Uploading photos one day to Fb I laughed and said to the friends who had adopted me, how about this title for the album, “Surviving Swaziland.” Funny, right? Not so funny apparently. I’ll try to sum up my reasoning for the title and not insult anyone in the process – more so, it was making fun of myself. It has been quite an adjustment to life here, but in the process have learned a lot about how adaptable I really am - or want to be. Where I remember the thrill of taking bucket showers and candle lit nights when the power went out in Kenya, things not being readily accessible like wifi, yoga, or espresso were a challenge. Maybe because I’m spoiled, high maintenance - or both - and after a month in Cape Town where everything is abundant, I admit to a little culture shock. My friend Ginger and her BF graciously cleaned out their storage room and took me in as their first visitor (in 2 years), and I made it my home for a month. They were quick to notice my addiction to the internet, strong coffee, exercise -- even describing me as an ‘exercise freak,’ ha! and with food – comments about my ‘expensive healthy bread.’ I would make a day of walking to the internet café an hour away just to get my heart rate up and a proper americano. Couldn’t have been happier during a mountain bike ride through tiny villages into the pitch dark, or on a major bush whack down to a river in flip flops. Doing without certain comforts is a good reminder that traveling will highlight elements of an accustomed lifestyle, and you will of course have to be flexible. But it’s also a good thing not to deny who you are and what makes you happy.
I met two non-smokers my whole time in Swaziland. Even the natural healing crowd were smokers. People light up all day, everywhere. Friends know me as the anti-smoking billboard so naturally people labeled me as such, and attempted to blow their smoke the other way. I felt like the black sheep of a cultural bad habit (maybe how Europe was 5 years ago?) and I realized how it’s much more taboo in the Bay Area to smoke, and am thankful for that. I’m sure people are relieved I’m no longer there waving my hands around and coughing, lol.
Of course the smoking goes tandem with drinking, which was a favorite pastime of sorts. Not much different for many parts of the world (especially small towns) or my own, and for the life of me I couldn’t find a really good strong beer. The variety is limited, 4% lite something or another, or at best Heineken, or their beloved ciders. I wasn't trying to be too much of a snoot, but as a result my tolerance shot through the roof in an attempt to catch an occasional buzz. Never thought little things like a micro brew was something to miss. Food choices were also an adjustment, as the Swazi’s love their meat. All gatherings center round a braai or BBQ, and should you attend prepare to eat piles of any and all kinds of meat. Who knew I'd like spicy beef curled into a sausage snail?
But hey, guess it’s good to mix things up, let go, and live (differently) for awhile.
It was a bit like my college experience - hanging out a lot with interesting people in a small town, with not much else to do but enjoy the great outdoors and at times with a drink in hand. And so I ultimately felt at home, along with the realization that I’m getting a little too old for some things and am really attached to my kale and down dog :)