Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Kingdom of Swaziland

Today we spent time in the Malkerns valley, which is absolutely stunning. Wandered up to a waterfall surrounded by lush green trees and mouthwatering purple jacaranda. Vervet monkeys danced in the branches while a cool breeze tempered the hot sun-- absolutely splendid--- you couldn't ask for a nicer afternoon.

This tiny, circular country nestles into its massive sister South Africa, but shares very little of its sociological complexity. I am trying to be diplomatic here. In actuality, what I love about Swaziland is that it shares very little of South Africa’s paranoia and preoccupation with safety. Don’t get me wrong, South Africa is stunning and awash with charm, beauty, rich diverse cultures, and wonderful people (and perhaps has good reason to be nervous), but I love that I can plop down with Swazi mamas without any pretense or suspicion while they sell jewelry or weave grass into baskets and rugs.

Tracy and I gathered quite the crowd when we asked some women to teach us how to wear proper Swazi headscarves. We received many ooohs and aaahs after we had them on. I looked like I was wearing a turban, which made me laugh and could almost glimpse the camel that would whisk me away into the desert.




























We were hosted by a wonderful woman Hlobisle (ummm, lots of “clicks” in their language—very tricky to pronounce) who oversees an HIV/AIDS program with the Mennonite Central Committee. 39% of the population is HIV positive. Yes, you read that right. They have the highest prevalence in the world. Devastating. Polygamy is practiced by its king and I suppose in the rural areas as well. “Free Condoms” were everywhere. Hlobisle said that sex education is not good in Swaziland and starts far too late, but I know there are many organizations bolstering Swazi programs targeting HIV reduction. Everyone is affected in this small country—even if they aren’t infected.

4 comments:

Tonyalynne said...

thinking of you...

Katherine said...

trying this...

Katherine said...

Hi now,
Sorry I've been so lame as to note publish a note before. I just figured out that I don't have to make a new account for the purpose. So.. I love the fact you visited the Swazi cultural center. We saw the same place with the cultural show. Isn't Swaziland a beautiful place? I look forward to seeing the exciting end to your journey.

Alissa Maxwell said...

Wish you would have posted a picture of yourself in the head scarf. I'm inserting your face in Tracy's picture. Wishing you all the best and hoping for pictures from the rest of your travels. You'll be back in the states soon, yes?