Friday, October 19, 2007

Life in Swaziland

We live in a hostel up in the mountains in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland. I share a room with a friend of mine. We probably have the best room of our group of 14 students as we have a tv, a double bed for both of us, a cupboard that you can actually use (in some other rooms there's either no storage space at all or there's a cupboard but then there's so little space that you can't open it properly) and a shower and a bath. Although, we've had some problems with water and electricity the whole time we've been here. Most of the times there's only cold water coming from the tabs and some days the water company switches off the water during the day because it's been so dry here and they want to save it. There's also been strong thunderstorms here almost every day with mangificient lightnings and that's why the electricity keeps turning off many times a day. So, candles and torches are needed a lot coz it get's completely dark outside at 6:30 pm.

Our hostel is more than three kilometers away from the city centre. And coz we need to get to the centre almost every day and we don't have a car or bicycle and there's no buses going to where we live there's three options how to get to the centre. One is to walk down along a narrow path and along the road and watch out for crazy drivers who speed way too much with their old cars. And you should also watch out for drunk drivers as there's a lot of them driving especially at nights. Second option is to take a taxi. It's the most convenient way but it's also the most expensive one. And you must always negotiate the price beforehand so that you don't end up paying way too much. You should also be careful not to take a "dark taxi" as you never know where you'll end up with them. The third option is to take a kombi. Kombis are vans that drive specific routes and you can hop in and off anywhere along the way. They leave from the bus station whenever they are full which means atleast 14 people. The bus station is quite an experience and at the first sight there doesn't seem to be any logic in the chaos and noice that goes on there. It's just full of vehicles and people and no signs, platforms or timetables telling which kombi or bus is going where. Instead there's some guys shouting the destinations with loud voices and guiding people to queue at the right spot. And in the middle of it all there's people walking around and selling sweets, fruits and lots of other things. It's definately something to experience.

Animals are also a bit different here than what I'm used to. The grasshoppers are ten centimeters long and make a huge noice. There's also big lizzards and some of them come inside the houses. Luckily, there hasn't been any in our room yet. In the evenings the frogs make such a loud noice that you almost need earplugs to be able to sleep. Sometimes the monkeys climb on the roofs at nights and disturb our sleep too. Cows are also everywhere. Every Swazi family has cows as it shows their wealth and cows are also used to pay for a wife. Normally you pay 14 cows but if the girl is from a better family then the price is around 18 cows. Lots of the cows walk around free so you can run into them anywhere, even in the middle of a motor way, which isn't very nice especially in the evenings when it's dark. And I don't know what's the case with chickens but one day we saw a lady sitting on a bench in the mall with a live chicken on her lap. I guess she was taking it to a butchery.

Last Saturday we climbed up to Sibebe Mountain that's the world's biggest granite rock. The views were just amazing and we also saw some wild horses on a way. It was quite scary to climb up there but coming down was even scarier. Luckily, we found quite an easy path down, otherwise we might have had to call for a helicopter to come and rescue us.. ;)

The internet connection is running really slow again because of the rainy weather so I think I'll have to write more next time.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Greetings from Swaziland

So, I've managed to get here to Swaziland!! It's so unbelievable that I'm really here in the other side of the world in the southern Africa in the middle of lions and clay huts. So far everything has gone really well as I didn't lost my luggages, haven't been robbed, got malaria or haven't even been burned by the sun.. :) The only downside has been that it's actually been colder here than what it was in Finland when I left. It's also been raining quite much and today the roads were flooding so much that we weren't sure there would be any road left after the rain. But, the rain is just good as it's been unusually dry here for the last two years and the crops are suffering from the lack of water.

We live in Mbabane that's the capital of Swaziland. It's a small city but it's quite modern and you can buy anything from the shops and it's really cheap. There's also some white people living in this area so we are not the only pale people in the city.. ;) The internet is working but it's really slow and if it's raining it might not work at all so blogging is a bit difficult. But, today I'm lucky as the sun is shining and the internet is working quite fast so it seems that I'm actually able to blog and even post some pictures. :)

On a way here, we spent a day in Paris. It was wonderful even though it was quite cold and it started to rain in the middle of the day and we didn't have any umbrella.. First we went to see Notre Dame and then we went to visit the catacombs where's loads and loads of skulls and bones of the people died somewhere in the Middle Ages. It was an unforgettable experience to walk through the hundreds of meters of neat piles of skulls and bones. After that we visited the Montparnasse cemetery and then we went to the Eiffel tower to see the wonderful view over Paris.

We arrived in Johannesburg South Africa a day before the rest of the group and so we spent a day there at our hotel and shopping at a mall. Then on Friday morning we met the rest of the group and headed of to safari in the Kruger National Park where we spent the next four days driving around and watching animals. We had such a good luck with the animals as we got to see loads of animals including over 20 lions. There was even one time when a lion couple came to lie in the middle of the road despite of loads of cars that had stopped to look at them. It was so amazing to see all those animals walking by a few meters away.

We'll start our practical training next week. I'll be working here at a local private dental clinic for the first few weeks and then we'll be teaching kids about oral hygiene at different schools. We'll also have a chance to work at a district clinic later and I think that'll be really interesting.

Oh, I wanted to post more pictures but it seems that Blogger doesn't allow me to post more at the moment so you'll have to settle with these. And I'll have to finish now anyway before my time runs out here at the internet cafe. Hopefully I'll be able to blog more later and post some more pictures. Take care and see you!