This is Africa: Merry Christmas in October

Manzini, Swaziland

Today marks day five out of the one month we will spend in this beautiful country before moving on to Mozambique. I already know it is going to be hard to leave.

As I sit writing this, I glance to my left and right where my teammates’ belongings sit huddled together. Four of us sleep less than five inches from each other in a room no larger than your average bathroom. Ironically, we actually have no “bathroom” (in the sense of the word we’re all familiar with) where we are staying. On any given morning, you can expect your hygiene routine to look a little something like this: Wake up, try to escape your sleeping bag without waking/stepping on your teammates, unbarring the door to the outside, walking to the port-o-potty (affectionately known as the “long drop” around here), holding your breath inside of said long drop, walking back inside to “wash” your hands with hand sanitizer, grabbing your water bottle, walking to a spigot, filling the bottle, walking back towards the house, and brushing your teeth amongst the company of the meandering goats, chickens, and pigs that like to lick up the toothpaste you just spat on the ground. Fifteen minutes of your morning, poof! Gone, just like that.

And that’s just using the restroom and brushing your teeth. Let’s not even talk about bathing under the spigot. Or cleaning 15 sets of dishes under the spigot. Or doing laundry under the spigot. I love the spigot. I cherish the spigot.

Like South Africa, everything moves slowly here. There is a relaxed air that can’t help but permeate seemingly every aspect of life here in Swaziland. We are forced to savor each little moment. Just this week, for instance, we spent the majority of our time sitting on a concrete driveway stuffing 3,000 Christmas gifts for the children at each of the care points we will visit this month. It was slow going work, but rewarding in more ways than one. Yesterday afternoon, our team was bused to two separate care points and we were able to give out those gift bags to about 250 kids at their annual Christmas party. I am still not positive as to why they are celebrating Christmas in October, but it sure was a lot of fun. We helped cook and serve huge pots of rice, beets, potato salad, coleslaw, and beef stew for the kids and staff; there was a bounce house and Christmas carols and the story of Jesus’ birth, too. All that was missing was the snow, but that hardly seems to matter when there the gentle showers of love and hugs and laughs blanketed everything in sight.

The best part is that we get to do that same thing at two new care points each Friday until we leave. What a way to end a week. God’s presence is so strong here. There’s so much joy. I can’t get enough of it.

I’m looking forward to this coming week- I have no idea what we’ll be doing, but it’s sure to be another seven days of cherished little moments.

Oh, yeah, remember those toothpaste-lovin’ goats I mentioned earlier? Well, they’re cute. So cute that several of my teammates couldn’t resist capturing one and welcoming her into our home with open arms. Literally. That baby goat spent time hanging out with us in our cooking area, and each of our rooms as well. I even have a picture with the goat. She’s tiny and adorable.

The goat’s name is Patricia. As it turns out, Patricia has fleas. We, too, now also have fleas.

We have a saying here that is an appropriate response to sum up just about any weird situation we encounter during these three months: “T.I.A.”, which, as I’m sure you can guess from the title of my blogs, simply means “This is Africa”.

Cramming 14 people into the bed of a truck to get to Wifi on an off day? TIA.
Getting surprise-charged by a pig while you’re bent over a spigot trying to wash your hair? TIA.
Contracting fleas from the baby goat your teammate put in their bed? TIA.

Making these memories? Priceless. (…I had to do it!)

Love you all,

Prayer Requests:
1. Matthew Baker and Family
2. The Rose Family
3. Health- please pray that the fleas would go away because they’re really gross. Also. Ringworm is a thing here. Several teammates already have it and I know those of us who don’t have it would love to miss out on that.
4. Safety- the girls and guys have been separated into two houses because there’s not enough space for all of us to stay at one place. The guys stay about two miles from us and, even though we’re strong independent women who don’t need no man, it was comforting to have them with us last month in South Africa. Plus, fifteen American girls draw attention wherever we go.

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