Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting (un)stranded in the Swaz

So IST officially ended on Saturday (please refer to poorly organized previous entry) and I spent about 4 hours in Manzini waiting to print photos and wasting time on the internet. In Manzini the price for 6 hours is the same as for 30 minutes in Nhlangano, and it’s WAY faster. Why would I not take advantage of that?

I finally left Manzini about half one (1:30) on a bus headed for Hluti. Since I’d never taken the bus before, I talked to the driver before getting on and made sure that it was actually going to Hluti, and to make sure it was reasonably priced. Yes, he assured me, the bus was going to Hluti for E45. Excellent. So I choose a seat next to a crazy woman who, after handing me a huge stack of free advertisement papers she had stolen from a Walgreens-type store in Manzini, proceeded to attack me with a musky-smelling perfume she was haggling for with some guy, but chose to spray all over me instead of buying. Oh, but wait, there’s more! Even though I had paid my E45 to Hluti, when we got to Siphofaneni (about halfway there), the bus driver informed me that the bus would NOT, in fact, be continuing on to Hluti, but would go to Matata and turn around and go back to Manzini. Being a Saturday, I wasn’t sure if I had any way to get from Matata to Hluti, so I got off at Siphofaneni (I’d been there before, never to Matata, so it was a little less scary) and started searching desperately for another way home.

Plan B: Take the 3:30 Malangeni bus home to Hluti. Unfortunately, because of a car accident on the one-way bridge between Siphofaneni and Hluti, that bus would never get me home before dark. Apparently a drunk man drove his car off the side of a bridge and it was hanging over the side, tangled in guard rail and blocking the whole lane, so the police had to wait for the only guy in town with a tractor to finish plowing his field to come pull the car off the bridge. This meant that the bus that normally gets into Hluti by 6:15 would probably get there by 8:00, and it gets dark by 6:45. Okay, new plan.

Plan C: Find another female PCV in the area to stay with. This is why it’s really really good to know who lives in each area of the country and why I think Peace Corps should give each volunteer a map with the other volunteers’ locations on it! Anyway, I texted Nicole (and Serena, who never got my text of desperation because of a failed network connection, stupid MTN). Nicole met me in Siphofaneni and treated me to ginger ale and a popsicle out of a plastic bag (they put juice in a tied-off plastic sack and freeze it into a popsicle-like thing…I’ll probably get giardia now, but I was thirsty and it was delicious). Unfortunately for me, though, she and the other female volunteer in the area were attending a Vegas showgirl-themed birthday/hot tub party at some guy’s house and, honestly, I was NOT in the mood for that. I don’t think I would EVER be in the mood for that, actually. Still, I went back to her house for a few minutes so she could find her silver mini-dress and red stilettos (for real…) while I raided her DVD collection for RENT, exercise DVDs and the first season of Man vs. Wild. I guess I could have stayed there alone that night—her family was very nice—but I opted for something a little less awkward.

Plan D: Find ANY another volunteer in the area. Despite the terrible MTN network connection, I managed to get ahold of a Group 6 volunteer who lives between Siphofaneni and Hluti, and since the Malangeni bus was full (as in Plan B wouldn’t have worked even had it not been for the wreck because it was already full by the time it got to Siphofaneni) I hitched a ride to his community with some woman who gave me a free magazine and a beer (there’s no open container law in Swaziland). Since I’d visited before, I easily found my way to his house. Unfortunately, though, I’m female and he’s male, which is something of a problem in Swaziland. After explaining to his Babe (father) that, no, I am NOT his wife and other things (how I ended up at his homestead, why I’m in Swaziland, how I would love to be a guest teacher at his school sometime, etc.), we made grilled cheese and tomato soup and watched 1408 (a marginally scary movie starring John Cusack) and tried to negotiate the logistics of taking a bucket bath with a guest in the house (impossible by all accounts, for the record), and waited for Sunday so I could attempt the journey home again.

All in all, it turned out alright. Except since I couldn’t manage to get a message home to my host family to tell them I was alive (curse you, MTN), my Make (mother) assumed that I had decided not to come back and was surprised and very happy to see me show up on Sunday evening after a long journey back. And I had to go all the way back to Manzini to get back to my site (because I’m dumb and missed the bus to Hluti) so instead of paying E15 to get home I paid like E65. But I made it home in one piece and all I have to show for my adventure is an inexplicably large bruise on my right knee. And my house wasn’t even flooded/infested with bats/smelly when I got home! Amazing.

It’s really good to be home after so long away, though. And even better that it actually feels like home. Plus, now I have RENT and Man vs. Wild to watch!


Anonymous said...

Quite an roadtrip! I'm pretty sure I would rather remain on a bus, forever, than watch RENT again. MAN VS. WILD rocks, though. With a little more tweaking, you could have your own survival show- TEEN VS. THE SWAZ! Love you!

Dad said...

Forgot to put my name down. Technology is my nemesis. Of course you know it was me because of the heartfelt love (sense sarcasm here) for RENT.

Erin said...

yep. I knew that was Dad before I even read the 2nd comment. :)

You're much braver than me. I probably would have sat somewhere and cried all night. And then would have to sleep in an alley somewhere!