Forgotten Passwords and a Two month Fast-Forward

So I got busy and the internet was probably not very good and WordPress might’ve been blocked with the dumb proxy or whatever and then I forgot my Password and did not feel like going through the whole process of “Forgot your password?” and then I got more busy and time passed and here we are: (note that that this post is a compilation of many lists)

ISSA: International School of South Africa hosted it’s yearly football tournament. The drive up was about 13 hours from Mbabane to Mahikeng, South Africa. The trip consisted of: naps, fuel stops, toilet stops, macrame bracelet making (for those gifted with talent and patience), SAT vocab prep (for those lame second years taking the SATs), gazing out the window as though you’re in some dramatic film, silly conversations, heated discussions about expectations of UWC vs the reality at Waterford, musical bus seats, and finally, arriving. The tournament itself consisted of: Stretching (a lot of it), meals in the dreaded cafeteria (not a lot of that), McDonald’s (far too much of that to compensate for the lack of food in the cafeteria), Goals (SO MANY), Sweat (yes, a lot), bumps and bruises, more stretching, naps, a failed social event, mixed gender socialising by the windows, an improvised birthday gift, clapping at a very much deserved red card, a new hole in my worn boots, two girls pursuing me (yes: I have short hair, yes: I play football, no: I am not a lesbian), really unflattering uniforms, McDonald’s (yes, again. I must stress how much McDonald’s we ate on this trip).

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Ella (USA) -very best link sister, great soccer bud, and  prospective firstie, Myself, Al (Wales) -you should know her by all my other blog posts. (dunno who took this picture)

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Ella killing it on the field.

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Al took this. Thanks m80.

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Sam (Botswana/Korea) in goal, Soren (Denmark) on defence.

UWC Day: It happened. People put their Country’s traditional attire on. There was good food (a lot of it), Colors (all of them), Singing and Dancing, Flags, Patriotism, etc… Basically what you would imagine a UWC Day to look like.

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Waterford’s choir performance

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Brian (Kenya), myself.

Since the last post I have:

-Opted to switch out of Visual Arts HL and transfer to Theatre HL. It has definitely been the best decision I have made thus far in my short IB career. I switched out for many reasons. The main one: Being miserable in every class and dreading the class hours before it was happening. Other reasons: 1) I can do art by myself, on my own time with no restrictions, guidelines, limitations, rules, regulations, assessments, analyses, requirements, passive-aggressive comments, criticisms, or any other external force swaying my creation. 2) It would be stepping outside of my comfort zone (As if living 13,000km from home wasn’t enough already). 3)It was the only other class I would consider transferring to. I could not be happier.

-Been on my first Term Break. At Waterford our school year is divided into trimesters. After every Trimester (which is approximately 3 months) we get a one month vacation which is pretty sweet. I have been in Israel for the past 4 weeks and they’ve come and gone incredibly fast. I hadn’t seen Galya (my sister for those of you who are slow to catch up) for a bit over a year. I’ve yet to finish all of my assignments but that’s what I have 10 hours in the air for, 14 in Addis Ababa, 3 at O.R Tambo in Joburg and 4 on the drive back to Mbabane, right?

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Galya (UWCCR ’13) in best Yemenite restaurant ever in history ever in Tzfat, Israel.

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Tzfat Street.

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Kids being picture-perfect in Acco, Israel.

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Shoemaker in the Old City fixing up my Jerusalem Sandals.

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Photogenetics. Cousins or Twins??

Thanks to term break and first world internet standards I have been through every Buzzfeed video I was not able to load, streamed more movies than is healthy and been able to Skype my parents and friends without much trouble.

This happened today (Soz if these are unflattering):

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Marie (USA) -greatest human ever who is soon to begin College life in the US. Lisa (USA) -her mom who equally as great. Missing them like crazy and can’t believe they are packing up to leave Costa Rica after 10 years!

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Marie (previously introduced) and Anthony (USA-hey little brother! -yes this is a reference to Arrested Development) I felt very much included with all the updates on the latest drama in school organizations, love life and mathematic failures. It did not feel like we were separated by a massive body of water. Miss these people. ❤

Cool things coming up in Term 2: 24 Hour Run, Africa Week, Midterm-Break, other things I’m probably not aware of.

Things being worked on: Gender Equality Week for Term 3.

This is it. Not much more to tell. I will try to be more consistent with blogging. It might not happen.

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Quick Update

Here is everything to catch up on:

Midterm break (February 28th – March 4th): Went to Malolotja Game Reserve with Alaw (Wales ’16) and Rose (Netherlands ’15). We booked a cabin, bought some food (not enought though), went on a long hike, watched Th eLion King (appropriate for our geographical context). It was a great trip and I really loved Malolotja. Swaziland never fails to amaze me with it’s beauty.

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Rose (Netherlands ’15) and Alaw (Wales ’16) at Malolotja Game Reserve

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Taken by Alaw (Wales ’16)

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*gasps*

March 3rd: I turned 18.

IB Visual Arts Trip to Johannesburg (March 11th-15th): First year and Second year art students went on a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa. We stayed in a hostel called The Ritz Bakpackers Inn. Throughout the trip we must have visited over 10 galleries and met several artists. I was pretty arted out by the end of it. My favorite installation was called Pyromancers by Izak Buys. It was a Collection of pyrography on different sized pinewood panels. He had some cinematographic projections of fire and a small journal of a trip he took for one of his landscape pieces. We saw everything from conceptual art to a modern dance performance to a linoleum-print workshop and some primitive sculptures at Wits university Art Museum, and others. I was not entirely interested in it all.

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Rosebank, Johannesburg.

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Alva being hispter with cinematic projections at Wayne Barker’s installation of Normal Man, CIRCA Gallery. (didn’t care too much for his work)

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Antonia (Italy ’15) and Alva (Denmark/many other places ’15) at CIRCA Gallery

Unfortunately we did not see much of Joburg as we stayed for the majority of the time in the Rosebank area (art is where the money is).

We spent a few hours in this alleyplace called Art on Paper. From what I had heard I was quite excited to go as it sounded like some kind of Haight Ashbury street. It was a very hip spot, but rather posh and a bit pricey.

The ride back to Mbabane seemed to last forever. I was happy to get off the kombi (spellcheck?).

That is pretty much it. I have not written much lately, but will try to with more frequency. Next week we are off to South Africa again with the football team for a 5 day trip. The week after that we have a 4-day Easter weekend. The term is coming to an end quite quickly and on April 17th I will be travelling to Israel for a month.

A Warm Welcome Back to Wordpress

At this moment in time, if you have read previous entries, you might be aware that the internet in Swaziland is a human creation with a mind much of its own (the basis of any moderately okay sci-fi movie, except with the addition of culture shock and patience unknown to mankind up until this point). For two weeks I have not been able to access WordPress.

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Pretty self explanatory. (please disregard Amazon and Zappos… There is a whole array of things that you cannot get in Swaziland…)

On Thursday 5th I began a 30 week art project consisting of a systematic body of work in which we document transformations, development and growth. The subject: Me. I went from a full head of hair to a 3mm buzz cut. This assignment in IB1 Visual Arts was not the only reason I wanted to shave my head. It has been a thought floating around for quite some time now. In April of last year, my dear friend Margot (Netherlands ’15) organized Bald for a Cause in UWC Costa Rica. This is when the thought registered itself as a possibility sometime in the future. I have been cutting and donating my hair since the age of eight, always donating it to an organization that makes wigs for girls and women with diseases and/or under treatment that would induce hair loss. They are called Locks of Love. The hairdo would fluctuate from long to shorter and then grow out to long again, but it was never shaved. Since coming to a school where the majority of the student body is made up of students from the whole of Africa, I began to notice that long hair is common (by hair I mean the style of braiding extensions). This may be common because it is easier to take care of and less of a hassle. Other than that i do not know. In my opinion, I find that often, for some unknown reason, long hair is regarded as more feminine and more beautiful than that of short hair on a woman. This conception of beauty might also be a factor as to why extensions are so common. I think it is important to challenge social constructs that are based on nothing.

Pre//Post

Pre//Post

Two days after this, a group of about 25 students signed up for an optional Community Service trip to Mpaka Refugee Camp. From my understanding there were over 100 families and over 300 children. We played games with the kids and some students helped with the planting of vegetables in the garden. Most of the refugees are originally coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. There are families still there who have been at Mpaka as early as 2003.

The children here never cease to leave an impression. I asked a boy what he wanted to do when he grew up and finished school. He said he would like to become a scientist to help find cures to diseases throughout Africa. The younger kids seemed to be quite amused by the lack of hair on a white person. Some asked me why it was short, others touched it a lot. I said I liked it short. From every child I go the same funny look and they answered something along the lines of: “It is prettier long”. The thing is, these children who were mostly under the age of 6, had never seen me with long hair, but the idea that “bald is not beautiful” exists. In addition to that, I would like to point out that most of the girls kept a bald head as well. We said goodbye and that we hope to see them soon.

Christian (USA '16), Myself, Andrés (Chile '16) at Mpaka Refugee Camp CommServ trip.

Christian (USA ’16), Myself, Andrés (Chile ’16) at Mpaka Refugee Camp CommServ trip. (Photo borrowed from Christian and his cool li’l GoPro)

This week was a quiet week, not much was happening. On Tuesday I felt very homesick and tired of everything from our brown cafeteria food, to the terrible internet, to the juggling act that is the IB in conjunction with UWC and the 13,000km between where I am right now and where I would have liked to be. The thing is, adjusting is not easy, but it is possible. Everyone says “You’ll get used to it.”

On Wednesday I tagged along with the Drama class to House on Fire, which was hosting a theatre performance. It was a bizarre act, but there was something special about the small group, the oddity of what the audience experienced and the bus ride to and from Ezulwini.

On Friday we took a cab from school to Mbabane centre. On our way to the Combi rank we hear some yelling and whistling. All of a sudden, around 50 people were in the middle of the road. More and more people ran towards the large group. Soon it became clear that all the men were chasing one man. Apparently he had stolen something and the whole of the surrounding community reacted. Lucky for the thief, the police were near to take him into custody and save him from a being beaten by the men. However, people were pointing at him and yelling very loud. They were publicly humiliating the man. We caught a Combi (A great 15 seater minivan that can take you very far for very cheap.) from Mababne to Ezulwini once again. Destination: House on Fire. This time it was not a small obscure and artsy gathering, but rather a very much awaited event: Traffic Light Party (…thanks Valentine’s Day…) It was great to see the versatility of a place as cool as HoF. Afterwards we headed over to Sundowner’s Backpacker’s Inn. It was time for bed.

Backpacker bunk-bed time

Backpacker bunk-bed time

Lisa (Norway ’16), Alaw and myself all woke up too early. We headed to Mbabane and back to campus.

A Waterford Kind of World

January 27: ,but

Jan 30: Either way

Jan 31 2015: it becomes

The last three entries in my journal have gone unfinished. Maybe someone stopped by my room to say hello and check up on me, maybe I was late for something, or became distracted by the hundreds of thousands of things that comprise all that is not writing in a journal.

Waterford Kamhlaba roughly translates to Waterford of the World, but sometimes it feels like a whole world in itself. A world in which the weather changes drastically from one minute to the next. It is place where the food makes my belly ache and the water sometimes has aliens floating in it. The Internet has mood swings and there are power cuts in every storm. It is a hard world to adjust to, but it happens slowly and surely.

Here are some small things I am starting to get used to:

  1. Eating dinner while it is still daytime.
  2. Seeing long braided extensions on the floor that have disassociated themselves from someone’s hair to become their own sovereign, self ruling subjects.
  3. Having to wake up very early to have time by myself.
  4. Most of my meals looking brown, golden or beige.
  5. Writing emails in Word documents and saving them until there is connection. This goes hand in hand with making lists of things to tell my parents for the next time I speak to them.
  6. People listening to their private music through a public mean (I promise that earphones are more comfortable to carry around than a set of speakers, really).

Every day is different. Yes, we always have to check in by 22:30, and on monday through thursday we have “prep time” (quiet time for working) between 18:45 and 20:45 (but i really appreciate having time set apart for different responsibilities, as time management is not my best skill).

Yesterday we took the bus down to Mbabane and went to a store called Woolworth’s. There are places similar to it in Costa Rica, but nothing quite like it. They had everything from slippers, to evening gowns, to French coffee presses, to organic raspberries. I picked up some colorful food and splurged on nice ingredients. On the bus ride back i called Waterford home. (…)

The weather today is insane. The mist is so thick you cannot see anything beyond a 20 meter radius from where you might stand. It is a bit eerie walking through the wide-spread football fields. I feel so tiny.

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Alaw (Wales '16) happy not to have gotten lost.

Alaw (Wales ’16) happy not to have gotten lost.

As I have mentioned before, i flew to Johannesburg on a one way ticket. Sometimes homesickness catches up and all I want is to know when i’m headed back to Escazú. I spoke to my mom about visiting Galya in Israel over one of the breaks, but that was a bit overwhelming as well. Sometimes you just have to focus on the now. One brown meal after the next, one unfinished journal entry at a time.

This was the blogging spot for today. The IT center (holy place of wifi) is closed but the internet is up. Everyone is gathered around as if this was a destination of pilgrimage.

This was the blogging spot for today. The IT center (holy place of wifi) is closed but the internet is up. Everyone is gathered around as if this was a destination of pilgrimage.

Week Three

El Shadai children’s home is a special place. It is a safehaven for children who for the most part are orphans due to HIV/AIDS. Some of the work was labor intensive. We trimmed tall grass under the sun with shovels, rakes and other blunt gardening tools to keep snakes away. Spending time with the children was rewarding, but when the rain came they were truly happy. They ran through the thunder and lightning with bright smiles on their faces and laughter in their breath. The lightning in Swaziland is incredible. I’ve never seen lightning like I’ve seen it here. It strikes often and near due to the amounts of iron in the land. (I heard a story about a bolt striking the residence from the outside, going through a wall and knocking a whole chunk of a wall out in a guy’s dorm…)

When the bus picked us up everything started to go wrong in the best possible way. The water had made the dirt roads slippery and unstable. Our bus came to a stop at the bottom of a steep hill. Hilde and I got off the bus and approached some kids that were watching us from the side of the road. They were interesting and silly and real. Hilde taught them (and myself) how to put a piece of grass between our thumbs, blow and make a loud noise. At first I could not get the hang of it and they were laughing and laughing at my every failed attempt. We asked them if they knew a song they would like to sing for us. Their voices were so beautiful. It was a special moment that I do not want to forget. We said goodbye.

At this point the decision had been made that some locals would help us get the bus up the hill. The plan: We walk up. The oxen pull the bus. It did not take long to reach the top, but when we did it felt like a whole different world. Yes, Swaziland is beautiful, but I did not ever imagine to have views like we had, here or anywhere. Rafik and i sat on a rock and overlooked the mountains from what felt like the tallest peak on Earth. While sitting in silence I thought, “I wish I had panoramic eyesight”, because I didn’t want to miss any of it for a single instant. All I wanted was to absorb the whole of my surroundings.

We waited around two hours. Six oxen did the job of pulling the small 25 seater bus. 10 Men did the job of pushing the 60 seater up and around the bend until the bus had enough traction to drive safe and steadily. The way the problem was solved was not all that new to me, but still a great scene to witness. Unfortunately, i have no pictures to show of this event as did not take my camera to Community Service.

On Sunday I woke up hours before breakfast, of which I spent one and a half reading Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage lent to me by Sebastian. It was cold and a bit foggy outside, but the mountains in combination with early morning silence make Waterford seem like the most peaceful place you’d ever find. Breakfast came along and the cafeteria food proved itself better than usual on Sundays. After breakfast several of us went up to the one of the rock formations overlooking campus. One is called Tom and one Kelly but I’m not sure which is the one we went to. Again, the Swazi scenery was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I am constantly being reminded of what a tiny speck I am in this infinite universe.

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The view of campus from above.

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photo by Charlotte Beer (Germany ’16)

I guess this blog post has a recurring theme of physical environments creating emotional well-being. The rain brought joy, the views are grounding and the atmosphere feels like home.

I apologize for the little insight and boring narrations. Time and energy are scarce and of the utmost value in a place like this and I can’t be bothered to take up much of either when blogging. Communicating to home is very difficult here. The Internet fails more than it succeeds, which in turn means that we spend less time on the computer, which is good. (I have been struggling with the internet connection to make this last post!)

On a side note: on our drive to Community Service we passed Malalotja Reserve and spotted a group of Zebras!! (again no photos because I did not take my camera) Next post I will cover what I’m up to and share my thoughts and feelings about Waterford Kamhlaba and the UWC side of school.

Leeches and Left-handed Drivers

Security checks, boarding calls and announcements to fasten my seatbelt made up the atmosphere of a two day journey to a very much awaited destination. Fort Lauderdale was pressed for time, New York seemed endless and cold, Johannesburg was close. With a total of 21 hours in the air, 15 hours in airports and  4 hours by bus, Swaziland went from a widely developed plan to a reality.

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Fort Lauderdale International Airport

The waiting period in New York was exhausting. It was below freezing outside and there was nowhere to check in my bags overnight. At times it was very exciting to be on my way, but on the other hand, it was very scary to be leaving home. For thirteen hours I went back and forth from looking forward to this adventure to looking back at how far it would be.

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New York City seen beyond JFK International Airport.

On Wednesday morning I made it over to my gate and right in front of me sat this massive steel structure reading South African Airways. I have no idea how the plane stayed in the air for fifteen hours, I’m just grateful that it did.

These last couple of days in Swaziland have been truly special. Samantha (my second year born in Swaziland to British parents) and her family have opened up their home and made me feel taken care of.

On Friday I was able to check out campus and see my room. At first I was shocked. It is a tiny cell of maybe 5.5 square meters with enough space to lay on the bed, sit at the desk or stand by the closet. I have gotten used to the idea now, and have seen other rooms that I am happy not to be in!

Yesterday we headed over to the cascades in Mbabane. Lise (second year who stayed at my home in Costa Rica when visiting her UWCCR coyear), Hilde, Markus and Lisa from Norway joined. It was a great time meeting some of the people with whom I will spend the next two years. It was such a scenic location and we hung out in the water for some time. After getting out I felt an itch on my foot. It was a tiny leech attempting to become one with me. It was not that big a deal, just a reminder that I am 13,000km away from the 95% potable waters of Costa Rica.

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Cascades in Mbabane

I am still getting used to it here, but feel very much at home amongst the mountains and nature. The people are so kind, which is part of why the transition has not been all that difficult, thus far. I still have a small panic attack every time I am in a car and we go over a curve and there is a car coming our way and it feels that we are on the wrong side of the road. I sometimes see kids in the driver’s seat and do not realize that they are actually passengers. It has been quite impressive to witness the left-handed clutch manoeuvres that the drivers make.

These are just the little things, but they are big first impressions.

Splitting Seconds

March 14th, 2014: “Today will be a good day from the overflow of yesterday.”

This was my journal entry the day after I was notified of my acceptance to Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa. Now, I am only one day short of 45 hours in transit.

It is safe to say that packing the whole of your possessions after 17 years in the same home that you were born and grew up in is impossible. So this morning we headed out to the only open veterinary clinic in Escazu on the first Sunday of January to weigh my bags. Thing is, mom and I packed and unpacked nearly half a dozen times, each time checking with our decade old, inaccurate scale. Thanks to skillful guesstimates, I was only roughly 100g over. (That has already been transferred into my carry-on.)

Flying on a one-way ticket is scary. Nothing is for sure other than the fact that I am leaving. Yet, this means that anything can happen. Who knows, I may stay in Africa for two whole years. The notion of time is something I will never understand. Some people truly grasp the essence of it by all sorts of math formulas and physics equations. Truth is, I failed 10th grade physics, and time is abstract. You can look at it as three parallel lines: Past, Present, Future. You can look at it as a circle, or three interlocking circles, etc. All I know is about time is that it passes.

Since my sister began her studies at UWC Costa Rica (literally not 15 minutes away from home), I have been waiting for time to pass. I waited until it was time for the national committee selection process. Every day I waited for an email to notify me that I moved on to the next round. I waited for the final decision: Approval. Time passed slowly up until that very moment. But since then, time has picked it up its pace and everything seems to be moving very fast. Saying goodbye to friends, Having adventures to places you love, but do not know when you will see again, Packing, and finally, Leaving. It’s happened fast.

I Talked about the date with everyone. “January 6th.” “January 6. It’s a Tuesday.” “Me voy el 6 de Enero”. But just last night, I was sitting in the back seat talking to my parents as we drove back home after dinner. “What time do you want to be at the airport?” Said my mom. ‘What time’. It was no longer a day in the distant future. It was hours and minutes and seconds. It  is  hours and minutes and seconds away. Everyone calls UWC an ‘experience’, an ‘adventure’. All that time I was waiting for my experience to begin. And now suddenly, without realizing it, my ‘experience’ has begun.

One of my favorite pages in said journal. On the bottom left is a picture cut-out form a 1965 National Geographic Magazine. The boy is California native, Robin Lee Graham who set out to sail around the world when he was 16.

One of my favorite pages in said journal. On the bottom left is a picture cut-out form a 1965 National Geographic Magazine. The boy is California native, Robin Lee Graham who set out to sail around the world when he was 16.

As to the blog name:

1. When I started telling people about Swaziland, many of them brought up places in Europe, or mentioned Zurich, assuming that they heard wrong or I misspoke. It was somewhat fun to correct them. “No, not Switzerland. SWA-ZI-LAND. It’s a small Kingdom of 1 million people between South Africa and Mozambique.” This happened on more than one occasion. And to be honest, I did not know about Swaziland until i heard of UWC.

2. Just a side note: Costa Rica is referred to as “The Switzerland of Central America”. The reasons being, it is very, very beautiful country, it is the most expensive Central American country to live in, Cerro Chirripo (the tallest peak in Central America) is found here, amongst other reasons. No comment in regards to whether or not the depiction accurate.

Regarding posts:

1. I do not know if I will be posting regularly. From what I hear Swazi internet is not all that reliable. Plus, I expect to be fairly busy with all the ‘experiencing’ that should be happening!

2. For the most part, I plan on posting in English. I am more comfortable writing in English, but you may stumble upon a couple of posts in Spanish (or SiSwati for that matter!) in the future.