A Fun Saturday

Today was another great day.  Thankfully it was a day of relaxation and moving in a much slower pace.  Everyone got to sleep and extra hour and a half which was greatly appreciated.  Then we kind of meandered through Swaziland stopping at a few places along the way.  Before we knew it, it was dark.

There are just a few pictures from today because it was such a relaxed day.  One of the things we did was to visit the Swazi Cultural Center where we saw a traditional Swazi homestead and learned the significance of each of the grass huts and their placement.  Then we watched Swazi dances and a few even tried them.  Finally we walked about 700 meters to beautiful Mantenga falls.

Some of the team members learning how to dance like Swazis.

Lee tried to move a few rows back so he wouldn't be picked to dance, but the girl got him before he had a chance to get away. I don't know why he thought he had to hide because he did really well.

Carlie was cute. She was trying to follow the Swazi girl but finally gave up and just did the Monkey! She had fun .

The team at Mantenga Falls.

I probably will not post anything tomorrow.  It’s going to be a relaxed day.  Church followed by lunch and then the afternoon doing whatever.  The girls are going out to dinner with ladies from my bible study to celebrate the birthday of a missionary here with Adventures in Mission and my birthday.  I’m sure we will have a great time.

TGIF!

We had another great day.  The day started cool, bright and sunny.  Everyone was eager to get the slab for the last classroom poured.

Stirring the concrete into the river sand getting ready to pour the slab of the last classroom.

Then filling 50 wheelbarrows full of crushed stone to mix in with the river sand and concrete.

Laying the "damp proof" plastic over the compacted dirt topped with river sand.

And finally mixing water and crushed stone in with the concrete-sand mixture.

Then they poured the cement onto the plastic.  Unfortunately, the concrete that was supposed to be delivered first thing in the morning hadn’t arrived by 12:30 and they ran out of concrete about 1 square yard from being finished.  The concrete didn’t arrive until almost 3:00.  They took the disappointment very well.

Rev Angela has been helping the mothers take the maize (corn) off of the cob. One of the Swazi mothers, Rose, took a little break to show her how to dance for the King!

The team sang with the kids and then for the kids before they left school for the weekend. The kids watched our every move and tried to imitate everything we did and sang. For me, it was so touching to watch the joy on the faces of some of the kids that I have watched learn and grow for almost three years. It was the high for my day.

Finally, the cement arrived and the team had to unload the truck. By now, they are so tired of looking at, shoveling and moving cement. It is a good thing we now have two days off.

Sunset from the balcony of the Madonsa Guest House where the team is staying.

One small problem...We have a slight rivalry going on..OU versus UT. Oh no. Guess we have to duke it out.

But we can't stay bitter enemies. How could anyone NOT adore tiny but mighty Amber even if she is a OU fan???

Together again

After yesterday’s day apart, the team was together again at Lomngeletjane and they worked like a well oiled machine.  Male, female and the youngest on the team all worked side by side.  They are absolutely amazing.

The day started with the devotional for the St. Paul's Methodist High School students. Martha led the devotional today.

We were joined today by Jon and Lisa Lord from New Orleans. They are doing a pulpit swap with a Pastor from South Africa and decided to come to Swaziland to work with the team. In this picture Jon is giving the head teacher (Busisiwe Mndzebele) a bible from the Gideons.

VBS for grade one. Today the children were decorating crosses.

Starting to mix the first massive amount of concrete to start the slab on classroom number 3.

Starting to pour slab number 3.

Notice that a female (Martha) is actually pouring the concrete! Today they took their turns mixing the cement and then pushing wheelbarrows full of cement to the slab area. Guys and gals worked alongside each other. It is the norm in the US, but beyond their imagination in Swaziland. The builder, Sipho Mkhonta, even thanked the women for the good job they were doing! (...and the walls came tumbling down.)

The slab for the 3rd classroom is now finished! Amazing.

Nurse Kat with a little boy who fell and cut his lip and his cheek. When I saw him, he was sitting on the dirt crying and all I could see was blood coming from his mouth mingled with tears, mucas from a very yuky nose and saliva. I couldn't tell if he was spitting up the blood or if he was cut somewhere. So I took him to the water tank to rinse off his face and mouth to see where the blood was coming from and discovered the cut on his cheek. Kat came to our rescue and dried off his wounds and put a bandaid on the cut.

My day didn’t go as planned (as usual).  The generator I rented yesterday to run the pump to get the water from the bore hole didn’t work.  After we got that fixed we found that the burglar bars on the pump house where broken.  We think that the weld just gave out.   So we had to find a welder in the area, which we did, and then we drove to his homestead to get an estimate of how much he would fix the door and then brought him back to Lomngeletjane to fix the burglar bars.

But the good news is, that once the generator was fixed and the team was done using the water as it was being pumped up from the bore hole to mix the cement, we were able to start filling all 4 water tanks.  This is a temporary solution to the water issue until the head teacher can wade through the lines to get Swazi Electric to come out and given them an estimate to move the electrical box to one of the classrooms where it should be more secure.

A change of pace

Today we changed things up a bit.  The guys went up to work at Lomngeletjane and the girls worked with youth from St. Paul’s to paint a bedroom and kitchen/living room in a house near St. Paul’s.  It sounded like the girls were ready to have a bit of a break from the guys so the timing was perfect.

The guys did a fantastic job on the slab.  They had the slab for the second classroom poured by lunch time.  It sounds like they worked as a well oiled machine.  Tomorrow they are hoping to do the slab for the third classroom, however, we still haven’t solved the water situation so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.  I rented a generator to connect to the water pump so we could fill the water tanks, but evidently it quit working not long after we left the site.  We are going to try to get it fixed first thing in the morning.  If we don’t get it fixed, there is still plenty of work to be done but everyone is really hoping to have all four slabs done this week.

The girls went with some of the youth from St. Paul’s to a home near St. Paul’s in order to paint a couple of rooms in the house.  It is the home of a youth from St. Paul’s that passed away last year. They had the two rooms painted before lunch as well.  So all in all, at least for the girls, today turned out to be a day of a little rest as well.

Pholani (the young man in the blue jacket) said we had to drive to the worksite because there wasn't another man to help carry the 20 liter container of paint to the home. You can guess how independent American women took that. So here is a picture of Martha and Kat showing him girls ARE strong. Halfway there they traded off with Amber and Pholani.

Kat, Carlie and Pholani preparing part of the room for painting. They had to move the furniture that was against the wall into the center of the room. The room was about 10' x 10' maximum and had 3 beds, a dressing table with mirror and a wardrobe in it.

Here's Martha sweeping some of the dust and cob webs off of the walls before they started painting.

Martha, Carlie and Kat painting one of the kitchen/living room walls

Two of the girls from St. Paul's painting one of the bedroom walls.

We have a slab for the first classroom!

It is unbelievable, but thanks to the commitment and hard work of the combined team of Swazis and Americans we have a slab for the first of the four classrooms!

This is the start of the huge pile of cement that is mixed by hand and then dumped via a wheelbarrow on top of the compacted dirt that makes up the foundation of the building.

Two wheelbarrows of river sand (literally from the river bed) and two wheelbarrows full of crushed stone (gravel) are used for each bag of cement. They mix 6 bags of cement at a time.

The cement is leveled by two guys using the above handmade tool.

And the completed slab for the first classroom! It took all day to do the one classroom, but if all goes right, they should be done pouring the slab on Friday. But we'll take each day as it comes.

There is one small, tiny issue that may delay us from finishing the slab by the weekend.  Ok, so it’s not really so small or tiny.  We discovered yesterday that someone cut through the wooden slats of the old, unused church, and stole all of the circuit breakers from the electrical panel and did some other damage to it.  This is the second time thugs have messed with the electrical connections for the school.  Late last year someone stole the cable from the pole to the breaker box.   The Head teacher and the parent committee chairman are coming up to a plan to get it fixed as soon as possible.  Without the electricity we can’t pump water from the bore hole.  Thankfully, the school has 4 water storage tanks.  Three of them catch water from the roof.  One of the tanks was full and another one about half full yesterday.  In the afternoon today, only one tank was about half full.  The hard part for me is to refrain from jumping in and solving their problem.  So please pray that a solution is found quickly and the tanks are filled by tomorrow afternoon or Thursday morning at the latest.

Remember that pile of dirt that the guys loved to be on top of looking down? It's gone! This is all that is left of it. The rest of it has been dumped into the foundation for each classroom and then compacted using a gas powered "stamper."

Some of the women on the team spent much of the day shelling the corn (maize) with the ladies from the community.

As for me, I didn’t get to spend much time with the team again.  We took one little girl from Lomngeletjane to the Baylor clinic at the hospital in Manzini this morning.  (We is the rural health motivator for Lomngeletjane, Thoko, Thini and I.  Kat came with us.  The Baylor clinic is a clinic for children that are HIV+.  The little girl we took is HIV+ and about is just now at the stage of having to go on medication.  The only problem is, she is one of 14 orphaned grandchildren living with a grandmother with very little means.  The grandmother isn’t supervising the girl to make sure she takes medication prescribed for an ear infection and sores on her face correctly.   If this medication isn’t being taken properly, the Doctor won’t put her on ARV’s because taking them irregularly is worse than not taking them at all.  It was a stressful day trying to learn from the Doctor what our small chances are and to convince the grandmother to make a plan to help the child take her medication as prescribed.  The grandmother doesn’t think Doctors do any good so we have to try and convince her to give the Baylor Doctors a chance.  So at the end of the day, I felt as wiped out as the team did only I didn’t feel near as productive.

Monday, May 24th

This morning was a bright, cool, crisp autumn morning.  (Here in the Southern Hemisphere we are going into winter.)  We all had a great time over the weekend, but we had a bit of a hard time getting going this morning.   This week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning a few members of the team will be giving a short devotion to the kids at St. Paul’s Methodist High School.  As normal our schedule didn’t go off quite as planned, but it all worked out for the good.  I am amazed at how flexible this team can be.  It is amazing and very welcomed.

Students at St. Paul's Methodist High School gathered for their morning assembly before the start of the school day. The enrollment at this school is approximately 535.

David talking to the kids while the head teacher, Bobby, Kat and Morgan give their moral support.

Today the teacher's went to a workshop so there wasn't school. However, several students showed up to "help" with the building. The team had fun working with them and the kids had fun being with the team.

We had 200 more blocks delivered today. Another 200 should be delivered tomorrow. It's exciting because these blocks will be used to start the walls.

Carley, Lee and Kat making PBJ sandwiches for lunch again. They made approximately 100 sandwiches to feed about 60 people. They did a terrific job.

Putting sand down on the compacted dirt for the first classroom. Tomorrow they will pour the slab!

We finally got the stamper machine this afternoon. It is a new, lighter model. The dirt foundation for the last two classrooms will be compacted tomorrow.

Sunday, May 23

We started today by worshiping with the small congregation of Lomngeletjane Methodist Church.  They use one of the classrooms for worship.  Most of the service was in Siswati (the language of Swaziland) but the preacher for the day did use English for most of her sermon.  After church we were fed a delicious lunch and then we divided into four teams and each team visited a homestead.  Each homestead had a gogo (grandmother) living there and in some cases there was only the gogo and one or more grandchild living on the homestead.  Here area  few pictures from the day:

Singing for our supper! Everyone love the singing and especially the guitar.

Food parcels given to each family. Each parcel contained mealie meal (ground corn), sugar beans, peanuts (used in cooking for protein), sugar, tea, candles, matches, a long bar of laundry/body soap and a blanket for the gogo.

Gogo Maseko had 4 sons and a daughter. All four sons have passed away. The daughter is now working in South Africa. The children who stay with this gogo are the children of one or more of her deceased sons.

Gogo Nhlobetsi stays with her unemployed son and daughter-in-law as well as several grandchildren.

Saturday, May 22nd

Today was not really a day of rest, but we didn’t have to get up and eat breakfast at 6:00 am.  We met the youth from St. Paul’s about 10:00 am.  From St Paul’s, we went to Matspha and joined the youth from there.  After a quick introduction, a prayer and a song we left for Mlilwane Game Reserve in Swaziland.

At the entry gate to Mlilwane Game Reserve

Zebras by the side of the road. We also saw wharthog, impala (antelope), wildebeast, crocodile, hippos at a distance and several birds

da girls

da boys

We all sat in a circle to discuss the topic of homosexuality and what the response should be by the Methodist Church in Swaziland. Up until now, this topic was not discussed openly.

After the discussion, many played games while others watched and rested. In this picture David is trying to eat the apple off the plastic strip it is tied to. The person who ate it all first won. David came in a close second.

One of the games played was called play, play, run! It is their version of "duck, duck, goose!

more "play, play, run!"

Morgan, Mthokoman, Amber ran up to see what they could see from that rock.

Mthokoman, Sceillo, Morgan, Amber

On the foot path to Execution Peak

We all made it to the top. This rock at the top of the mountain got it's name because before Swaziland had prisons, the King's warriors would march those condemned to death up this mountain and rock prompting them forward with the tips of their spears. They would then "encourage" the condemned person to jump.

The beautiful African Sunset guiding us back to our vehicles. Everyone that this hike was their favorite part of the day.

Pics of Friday, May 21st

Everyone is tired because they have worked hard.  But everyone is also having a great time.  They love the kids and they love all of the new friends they have made.

VBS

VBS Craft - they are making face masks

The number of parents and community members that are coming out is absolutely amazing!

Compacting the soil before we pour the slab. Everyone who has used the "rammer" is very tired and sore tonight!

Mixing cement to finish laying the blocks and bricks of the foundation for the classroom.

The parents made lunch for us today. (I thinkg they were tired of PBJ sandwiches already!) It was mealie meal and beans in a soup/gravy that contained some vegetables.

Day two!

It was another awesome day.  So much was going on it will be hard to touch on it all.

Some of the team did a VBS for the kids.  I was busy hiring a stamper / rammer to compact the dirt in preparation for pouring the slab so I didn’t get to join the team doing the VBS for the kids.  But they told the story of Daniel to the kids and then taught them a few songs and did a simple craft.  This broke through the shyness so much so that the kids didn’t want to go home after school!

Others worked on the foundation.  I am so impressed at how much work has been done and also how many parents and community members have come to help.  We had about 40 parents and community members at the work-site today.  That is incredible!  The teams enthusiasm and love are very contagious.

da guys

The foundation at the end of Wednesday, our first work day.

Some of the team laid blocks, other's filled the holes in the blocks with concrete. Others still were filling in the foudnation with dirt.

We hired (rented) a dirt compactor to compact the dirt after we filled it in the foundation.

Lee was a master rammer!

Amber. She may be tiny, but she is mighty!

lunch time! PBJ sandwiches..yum!

Our master brick layer!

One of the students watering his part of the garden. The children are all working to grow food that will be served with their lunch.