Oh, the tears! Remembering how emotional I was when I left Australia two years ago, it seems these goodbyes never get any easier.
In what may be a blessing in disguise, I was requested to go to Zimbabwe for five of my precious final seven days in Swaziland. This distraction may just have prevented me from having a complete mental breakdown….or it may have added to it. I was there as part of a proposal writing team for a major joint application to tackle advocacy for accountability in basic service delivery. The brainstorming and fact-finding mission was intense, long and exhausting. I must express my extreme gratitude to friends of friends who whisked me away one night from the confines of my hotel for a quiet dinner in Borrowdale – my only view of Harare.
Upon my return to the Kingdom, I had two days to squeeze in my goodbyes, and squeeze them in, I did. To reminisce on our adventures in Mozambique, I had planned prawn night with the girls – Shelleybel, Lousie, Penny poo, Khetsi, Karin, Tanele & Fundzi. Little did I know that they had secretly planned something even bigger and better. Prawns were followed by a trip to the casino and rounds of roulette, with winnings being put to sambucca shots. Then off to Royal Swazi where we happened upon a fleet of touring Ferraris, which we promptly draped ourselves over for the purposes of a good photo, before heading into the hotel for dessert.
Waking with a slight headache and only four hours sleep, the final day at work was never going to be easy. It’s very hard not to cry when those around you are crying, and hugging you, and praying for you, and popping champagne for you. I’m just glad that it happened gradually throughout the day, rather than all at once. I spent the evening having final sundowners at Mallies, before a final House on Fire experience. Then on Saturday, I headed to Manzini for a final gorging of Pastis de Nata (Portuguese tarts), then off to dinner where it all began, with friends Mike & Fel, Sue & Tim, Carlie & Jim, Chippo & Orbit, Mavis & little Mandisa (who made up a fantastic song on my behalf).
As I sit waiting for the bus, my mind reminisces……..
Things I will happily leave behind:
- Stodgy pap, excessively boiled food, and an unhealthy obsession with meat and carbs.
- Food laden with MSG: seemingly Swaziland’s only spice.
- Inappropriate use of non-words or meaningless expressions: “Irregardless, we need to mainstream this agenda, sensitise communities and capacitate them to be most impactful”.
- The sight of men peeing on every corner. Actually, in between corners also. Just everywhere.
- A disturbing obsession with polystyrene and plastic bags, or polystyrene in plastic bags, or polystyrene in plastic bags in plastic bags.
- The well thought-out pick-up lines, such as:
- “Hello mummy”. I understand how this line was lost in translation, but it’s still creepy.
- “Give us your number”. Said by a stranger in a parking lot with his shirt pulled up and resting on his pot belly. Hot.
- “I’m sexing with you right now”, yelled from the window of a car as I was cycling home.
- “Are you a good farmer?” “No, I can’t even grow mint”. “Marry me, and then you will quit your job and work my fields every day”. Um…thanks for the offer, but I’ll pass.
Things that will leave me crying for days:
- Waking up to the sight of mountains all around me, and exploring them on weekends.
- Bags of mangoes for $5 and avocados the size of footballs (almost).
- Food laden with MSG. So bad, yet so, so good.
- The animated Swazi expressions:
- “Hau!”, “Sho!”, “Haibo” and “Yo! yo, yo, yo!” (No way!)
- “Eish” (Oh no!)
- “Shem” (poor you)
- “Cheese-girl” and “cheese-boy” (person who is incapable of doing anything for themselves)
- “Ben10” (the young boyfriend of an older woman. If only).
- Women wearing plastic bags on their heads at the first sight of rain.
- Smacking my itchy head without anybody thinking I’m having a mental breakdown.
- The creative claps of appreciation: 7-Up; Mosquito Mosquito; and Wind.
- The casualness of motherhood, whether it’s breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere, or letting your children be passed around a group of strangers, or letting your child roam and play as they should.
- The sight of kids (and adults) dancing alone to the tune in their head.
- The melodic singing emanating from the lunch room or training workshops.
- The exhilarating thunder and lightning shows.
- The ever-changing obstacle course while cycling to work: weaving around potholes, herds of cattle, playful goats, chickens crossing the road, high-fiving children, and women lugging firewood.
- Above all, the inspiring people I have met and the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way: the guys from the cycling club, the meat-free ladies, the Mbabane rent-a-crowd, the yoga crew, fellow Aussies, travel buddies and, most importantly, my intelligent, passionate and inspiring colleagues and artisans who have given me a reason to leap out of bed in the mornings and allowed me to live my dreams.
Sala kahle eSwatini ne ngiyabonga kakhulu!