September 26th, 2011
Today I cut reeds with the mothers!
Every Monday Addy and I sit at the KaGogo center from 8-noon in hopes that someone will come by and want to talk to us. Today was a slow day. By 11:00am we had already gone over our Youth Health survey that we had the High schoolers fill out and were ready to call it a day. There were a bunch of women hanging outside the royal kraal (like a town hall, but really just an enclosure where the community meets) so we decided we would say “Hi”, see what they were doing and then go home.
Turns out they were waiting to be picked up to go and cut reeds to donate to the royal kraal. The reeds are used to repair the kraal. This is an essential part of a female Swazi’s life. All the girls who attend the annual reed dance go and cut down reeds to present to the Queen every year and women cut them every now and then for the royal kraals in their community. Ask any girl if she has cut reeds and she will say, “yea” like “duh I have cut reeds.” We asked if we could go with and they actually said yes. So we boarded a lorie (large pick-up truck used to transport anything from furniture to people) with 15 other women. As the guests of honor we got to ride in the cab, it was nice to ride in a car like normal, even though I was sitting on what I know to be the driver’s side but was the passenger. They drive on the left side of the road here.
We traveled up close to the Mozambique boarder where there is a river that the reeds grow by. Once again we got to drive through Hlane Royal Game Reserve. Not being in a khumbie or a bus we were able to animal watch much better. We saw warthogs, impala, antelope, and get this… nine Giraffes! They were just getting lunch by the side of the road. I love that I can just be on my way someone and have the chance to see African animals in the wild. It’s so cool!
Anyways the rest of the drive was beautiful, the landscaped turned from dusty and dry to lush and green. We weaved back up next to the mountains, in between the sugarcane fields, to find the reeds. Our lorie drivers and some other men thankfully went and cut the reeds down. We were each given a machete and we had to cut all of the leaves and shoots off of the reeds, leaving the little fluff at the top. These reeds were probably 15 ft tall and once cut they are bundled into piles and tied with leaves. Once stood on end they look strangely likely the trees from Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax. There were at least 30 women there and they would break out in song every now and then while we stripped the reeds down. They taught us siSwati and treated us like old friends.
It only took about an hour and half to collect an entire truck full of reed bundles. Once finished we went to someone’s home nearby, where the reeds are being stored until they are brought to the kraal. Here we were fed and I had a Swazi delicacy for the first time. Bengidla inyama imbhuti: I ate goat meat. It was good; taste like inyama (meat). Of course it probably tasted good because we were eating Swazi style, meaning with our right hand. You just scoop up some pap (liphalishi) soaked in soup and shovel it into your mouth. Then you rip off a piece of the meat with your teeth. Its strange how this no longer shocks me. Its always messy and I just dig right in and don’t think anything of it anymore.
The women sang songs all the way home. We arrived back at the kraal and joined the ladies in a small dance. We then walked home basking in the beautiful African sunset, smiling at the memory of this amazing day. At times like this I just cant believe my life.
It was a fantastic day in Swaziland!!