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Swaziland Pictures, Audio and Video

March 19th, 2011 No comments

I was able to put up a couple blog posts during my quick trip to Swaziland, but because of the lack of reliable internet, I couldn’t upload any media files.  But rather than going back and "spicing up" the previous posts, I figured I would just throw everything into this new post.  So here you go for your multi-sensory enjoyment:

Let’s start with some pictures.  Most of these are pretty low quality because they were taken on either my cell phone or the video camera.

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Airplane I flew in on

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Dome of the church from the backside of the mission

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(blurry) Swazi Sunrise

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Posing with Janet, a pharmacy volunteer from Eastern Kentucky and one of the youth from the child care program

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Two youth from the child care program.  The dresses they are wearing were made by a church in Auburn Kentucky.

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Several kids who live on the mission.

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Mural on the side of one of the child care buildings painted a few months ago by Write on Africa.

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A look at the agricultural fields on the mission.

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A view of "Execution Rock" from a cafe in Mantenga

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A little piece of Kentucky in the Ezulwini Valley.

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I could think of a more appealing name for hair product.

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A rare rain storm begins to roll in.  Even though it was the "wet" season, it hadn’t rained in over a month before this.

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While the rain made things green… it also made things pretty muddy.

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A look at the village center several hours after the rain.  It actually dries out really quick.

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This is where the priest on the mission lives.  You can see the residual mud from rain storm.

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We actually had a second storm come through a few hours later, which I happened to get stuck in. 
However, it was worth it to be able to see this rainbow over the mission.

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Thanks to seatguru.com I was able to score the best seat in economy – extra leg room because of an access panel.

One of the cool experiences I had this week was attending mass at St. Philips church.  It was all in siSwati, and despite a crowd of only about 100 people, the building resonated with the sound of the singing.  Here is a brief audio clip I recorded:

siSwati Singing

 

You can download the audio only here.

Now let’s get to the videos.  Here is some wildlife I fould on my porch.  Just so you know this is a small one – I just happened to have my camera handy.  Some of these on the mission are twice as large.

 

Giant African Land Snail living outside our house

 

Speaking of our porch, one of the great things about taking this trip was I had the opportunity to stay in the duplex where we will be living in July.  Here is a video of the house to give you a feel for what our living arrangement will be like:

Home in Swaziland

 

Finally, I wanted to end with a short panoramic video from the center of the mission.  You can’t see many of the important buildings (such as the clinic, high school, hostel, offices, etc.) but you do get a feel for the place.

Quick look around St. Philips

Some Swazi Firsts

March 18th, 2011 No comments

I was able to get most of my "firsts" taken care of during our last trip to Swaziland: first time to Africa, first time driving on left side of the road, seeing my first zebra and croc, first time eating impala and warthog, etc.  Even still, there have been plenty of new "firsts" for me this trip:

First Black Mamba Sighting – The Black Mamba is the fastest snake and can kill a full grown human in less than hour.  Thankfully the one I saw was from the safety of the car and it was a small one.  Mambas are the most common snake in Swaziland – luckily they tend to avoid confrontation. 

First Swazi Funeral – Unfortunately one of our staff members had his mother pass away this week.  We didn’t stay for the whole funeral, but we did attend part of it (similar to visitation/wake in the States).  Very humbling.

First time picking Tabasco chilies – Cabrini raises chili peppers that are then sold to Tabasco.  On Saturday morning we headed out early with the children at the hostel to help with the harvest.

First siSwati Mass – On Sunday, we went to the traditional service at the mission.  It is entirely in siSwati, but was still very meaningful.  The dome structure of the church makes for excellent acoustics.  The sound of the singing will stick with me for a long time.

First housing contract that included the phrase "Concubines are strictly discouraged." – While it may seem very unusual to us, this is actually an issue in Swaziland where many people still practice polygamy.

First food delivery in the bush – On Tuesday we had some gogos (grandmothers) come asking for assistance.  These women could hardly walk, but made it all the way to the mission (probably a 15km trip).  We took them back home along with some World Food Program provisions.

First time watching cricket match (on TV) – Not only did I watch, but I actually learned to enjoy it.  In case you didn’t know, cricket is a pretty big deal in a large part of the world.  This week the ICC World Cup is taking place (it only occurs every 4 years).  The Aussie volunteer I was staying with is a huge fan and took the time to explain the basics to me.

First time hanging clothes to dry – Here at Cabrini they have washers, but not dryers. With the heat and dryness here most of the year, clothes dry extremely quickly.  Surprisingly, I have never really had to hang dry my clothes until this trip.

First Swazi thunderstorm / power outage – On Tuesday night, after a week of hot dry weather, we had a heck of a storm roll through.  We got at least 3 hours of heavy rain and an amazing light show for a good hour.  We also lost power.  Things are pretty simply here so lack of power is not a big deal – people manage – but it did mean no fans and no water. 

The next day I got stuck in an afternoon storm and ended up spending about 45 minutes in the local marketplace.  After the rain subsided, there was a beautiful rainbow over the mission.

First time watching Al Jezeera – After Al Jezeera released tapes for Osama Bin Laden in 2001, I had always assumed they were a radical fringe new agency.  Not the case at all.  Of all the news outlets available here (CNN, FOX, BBC, SKY, etc.), Al Jezeera is the most professional and provides the best "hard" news coverage.

10 Things to do before Swaziland

August 23rd, 2010 5 comments

With our move to Swaziland probably only 10 months away, Beth and I have been talking through how we should spend our remaining time stateside.  Here is a list of 10 things I want to accomplish before we leave.  If you can help me out with any of them, please give me a shout.

  1. Learn to weld – Let’s start with an easy one.  I wouldn’t consider myself a handy man, but I am willing to try and figure stuff out.  This is one skill I don’t have and would love to pick up just in case the need ever presents itself.
  2. Improve my siSwati – I learned more siSwati in the 10 days we were in the country than I did in the months before trying to teach myself.  That being said, I have yet to cross beyond the typical greetings and pleasantries.  I would love to be able to have a basic conversation before arriving in the country nest summer.
  3. Take a course on AIDS – Swaziland is a beautiful country, but it holds several dubious titles.  It has the highest AIDS rate at nearly 40%!  It also has the highest death rate and fastest declining life expectancy.  Every issue in Swaziland is impacted by the AIDS epidemic (from employment to poverty to orphan care).  I want to take the time to familiarize myself with the disease, its treatment, and its impact on society.
  4. Brush up on my Southern African history – Swaziland has a rich history.  It was largely able to avoid the strife caused by colonialism that negatively affected so much of Southern Africa.  However, much of the current climate in the area is still impacted by this chapter of history.  I want to know more about the Boers and English and tribal conflicts that shaped the area.
  5. Learn to drive a split shift – Another seemingly random skill set I would like to acquire.  I have no desire to drive a large truck, but I want to be able to do it if the need ever arises. 
  6. Become competent in PHP development – Several months ago, a good friend of mine and I began (re)teaching ourselves HTML and CSS.  I know just enough to get myself into trouble.  I would like to build on this skill set by adding PHP development so I can design websites and databases for the organizations I will work with and also as a possible secondary income stream.
  7. Sell / Give away / Downsize our stuff – We have been in this process for several years now, but still have so far to go.  I still have books to get rid of, a house to sell and plenty of household items to deal with. Most of our stuff is not going with us nor will it be saved.
  8. Visit with friends and family – This past weekend I had my 10 year reunion and also visited with college friends at a wedding.  It reminded me how many people I want to see before we leave.  If you are in the area, please take the time to give me a ring and I will treat you to a meal or coffee.
  9. Travel – This is obviously related to the prior.  I foresee many mini-road trips in the near future to visit people, but also I want to explore our own country a bit more before we leave.  I have been fortunate enough travel through most of the country, but Beth has not.  I want to be intentional about visiting places, especially in the American West.
  10.   Have a game plan for the next 10 years – This move to Swaziland has been over two years in the planning.  Beth and I have slowly, but deliberately made decisions about our future and have been willing to change them as needed.  Now that things are beginning to solidify, we need to be thinking about where we want to be in the next decade or longer.  This means working through things like expanding our family, saving for college, setting long term goals, etc.  I don’t expect to have it all figured out, but I want us to be intentional about the direction we are moving. (That is actually the key idea behind the title of my blog.)

siSwati Language Resources

November 1st, 2009 9 comments
siSwati Prayer

siSwati Prayer

[UPDATED: 21 June 2013]

SiSwati is one of two official languages in the Kingdom of Swaziland (English being the other).  It is a Bantu language and of the Nguni sub-group.  It shares significant similarities to Zulu, and native speakers find the languages mutually intelligible.

Swaziland uses English in business and governmental settings, but siSwati is considered the native tongue.  For perspective, if you are in a meeting in Swaziland people will usually speak English, but when you go lunch the discussion will usually be in siSwati.

In our own quest to learn siSwati we have found that since only one million people speak it as a first language (3 Million overall), it has been a bit difficult to find helpful resources.  It is hard enough (impossible) to find a local speaker in the US, let alone a teacher or lessons.  Thus, I have tried to pull together a list of online and print resources.  I hope this list is helpful for other people who may be in a similar situation trying to learn siSwati.

Peace Corp Material:

By far the most current and widely available material comes from the Peace Corp.  They provide a pre-departure pack that includes a study manual and accompanying MP3s.  It is far from comprehensive, but it does a great job of getting you used to the language and introducing you to basic phrases.  You won’t be able to communicate with just this material, but you will be able to be polite. Here are the links to the pre-departure materials:

The above material is the most current, but it is not the most comprehensive.  You may also benefit from their older publications.

  • siSwati Language Handbook – Download from ERIC, Published 1980, 116 pages.  This is primarily a collection of narratives in English and siSwati.  Helpful for an intermediate learner, but the language is a bit dated.
  • Understanding and Speaking siSwatiDownload from ERIC, Published 1969, 449 pages.  This is comprehensive manual, but unfortunately it is quite dated as many of the language conventions and phrases have changed.

The Peace Corp has also just released a new manual for its Swaziland Volunteers and it is very nice.  It is a great mix of useful information, important phrases and essential grammar.  It is the best resource I have found that pulls together what you need to begin learning siSwati.  Unfortunately it has not been publicly released, although if you send me an email, I will try to point you in the right direction.  If Peace Corp puts it out for general use, I will certainly link to it here.

Print Materials:

Unfortunately, I have not been able to come across a single print resource that effectively pulls together everything you need to learn the language (especially if you are trying to teach yourself.)  However, I have found the books listed below, when used together, provide a great base to build on.  I have provided links to the Amazon and Google Books pages so you can get the details on the books (ISBN, book cover, etc.)

  • Handbook of siSwatiPublished 1991, 175 pages.  This is a course book for classes at UNISA and thus takes a more academic approach.  This is where you are going to learn about grammatical structure and parsing. (Amazon | Google)
  • Essential siSwatiPublished 1981, revised 1990, 80 pages.  This is a basic phrasebook designed to be a quick reference.  It also includes stem charts.  It is a great companion to understand how actual siSwati phrases are formed.  I have found some of the phrases are a bit dated. (Amazon | Google)
  • Concise siSwati DictionaryPublished 1981, 187 pages.  Neither of the above books do a good job of teaching vocabulary, so you really need a dictionary.  Just know that because of the way siSwati works, you have to have a basic understanding of the language before you can even use this.  It too is an older resource and some of the words are “Deep siSwati” instead of daily use.   (Amazon | Google)
  • Silulu SesiSwatiPublished 2010, 452 pages.  This new dictionary was recently published as part of a large African Languages collaboration.  It boasts to have been the first dictionary compiled by native speakers.  It provides English > siSwati as well as siSwati > English translations, but is a better resource for those looking to learn English.  Much more up to date than the above dictionary, but is missing key works, and doesn’t do a great job of explaining the differences in various translations (i.e. which are transitive and intransitive forms).  However, if I was only getting one dictionary, I would choose this one for sure. It is often referred to as “The Red Dictionary” (as opposed to the Blue one above) for its plain red design.  (Google)

I have seen all of these books in Swaziland (Websters in Manzini has had all three, CNA in Mbabane and Manzini usually have least couple of them).  We were also able to find them online, but we had to search around for them.  Besides Amazon (US), here are a couple other places you can look:

Memorization:

Of course to learn siSwati (or any language) you first need to memorize vocab and prefixes/suffixes.  I have tried many different options in the past, but recently discovered Anki.  It is an easy-to-use flashcard program that works on computers and mobile devices.  If you use your computer or Android, it is free (iTunes charges a small fee).    It uses algorithms to focus your study time on new and difficult words while stilling keeping the words you know in your memory. You can find out more on the Anki Website.

The best way to learn is to create the “deck” of anki cards yourself, but if you want to go with a short cut, I have upload an excel sheet of 550 siSwati words and phrases from my anki deck.  It took me about two months to learn these at 30 minutes per day.

Everyone is going to learn their own way, but I found it helpful to prioritize these words into 3-4 groups based on importance  and frequency (and upload in appropriate batches).  Then I focused on seeing the siSwati and knowing the English.  As I got used to these words, I also included the English word and had to know the siSwati translation. (This is easily accomplished by simply typing selecting the “Show Reverse” option on appropriate cards.)

It took me about two months to learn these by using Anki 30 minutes per day.    That base allows me to pick up key words in conversation and also have the most basic of conversations (assuming you know some grammar rules to accompany it).

Grammar Notes:

Knowing vocabulary is useless if you can’t put it together into meaningful sentences (or be able to parse sentences given to you.)  Learning the grammar is way outside the scope of this post, but I can tell you that to have a basic understanding of siSwati, you have to understand noun prefixes, verbal extensions, morphemes, subject concords and object concords.  If that already makes sense to you (or you are willing to learn from the books listed above), then this siSwati Cheat Sheet might be helpful.

Other Resources:

Another resource to look into once you begin getting a basic understanding is YouTube.  There are several videos posted in siSwati (mostly religious) which will be helpful in practicing comprehension.  This one is particularly helpful because it includes English subtitles: Thandiwe

I had the opportunity to talk with a headmaster at a school in Swaziland.  I asked him which resources he would recommend and here is what he had to say:

The best book (if you can obtain it) is from the Sebenta National Institute called ‘siSwati Setfu’ translated ‘Our siSwati’ and was a joint venture publication between the Sebenta National Institute and the US Government, under contract no. 79-042-100.

I have not been able to track it down, but if you do, please let me know where.

Hopefully the above resources will be helpful if you are one of the very few who want to teach yourself siSwati.  I will continue to update this post as I find more.

Categories: Reviews, Swaziland Tags: , ,

10 Things (to do before I die)

July 17th, 2009 3 comments

Today Beth and I look to the future with our list of 10 things we want to do before we die.  Some items on this list represent things we already have in the works.  Other items represent things we simply need to make happen.  Finally, a few things on this list are so far out there, I have no idea how to make them happen, but by listing them, hopefully I will move that direction.

  1. Live overseas - Beth and I are very serious about spending a significant amount time in a place where our worldview is forced to expand, and where life is redefined.  Furthermore, we want to make sure Mikayla is a part of this experience.  You can read more about our plans to move to Swaziland in the next few years here, here and here.
  2. Know everything about something and something about everything – This is taken from a quote by Thomas H. Huxley, but does a great job at summing up my educational goals.  I do foresee a time when I pursue a Ph.D., but even if I don’t, I want to be intentional about knowing enough about one subject that I can be a resource to others.  Likewise, I want to know a little about everything so that my perspective of the world is more rounded, and so I can share in the appreciation others have for their passions.  (I love talking with people about what they do for a living — especially if they are really excited about their job).
  3. Adopt a child – Beth and I have been committed to adopting a child since our first conversations about our future plans.  It just makes sense — with so many children without families, why wouldn’t we bring on of them into our home.  Plus, Mikayla is so perfect (healthy, content, good looking), I think we could only go downhill.  I am even ready to get fixed.  Chances are we will adopt while overseas.
  4. Get my pilot’s license – This has been a goal of mine for quite a while.  There is a good chance I will begin training in the next 6 months.  While it is expensive, when you compare it to other educational costs, it is no more than a semester of graduate classes.
  5. Live off the grid – There are two reason behind this.  1.) I want to be a better steward of creation.  2.) I want to live more simply.  There is a good chance this will occur while we are in Swaziland, but if it doesn’t, I want to make sure it happens when we get back.
  6. Speak at least one other language fluently – So far I have ancient Greek and Hebrew under my belt from my days at Asbury.  But being able to ready 2,000 year old texts doesn’t do you much good when you want to communicate with someone today.  Right now Beth and I are beginning to work on our siSwati so we can speak the second national language of Swaziland.  It might not be the most practical language (only 1M in the world speak it), but it will certainly help us with our time overseas.  Once we are back, I may work on my Spanish.
  7. Watch a space shuttle launch – Not as profound as some of the other items on my list, but ever since my 5th grade class did a whole unit on space and learned about the whole launch process, I have been fascinated.  I think it would be awesome to see a launch live — especially a night launch.
  8. Visit all 7 continents – I have 2 down and will get a 3rd shortly.  Antarctica will be tough, but if I get the other 6, I am pretty sure I could make it happen.  I actually have several friends who work there during the southern summer.
  9. Complete an epic backpacking trip – I doubt I will ever complete the AT, the CDT, or the PCT, but I want to do something major.  Maybe it won’t even be stateside.  I want to experience the thrill of completion along with the time to reexamine life that comes with such a trip.

    Grave Peak sunset.  July 4, 2001

    Grave Peak sunset. July 4, 2001

  10. Celebrate my 50th anniversary, walk my daughter down the aisle, die content – How is that for a final goal?  I list these last and together because these require a lifetime of dedication.  I want to be happy with my life when it is through and be able to say I have been a good husband a good father.

Honorable Mention: Camp overnight in an interstate mediumHere is the place I have my eye on… easy access, wide area, cover of trees.  Anyone up for it?

The Kingdom of Swaziland (part 2)

July 12th, 2009 No comments

Yesterday I posted about the decision Beth and I have made about moving to Africa.  Today I want to take the time to give a brief overview of the country of Swaziland, where we are strongly considering moving.  Tomorrow, I will write a bit about why Beth and I made this decision and what it may look like.

Swaziland is the second smallest mainland country in Africa (trailing only Gambia).  It is landlocked and roughly the size of New Jersey.  It lies to the north-east of South Africa and is surrounded on three sides by that country.  Southern Mozambique is along the eastern border of Swaziland.  The population of the country is 1.1M, which is about the same as Rhode Island (by comparison Kentucky has a population of 4.3M).  That gives a population density of roughly the same as Tennessee, but the differences is that Swaziland is more spread out with its capitol and largest city of Mbabane having only 81,000 people.  Only 4 cities have more than 10,000 people and only 10 are over 4,000.

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Map of Swaziland

The country has a rich history and remains as the only remaining monarchy in Africa.  Currently King Mswati III is the ruler of the country.  He currently has 14 wives and 23 children.  Swaziland is navigating a fine line between democracy and monarchy with a (relatively) newly adopted constitution.  In the early 1800′s the Dlamini royal house established themselves in the area.  By the turn of the next century, the area known as Swaziland was under British colonial rule even though the royal family was still in existence.  In 1968 the country was granted independence and a constitutional monarchy was established.  This however was short lived as in 1973 the constitution was dissolved by King Sobhuza leading to a absolute monarchy.  Eventually the monarchy was passed on to the current king Mswati III in 1986.  Under his rule (and thorough the pressure of underground political parties) a movement to more democracy was initiated.  National elections begain in 1993 and in 2006 a new constitution was established that declared the king the head of state and a prime minister and parliment along with a judicial system under him.  While power is now shared, the king still has an abundance of control (for instance, all the land is considered to be the King’s).

King Mswati III

King Mswati III

Swaziland has two languages, siSwati and English.  SiSwati is the traditional langauge spoken in most of the rural areas and English is the language of business and government.  SiSwati is a derivitive of Zulu; you can hear it spoken here.

By far the greatest issue facing the Swazi people is the AIDS epidemic.  Currently nearly 40% of adults are infected that number is on the rise.  According to the UN, it is one of the few areas of the world where the quality of life is decreasing.  The AIDS rate is the highest in the world, the life expectancy is the third worst, and of 177 countries, it listed as being 141st in terms of human development.  77.8% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day and 47.7% lives on less than a dollar.

Despite these staggering problems and a transitioning government, Swaziland is relatively stable.  There are not major uprisings, civil conflicts, or major border disputes.  There are not rebel groups attempting to overthrow the government like there are in other African countries.

The crime rate in Swaziland is relatively high, especially in terms of violent crime.  However, it should be noted that its overall crime rate is 20% lower than that of the United States.  This compilation report highlights crime statistics as well as human rights issues, which I will address next.

While Swaziland is a stable country, it does have major human rights issues as this detailed report from the State Department explains.  Here is part of the the abstract (emphasis mine):

Swaziland is a modified traditional monarchy with executive, legislative, and limited judicial powers ultimately vested in the king (Mswati III). The king rules according to unwritten law and custom, in conjunction with a partially elected parliament and an accompanying structure of published laws and implementing agencies. The population was approximately 1.1 million. The most recent parliamentary elections, held in 2003, were not considered free and fair. Political parties continued to be banned. Political power remained largely with the king and his circle of traditional advisors, including the queen mother. The civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces; however, there were some instances in which security forces committed abuses.

The government’s human rights record was poor, and government agents continued to commit serious abuses. The country faced a serious socio?economic situation characterized by sluggish economic performance, poverty, drought, an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 42.6 percent, and growing unemployment. The following human rights problems were reported:

  • inability of citizens to change their government
  • arbitrary killings by security forces
  • police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force
  • police impunity
  • arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention
  • infringement on citizens’ privacy rights
  • limits on freedom of speech and of the press
  • restrictions on freedom of assembly and association
  • prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists
  • restrictions on freedom of movement
  • discrimination and violence against women
  • poor enforcement of women’s rights
  • child abuse
  • trafficking in persons
  • societal discrimination against mixed race and white citizens
  • antiunion discrimination
  • child labor

I want to end on a bright note.  The country of Swaziland is absolutely beautiful with high plains, majestic mountains and pristine valleys.  I have included some pictures below.

urlp218875-Swaziland-Beautiful_mountains_of_Northwestern_Swazilandurl-15059293

Finally, here are a few websites I have found useful in addition to those linked above:

See Also:

Kingdom of Swaziland Part I – Decision to Move

Kingdom of Swaziland Part III – What we will do and why