Monday in a Picture – Bereavement

Last Monday, I arrived at school like I always do. I noticed the head teacher talking to another teacher. It looked as though they were discussing important matters, so I acknowledged them and proceeded to lock up my bike. The head teacher approached me and told me that one of our students was killed in a car accident the previous Friday. The student was also a fellow teacher’s son.

In Swazi culture, it’s proper for the bereaved family to receive delegations from varied aspects of the deceased and their lives as people offer condolences. On Monday afternoon, we travelled, as a delegation of teachers, to the bereaved family’s homestead to offer condolences. This is done in one of the homes on the homestead that has been cleared out to receive guests. Songs were sung. Prayers were uttered. Tears were cried.

In rural eSwatini, the memorial services start either Friday or Saturday night with a night vigil. This past Saturday, several students and teachers travelled to the bereaved family’s homestead for the night vigil. There’s a very large tent set up for this occasion. Starting around 9 pm, the night vigil is like an extended church service/praise and worship session. There’s singing and dancing followed by sermon-like messages from people in attendance. It’s a joyous celebration. Around 3 am, there was a tea break. Hot tea and refreshments were served. After the break, there were more songs and prayers before speakers from various delegations offer condolences. The obituary was also read during this time. Singing and praying continued.

Around day break, services wrap up in the tent. Shortly after first light, there is a processional (behind the pallbearers) from the tent to family’s graveyard. This is usually on the homestead or relatively close. At the grave site, there are prayers before the body is lowered into the ground. The family then proceeds to fill the hole with the recently excavated dirt. After the hole is completely filled, there are prayers of thanks and benediction before people disperse. The above picture is of the processional to the grave site at first light.

Be kind to yourself.

Sweet Dreams – Waiting for POTUS

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

Somehow, the church that I grew up in was now a school as well. For some reason, I was back there. I think I was working in some capacity in the office. I was infamous for denying the students whatever they wanted. I was the “no” guy. 

There came a time when the pastor of the church/school announced that the President of the US would be visiting the church/school. There were no classes that day, but everyone still came to work because the president was coming. There was a grand entrance hall that had been cleared of everything, presumably by US Secret Service. There were two rooms, one on each side of the grand entrance hall. The church/school staff was in the room on the right. I was in that room. We were all waiting for the president to arrive. The doors to our room were open and we could see the grand entrance hall. 

All of a sudden, the Peace Corps Swaziland Safety and Security Manager comes in to advise us that the president is coming, and closes the doors as people are running up to the doors to get a glimpse of the president. Eventually, everyone makes it out into the grand entrance hall to form a receiving line. I’m on that receiving line on the right. A Secret Service agent is definitely standing beside me. My pastor, who may also be the headmaster now, comes up to me and tells me that I’m being assigned to the Secret Service as a liaison between the church/school and the president’s people. We start arguing about how that’s not what I want to do. He ends up giving me a special lapel pin and a communications radio, while I thought why don’t I get a gun like they do. 

Be kind to yourself. 

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