Let’s just say, jet lag is a b!*@#!!!! The woman, exhausted from the long day of giving all she could emotionally and physically, collapsed at the old lady time of 9pm. The teenager had finally gotten wifi to work in the room and was taking full advantage, talking with her friends back home about all that she had done. The woman crashed…well, kind of. Two hours later she woke up and whispered to the teenager that she had to stop texting and get some sleep. The teenager nodded and the woman rolled over and waited…and waited….and waited. Sleep became as elusive as the Loch Ness monster, swimming around under the water but never surfacing. She walked herself through every relaxation technique she could think of, no sheep nor child’s pose was bringing on the sleep she was yearning for. One hour passed.
“No, stop thinking! Just go to sleep! Breathe!”
“It’s one o’clock in the morning. The rooster next door is crowing. Stupid rooster! Count backwards…10…Release the stress from your limbs…9…Feel the stress flow out through your fingertips…8…Stupid rooster!”
“I have to wake up in four hours…What am I going to do? I’m going to be so tired. I’m not going to be able to think. I’m gonna be grouchy. I’m gonna be sick. Shut up rooster!”
“Mom, don’t cry. You’ll be ok.”
Three hours later….beep-beep-beep. Time to wake up…ugh!!!!
The day scheduled was quite long and breakfast was quick. The woman trudged to the coffee and then to the bus, hoping for the best. They were headed to Nsoko, a region in the southern part of Swaziland. The drive was about 2 hours, and the countryside was sprinkled with mud huts, sugar cane fields and small fruit stands on the side of the road. Driving in Swaziland is an exceptional experience. Exceptionally scary! The main roads are mostly two lane and the people drive fast. Most of the vehicles are people movers, small crowded vans/buses getting people where they need to go. There are always people walking along the side of the road, as well as free roaming cattle, goats, dogs or chickens, and throw in a few donkeys for good measure. They may cross the road in front of you, they may not. You never know, making the driving experience a little white-knuckle for foreigners.
The landscape became more sparse as they neared the care point. Clumps of bushes, small acacia trees and dusty, dry dirt surrounded them as they turned onto a dirt road, sending spiral trails of dust into the air behind them. This area was remote, far removed from Manzini and anything they had seen so far. The teenager looked around, this is what she thought Africa would look like. The bus pulled up to The Anchor Point, a small, central care point for the area, and the group disembarked. Small children were running around barefoot, playing with a ball while others were on the porch finishing a small snack. The children wanted to be picked up immediately, grabbing the woman and teenagers hands and jumping in front of them relentlessly. Some of the group members were able to pick up two at a time and carry them around. The kids were thrilled and took some peeling off when it was time to get down. Bubbles emerged from one of the team bags and the squeals began. There were never enough bubbles for the kids. They laughed and squealed every time a new string of them blew through the air and chased every last one of them.
The woman noticed a small boy (assuming it was a boy by the blue colors the child wore but it could easily have been a girl) sitting by himself on the edge of the porch. She sat next to him and smiled at him. He didn’t respond, just continued to watch the kids running after the bubbles. His face was sad and longing. The woman pointed to him and then to the bubbles, to see if he wanted to go play. He shook his head and glanced down. When she took a peek around his leg she saw the reason he was not playing. There was a large open wound on his ankle and leg. This was not a scrape or cut, something had dug in and taken a chunk of his poor little leg. Inside she felt like hugging him and crying for the pain he must be in but she pulled it together, smiled at the boy, wrapped her arm around him and sat with him until he had to go to class. The translator informed one of the teachers of the injury and that was the last the woman saw of the boy.
While visiting a carepoint, it is a privilege to go on a home visit. It normally involves walking to the house of a person in need in the community (how they are chosen I do not know) and bringing bags of food and supplies to them and talking with them. The group set out to the house of a beloved woman, Fortunate, who had recently passed away. Her brother and sister-in-law had taken care of her for years and were living at the house. Many in the group had met Fortunate and were touched by her faith, they brought a photo album for her family, filled with pictures from when they had visited her previously.
The group was invited to sit inside the house which was a single concrete room with a twin bed. They shared stories of Fortunate but the pain was still very raw and her brother openly wept as he was presented with the photo album. It was a moment to remember for a lifetime. The woman, known for wearing her emotions on her sleeve, tried to hold the tears back but it was no easy task.
The woman sat holding the teenagers hand, listening to the pained words and taking everything in. There was no door on the house and the small children that she had passed when coming in the house were quietly playing behind a dirt berm with sticks and chasing the two roaming chickens. The childrens clothes exhaled dirt and dust when touched. There would be no baths for these children today for the only water source was half a mile away and it was probably too late in the day to venture out. Even if they did fetch water, there were more pressing needs for it than bathing. A wasp kept flying in the door and up a hole in the wood on the roof. It was safe to assume that there was a nest up between the wood and corrugated metal that made the roof. Some of the other family members sat outside on stumps of wood, as someone would gather around a bonfire back in the states. There was another structure of mud and sticks that the woman assumed was the outhouse. The woman and teenager would get back on the bus and leave, they would return to their guest house with electricity and running water, but for this family, this was home. It is their piece of this world, not because they chose it but because this is what they were born into.