Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to the Future

September 4th, 2011

Frances Mayes once wrote, “Travel pushes boundaries.  […] – the own-little-self is unlocked from the present and released to move through layers of time.  It is not 2006 all over the world.  So who are you in a place where 1950 or 1920 is about to arrive?”

Swaziland is definitely not in 2011, so where are they?  As I continue to get to know this place, I’ve realized that I’m not really sure what era Swaziland is in and it can drastically make finding your place here difficult.  Swaziland has this confusing way of shifting through the eras.  I am sure its close proximity to South Africa and extreme economic inequality provides some answers as to why Swaziland displays characteristics of many eras all at once. 

In one moment I am in future 2011.  I can be standing in a clothing store with AC and a live DJ playing the latest hit from America that I have never heard.  Hence why I call it future 2011, because it hasn’t happened in my world yet.  This whole experience still feels like a big trip, and you know how your life back home stops in your mind until you return and then you pick it back up.  I’m still trying to except that a lot will change in two years back home.

Anyways, as soon as I walk out of that store I am thrown from future 2011 into 1970 where women are trying to exercise their right to wear pants, students are exercising their rights to fight for what they want, and the possibilities of the developed future seems possible.  Once I leave the “big city” and am back at my homestead I help my host mom and sister make dinner on a wood burning stove while my host brothers chop firewood and I’m in 1890 western frontier; images of Laura Ingles Wilder flashing in my brain.  Then I sit down for a Swazi dinner and find myself in the turn of the 20th century, where gender roles are so defined by tradition.  Men are served first, literally on a silver platter (ok so its usually plastic but a platter none the less).  Finding my place as a woman in this scene is foreign and uncomfortable.  Then as I get ready for bed by candlelight I hear the distant preaching of an evening church service.  Not sure for the reason of the service, but I’m instantly in the middle ages, where the voice of God gives fear and meaning to life.  Where concepts of art, literature, and music for music stake (not for worship) are portals to sin. 

In one day I can travel through hundreds of years of development.  Outside of Disney World I haven’t been through that many decades in a day, and sadly time travel here doesn’t end with fireworks or a heart full of magic.

I am left wondering where do I fit?  Who am I in each of those settings?   Just figuring it out is exaughsting.  Add in the language barrier, it is no wonder that as soon as 8:30pm hits I am so mentally drained I can’t fight sleep.  I feel like an iguana, every changing to fit in with my surroundings, hoping that I changed just enough to not stand ourtcompletely.

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