Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Reed Dance

The past week was incredibly difficult for me for a number of reasons. I completely forgot to tell you about my experience at the “Reed Dance” last Monday. I got things a bit confused- I thought it was for the King’s 40th birthday, but in fact, those celebrations are today and I am not attending. The Reed Dance is something entirely different. It is an annual event which thousands of young girls participate in each year. When I say thousands, I mean about 60 000. There were girls everywhere! They all have to be unmarried. They all come from various communities and they spend a week preparing for their big dance in front of the King. The reason it is called the Reed Dance is that the girls have to go and cut their own reeds and fashion them into jewellery which they wear around their feet- they obviously make a great amount of sound when the dance.
The girls are transported in on the backs of big lorries- the photo above shows them all arriving. The performance was supposed to start at 12.30pm, but didn’t start until 3pm- THIS IS TYPICAL OF EVERYTHING IN SWAZILAND!
We sat next to all the VIPS- dignitaries from all over Africa. Lots of men in military uniform and lots of men in expensive business suits. Some of their faces were familiar- I’ve probably seen them on the news, but I couldn’t tell you who they were, they just looked important. The Royal family were a short distance away but certainly out of reach of us mere plebs. It was simply amazing- thousands upon thousands of girls dancing around a field the size of two football stadiums. It was colourful, it was vibrant and it was loud.

It seems that the performance also brought the cold weather and I spent the whole time absolutely frozen. It was bitterly cold and as the performance went on and on and on, I started to get very restless- then I thought about all those young girls who were wearing next to nothing. If they were bothered with it, they certainly didn’t show it- they were having the time of their life. This is one of the most special moments ever in a Swazi girls life and they embraced the tradition with every bit of their heart and soul. I simply cannot relate the experience to anything I have seen in the Western world. It was so rich in culture and tradition. I felt very privileged to pay witness to it. I have to admit, we didn’t stay for the entire performance- it was getting colder and it was just more and more of the same thing. We all squashed back into the combie and made the treacherous trip back into Siteki in the dark.
My head was simply pounding by the time I got home. I had purposely not drunk much during the day as I knew the toilet facilities would be less than desirable. I was right and although I felt dreadfully unwell, I was relieved that I had kept control of my bladder all day. I didn’t expect to get home so late, so I was really upset to see that it was dark and my washing was still on the line. Whilst this may seem silly to you, I was warned never to leave my washing out whilst it is dark. Apparently, a particular type of insect will choose your clothing to lay eggs in at night. When you put the clothes on later, the warmth of your body will hatch the eggs and the insects will then crawl under your skin and cause a really annoying rash. I knew that those bastards would find my clothes particularly appealing. The solution, I had been told, was to iron everything well because this destroys the eggs. I immediately started ironing but then ran into a particular challenge- what to do about my padded bras. I thought about putting them in the oven, but alas, I don’t have an oven- just a hotplate. I then thought about trying to heat them up in a frypan, but then thought better of that idea. I realised that I was going to have to take a chance and thankfully, no itching yet. I examine my breast everyday for any signs of infestation.
I’m not completely useless when it comes to trying to solve some of life’s challenges here in Africa. Last night, I was rather dismayed to see that my kitchen sink had clogged up and water (and the sour milk that I had poured on my cereal that morning) had collected in the basin. After a recent stay with my friends, Courtney and Scott and their temperamental toilet, I was well educated on the virtues and mechanism of a plunger. For 15 minutes I sat staring at the sink wondering how I could replicate the mechanism of a plunger. It then came to me like some divine intervention. I put on a rubber glove and cupped my palm over the sink hole. Then using my other hand, I used the same motion that I use performing cardiac compressions. The suction of my gloved hand and the compressions worked like a plunger and that damn sink was clear in no time. I can’t check my cars oil and water levels. Nor can I change a tyre, but here in Swaziland, I can unblock a sink…..

1 comments: said...

Dr Underwood, I presume...

Last week it was death & gore, this week it's photos of half naked African virgins & a loving description of both your augmented underwear & intimate details of mammary self-examination. In addition you've cast aspersions on the man who is not only the most powerful guy for 500+ miles around, but who writes the law to suit himself, is undoubtedly a little tetchy at having just turned 40 and who possesses his own army. Never let it be said that the Dark Continent failed to get its slimy tentacles wrapped around the formerly pristine recesses of your soul. 3 cheers for you.

I think the parasitic fly to which you refer is the Tumbu fly.
The following article presents a singularly graphic account of miasis of the breast (with pictures), and (fortunately for you) its treatment as well:

Enjoy your ironing! AW xo