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Swaziland Expedition - A Students Perspective

Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Blog Category: Volunteering

provided by Jenny Bowen (Sense Africa)

This is an unexpected text that I got from Natalie who has managed to wonderfully sum up our expedition to Swaziland this year. It was a pleasure being with the girls from St Helen and St Katharines, they were an inspiration to be with. Here is Natalie's version of it all.

“1,2,3,4…..,22, Jenny! Yes I think this is to everyone!! I don’t know where to start as we have had the most amazing 3+ weeks all together, we’ve become like a large second family!! We have laughed, cried, sung, cooked, travelled as a group and shared so so many unforgettable memories that we will always remember!

When we all met at the airport after the many meetings I think we all suddenly realised that it was time for Africa and that Friday the 13th, which had seemed miles away, was here! We all huddled in our gang of blue! And even on the plane the lols had begun as we ate our ‘lemon chicken’ and when it was announced that many ‘creeps’ were on board there was a little sense of panic!

We met Jenny all excited and a bit tired at Sondzela! We had such fun as we got all settled into our first stop! Photos, early morning walks, our first taste of trad dancing! That was when we heard everyone’s aims which they had written on their hands and their life mottos, and now that the trip has come to an end I hope that every one of us can feel that we fulfilled whatever aims we had and more!

I was not sure what to expect before I went, I knew that it would be amazing, but every moment was beyond what I could have possibly imagined!

When we first arrived at Mayanjane it was exciting to see the building materials all ready for us! And to see all the adorable children was an overwhelming feeling! It was a touching feeling for us all at how much they wanted to play and just hold our hands, and that is what is so emotional, all these kids wanted from us really was our time and love, and to see how that made them so happy will stay with us all! I think we will never forget how special a place Mayanjane is.

There the children had in many cases only the clothes on their backs, but thanks to the heroic work of the wonderful La’Salette those children were able to come together to eat and play and smile. When they first said ‘thank you God for everything’ before they got their pap it really hit for me how blessed we are, as they had hardly anything but were so thankful and happy, and we can all take away from that the feeling that life is too special and short to be anything but happy, and they are the perfect role models for that motto.

It’s still emotional to picture the children, especially one little boy who when teaching was sat near me and he was too tired to even move to wipe the flies off his face. That was upsetting to see. But through us singing as we lifted bricks and did a bit of physical work, which to us was just fun, we were able to see the change and help we have brought to that community. It’s special to think that by us going to that community we have helped them forever, and that we have changed their lives as much as they have changed ours. Neither them or us will ever forget our time there for as long as we live.

And I don’t think we will ever forget Moses’ laugh! His beanie stare is still scaring!! Samuel was a cutie and at Hlane and Mabuda Farm we had so many nights of fun! The themed nights: Bollywood, Clashing colours, Mexican were SUCH FUN! And the meetings tho long at times were laugh a minute! Tho at times we all wished the meetings would end, now that they have I’m missing sitting with our cocoas in a circle discussing important matters like if there are enough raisins to go round! Wink murder, mafia were great games! And Clarissa did get to play splat in the end!!

The opening ceremony was a special end to what had been a truly unforgettably memorable 9 days! Every person we met had shown kind, caring love towards us, and we had grown so attached to the children. It was like our Swazi family has extended from 23 to the whole of the community! We were all so relaxed as we felt so welcome. To see the press come really did show what a huge effect our efforts had had on the whole of the country! And I know that you all agree when I say that for us just being there and being able to meet, help and spend time with that community has had an even larger physical and emotional effect on us which is hard to describe in words, we will miss the smiling laughing faces there forever, and even though we may not see those exact faces again, I hope one day we may visit that care-point again and see the next generation of lovely children, and hopefully we will see all the children from this trip grown up and living their dreams as happily as ever. Saying goodbye was hard for both the community and us.

The next stop was Mbuluzi and that was completely different! The campsite was the definition of ‘at one with nature’ and we did find it hard as a group that first night to adjust to the change, but we got over it and had yet more fun and laughs on our game drives and at the building site for the bridge! We did a great job teamwork wise and thanks to Lucky and his team of builders and to Matt we successfully were able to complete the bridge! The new thrill ride, name ‘shall you be so lucky’ was born where each of us would try out what’s it’s like to cling on for your life at 60 mph on an unstable tractor! Crazy! SHAYA MIHOMBENI!

The rocks to chillax at were picture perfect! We just enjoyed the outdoor life before moving back to Hlane to add to our bank of memories which we had already started when we were there before! The waterhole was surrounded by animals! (I’m meaning the one with rhinos round, we set up our tents and had a great time safari-ing with the big 5. It was breathtaking to be all sat so close to the lion! I think it was the only moment on the whole trip where we were all quiet! Hehe! It was ‘the life’ as we all sat watching 5 elephants while we ate rusks and raisins with our lemon twists and it was followed by a fab BBQ and smor packed evening! (In Rev T’s top 5 best moments!)

We had some lovely evenings, our meal out was lovely, that chocolate mousse will stay with us all! The trek was our next adventure and the thought of the ‘spade of shame’ was a scary one for us all! But we didn’t get flustered, as a group we managed to make it with some laughs along the way! We enjoyed tucking into impala stew with pap and marshmallows on poisonous sticks for pud!! It was a fun night, made funnier by the bat infested long drop and the hippo watch wake ups! We made it back to Hlane for a lovely lasagne and a lot of cake for Sophie’s Bday!!

That day we went back to see Mayanjane and for us all it just felt like stepping back home again! We all felt and looked so happy and comfortable, and tho Basil stole from a young age, he was delighted to see us as much as we (secretly.. Or maybe not in some cases!) were to see him! It seemed so empty tho, and as we piled back onto the bus Rev T told me how they had lost a bit of motivation at the carepoint since we had left, and it was extremely touching to see and hear how much they were missing us. By us going to their community we had brought them hope, and as we left so did their hope. That’s why we must always remember and tell people how special a place it was and how kind and delightful the people are so that we can spread the word in the hope that more people will visit and help them, as they deserve to have hope and help and receive as much love as they gave to us all.

As we drove away we waved, but I would like to think that it wasn’t our final wave goodbye. Our next stop was cuddly. And hot! It was what we all needed after a hard few days of walking! That eve we arrived at the last place which seemed like it had come too soon! At legends we danced like crazy, sang, safaried some more, zip wired for a whole day! Wow! We also had some laughs, great mafia games and on the last night we celebrated in style..With food of course! Spurs was insane! The dancing made our night! That evening was a late, fun one! Tho packing till 1 took it’s toll on most of us! Our final day had photos, shopping, the most likely to cards, thank you Sofia and Grace for those!

And a farewell to Jenny which was very emotional. It was sinking in that our time was nearly up and that was hard to accept. We crossed the boarder, hit Joburg, byes to Flick and Charly who we all hope are having a fab time! As we landed we ended our time in style announcing who the winners really are! Bags at the ready we danced to our favourite song at the mo- ‘come in!’ and hugged one another goodbye for now, but we must have a reunion soon! To the leavers Tuwi, Lauren and Fia you will be missed by everyone and from us all good luck, you will all settle straight in, and pls don’t be strangers! As we walked through the door to hug our parents, for many the emotion got the better of us and we sobbed like babies! For those on the bus I hope you all had a comfy journey to school where you too might have balled your eyes out!

Thank you to every one of you for such fun, funny, fab, touching memories that I will always remember with a smile! To end I’ll just say ‘don’t cry because it’s over, smile and say YEBO because it happened so brilliantly!

Much love to you all, enjoy the rest of summer and let’s never ever forget the incredibly great happy people we met and times that our Swazi family shared, they and you are all so special and you will all stay in my heart always, thank you so much for a life changing 3 weeks of happiness.

Jenny Bowen is from Sense Africa, the UK's only Swaziland specialist tour operator.

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