March 13, 2011 – Piggs Peak, Swaziland
Wow. All I can say right now is wow. We just had the most amazing yet exhausting day. And its only 5pm! (I have a feeling most of us won’t be doing more than eating dinner and then hitting the hay, so to speak). Today we went to a farm that supports a local church. Andrews University has been working with them for years and is currently in the process of trying to get more funds to continue the projects there. Today we had the opportunity to do two things, distribute clothes to the members of the congregation who were in need (around 50 people came!), and to help plant some crop. We were originally going to plant bananas, but they found that their need for having corn planted was greater. It’s all the same process really – dig the trench, drop the seed, add fertilizer, cover the seed – etc etc.
So we left this morning and there was cloud cover and small spirts of rain. We were all pretty excited actually, it’s been pretty hot here and rain would have been nice! However, by the time it was all said and done, the thermometer on our bus read that the outside temperature was 40 degrees Celsius. That’s over 100F people! And no rain. Not a drop after 10am. Oh, and we don’t have a bus with air conditioning. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions there :)
When we drove into the area, we were all awestruck at the beautiful mountains and surrounding landscape. Pictures simply can’t do it justice; the fog over the mountains didn’t stay long, but it was just as beautiful with the sun beating down on them.
We started with clothing distribution and playing with the kids – both were fun and exciting. The kid’s smiles are next to nothing, if you get one you feel on top of the world (and you get them!!!) Giving clothing to those who need it is always such a joy because they are so thankful and appreciative. We had one lady who literally danced out the door with her new sweater and skirt (can you believe they all want warm clothes? It is coming up on their winter though and it gets chilly at night. Where we stay at our lodging, we also experience much colder nights – so even though it seems crazy to be giving out sweaters in 100 degree weather, the people need them and are so thankful for them).
(At first I was somewhat offended when this gentleman came over and showed me how to properly cover the seed, but then I realized that he was doing it for everyone. I was so glad that he did though, because his technique was obviously so much better – and it used a lot less energy, which we found to be really important!)
Then we attacked the field. The first fifteen minutes the 10 or so of us that started out were going at break-neck speeds. But then the heat really hit us. I for one had to work in shifts, heading back under a tree and drinking as much water as I dared before going back out again (at one point in the day, we ran out of water, so I knew that what I had with me was all I would have for the remainder of our time there… had to be smart about how I drank it!) It was really hard work! I think it was just as good for us to be doing the work as it was for us to be helping the people there. They do this as their livelihood, and for just under what equals $3, but in rand, a day. To be fair though, that is actually a very generous wage that the farm is able to give them, at least in terms of the economy in Swaziland.
(You really had to bend over to reach the bottom of the troughs with the size of the hoes they had. Not very long. All I know is that the workers there must have backs of steel! I don’t think farming is my calling… you likely agree ;))
The soil there is heavy heavy red clay. Beautiful to look at! Hard to scrape off the skin, if you get my drift. Also, even good ol’ 30 SPF didn’t do it for us this time. Most of us got pretty sun burnt from working out in the fields. But it was worth it :)
(They use a lot of ‘old fashioned’ but smart techniques. This is using reed grass in the irrigation trenches to keep the water from moving down to fast and not filling the sub trenches. The reeds also soak up water, so they help to disperse it)