Week 04 – Swaziland

#24 Ivin

24 January 2015 // Johannesburg, South Africa

Actually I was originally named Basil. Or perhaps it was Basel. Anyways, when I was registered for school there was a spelling error and they called me Baryl. I thought it sounded like a girls name so I changed it to Ivin.

Ivin the security guard is quickly becoming one of my most favorite people in South Africa. He kind of reminds me of my stepdad, and he’s been making me lots of curry.

While at the center, I like to imagine who the staff members and characters would be if it were Hogwarts. Ivin is definitely Hagrid.

#25 Meet Max

25 January 2015 // Johannesburg, South Africa

Lemme introduce you to Max. One of the guys I’ve really had the pleasure of getting to know on this trip.

This guy works hard and sends so much of what he earns to his family. He’s also brilliant. He’s given me more insight into inter-tribal dynamics than anyone else. He’s also a great role model for the guys at the center, which can’t be over valued.

I’d bring him back to the U.S. if I could. He’s kept me informed and enlightened with many great chats about race, politics, theology, and food.

#26 Classic Sifundo

26 January 2015 // Johannesburg, South Africa

The funny thing about being back at the center after three years is that if something has drastically changed, it’ll amaze me. Also, if it hasn’t changed at all, it’ll amaze me too.

When I was here last I taught Sifundo how to use my camera, and while we were playing around out front I had a moment of taking it all in and being fully there.

Then a couple days ago, I was hanging out with Sifundo atop the teenage dormitory and just like old times the camera came out and we started taking pictures in the sun.

#27 Alexandra Township

27 January 2015 // Johannesburg, South Africa

The goal isn’t wealth or poverty but contentment.

—Ross Lester

Went with some of the group to a nearby church on Sunday and actually really connected with what was spoken. Trying to learn to see things through the lenses of generosity and contentment and learning how to make the most of both seasons: thin and plenty, and the in between.

South Africa gives such a unique vantage point into the economic disparity that exists in many spots around the world. I’m staying in Hillbrow which is the most densely populated mile in Africa. At night I can stare out towards Sandton, a bright light in the distance that represents the wealthiest mile in Africa. I spent most of my day in the township of Alexandria… These informal settlements are a whole different world.

This trip is teaching me so much about the complexities that come from such a disparity. Having a lot makes you susceptible to greed and having little makes you susceptible to desperation. Contentment is a good remedy on both ends.

#28 The Kiddos

28 January 2015 // Johannesburg, South Africa

There’s a reason why I’ll always be wondering how soon I can make my next visit to South Africa. There’s a reason why even when I’m back home South Africa stays really close to my heart.

It’s not the gorgeous mix of coastline and mountains and hiking trails, although that’s there. It’s not the rich history that overlaps with my lifetime, though that’s wonderful too. Then there’s the cuisine… the seafood and the mix of adapted Dutch and British recipes alongside indigenous food habits. But that’s not the main reason either.

Nah. It’s all about the people. Whether they’re older and helping to run the care center or they’re some of the youngest ones I’ve had the chance to play with, I’ll have to keep planning to come back. And hopefully they won’t be too much bigger by then.

#29 Enter the Kingdom

29 January 2015 // Oshoek, Swaziland

How’s this for an exciting night… I got to waltz in to the Kingdom of Swaziland.

I hopped on a bus in the afternoon, with only the roughest idea of how to get where I was supposed to go after crossing the border. Thankfully, we met one of the kindest souls on our bus ride who offered to let us stay at her place in Mbabane so we could find our way in the daylight.

We arrived after dark into one of the more peculiar countries the world has to offer. I could only make out the subtle outlines of mountains in the dark, but I could already tell, this was going to be a gorgeous place when I could see it.

#30 Swazi Hike

30 January 2015 // Piggs Peak, Swaziland

This was my weekend.

Being led out on a hike by a bunch of Swazi boys in the middle of some mountain that I’m not sure even has a name. Stopping at each of the fruit trees to pick and taste their unfamiliar produce. Sitting on rocks and staring into valleys for hours on end.

Good weekend, man.