Last year, today, we had done it. Moved our whole lives to Swaziland. Left our homes, families, dear friends, everyone we knew but 2 people, and hit the road.
In efforts to orient ourselves and the people, like you, sharing this journey with us, we did set some goals. Many folks may remember them. But here they are.
Year One in Swaziland, The Boehrigs’ Goals*: (our Big Picture Dreams haven’t changed)
- Get a car.
- Learn siSwati.
- Get a dog.
- Build a home, start a garden on some land.
Below are our reflections on each of those short-term goals.
- Get a car. Within one month of moving here, we bought a Land Rover. We thought this was a good idea, but it proved to be an ‘epic failure’. Pouring money, time and effort (Sean) into the car more than other areas of life, we decided this car wasn’t worth it to keep. As Sean’s work began to take shape, we also saw that a truck would benefit us greatly. We drained the savings, bought a Toyota Hillux. Ole Toyota continues to break down, but is more reliable than the Land Rover, and we find Toyota parts much easier in Swaziland. We are still trying to sell the Land Rover in South Africa. We share this constant headache of a vehicle with a majority of the country, who have unreliable transport, or unreliable public transport.
Manna purchased a motorcycle for us to reduce fuel expenses, plus, put less wear and tear on the Toyota. Sean primarily drives the dirt bike for visiting folks in the surrounding communities.
Additionally, we learned public transport to town is cheaper than driving when one person goes alone. Often, when Nicole visits the hospital, she travels on public bus, or khumbi.
- Learn siSwati. Eleven months ago, we began learning siSwati from Nolwazi. We continue to meet with her three evenings a week, barring any unforseen interruptions (i.e. 3 weeks stranded in South Africa). While it’s difficult to know where we should be language-wise, we strive towards growth.
With learning anything new, we understand the challenges facing us. A few challenges to learning siSwati are: too many English-speaking people (foreigners, missionaries, business people) surround us; because English is also an official Swazi language, many Swazis see our white skin and address us in English. Through constant redirecting in siSwati, eventually we can switch them to siSwati, so we can practice. Because complete immersion is difficult here, we have intentionally sought people, places, and circumstances that force “siSwati kuphela” or siSwati only.
Sean spends time in Maseni (a community ~2 miles from us) developing relationships with several families who are farming, and using the treadle pumps he showed them. Most of these relationships exist in siSwati.
Nicole writes prenatal mini-lessons for the women she doula for at Manzini’s hospital. Most of these women come from the ‘bush’. Because Nicole’s siSwati is one hair above their English, she ‘doulas’ in siSwati a lot.
Also, we both pursue relationships with non-English speakers using our lesson times with Nolwazi as preparation for these interactions. We both come to Nolwazi with questions in the evenings about words that confused us today, or sentences we wish to say tomorrow. Having spent some much time with her, we now introduce her as, “This is Nolwazi. Our friend and amazing teacher.” We’d be lost on many levels without her!
- Get a dog. We adopted our Jack Russell, Thor in April. Almost 8 months old, he brings us joy, normalcy, alertness as he alarms us of people in our yard, and companionship. This month he began killing mice in our bathroom/pantry and gloats over his prizes until we toss the hairy victims over the fence. As the season warms up, we expect his help in chasing off snakes, while also alerting us to their presence. Jack Russells are known for their quick ferocity.
Build a home & start a garden on some land. By far the most ambitious, involved, and time-consuming goal we aimed for in our first year.
As you may remember us discussing that there are two ways to acquire land in Swaziland. a) be given land by a chief as a Swazi citizen or b)buy private land. As private land runs very expensive, we moved here with the intention that a Swazi friend (whom we met 2 years ago and Brian knows very well) would khonta (have land given to him) land & we could live on that piece.
A quick re-cap of land progress:
- 1st piece of land. Effort 1. Tied up in courts with land boundary disputes. Our Swazi friend is focusing his efforts on the 2nd piece of land now.
- 2nd effort. Brian’s home. Nhlambeni. After building a home on a half-acre of land, the owner informed Brian/Roy that indeed he had not sold it to them. Now taken to the King’s court (the highest court in the country), we wait for a verdict. Two years this dispute had continued to disappoint Brian, but not discourage us.
- 3rd effort. Sigceneni. (6 miles from our current location). After brief encounters, talks with community members, and wisdom gathering, we realized the chiefdom there is rife with corruption. Not trusting what the elders said, friends advised us to not pursue land there. We listened.
- 4th effort. Kurt. Siphofaneni. A long-term missionary/minister in Swaziland from South Africa, offered to give us his piece of given land. Several years ago when he became an official Swazi citizen, the Swazi people told him he had to get land. He was given land from a chief not too far from us now. He only wants to check with the chief to make sure it’s okay we would move on to the land and build. However, the meeting hasn’t happened yet off for several months already. We’re still waiting.
Yes, disappointments have come. Mainly, we felt saddened by people’s (even Christian family’s) lack of follow-through on these potential land pieces. Also, the corruption and greed surfaces all too often when we Belungus (whites) try to humbly come in, build a small, simple home and live among folks. In some cases, it’s been made clear that our presence may harm instead of help. We seek another way.
Our current living situation blesses us immensely. In December, we moved into some Servant’s Quarters of an American family, the Taylors, from Oregon. We keep our milk in their fridge and watch their kids while they’re away, while they let us be their friends and share all their kitchen appliances with us.
The garden Sean and Glorious pour into allows some of that “plant a garden” aspect we longed for upon moving here. The physical space and time spent there introduces us three (Sean, Glorious & Nicole) to many people, new ideas, and grows our understanding of growing our own food well.
Trips to Maseni help us “cope” with not being in a complete, rural Swazi community, especially as Sean spends increasingly more time there.
Nicole “copes” by traveling to Raleigh Fitkin Memorial hospital, 25 minutes away in Manzini. Her language explodes after each day spent there. Also she learns much about the female side of life here.
Lastly, the friends we’ve got right here in the gas station, grocery store, road side stands, truss shop, and nearby rental housing create a sense of ‘community’ that’s a bit unconventional in nature, but delightful none-the-less.
Challenges to Our Living Situation:
- our ‘work’ is further than our front door. i.e. traveling to town, or Maseni, etc.
- lack of complete community with Swazis
- limited Swazi neighbors (only one Swazi family lives within shouting distance)
- local area is a transient community, therefore people migrate through here from work to home
- Taylors will leave within 6 months, and we’re unsure where we’ll stay
Benefits to our Situation:
- close to our tutor
- close to teammates and other American/missionaries/South African friends (engaging in fellowship and bible study times)
- close to amenities – the grocery store, bus stop, gas station, and Nkonyeni (internet & workout facilities)
- on a major road, so public transport is breezy
- electricity and water in our home
- shared living space and appliances with Taylors
- easier boundaries established with ‘working ‘ and ‘non-working’ hours
While we did not picture our current living situation, as our first year in Swaziland comes to a close, we are grateful.
*Keep in mind these are reflections and thoughts on our first year’s goals. Of course we seek to communicate openly and honestly with folks about the hows, whys, wheres, whens, and whos of our life. We share these reflections not as a “Let’s check these things off our list!” or “Look at all we’ve done,” but rather a “Whew! This is a process. And we’re aiming to be intentional with our efforts.” As mentioned [in other blogs] and discussions with folks interested in our lives here, we emphasize that these “Goals” come from broken hearts who love God, pursue Jesus, and aim to live as He might among our neighbors. Because we hope to live here for years to come, we are patient in waiting, while diligent in moving forward.