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Posts Tagged ‘Swaziland’

Sex, Drunk Driving, and a call to Polygamy

April 29th, 2013 1 comment

It is no secret that Swaziland’s main newspaper The Times is more akin to The Weekly World News than to the New York Times.  It is also common knowledge oddities are often a part of daily life in Swaziland.  But occasionally, you find an article that really makes you shake your head and say “Did I really read that?”  Today’s paper included one of those articles.  Here is a scan, but you can also click the image to read the online version.

sex drunk driver

This article really has some gems (or you could call them glimpses into depravity).

MANZINI – A drink-driving soldier told the court that he committed the offence after his wife refused to have sex with him.

Sifiso Dlamini (33) of Ngwane Park, who is employed by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force and is based at Mdzimba, said this during his appearance in court on Thursday.

“Your Worship, I was refused sex by my wife and I was so angry I decided to go and drink with the hope that I will get a secret lover (makhwapheni) at the drinking hall.”

Ahh… the classic sex-depravation justification.

But thankfully we learn that this gentleman’s needs were met:

He said when he was arrested by the police, he was on his way to a secret place with a makhwapheni he had managed to snag at the bar.

So how does the court respond to his self medication with drinking and infidelity?

Magistrate Dumisa Mazibuko applauded him for not trying to rape his wife because he would have been sentenced a heavier fine than that of drink-driving.

Mazibuko also told him that it was better to go and buy sex from sex workers than raping. “If you have the money, go and buy instead of raping,” he said.

I don’t even know how to comment on that.  At least there is an acknowledgment that marital rape is not a good thing, but how in the world can a judge recommend the utilization of sex workers as a viable solution?

After he was found guilty, the defendant asks for mercy:

He asked the court to be lenient because he was a first offender and had a wife and two children to look after.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget that wife and family he has to take care of.  I am actually surprised that he didn’t ask for a waiver of the fine so that he could have enough money to pay sex workers in the future.

Instead of being leniant, the court offers a long-term solution.

After telling the court that he traditionally wedded his wife, the court advised him to take a second wife.

“The law allows you to have more than one wife,” said Magistrate Mazibuko.

The accused also agreed with the court. “After what happened, I will now consider taking a second wife,” he said.

You  just can’t make this stuff up!  I understand that polygamy is a recognized part of Swazi culture.  But we are in a whole new realm when multiple wives are being recommended by the judicial system as a way to solve issues of varying libido in a marital relationship.

At the article’s conclusion, we find that Mr. Dlamini is in fact sentenced for his crimes:

He was sentenced to two years in prison or a fine of E2 000.

In case you are not up on your currency conversion, this gentleman was given the choice of either spending two years in jail or paying a fine of $220.  That is the typical judgment against drunk driving which brings up a whole other set of issues.  If you are rich, you can break the law and easily afford to pay the fine without even flinching.  However if you are poor (and remember that 70% of the country lives on less than $2/day), you either give up over a month’s salary, or you sit in jail for a long long time.

I will let you draw your own conclusions and judgments, but this article was so over the top, I just had to share it.

Hiking Execution Rock

July 1st, 2012 No comments

Anyone who has driven the Ezulwini corridor between Mbabane and Manzini in Swaziland has certainly taken note of the large precipice known as Execution Rock.  The mountain is officially known as Nyonyane Peak, but goes by the more sinister moniker because it is said criminals were historically forced off the edge at spear-point for their crimes.

Execution Rock
[View of Execution Rock from one of our previous trips]

Since coming to Swaziland, we have wanted to hike to the top, but it is one of those things where it is so close by, you never get around to doing.  Plus, there is notoriously little information on the internet about.  I knew the mountain was in the Mlilwane Game Reserve, and had heard there was a short route and a long route, but beyond that reports vary widely.  Some sites say the hike takes 6 hours and others say you can get there in 15 minutes.  But, we enjoy spending time at Mlilwane, so we decided to make a day out of it; if we got to the top of Execution Rock that would be great.  If not, then we would enjoy a relaxing game drive and other short hikes.

Mlilwane is a relatively small park, but most of it is criss-crossed with trails.  There are no large predators, but you are absolutely guaranteed to see zebra, warthogs, wildebeests and a wide variety of antelope variations.  Plus it is super cheap.  The entrance price for all three of us was supposed to be E75 (less than $10 USD), but we have a Wild Card that lets us get in free.


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[Execution Rock is the summit on the right, note the hippos on the island to the left.]

At the main gate I asked about hiking trails to Execution Rock and was told I would have to go to the Rest Camp to get a hiking map.  That is only a 3.5km drive, so it was no big deal.  Basically you leave a E10 deposit, let them know where you are going, and you get a wrinkled laminated map.  Here is a photo of the map to give you an idea of the hiking trails inside Mlilwane:

Mlilwane Hiking Map

As you can see, there are a couple longer routes that are possible which start around the Reilly’s Rock area.  We ran into a few other hikers while we were out and they said they were told it would take them 2.5 hours to get to the summit of Execution Rock from the lodge at Reilly’s Rock, but they were able to do it in about an hour and a half (they looked to be in pretty good hiking shape).  You can also see there is a much shorter route that starts most of the way up the mountain.  That is the route we decided to take.  We were told at the Rest Camp that that route takes about 15 minutes to hike.  It’s probably possible to do it in 15 minutes but It took us closer to 40 minutes with our toddler in tow.

The drive from the rest camp to the Nyakato viewpoint took us about 20 minutes to drive.  We had a large 4×4 truck and did the drive in the dry season so it really wasn’t a problem.  If you’re used to driving on mountain dirt roads, I think you could probably do it in any vehicle, but if it rained, I could see how it could get pretty sketchy.

At the Nyakato viewpoint there is a nice picnic table and the views really are incredible.  We could hear the drums from Mantenga Cultural Village and the views of Sheba’s Breasts (neighboring mountain) and down into the mid-veld were pretty incredible.

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[Aloe plants in the foreground, Sheba’s Breast in the background.]

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The trail was well maintained and easy to follow.  I would guess the walk was less than a mile from the trailhead to the summit (1.2 km).  Most it was gradual slopes although the last stretch required careful foot placement and an occasional hand on the ground.

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[Mikayla handled the trail just fine.]

The day we hiked Execution Rock, there were several wildfires burning so the valley was pretty smokey.  However, the views from the top were still incredible.

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[Summit!]

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[Don’t worry, she really isn’t as close to the edge as it looks.]

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[Looking up the valley towards Mbabane]

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[Down the valley towards Manzini]

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[Looking back towards the trailhead]

From the time we left the truck to the time we returned to it, it was probably about 2.5 hours.  The hike up Execution Rock was certainly not an epic journey, but it was a great day hike that you can complete start to finish in 3-4 hours including the drive up to the trailhead.

After the hike, we spent about an hour driving through the park before grabbing lunch at the rest camp.  We were there during the hottest part of the day, but we were still able to see quite a few animals:

Execution Rock 008

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[The animals at the Rest Camp are pretty accustomed to people]

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[Mlilwane is known for its birdlife like this kingfisher.]

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[This is actually the first crocodile we have seen in Africa and it was HUGE.]

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Overall, it was an absolutely great day.  We ended it by eating at a new restaurant called Marimba’s in Manzini that specializes in African cuisine and it was excellent.  We were even able to throw in some grocery shopping and a stop at the airport and still make it home 12 hours after we left.

I am so glad we finally got that hike in.  Now we just need to make time for a few of the waterfall hikes in the highveld that we have been talking about doing.

MLK Day in Swaziland

January 16th, 2012 No comments

Beth and I celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in Swaziland, and needless to say, it was much different than experiences in prior years.  We missed bundling up Mikayla (our own little MLK) for a cold march through Bowling Green Streets.  We missed attending the church service at State Street Baptist.  We missed processing through MLK’s legacy with like-minded people.

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We missed a lot, but we didn’t miss out on the remembrance.  I listened to King’s "I have a Dream" speech three times today.  The first time was in my office where I found it still causes tears to stream down my face.  The second time was at a staff reflection service, and the third was sitting at home winding down for the evening.

Processing through the day with our Swazi staff was a real treat.  After all, while most of them know of King, none of them really understood the full significance of his life and legacy.  There were 5 Americans there: our family and the two sisters.  Sister Diane is old enough to remember the march and the effect it had on the nation.  Sister Barbara is old enough to have seen many of the effects of the civil rights movement come into fruition.  Beth and I are old enough to realize just how fortunate we are to live in a more enlightened time.  And, Mikayla is old enough to live in MLK’s dream of a world where "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

Reflecting on the speech in Swaziland provided a fresh view of King’s vision.  We have experienced a total racial inversion in the last 6 months from a world of white super-majority to white super-minority.  But, we are doing it in a country that has largely been spared the racial tensions of it closest neighbors and the world as a whole (The white and black on the Swazi flag represent racial unity, which is unique in this region).  Also, it was profound to hear Martin Luther King speak about the "blank check" his country had written him since so few of the promises for freedom and equality had been fulfilled.  We heard those words in a country where the new constitution promises freedoms and liberties that few have seen implemented.

Finally, it was significant to celebrate an "American" holiday by delving into a discussion of how Kingdom usurps Empire.  In a nutshell, this was the vision and dream that King shared with the world: things are not the way they are supposed to be, but we are a trajectory of total restoration.

Our celebration was much different than years past, but it was equally as significant.

[By the way, if you haven’t listened to King’s I Have a Dream speech today, please take the time to do so.]

2011 Year in Review (AKA: US to Swaziland in 5 years or less)

January 14th, 2012 3 comments

The coming of a new year gives us a reason to reflect on the year that was. Inevitably, we notice how fast time goes by and how, in a relatively short time, so much can change. That notion of mutability was amplified for us in 2011.

One year ago, my wife Beth and I both had jobs we loved. We lived in a comfortable house in a quiet sub-division where we knew our neighbors. We had a great support network of friends and family. We drove cars that were paid off. Our daughter had every luxury a one-year old could want. Heck, one year ago, there was probably snow on the ground, Christmas candy on the table, a Netflix movie streaming over the Internet and left over food from our favorite restaurants in the fridge.

Today, as I am writing this reflection, I am sitting in the dark because a summer storm has knocked electricity out. My whole family is sweating because it hit the high 90s today and the humidity is unbearable. My back hurts from cutting the grass with a glorified machete. Going to town today to get our mail and groceries meant 30 minutes on dirt roads through the bush and then another 10-15 on “tar roads.” We are still mourning the loss of our dog that was killed by a 7’ black mamba. Everywhere around us people are dying of HIV, TB and neglect.

One year ago we lived in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Today we live in Swaziland, Africa. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.

In January of last year Beth was teaching, I was preaching, Mikayla was playing and life seemed normal. By March we had begun selling our stuff, saying the first of our goodbyes, making last minute arrangements and preparing for a huge transition. In July, everything we ever owned was either sold, stored, loaned out or in our suitcases and we would spend 72 traveling from the life as we knew it to the bush of Swaziland. A month later we had taken in two TB positive twins as foster parents, had experienced oppressive heat of the Swaziland lowveld, and begun to learn what it means to live in a new culture. By the end of the year, while still far from full adjusted, we had begun to accept our new normal.

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January in the States

Mbabane and Mountains 150 
December in Swaziland

Suburbia to Savannah in a year may sound like an incredibly quick transition, but in reality it was the culmination of nearly 5 years of planning, praying and preparing. In 2007, Beth and I began to take inventory of our lives and started talking about our long term goals. Up until then, our lives had floated along a very positive trajectory; we were very happy with the way our lives were turning out, even if we weren’t overt about planning. But, slowly we realized that all the things in life we wanted to do could not co-exist. We could not commit to staying in Bowling Green to make a difference while also talking about pursuing Ph.Ds at distant colleges. We couldn’t talk about living overseas while also talking about living in intentional community with our friends. Simply put, we had to make a decision about which direction our lives would take in the coming years.

You would think a big decision like that would be difficult, but it only took one conversation over dinner to decide that at some point in our lives, while we raised our kids who were yet to come, we wanted to experience life outside the United States. I think even early on we realized that it was not important to have all the details figured out, but rather we had to know what general direction we were headed and then be faithful in pursuing it.

Over the next several years we researched opportunities, got in contact with people on the ground doing ministry, and gradually allowed our future to be shaped. It was a lesson in balancing intentionality with ambiguity. We had to learn how to stay on course pursuing a reality that we did not yet understand. We had to be bold in making decisions, but humble in allowing those decisions to change if needed. Slowly, as the details came into focus, we began planning for a life in Swaziland, Africa.

In July of 2010, Beth and I flew to Swaziland and met with over 20 individuals and organizations. Our goal was not to find a job, but to see what sort of work was going on and where we might fit into it. At the conclusion of the trip we were more confident than ever that we were on the right track in moving to Africa, but completely unsure of where we would end up. Once again, we continued planning, even if we didn’t know the details.

In October we were offered positions at Cabrini Ministries (http://www.cabriniministries.org)  in the St. Philips. The irony is that St. Philips is in the lowveld bush; that means it is in the middle of nowhere and ridiculously hot. We had intentionally avoided researching any opportunities in the lowveld because of the environment. However, when Cabrini offered us the positions, we realized that even if the location was not right, the place was perfect. It offered housing, paid a modest salary, was a safe place to raise a family, and provided the opportunity to live immersed in Swazi culture. Most importantly, it was a place where good work was being done that we could be a part of and the skills we brought were exactly what they needed.

In July 2011, when we finally arrived, we realized very quickly that the faithfulness and diligence of our preparation had paid off. When we began looking to live overseas, we wanted to be a part of restorative work that was driven by community needs and assets. We also wanted to head to place where we could be shaped as individuals and a family. We certainly found both. Here at Cabrini we are in one of the most forgotten areas of the country all of our work is dedicated to serving the needs geographically around us. We have an HIV infection rate of nearly 40% and nearly half of children under 18 are either classified as orphans or vulnerable children. In response to this Cabrini offers a full-service HIV/TB clinic and a child care program that includes 7 levels of care from comprehensive residential care to one-time needs assistance. Last year over 2,000 people received direct care or treatment support from the organization. One of the most phenomenal things is that most of our staff began as clients and have been capacitated to do the work needed. For instance, our current database administrator was left for dead on her homestead dying of HIV and TB and was slowly nursed back to health by our nursing staff. 2 years ago she had never seen a computer and now she manages a healthcare database that is more robust than what the government hospital runs! Of our 55 staff members, all but 3 are from Africa, and 44 of them are from within 25 miles of Cabrini.

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Cabrini’s Staff

In looking back at the transition we have gone through, it is easy to make things sound much more incredible than they really are. I can make the Kickert’s sound like heroes, but the reality is that most of the time, life is pretty mundane. On one hand crazy things happen here all the time (we have had two black mambas and a cobra killed within a couple yards of our front door in the last week), but then when I look at my actual day, I spend most of it behind a computer writing grant reports or doing IT work. Sometimes we spend 25% of our time without electricity, but we have decent access to internet. There are days where I may be in a national level planning meeting, only to come home and find that I have to chase cattle out of the garden. Last night Beth cooked cookies for the “Ambassador” to the EU (European Union) while I spent hours formatting report documents. I learned real quick that I can’t take myself too seriously.

A lot has happened in the last year, but all of it has been part of a dynamic yet consistent movement in our lives. Some people move overseas with only a few months notice; it took us 5 years. The hard part has not been the transition, it has been staying on course even when there isn’t a lot of action.

I have no idea what the next year or the next 5 years will hold for us, but I am confident it too will part of this direction we have been heading in for quite some time.

-bk

Swaziland Temporary Residence Permit (TRP)

October 30th, 2011 8 comments

Updated: 26 October 2013

Having lived in Swaziland 2.5 years now and gone through the process twice, I can definitively say that the most annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, expensive thing we have had to deal with is obtaining our Temporary Residence Permit.  This TRP (as it is often called) is basically a visa / work permit that allows a person to remain in Swaziland for an extended period of time.  I figured if explaining the process a bit could save at least one person some headaches, then it was worth it… so, here are a few notes on what we learned during the process.

[SIDE NOTE: Apart from obtaining an TRP, there are a few things you can do to stay in the country if you are American (different countries have different rules, so I can only comment on my experience).  First, upon entering Swaziland, the stamp they give you at the border is good for 30 days in country.  Note, that this is not mentioned anywhere, but it is common knowledge.  I have been told that if you stay in the country with just your passport stamp for more than 30 days, then the fees can be pretty intense: as in a couple hundred emalangeni every day you are over.  So, if you want to stay current, you can always just cross the border at least once a month.  Of course that is time-consuming and requires regular planning.  The other option is to go to the government offices and get an extension of days.  If you bring your passport in, they will give you a new stamp.  But, this can only be done twice a year, so be selective on when you employ this.]

To get your Temporary Residency Permit, the first thing you need to do is visit the government offices.  This is a shabby building on the same side of town as Mbabane Government Hospital (you can see its exact location here).  When you come in you can wait and talk to a person at the front desk if you need guidance, or just walk on past and start the process.  To get where you are going, walk straight ahead past entryway desk and the staircase, you will come to crowded dimly lit hallway on the ground floor.  Everything you need for the process is here in this hallway (although if you need the bathroom, I recommend you go up a flight to the second floor).  To the right you will find the offices that handle all actual TRP paperwork; to the left you will find the file room and record room

The first place you need to go is the office that actually takes care of TRPs.  In my experience, this has been handled in room 114 or 117 (right side of the hallway), although it does change.  If you haven’t already picked up the paperwork you will need to do that first.  Unfortunately you can’t download the forms online (as far as I know) and thus have to make a special trip to even start the process.  (I have uploaded digital copies at the end of this so you can get a feel for the paperwork involved, but please note these are not official.)  At the TRP offices, you will get a list of application requirements as well as the actual forms.  For missionaries and those looking to be employed while in country you will need to pick up Form 3 (Entry Permit Application), Medical Certificates for all who are applying, and a Dependant Form (form 6) for everyone besides the primary applicant.

Here is what the application requirements actually list for each category:

  • Business Person
    • Complete application form (Form 3 – Entry Permit Application)
    • Memorandum of Association
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Covering letter of application
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (internationally recognized)
    • Lease Agreement
    • Medical Certificate
    • Certificate of Incorporation Form J and Form C
    • Passport Copy
  • Employees
    • Complete application form (Form 3)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Covering letter of application from employer
    • Proof of advert of post (full page)
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (internationally recognized)
    • Qualification Certificates (copy)
    • Medical Certificate
    • Passport Copy
  • Special Pass
    • Complete application form (Form 10)
    • Copy of Recent Appeal
    • Application letter
    • Two photos
    • passport copies
  • Dependants
    • Complete application form (Form 6)
    • Copy of residence status documents (Guardian)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Covering letter of application from guardian
    • Copy of marriage certificate (for spouse) or birth certificate (for child)
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (for those over 18)
    • Medical Certificate
    • PIN number if Guardian is Swazi
    • Passport Copy
  • Students
    • Complete application form (Form 8)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Letter from school/institution
    • Support letter from ministry of education
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (internationally recognized)
    • Medical Certificate
    • Passport Copy
  • Visitor’s Pass
    • Complete application form (Form 10)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Letter of Application from Host
    • Residence status document of Host (e.g. Temporary Residence Permit)
    • Medical Certificate
    • Passport Copy
  • NOTE: All copies must be certified

Since we applied for the Employee / Dependant permits, those are the only ones I can talk about.  But, here are a few explanatory notes about those requirements that may be helpful:

  • Photos – these don’t require the same attention to detail that actual passport photos demand.  Ours were taken against a grimy, green wall by a market merchant for E30.  While in line, I even saw people who simply printed off small black and white photos from a digital camera on a regular printer.
  • Employer Cover Letter – This is basically just a restatement of all the information contained in the actual application.  Your employer is basically just explaining what you will do here, how you will be compensated and why they aren’t hiring a Swazi.  I have found they can be pretty anal about this.  Make sure it is properly addressed to the Chief Immigration Officer and that it includes your name in a subject line.
  • Dependant Cover Letter – This comes from the main applicant and you need a seperate letter for each dependant you are applying for.
  • Proof of advert of post – They are again wanting to make sure you aren’t taking a job that a Swazi could be doing.  Your employer is supposed to provide proof that they actually advertized this job rather than just offering it to a foreign national.  I don’t know how this works for most people, but since Beth and I were coming as Missionaries, we were able to ignore this requirement.
  • Police Clearance – There is certainly some flexibility in this requirement.  If you want the official answer, this is supposed to be your Federal Background Check.  In order to get this, you have to get your finger prints taken and then have those submitted to the FBI.  They will then send you your results.  If you are not already in Swaziland, then by all means, visit your local police station and get this taken care of.  If you are in Swaziland already, you can arrange it with the Regional Security Officer at the US Embassy to take your fingerprints, but it will be up to you to actually submit them and get the results.  However, for ours, we submitted a state background check which was available online and they accepted it.  I wouldn’t count of that working all the time, but for us it did and were are very grateful.
  • Qualification Certificates – Again, because we applied as Missionaries, we did not have to provide these.  But, the idea is that if the job being hired for requires a bachelor’s degree, then you have to prove you have a bachelor’s degree.  Basically you need a copy of your diploma or any industry certificates that you claim to possess as part of your terms of employment.
  • Medical Certificate – This is just a super simple form you pick up and have your doctor fill out.  Make sure it is not only signed, but has a stamp from the clinic.
  • Document copies (Passport, Marriage / Birth Certificate) –  In Swaziland, certified copies are very similar to notarization.  Basically to get a copy certified, you simply take the photocopy along with the original to your local police station.  They check to make sure the original matches the copy and then they stamp it and sign off on it.  My local police station did this free of charge in about 5 minutes.

Once you have all your forms filled out, your copies certified, your photos taken, and your cover letter written, you are ready to turn in your application.  This means another trip to the TRP offices.  I have found the best time to go is before noon.  When you turn in your application they give all your forms a quick look over, then give you a certificate of application.  This certificate gets you an additional 30 days in country without having to restamp your passport.  On this form is a reference number that you will later use check on the status of your application.  This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the mood of the clerk and how many people are in line.  Even after having gone through the process several times with different people, I still find that at least half the time my application is rejected for some reason.

Your application is then submitted to an immigration board who will ultimately decide whether or not to approve your application.  I was told this takes between two and three weeks and was given a number to call to check on it.  At the time of this writing, the number was +268.2404.2941.  It actually took me 2.5 weeks for mine to be approved.

The final step is actually paying for and picking up your permit (did I mention this process is super expensive?).  Again, I would recommend going early – this part of the process is by far the longest.

First thing you are going to do is return to the TRP office where they check to make sure you really were approved.  Be sure to bring in your application form you got a couple weeks earlier.  They will notate that confirmation form and then send you to get your actual file.  For this, head to the record room (101) at the very end of the hall to the left.  There will be a long line, but you can skip it.  The line is for paying and you will soon join it.  In the record room you will show them your paperwork and hand your passport(s) and they will match it to your actual files (you actually have to part with your passports to get the process done; it is a bit scary when you see their filing system, but I haven’t heard of anyone having problems yet).

At this point you are ready to join the long line to pay (did I mention it was expensive?)  For us, we paid E2,400 for my TRP and then E1,800 each for Beth and the kids for their dependant permits.  Based on the exchange rates at the time (E10/$1) that cost us about $780!

After your fees are paid, you are ready to actually get your TRP.  The last several times I have gone to help people, this means going down to the Chief Immigration Officer in Rm 119.  You will sign some paperwork, get your passports stamped and geta print off of the actual entry permit.  Once you get this completed, you are officially a temporary resident of Swaziland.

Looking back on this whole process and talking to others, there are a couple things I learned that I wish I knew ahead of time:

  • There are a lot of things that are much easier to get done in the States than they are to get done in Swaziland.  The Police Clearance is a perfect example.  Do your homework and come prepared.
  • You don’t have to be present to apply for a TRP.  If someone has your passport they can turn in the documents and pick up the entry permit for you.
  • The typical TRP is issued for two years, but if the cost is too much, you can only apply for 12 or even 6 months (but of course then you have to go back through the process again).
  • While not necessary, I took a person with me who spoke siSwati.  It helped to have someone who could talk more easily with the officials and interpret the situation from a local context.
  • You can request a fee waiver, but that must be submitted with your initial application.  If you are coming as a missionary / volunteer / etc. it is worth a shot, but I haven’t heard of it being successful recently.
  • Plan on this taking a long time.  We have had staff members who have had to dedicate entire days to each of these steps.  One volunteer had everything complete, and went all the way through the pick up process only to find out the person who stamps the passports wasn’t there and she had to come back again later.  Call ahead before you go in to make sure that not only your application is ready, but that all the people are there who need to be there.  Again, I recommend going in as early in the day as possible.
  • There are a lot of specific things needed, but in my experience with the right explanation, there is also a fair bit of flexibility (i.e. with police clearances, documentation, etc.).
  • The Dependant application asks for the permit number of the primary applicant, but you can submit all applications together.
  • Treat your actual TRP paperwork like gold.  It is essential you have the original when you reapply.  If you lose it, it will delay any subsequent applications and you will have to pay a hefty fee.

Finally, for your (possible) benefit, I wanted to upload digital copies of the applications and cover so you can get a feel for what to expect.

Renewal Process:

Compared with the original application process, getting a renewal is much easier.  All you need to do is have a renewal letter for each person — it needs to be from the employer for regular permits and from the main applicant for dependants.  You will also need certified copies of everyone’s passport, new pictures, and the original TRP documents (remember how I said it was essential to hang on to it!)  Besides less strict application requirements, the process is exactly the same.

Visitor Permits:

While working with a short term volunteer, we found that there is another option for staying in the country besides a TRP, crossing the border, or getting an extension of days.  Apparently, Swaziland has something called a “Visitor’s Permit” which allows you to be in the country for up to six months.  To get this, you have to have a letter of invite from a Swazi citizen and go to the Ministry of Home Affairs (same place mentioned above) along with the the national ID of the person sponsoring you and your passport.  The fees are set at E100/mo.  While this option is a bit easier to go through, you have to make sure the person visiting is just here for a short time and has a good story for why they are staying with a Swazi.  It is actually the Swazi who makes the application.  We tried this route but had the application rejected because we mentioned volunteering in the cover letter.

Online Tools
(updated: 20 May 2013):

While browsing the Swazi Government website, I noticed they have recently put up some new information that might be helpful.  Unfortunately, as of today, there are still some significant issues with what they have posted.  But, I will provided the links in case they are helpful:

  • Ministry of Home Affairs – main page, but not all the links work and it is a bit disorganized.
  • Permits – There is information about different types of residence/visitor permits, but unfortunately the links all go to South African websites.
  • Forms – Here they officially have posted many of the forms I included above.  Of particular interested is the Payment Schedule.

Government Work

October 2nd, 2011 1 comment

The following picture from the Times of Swaziland goes a long way in illustrating the situation with government here in Swaziland:

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Here’s the situation: Schools in Swaziland have been in chaos for the last month due to lack of funds in the government.  Most delayed opening, then many closed down again after opening.  Basically the government has committed to pay fees for most primary grades as well as fees for all OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children), yet, there simply isn’t enough money in the coffers to pay the bills.  As a result, there has been a lot of political wrangling and posturing and it has been the children who are suffering the consequences.  Even when the schools are open, there are still major issues.

That brings us to this picture…

In this country there isn’t enough money to pay teachers; all our classrooms are beyond over-crowded; students have already been shorted instruction days; many students who want to attend school can’t because of huge fees; and, there is the constant threat that schools will again be closed…

YET… the things that actually gets attention is the inspection of a school bell.  Really?!?!  That is what is most important?!?! AND… it takes four people to accomplish the task.  How about we address the things will actually effect the educational process for the children of this country who have already been deprived of so much!

We are majoring in the minors here people!  The things that matter are ignored while a ridiculous amount of attention is spent on things that are almost entirely without consequence.

I wish this was just another funny example of oddball Swazi journalism (if you can even call it that), but unfortunately, it is indicative the situation as a whole.

The Situation in Swaziland

September 17th, 2011 No comments

Depending on what news outlets you regularly follow, you may have recently seen a few headlines coming out of Swaziland:

  • Annual Reed Dance – where all the maidens dance topless before the King.
  • Protests in the Streets – various groups and organizations demonstrating over a variety of issues.
  • Schools close down – lack of money forces the education system to shut down.
  • Big South African Bail out – Our closest neighbor gives the country a financial boost.
  • Wikileaks releases Swaziland cables – The ambassador’s comments are made public.

Since some of those headlines could certainly induce worry for those of you that know us, I wanted to take the time to share the situation as we see it on a daily basis.

First, there are a few broad themes you need to understand about the country:

  • Swaziland is a constitutional monarchy with a king, but also houses of assembly (senate / parliament).  In the case of Swaziland that means a really big government and a whole lot of bureaucracy.  Unlike England that has a similar system, King Mswati III has a whole lot of power in running things.
  • Swaziland is in deep financial trouble.  The government is simply too big to be supported by the streams of revenue that exist.  The country has high need (largely stemming from the HIV / orphan crisis) and low income (70% live on less than $2/day).  This has caused the type of problems you would expect: unpaid bills, promises without delivery, loss of services.
  • Most Swazis love their King, although there is a small but vocal contingent that want to see a more democratic system with less power (and money) going to the King.  This group tends to be less traditional, more educated and in general fairly civil

In one way or another, most of the recent press comes from some combination of these factors (except for maybe the dancing-topless-virgins thing). 

The bailout from South Africa was necessitated by the dire financial situation of the country.  However, the amount (roughly 3.4 million USD) is only enough to cover about a month and a half of government salaries.  So, by the time it arrived, most of it was spent and nothing was accomplished.  This "bailout" largely just served to accentuate the poor financial management of the government.

The protests have mostly been put on by groups that are upset because they are not getting what was promised to them: students are marching because they haven’t received their scholarship; nurses are protesting because they haven’t been paid on time; the teachers are upset because government hasn’t provided their share of education costs. 

Part of the principals/teachers protest has been to shut down the schools.  So far most students have missed 3-4 days of their final term of the year.  However, the actual effect is variable as some schools have continued to operate.  Unfortunately, the whole thing is largely political maneuvering and it is the kids who lose.

The financial crisis has been a rallying point for many of the pro-democracy groups in the area.  Many of them see the monarchy as a huge financial drain that must be addressed and they see the the King and his allies as the ones responsible for taking things the direction they have gone. So, the push is for more representation from the populous of the country and less power/money going to the king.  But, you have to remember that even if those points are valid, most Swazis are very happy and dedicated to King Mswati.

Then, on top of all of this, wikileaks just released cables from the US Ambassador commenting on the situation outlined above.  I haven’t read the cables, but from what I can gather, they are mostly just formal statements about the country and its leadership that any westerner who has been here two weeks could plainly see.

Now, a couple things I want to point out.  First, for the most part, Beth, Mikayla and I have not been directly affected by any of the things going on.  Financially we are not dependant on the government so there are no major worries.  Second, the protests / actions that are going on here have been largely very peaceful.  There has been a few instances where things have gotten out of hand, but no more so than what happens occasionally at demonstrations in the United States.  I think when people hear "African Protest" they picture machine guns, tanks and riot police.  Here it is mostly just a bunch of educated people marching in the streets with banners while police look on.  I am not saying that there are not things going on that I raise my eyebrow to, but nothing is happening that makes me feel unsafe.

Of course, there are a lot of indirect aspects of these situations that have and will affect us and those around us.  First, the children in our child care program have been out of school and that means that it is up to our staff to construct learning opportunities on the fly for 120 children.  Second, because government is not paying its bills, there are a lot of services that aren’t available.  This has mostly just lead to inconveniences, but I am unsure how things will progress.  There is a real worry that provisions for AIDS medication may be interupted and that could severely hamper our work.  Third, security is heightened so it means more road blocks and things like that, but again, those things are mostly just annoyances.

Having followed news out of Swaziland for over 3 years now, and having read up extensively on the history of the country, I can say that the nation (especially the monarchy) is at a very interesting point.  I have no idea how things are going to play out, but I fully expect Swaziland to be much different when we leave it than when we arrived.  Thankfully, there is nothing that indicates to me that our safety may be threatened.  There are no militias jockeying for power, no soldiers looking to over throw the government, no fires being set or vigilante justice running rampant.  If anything, people of Swaziland are just wanting to make sure their voices are heard and that the country they love has the promise of a bright future.

While I am glad some of the issues of Swaziland are getting global attention, I also realize how things might look those on the outside.  Honestly, the ongoing issues (HIV, AIDS, TB, orphan care, etc.) are much worse than any of the political issues that might occasionally make the news.

Crunch Time

June 23rd, 2011 2 comments

We are down to less than month before we depart for Swaziland and things have been alternating between hectic and laid back.  One one hand we have a lot to get done before we leave, but on the other hand we have been able to enjoy some great relaxing time with friends and family.  Here is our time frame:

June 27 – We want to be out of our house and have it completely prepped for our new renter.  We are in the process of painting, cleaning, moving, etc.  Lots to do in the short term to get that ready.  On the plus side, we are very excited about the tenant who is moving in.  Seems like a very nice guy who wants to stay a while.  Great for both of us.

June 28 / 29 – Head to Somerset to spend some time with Beth’s family.  We will see them again, but this will be our last formal trip that direction.

July 1-3 – Camping with Friends in the Big South Fork.  Again, it won’t be our last time with them, but it will be the last big trip we take in the States for a while.

July 5ish – Catherine and Dave Altmaier are coming through town so we will get a chance to connect with them (Catherine was just in town for a couple days and it was great to catch up.)

July 14-17ish– Spend time with both sides of my family.  First in Western Kentucky (and perhaps elsewhere) and then at Kentucky Lake with my Chicago family.  We ended up pushing back our departure date to make sure we could see everyone.

July 18 – Casual day with friends.  Basically we are planning on just relaxing and enjoying our time with friends the day before we leave.

July 19 – Departure at 5:00 from Nashville.  We are planning on having our immediate family there for the final send off.

July 21 – Arrive is Swaziland.

As you can see, things are getting pretty tight.  In all reality, the only days we have truly free between now and when we leave is the week and a half or so between the Altmaiers coming heading to spend time with our family.  So… if you want to catch up with us before we leave, those are days to make it happen.

In other news, we were able to talk with the Sisters at Cabrini the other day and they are super excited to have us come.  Should be a great environment to be moving into.  Also, they informed us they will be upgrading our housing.  The duplex we were slated to stay in would have been fine for us.  The common areas were a bit small and it lacked a few amenities and was a bit rougher.  But, the new place is excellent.  A good bit more room (especially in the kitchen and living room), better yard / porch with great privacy and shade.  It has ceiling fans and mango trees in the front yard.  I have included a video a previous resident shot while he was staying there.

 

And then, totally unrelated… here is a picture of my always cute daughter:

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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

Swaziland Update

March 11th, 2011 3 comments

It is early Friday morning here in Swaziland.  I am still a bit jetlagged from the trip over here and figured rather than fighting sleep, I would get up and be productive by writing a quick update.

Being back in Swaziland is a unique feeling because even though it is very foreign compared in my daily life in the US (especially here in the bush), it feels very familiar.

My travels over here were thankfully uneventful.  My plane got delayed in Nashville, but I had a long layover in DC and it didn’t cause a problem.  The flight from DC to Johannesburg (via Dakar) seemed to go by quicker this time, even though we had a backup plane without all the in-flight entertainment systems.  I had a reserved a seat with extra leg room, but because of the plane change, it didn’t work out.  Luckily, the seat next to me was vacant so I could spread out a bit more.

Once I got to Jo-burg I spent the evening in a guesthouse right near the airport and it worked out great.  Unfortunately, even though I had a 13 hour layover, I still was only able to catch a few hours of sleep because of the jetlag and an early morning flight.  I was surprised how easy it was to get through customs and airport security in Africa compared to the states.  One of the security agents actually got frustrated with me because I was taking off my belt and watch – he insisted I just go on through.  The flight from Jo-burg to Manzini was incredibly short (35 minutes in the air) and has me rethinking whether its worth it to drive that last leg when we come in July or if we should just bite the bullet and fly.

When I arrived in Swaziland the customs agent gave me a hard time for bringing in 50 pounds of children’s underwear.  They wanted to charge me duty on it, but luckily after I filled out the forms they just waived me through and forgot about the whole thing.  I was then met by a nurse who is currently volunteering at Cabrini.  Besides just coming into town to pick me up (its a 1.5 hour drive to Manzini and 2 hours to Mbabane), she also had to get her visa renewed.  So, we went to one of the government building to see an immigration agent.  All I can say is that if you think there is crazy bureaucracy and inefficiencies in American government… you haven’t seen anything.  After waiting nearly an hour, the nurse I was with was told she couldn’t have her visa renewed in town, and instead would have to cross the border and return to get it updated. 

Because I didn’t want to risk having my luggage go through customs again and because I didn’t want to have more pages in my passport taken up, I asked to be dropped off.  Luckily I was able to reconnect with Jon Skinner, one of the guys we met with last trip, and he went out of his way to give me a place to hang out while the nurse crossed the border.

On the way back to St. Phillips we picked up one of the ladies who works in the office and took care of a few errands.  Then, on the last stretch of dirt road we ran into Sister Barbara who was heading into town.  She is one of the nuns in charge of Cabrini Ministries, and I had actually yet to meet her.  Unfortunately she was in a hurry and needed the vehicle we were driving.  So, after a few quick greetings, we exchanged the plush SUV we were in for a small truck.  Because of space limitations, I ended up riding in the back.

The whole journey from Bowling Green to Cabrini encompassed about 48 hours of travel!  Thankfully we had a pretty open schedule when I arrived because jetlag hit me hard.  I ended up going about 56 hours straight on less than 4 hours of sleep.  The only major thing we had besides a quick orientation was a 2 hour discussion with one of the community elders about the history of Cabrini, Swaziland and local customs.  It was very fascinating, but I felt horrible because it was all I could do to not nod off.  That night we ate an excellent curry meal and I retired to bed early.

Thursday was my first full day at Cabrini and up until that point I still didn’t have a great idea of what exactly I was doing in Swaziland.  It is not because things are disorganized, instead it is that so much is going on, there isn’t always time to explain everything.  Turns out my big task here this week is to figure out how we are going to handle the finances of Cabrini once our accountant leaves.  Looks like we will have two office workers handling the day-to-day transactions and another professional accountant in Australia who will handle the technical stuff.  I will probably end up serving as  the liaison and keeping an eye on the big picture – but, we won’t know the specifics until later in the week.

Most of my day on Thursday was actually spent working on an upcoming grant application through Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control.  Basically we have less than a week to turn around this application for $50,000.  The rest of the office staff had a board meeting to attend to, so they left me and the accountant from Australlia to figure out the grant on our own.  It was certainly a "baptism by fire" sort of thing as we wrote up a narrative and budget for a program that neither of us fully understand.  We will find out today how far off we were.  Either was helpful because it forced us to work through many old proposals that gave us a good feel for what was currently going on and for the direction we are trying to expand into.

Today we will heading into the two largest cities (Mbabane and Manzini) to meet with some of our supporters.  Should be a good trip.  I am looking forward to meeting up with Todd Malone from PACT again.  Todd is actually the guy who convinced us to go visit Cabrini and had lots of solid advice on working through our move.  Saturday is set aside as more of relaxing day and I am not sure what Sunday has for us.  Starting Monday, we will really hit the finances hard and work on a transition plan.

As I am wrapping up this post, I wanted to give you a quick note about communication.  Right now I have my swazi cell phone (268 7683 3330), but service has been intermitted.  Beth has only been able to reach me on my phone once out of probably 20 attempts and text messages are not going through.  I can call out, but it costs me about $1.00 a minute.  Also, my plans to limited access to internet have fallen through.  The 3G USB modem I have works fine, but I have not been able to get my SIM card approved for data usage.  Hopefully that will get worked out soon, but for now I don’t have access to internet.  (I am writing this post in advance hoping we find some wireless that I can use and post it).

I will try and keep you posted as things unfold, but realistically, my communication abilities are much more limited than I expected. 

Cheers,

-bk