It’s Wednesday morning and the bags are being loaded onto the bus. We have gotten pretty efficient at loading, unloading, checking in and checking out of hotels. I think everyone is looking forward to not living out of a suitcase (myself included), but I don’t want to wish our trip away.
The last few days in Scotland have been really good–the countryside is breath taking, the visits interesting and informative–a dairy farmer yesterday said he was all for brexit because it would create chaos and change. It’s interesting when some people look forward to change and others fear it.
Yesterday’s final visit was with a family who has just been through the succession planning process–three brothers each got a pice of the farm and they are each doing different things with it. One brother (probably the more adventuresome) developed outdoor activities on his five hectares–and it’s become a destination now in Scotland. Hearing the family’s story and spending the afternoon with them was such an experience (not to mention the 20 or so who zip lined down the side of the bluff.)
Today is another full day of programming–the group continues to amaze me with their positive spirits and energy. They are hanging in and making the most of this journey.
We send all our love back home–we will be there soon!
Happy Monday! It’s a misty, overcast day in Scotland–what one would expect. It was a long travel night and day to get here. But we arrived in good spirits and ready for our second week–after a little time to decompress.
It was a bit of a cultural shock to get off the plane back to first world craziness. Africa does lull you into a slower pace and “Africa time”. We arrived at the hotel around 3pm yesterday and everyone dispersed to showers, shopping and enjoying Edinburgh for the night. Everyone needed a little time to take their breath and not be on a schedule (myself included) and this is the perfect place to do it.
I can’t wait to see what this week holds–I think it’s going to be another wonderful week of programming!Read More
We are week down and sitting back in the Johannesburg airport reflecting on our time in Africa (and buying last minute souvenirs–the shopping here is incredible!) The group is doing well, while missing family, dogs (the canines at the farm we visited today got lots of pats), and the comforts of home (there has been longing for sweet tea), they have hung together, propped each other up and really been open to the experience of Africa.
It’s sometimes hard to juggle programming, taking care of people and then blogging–this takes a back seat and I feel badly because I know you all are looking forward to reading what is happening here. Valerie has done an amazing job of posting here and on social media and I feel like I don’t hold a candle to her words. She captured Swaziland so well in her love letter–I can’t say much else.
Yesterday and today were a wonderful last memories of this place. Yesterday we spent time in Kruger National Park and saw 18 different species–we only missed a lion from the “Big Five”. Today we started learning about citrus and then our final stop was with a lovely farming family who provided us a wonderful meal and great tour of their grain and livestock operation.
I feel fortunate in so many ways. Grateful that this program allows for a trip like this–it is such an impactful learning experience for the group, thankful for this group of people who are on this journey and amazed at how we can travel around the world and find that our differences aren’t so great. A love for agriculture, for the natural resources that are a part of it and of the people that we become connected to because of this love.
Thank you Africa.Read More
Imagine a people who speak with confidence and humility in equal proportions.
Imagine a people who do not battle with anxiety, depression, or other mental strongholds in too high of numbers like Americans do.
Imagine a people who say ‘thank you’, even when they take nothing.
Imagine a people who sing and dance and beam with national pride, despite being ruled by a king who governs with strict laws.
You’ve just pictured the people of Swaziland.
Two days ago, WLI Class X was walking from a river past several fields of sugarcane to our obnoxiously giant, Marcopolo Mercedes blue bus. As we were walking on the path, we passed a Swati woman with her young daughter. They stood about 40 yards from our bus in the tall grass, staring at a sight they had probably never seen before–30 white Americans laughing and carrying on.
I caught their gaze and waved to them. The little girl, who looked to be about 3, wore what appeared to be pajamas. The mother was dressed as though she might be waiting to go to work in the fields somewhere. Suddenly it dawned on me. This was my moment I had been waiting for.
I hastened my pace from a walk to a fast trot, then to a shuffled sprint past the other Class members to reach our bus. I weaved my way past the individuals boarding the bus to reach my seat where my purple backpack sat. I frantically opened my bag and ripped open a bag of Blow Pops. I grabbed a lollipop and then reversed my steps to get off the bus, dodging people as I went.
I started to gallop through the tall grass towards her. She saw me from a distance, and to my surprise she started to run to me as well. When I reached her, I bent down to get at eye level. “Hi.”
Her eyes were black and bright. Her little nose had been running and dried around her mouth. She looked at me like she had known me all her life and this was a normal exchange between friends. She was beautiful to behold.
I handed her the prize and stared into her eyes wishing I could spend forever there to talk to her, to find out her favorite animal, to hug her tightly just for being small and brave and growing.
Instead, we smiled at each other with knowing looks, knowing we both had to turn around and go on. I hustled back to the bus, not knowing or caring if anyone saw our moment together. I thought about her for the rest of the day, hoping I might see her in the marketplace later by chance.
We will leave this country in a few days. Knowing me, I will probably cry.
The people we have met here have given us moments that can’t and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Keep in mind, this regard I have for the Swati people has nothing to do with their socioeconomic status or the fact that Swaziland is a third world country. While they are money poor, the Swati people are well off in things that money cannot buy–love, pride, community, hope.
My love for the Swati people comes from a place of awe and a small tinge of jealousy.
How can a people be so generous to a people who are known for our greed?
How can a people be so kind to strangers for days and days on end, even as we have certainly and unknowingly offended them over and over again?
How can a people be full of faith and hope for the future despite their government, despite their obstacles, and despite how the world might see them?
They know who they are. They are secure and rooted in their history and stories. They also know To Whom They Belong.
The people are quick to attribute their creator with praise and gratitude for all that they have. Public gatherings are opened with prayer. The Swati dollar says “God is our source.”
It is easier to embrace the unknown, whether that be other people or the future at hand, when you know yourself and know you’re claimed with great value, no matter what others may say is your worth.
Thank you for teaching me so much in just a few short days.
Gainesville, FL, U.S.A.Read More
I’m sure when I shared Plan B after Kenya fell through with the group they wondered where the heck Swaziland was?! Now, I would wager anything that they wouldn’t have traded the experiences in this country for the world!
Today was a stellar day of programming. We began by visiting a farming company–many small farmers have banded together to form “companies” (cooperatives). Sugarcane “aka Swazi gold” is the primary crop here and you can see it as far as the eye can go across the rolling landscape (we definitely aren’t in Belle Glade Toto!) We also visited a Farmers Federation and the 2nd largest sugarcane mill. We were struck at all these stops at how young the leaders were we spoke with and how positive, sharp and articulate they are.
To explore the culture–we stopped at a local grocery store. While there, we met a group of kids who never had seen a bus our size. Their awe was rewarded with all sorts of goodies.
Last night we were delighted by a group of high schoolers who danced and sang for us. They were amazing and really capped off an amazing day of programming!
The group is doing well. They acclimated to the time change and are in good spirits!Read More
As we all retire to our different guest cottages spread out across an old sugar plantation with the eyes of impalas reflected in our flashlights beams, I am thinking that everyone is having the same thoughts…missing home, but loving Africa…and oh by the way, sore as heck because we climbed a dam. Every single one of us, climbed a dam. That’s the group–all for one and one for all! And this is why I enjoy them so much! We complained, we cheered and we all climbed more steps then we may ever had before.
Before and after the dam experience , we learned a lot about Swaziland and its agriculture, it’s king and how this little country can seemingly work with others to get big things done. We saw the landscape change dramatically our our bus window and we even saw citrus that looked like Florida citrus ten years ago! Today was only the first day and we did so much–we will sleep well tonight! Onto new adventures in the morning! I will leave you all with pictures of the dam. Did I mention that we climbed up the entire inside of it??Read More
After one of the craziest travel days–we all made it (along with our luggage) to South Africa. We were greeted by our local guide and also one of my best friends from grad school who lives and works here in Africa. We are staying in a hotel next to the airport so everyone can shower, eat and relax after an extraordinarily long travel day. We got on the plane last night in Atlanta in the dark and arrived here in the dark–its a very strange feeling! Tomorrow we will be up and on the bus pretty early to head to “The Kingdom of eSwatini” or Swaziland. We hope everyone is doing well at home!!Read More