The revelation hit me as I was white-knuckle driving on the M3 highway outside of Mbabane, Swaziland. It was my first day of driving on the left hand side of the road – and I had already gotten lost twice. Part of the M3, called the ‘Malagwane’, was once in the Guinness Book of World Records for the ‘Deadliest Highway’. It’s been twinned since then, but imagine the Autobahn, but with fewer rules.
What. Have. I. Done.
Then Meryl Streep’s voice came into my head: “I had a farm in Africa….”
HOOOOOOONK!!! The blare of a horn cut my daydream short – apparently I spent too long in the passing lane. Where I come from we actually wait until the entire vehicle is behind us before cutting back into the driving lane. I don’t speak Siswati, but I’m fairly sure the guy was wishing me a safe journey.
The circumference of the earth is 40,075 km. The distance between Edmonton, Canada and Mbabane, Swaziland is 15,805 km. I’m no math expert, but it seems to me that I can’t get much further from home without getting closer to home. Oh, and here they call it ‘maths’.
How can it be possible to go half-way around the earth and still feel at home? Nothing is the same! Traffic lights are called ‘robots’, garbage cans are ‘dustbins’, chips are ‘crisps’ and fries are ‘chips’. Product packaging, instead of English and French, is translated to Afrikaans and sometimes a Sanskrit language I’ve never seen before.
Everywhere I look, something is different. Even in the mirror. Those two stress-lines between my eyes were going away, and sometimes I catch myself smiling – just because. I live in Africa.
I’m soaking in the variety like a sponge in water. Most of all, I’m loving the simplicity of this life. I have four pairs of socks, four t-shirts and three pairs of jeans. I do two loads of laundry every week, and I hang it all out to dry in the sun. Sometimes I sit outside my back door and watch the light change on the mountains across the valley. I fall asleep to the sound of doves and crickets, and I wake to the voices of the Challenge Ministries Life Skills Bible School students who live in the building beside me. I don’t have a television and the only radio station I can pick up is in Siswati – I’m getting pretty good at some of the songs but I have no idea what I’m saying!
Sure, there are inconveniences. Wifi is rare, ice cream is expensive, and the only fast food joint is KFC. But fresh roasted corn-on-the-cob (okay, here it’s maize) is only E6 (about 60 cents CAD) and when you pull up to the open fire by the roadside, the guy will bring it right to your car. (It’s delicious – although I wonder why the kernels don’t pop!) They’ll do the same with grilled chicken! Picking up a few things on the way home means stopping at a fruit stand to buy avocados, mangoes, bananas – all fresh and at a cost of about E1 each (yep – that’s about 10 cents CAD).
“I live on a farm in Africa”…..and I have no idea what’s in store for me this year. I do know that I already love some of the people I’ve met, and I’ve been welcomed to a church that is committed to teaching and to living out a passionate faith like I’ve never seen before. And I know that when someone says “You’re already just like a Swazi”, I just about burst with happiness.