Eswatini 24 September: Manzini - Mbabane
Cold but beautiful day in eSwatini
Having said a very warm “Tchau!” to all in Mozambique, today our team of Peace Runners are in a new country, eSwatini, or up until last year, known formerly as Swaziland. We stayed the night in a very quiet and peaceful restcamp, called Sondzela Backpackers, in the surrounds of a wash of scenic green – tall green trees within eyesight’s reach, green grass and rolling hills.
At the first sign of dawn we could also hear the calls of the African Hoopoe bird, which of all the birds is said to be a guide for others on a spiritual pilgrimage to discover God. Our camp for the night was also home and sanctuary to a few other indigenous animals such as the likes of the Nguni cow, zebra and nyala; all pleasant sightings , particularly for our non-African team members.
This is our third visit to Manzini Practising School with the Peace Run, having last visited in 2015. This time what makes our visit unique, is that this is a first for the Peace Run to visit all 44 countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and eSwatini, is one of the 44 that we pass through. We feel privileged to come back to another warm reception.
The head principal, Mrs Nkambule welcomes our runners and introduces our team to all present. She says the blue in their country flag represents peace – a value that is cherished by all and fitting to have us at her school today.
Mrs Nkambule explained that each school in Manzini is assigned a local pastor that visits them once a month to pray with them. Our visit coincides with their pastor’s monthly visit so that upon our arrival the students are assembled in the quadrangle where we are welcomed to a chorus of voices singing together in perfect unison and harmony with words and actions that sang praises to God.
Abhijatri leading today's presentation to an audience of learners numbering a mere 1300...easy for some!
We tell the learners that if they can guess all the countries our members are from that we will sing them a song, but if they can’t that they should sing a song for us. Inevitably our country guessing game typically ends up with us singing a song for all, but the learners here are all eager to sing us a song too, and sing with such vibrancy and spontaneous gusto they do!
Along with all the learners, Teacher Phindile Dlamini sings too, giving her all into the song. And what deep concentration Balarka is in, making sure he captures these beautiful moments of song in time.
And along the way the Peace Torch is passed along the rows for each one to hold and add their wishes for peace.
Thank-you again to our friend, Harashita in Japan, and to all her students for writing beautiful messages and creating all the artwork for some of the schools our team visit. Here we present a message from Endo Seina, Takeshita Naoki and Kaito Hayashi to all in eSwatini. Rest assured that you have many, many, many friends here at Manzini Practising School.
"Peace in the strongest power,
A group of young girls perform the traditional "Ummiso" dance. Mrs Nkambule explains that the girls competed in the regional dance competition in Manzini and came first and fifth overall in the country. Thank-you girls!
We bid farewell to Manzini Practising School as we are treated to one final sumptuous song. We won’t be forgetting you anytime soon! There is no chance that our memory bank on this Peace Run will run dry from all our rich experiences.
This morning our team arrives at Sydney Williams School and addresses the older Grade 4 to 6 classes. The Grade 7’s are busy with their assessments and aren’t able to join us. As the learners gather and before Balarka addresses all here today, they recite a few prayers without any seeming prompts from the teachers.
This is Mr Gotshe, deputy principal of Sydney Williams that joins us today. He welcomes our team amidst all the news of violence and a time that does not seem so peaceful.
To have peace in the world, we first need to have peace inside ourselves. Peace in our hearts is important for each one of us to feel.
In thanking our team for visiting Sydney Williams School today, Mr Gotshe said that he’d like to close our morning together with a song sung jointly by the learners and teachers. It is called, “Malibongwe,” which one learner tells us means that Jesus is coming. There is certainly something very special in eSwatini, and all the countries that we’ve visited in Africa so far; there is so much harmony and joy and unity that comes forth through song and dance, which we aren’t able to aptly capture or describe. For now, we’ll just place it in the “experience first and you’ll know what we mean” box.
Sri Chinmoy's aphorism, "Kindness does not cost anything," makes us think of the catch phrase, "Pay it forward," where one act of kindness inspires the recipient to do something kind for someone else. We think an act of kindness, as seemingly small as it may seem, will always go a long way. What act of kindness can you do today?
Our third school for the morning is John Wesley and our team of peace runners climb a long steep hill to get here.
This is the quadrangle where our team heads for our morning assembly, and in the distance are the group of learners awaiting us. Today is a cold, grey day and as shown in the foreground are two green tanks used for harvesting rain water from the roofs...What's the chance of precipitation today?
These Grade 7 learners weren't able to join us today as they were busy with their assessments, but curiosity couldn't hold them back from seeing who their new visitors for the day will be.
This is Shree's last day with the team on the Peace Run before he heads back to work in Johannesburg. He told our team how inspiring the past 2.5 weeks have been and how much joy he's received at all the schools he's visited, so much so that he wished he could be on the Peace Run forever! Thanks Shree for all the joy you've brought to all the learners at the schools and to the team...oh and by the way you've turned us all into chili-heads - chili, marmite and cheese toast anyone?
This is day 2 for Pedja who joins us on our team, all the way from Serbia. So far all the schools have been stumped by where he's from. We've heard answers from Singapore to Russia to Switzerland.
"Peace is the strongest power,
- Sri Chinmoy
From all of us here to the students of Kensai University, thank-you again for your art and cultural exchange of messages.
Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words and we enjoyed seeing the expressions on these learners' faces captured in the following photos.
With only one ink stamp available, Pedja and Tafadzwa took turns to stamp our Peace Run logo on the learners’ hands. What started out with learners queuing for a stamp, within minutes soon turned into groups of young learners swarming for any available space on their forearms or hands to be “tattooed.”
Note to future selves – be armed and readied with more stamps. Deep concentration as Pedja tries to keep up with all the excited hands heading his way.
Our fourth and final school for the day is Ekwetsembeni Special School. It is a special school for children with learning difficulties, which the Peace Run last visited in 2015. Here we have a curious onlooker to see what's behind our banner.
There are many moments on the Peace Run that make it so worthwhile, a smile or kind word shared between two friends, existing and new, always goes a long way.
Pedja brought balloons and stickers for us to give to the learners and they turned out to be a real treat.
Here the red balloon was given to this young learner in the wheelchair by his two friends, who also helped to wheel him to where all the activity was. We were happy to take their photo together and moved by the care they shared toward each other.