Monday in a Picture – Imali 

It’s said that the best things in life are free. For the things that have cost attached, there’s some form of currency. In Swaziland, cash is king. While some people have bank accounts and access to credit cards, this is not super common especially in more rural parts of the country. 

Swaziland’s currency is known as the lilangeni (pronounced lee-lon-gay-knee) for a singular unit, while multiple units are called emalangeni (pronounced eh-mah-lon-gay-knee). Prices in emalangeni would be expressed as E10 for something costing ten emalangeni

Swaziland’s Central Bank has authorized two different currencies to be used in the country. In addition to the emalangeni, the South African rand is also used. While both currency’s notes are used indiscriminately, rand coins are rarely accepted outside of border communities. The emalangeni and rand both come in note denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. Both currencies also use different colors for the different denominations. While all South African rand notes feature a picture of former president, Nelson Mandela, Swaziland’s emalangeni notes feature King Mswati III. Prior to Mswati’s ascension to the throne, Swazi notes featured King Sobhuza. 

In the picture above, there are current notes (of 20 unit denomination) from Swaziland, South Africa, and United States. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – Imali (pronounced ee-mah-lee) means money. 

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Monday in a Picture – Marula and Buganu

This past weekend, Swazis and friends in the northern region of the country celebrated the marula festival. The festival celebrates the harvest of the marula fruit, its resiliency, and the resiliency that it symbolizes for all of Swaziland. The tree produces delicious fruit, even in drought stricken summers. The festival happens at one of the royal residences, and the king and queen mother attend along with hundreds of Swazis. 

Swazis celebrate the marula fruit by home brewing buganu (pronounced boo-ga-new), which is a beer made from the fruit. One PCV, who lives in northern Swaziland, agreed (with his host family) to host a number of PCVs so that we could experience the fruit, the beer, and the festival. He and his host family spent considerable time brewing many liters of buganu for this weekend. The inner council of the community leadership came to his homestead to sit and share buganu with the volunteers. They talked about the fruit and beer before explaining how the beer is made. Then, there was a live, hands-on tutorial of home brewing buganu. The picture above is of the hosting host mom preparing to start the buganu brewing process. 

The fruit is removed from its skin, and placed in clean water. After three days, the seeds are removed from the fruit. Then, the mixture sits for another day. At this point, the beer is ready to be enjoyed. We learned that women typically brew the buganu for her husband and the family. Some women also sell buganu. A 25 liter container sells for between 50 and 100 emalangeni (pronounced emma-lan-gay-knee), which is the currency of Swaziland (on par with the South African rand). 

There will be another marula festival in a few weeks in a different region of the country. This is due to the marula fruit ripening at different times in different parts of the country. We learned that the fruit is not to be picked from the tree, as it is not yet ripe. The fruit should be picked up from the ground once it has fallen. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Monday in a Picture – Incwala 

Today in Swaziland is a public holiday, as Swazis observe incwala (pronounced in-click wa-la), which is also known as the festival of the first fruits. 

The festival is a celebration of the king and his kingship. While the festival takes place over the course of several days, there is one main day. During this day, men and boys from all over the country do traditional dances and sing traditional songs with the king and his regiment in the royal kraal (pronounced exactly like “crawl”) at a royal residence in Lobamba. 

This year’s main day was Saturday. I was fortunate to attend the ceremony with some other volunteers. Immediately outside of the royal kraal, the king’s guards were lined up in uniform. Behind them was a small marching band in a different uniform. We noticed everyone moving towards the barricade, so we followed suit. The king was coming! Before the dancing and singing starts in the royal kraal, the band plays the Swazi national anthem and the king inspects his guards and their uniforms.

After the inspection, people are now free to pass through security and join the ceremony in the royal kraal. The rules are very strict for those wishing to enter. We were not allowed to take pictures of the royal kraal activities, wear shoes inside, or have any electronics with us. 

Once inside, all participants circle the king and members of the royal family while dancing and singing. While men and women are allowed to participate in the festivities (on the main day), people are separated by gender. For this festival, men drastically outnumber women. 

Before all of the ceremonies started, we were conversing with a group of men dressing for the ceremony. One of the men decided that I should adorn proper headdress. The picture above is him putting it on me.

Although we didn’t know the dance steps or the songs, the Swazi men and boys were extremely helpful and inclusive.  I am tremendously grateful for the hospitality that Swaziland, both individually and collectively, has shown.  

Happy Incwala Day! 
Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Sibhimbi

Recently, I was fortunate to attend an event in my community known as Sibhimbi (pronounced see-bim-bee). This is the installation ceremony of a new chief. It’s a really big deal. Most of the people in my chiefdom (community) were there, and people even came from far away for the all day event. The king sends a representative from the royal family. It’s huge.

The week leading up to the Sibhimbi, I noticed that infrastructure was being arranged for something big. Large trucks worked to ensure that the gravel roads were level. School children took time away from school to remove trash from the side of the road. I was urged by community elders to make sure I was present at this event. One of the teachers at the high school explained all of the fanfare surrounding this event. He told me that these events rarely happen. He shared that he had never been to one in his life. He’s almost 40 years old!

He explained that once a chief dies, the position of chief typically passes to the eldest son. While the new chief may govern the chiefdom (unofficially) for years, it isn’t until the Sibhimbi that the new chief becomes official. Because there are so many people and resources involved, it can take years to organize. It is at this event that the new chief gets his late father’s shield, among other items. The Sibhimbi involves much singing, dancing and eating. For this occasion, at least 18 cows were slaughtered. This is in addition to all of chickens.

In the picture above, several men from my community sing and dance in full traditional dress to celebrate the installation of the new chief.

Be kind to yourself. 

Onward. 

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Let’s just start by saying, I AM OFFICIALLY A PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!

Group 14 swore in yesterday, and I had the distinct honor of giving the trainee class remarks in siSwati. Below, I have included my remarks, both in siSwati and English.

SiSwati –

Sanibonani bonkhosi

Ngiyajabula kutfola lelitfuba lekukhulumela onkhe emavolontiya aG14. Etinyangeni letimbili letendlulile, emavolontiya lachamuka etindzaweni letehlukene taseMelika afike kaNgwane.

Sitikhetsele kutosita emaSwati, siphendvule lubito lwaPeace Corps lwekutsi sitinikele kutovolontiya, selule sandla sebungani, siselulele eSwatini.
Ngitsatsa lelitfuba kubonga ingwenyama yeMaswati kusimema kutsi sitosita eSwatini. Ngendlulisa kubonga kuTraining staff sakaPeace Corps. Ngendlulisa kubonga kubothishela labente siciniseko kutsi sifundza siSwati nemihambo yemaSwati. Ngetulu kwaloko, ngibonga tonkhe tikhulumi netimenywa letetfule tinkhulumo nasisaceceshwa. Kuliciniso kutsi kutsatsa umango wonkhe kufundzisa livolontiya. Ngibonga kakhulu, kakhulu kumango wase Nkamanzi nase Sihhohhweni kusivulela emakhaya netindlu tabo. Siyabonga kwenta siciniseko kutsi silungele kuyosebenta emimangweni yetfu. Sifundzile, sadadisha, sitimisele kuchubeka nekufundza sisatinta eveni lakaNgwane.

Babe Bongani Shiba wake watsi, “silitsimba laseMelika eSwatini, lokusho kutsi emimangweni yetfu sitomelela live nebantfu bonkhe baseMelika”. Wachubeka watsi,”nyalo sesimelele mengameli welive laseMelika noma ngukuphi lapho sihamba khona, etifundzeni totine takangwane, nakuto tongu 55 tinkhundla telive”.

Egameni lemavolontiya elishumi nane (14) solo abuya Peace Corps eSwatini, sicela kunatisa nekucinisekisa kutsi sesilungele. Silungele kusita, silungele kunikela lucobo lwetfu emsebentini, nasekweluleni tandla tetfu tebungani kulo lonkhe laseSwatini.
Siyabonga kutfola litfuba lekusita nekusebenta nani.

Sinitsandza nonkhe!

English –

Good afternoon bonkhosi.

I am honored to be addressing you today on behalf of group 14. Just over two months ago, a group of Americans from different walks of life arrived in Swaziland. We had decided to serve. We answered the call of the US Peace Corps to offer ourselves in service and to extend the hand of friendship.

I would like to thank his majesty, King Mswati the third for inviting us to serve here in Swaziland. I would like to thank all of the Peace Corps Swaziland training staff. I would like to offer special appreciation to our teachers who ensured that we knew siSwati and the cultural norms of Swaziland. I would also like to acknowledge all of the presenters and guest speakers who spoke to us during our training. It is true that it takes an entire community to raise a volunteer. I offer our thanks and gratitude to the villages of Nkamandzi and Sihhoweni for sharing your piece of Swaziland with each of us. Thank you for ensuring that we are ready to serve. We have learned. We have studied. We are committed to continued learning as we integrate into Swaziland.

Babe Bongani Shiba one told me that we are the US delegation in Swaziland. That in the community, we represent everything that America is, and all Americans. Babe Shiba simplified it to say that, “right now, you represent the president of the United States”. All across this great kingdom. In four regions and 55 tinkhundla. On behalf of the 14th group of Peace Corps trainees to be sworn in since the Peace Corps returned to Swaziland, please know that we are ready. We are ready to listen. We are ready to help. We are ready to offer ourselves in service and extend the hand of friendship across the kingdom of Swaziland.

Thank you for allowing us to serve.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.