wondering where we are. I get an answer almost immediately as one of the men sitting on the top of the cab calls out, "WELCOME TO MALAWI!"

For most everyone on the truck, this announcement is met with joyous noise. Everyone breaks out their wallets, and starts exchanging money with each other, as if the back of a moving truck in the middle of the night is a typical place for currency exchange. Thankfully, I knew the rate between Zambian kwacha and Malawian kwacha, and smiled when I realized the man I traded with had done the exchange just slightly in my favor. Whether for convenience of math or for kindness, either way.

But then it occurred to me - wait, Malawi? What about the border, my passport, the fact that my passport said I was still in Zambia, but I was in Malawi? I asked the man next to me about whether we'd go to a border post.


Oh. I mean, okay. I guess that's cool.

We drove for another three hours along the actual road before reaching a village, where we spent the night. The next morning, I woke up and faced my reality - I was in the country illegally. I made my way to Mzuzu, where I went to the immigration offices (which were also the prison offices - eek), and explained my predicament. They stamped a note into my passport, and sent me on my way.


But, to this very day, my passport lacks an exit stamp from Zambia, and an entry stamp into Malawi. yet, a week and a half later, when leaving the country, that realization of what a sorry state of affairs my visas were in caught the attention of the immigration officer at the southern border.

"How did you get into the country?" the officer asks me, a stern look on his face.

"I got on a truck in Muyombe," I state simply, holding my breath.

His face melts, and he laughs - practically giggles, before stamping my passport. "Oh, Muyombe... have a nice trip, sistah."

Thanks guys.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Nothing extraordinarily exciting (always a relative statement) has been happening around here this week, but there have been quite a few moments that have made me laugh when I think about how "UWC" they are. Here are my top ten from this week:
  1. The sheer amount of time that I've spent speaking Arabic this week, after nearly three years of ignoring the fact that I speak the language.
  2. When the Dutch student is shocked that I am speaking siSwati with the Swazi student.
  3. When I sit down at dinner and we joke that it's a south Asian cultural meeting, but it's not even a joke, because the other people at the table are two Indians and a girl from the Maldives (Maldivian? Not sure).
  4. Seeing my bookshelf and realizing that the titles are in three different languages, and that I understand all of them.
  6. The fact that one of my best friend's room is a mess right now because she's spending all her time constructing a costume for a traditional Malawian dance, to be danced by a Zimbabwean boy and a Zambian boy at the cultural day in a few weeks.
  7. I am in a Russian choir. Enough said.
  8. Because currently looking around the room, I could thirteen nationalities. There are fourteen people.
  9. When maize-meal porridge is served at a meal, everyone has a different name for it "from home.
  10. Because today, I got rejected from a job in Germany, and I don't even care, because in a month, I'm going to Namibia and Botswana.
Anyways, that's pretty much all! And to make this even more UWC, here's a picture of me representing the Anti-Human Trafficking group in an assembly announcement. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

South Africa - Gay Pride 2014

This midterm, I hauled myself 1,700 kilometers across the continent from Swaziland to Cape Town Pride. And while, over the course of five days, I spent a grand total of 60 hours on a bus, and a mere 8 hours asleep in a proper bed, it was totally worth it. No doubts, no questions - it was absolutely, positively fabulous.
Gay Pride is something that happens all around the world, in various countries, albeit at different times of the year. It's a celebration of diversity, and an acceptance for being one's self, and essentially a big party to promote free love in such a world full of hate. While South Africa has a liberal constitution that allows gay marriage, hate crimes still run rampant, and neighboring nations such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland still have extremely anti-gay laws in place.

And yet, thousands upon thousands of people turned up in the street for the parade and festival. I don't know exactly when I realized it, but I found myself very nearly crying at the sheet sight of so many different people all together. I don't even know how to express the feeling of seeing it, especially after having been living in Swaziland for the last year, which is not the nicest place to be queer (I'm technically breaking the law every time I enter the country). And so, after quite a long time in Swaziland now, being a part of Cape Town's Pride literally made my heart swell.
I guess this is the moment that sums it up for me: at one point, this particular drag queen was on stage. Her name is Mary Scary, she's wonderful, and yeah. Anyways, she was up on stage, and she says, "Let me hear you if you've ever been called a dyke! Let me hear you if you've ever been called a faggot!" Hearing the noise that people made after that made my legs practically drop out from under me. Sometimes (that's a lie - most of the time), it's difficult to be proud, faced with so many of the attitudes and discrimination against being queer in Africa. Many times, especially in Swaziland, where essentially nobody else at school is openly gay, it's isolating. Yet, there at Pride, the feeling of being one of a thousand people standing there, all sharing the same struggle, and all making it, despite every attempt made against us - it's more than powerful.
Then, led by the queens, the entire crowd lurched into a roaring rendition of (this one's for you, Ugandan legislators), "F*** YOU! F*** YOU VERY MU-U-UCH!"
I feel like I can't really articulate what this Pride meant. More than the wonderful-ness of seeing drag shows, more than the freedom of gay bars and clubs, more than the happiness of dancing on a parade float, throwing glitter at angry people watching us from their windows, it was a few days to be really, truly proud. Not necessarily rainbow socks and tiaras "proud" (although that was definitely a thing), but simply PROUD-proud. Proud as in not caring what people thought. Proud as in not worrying about people thinking the whole thing was "too gay." Proud as in showing love.
And while love is not the easiest thing, especially in a place with attitudes that are so filled with hate, love is still love, and that is a beautiful thing.