Saturday, February 09, 2008

facts about swaziland

i am planning to go visit a convent in swaziland this summer - god willing. my plan is to use my tax refund (amount still unknown until i get my butt to my accountant) to pay for the trip. it's seriously expensive. no cheap flights to africa, i can tell you. they don't have those good relations with the middle east and their oil. and they can't invade like we did to get affordable gas.
i went to the cia world factbook to find out info about swaziland and this is what i found:
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 40.3% (male 230,238/female 226,184)
15-64 years: 56.1% (male 304,899/female 331,036)
65 years and over: 3.6% (male 15,870/female 24,839) (2007 est.)

Population growth rate:
-0.337% (2007 est.)

Birth rate:
26.98 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate:
30.35 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)

the fact that their death rate exceeds their birth rate is a shocker. i can't imagine what i will find when i go there. i have lived in europe and asia, and those were eye opening experiences for me (americans are so isolated). but, i've never been to the african continent, let alone sub-saharan africa.

the convent i'm visiting is a branch of the order of the holy paraclete whose mother house is in york, england. i went there a few years ago and felt ... odd, other. first of all it's freakin' cold there! i had my heater on in august. and the nuns, who are great, all had these posh accents so the daily office sounded like, "oh lohd, heayah ouwah prayah." all soft vowels and no final r's. when we drop our final r on the east coast of the u.s. it's a whole different thing.
the convent in swaziland have recently moved to a village called bulembu where they are running a girl's orphanage. i am very interested in that, and in teaching.
we'll see.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


i had an exhausting weekend - i had my own birthday party sat. night. my birthday is feb. 17 but that's during lent so i had my party two weeks early b/c i don't party during lent. i love lent - it's so quiet and soft. it's like the time between when i wake up before i get out of bed - 5 more minutes. i snuggle into my blankets and cuddle with the dog and it's soft and quiet and dark. lent to me is like 40 days of 5 more minutes and instead of cuddling with the dog, i'm burrowing in with god.
anyway, i had some friends over last night - very casual. then, sun. afternoon i hosted my godson connor's 9th birthday party. fortunately the weather here has been warm so the kids played outside in my backyard for a lot of the party. the kids at the party were connor's school friends, but mostly kids from church - his mom, mary and i grew up at our church and now we teach sun. school together and connor is in our class. it was nice to see the kids from our sun. school class in another setting than our classroom or even church.
at one point i was taking some garbage down to the basement and i was struck with a feeling of gratitude for my life, the life i've created, the community that i have through church and my friends.
i grew up with a family that had such pain and secrets they all had to medicate themselves thoroughly to be able to get through their day to day existense while carrying their pain. as a result, they were all unaware of the danger and pain i was in growing up. but, they are all gone now, thank god. i don't miss any of my family, i don't miss their dis-ease. and i have created a life for myself of friends, community, joy.
the trick is to enjoy my life while not trying to hold onto it. i can live it, one day at a time, but my life as it is now is not forever. and that's ok.