This past Saturday, I was present for an important part of the marriage process in eSwatini. The lobola (pronounced la-bow-lah), or bride price, ceremony. In Swazi culture, a man (and his family) must compensate his bride-to-be’s family. This bride price is usually paid in cattle, though modern times have seen some families paid in cash.
Like many other things in eSwatini, the community is present as the two families join to discuss how much lobola should be paid. These negotiations are closed to everyone except family. The lobola rates are pretty standardized, but they can vary depending on some factors. Typically, the first born and last born girl will garner 17 cows. Other girls in the birth order usually garner 15 cows. The groom must bring a number of cattle to the negotiations to show that he is serious about marrying. My counterpart and friend, also known as the greatest Peace Corps counterpart in the world, is getting married! After the negotiations are complete, the people gather under a tent for brief praise and worship, and to give thanks for the joining of families in the union of marriage. Following the praise and worship, everyone enjoys food and fellowship.
Congratulations to Nozie and her beau (pictured above) for taking the next step in their life together. May the joy of the lobola ceremony fill their marriage.
Be kind to yourself.
On one of my first runs in my community, I was greeted by several people who were out completing morning tasks. I stopped to exchange pleasantries in siSwati before continuing with the run. Some of the community members wanted to know who I was, and what I was doing in their community. This included a group of men hanging out at the local store.
As I ran past the store, one man yelled, “Uyagijima!”, which means “You are running!” I decided that I would stop to introduce myself to the group. Because my community is on the border with South Africa, it’s not uncommon for people to have business in both Swaziland and South Africa. I explained that I’m from the Washington, DC in the US, and that I’m a Peace Corps volunteer. We discussed my adjustment to the community and Swaziland, and how I was settling in.
After a few minutes of pleasantries, one of the men asked if I had a girlfriend or wife here. I informed them that I did not. They inquired as to why I hadn’t found a wife or girlfriend here. I told them that I wanted to get to know the community and focus on that. One of the men objected saying that I could not spend my time here alone. He explained that I needed the company of a woman at least a few times a month, and that he could assist me with finding a woman. I laughed, and restated that I wanted to focus on the community. Another man asked if the Peace Corps was a Christian organization, and if that was the reason I declined the gracious offer. I told them that the Peace Corps is not a religious organization, and that I really wanted to focus on getting to know the community.
In contrast to that conversation, I’ve found that my time in the community can be isolating. There’s quite a bit of time to be with yourself. There is time to think. There is time to ponder. After the encounter with the gentlemen at the store, I thought it would be nice to have some company. However, it’s also nice to discover new things in my community while meeting new people. I’m also thankful to have the support and friendship of other volunteers and others in Swaziland, and abroad.
Be kind to yourself.