By Rob Hinschberger:
After 20 hours of flights, 10 hours of layover, and 200 Rand in overweight luggage, I arrived at King Mswati III International Airport in Swaziland, Africa!! My first mistake and laugh occurred two minutes after being greeted by Dalton, a friendly and soon to be co-worker at the Olympicafrica Center. Heading to his truck, I went to jump in the passenger seat on the right hand side, only to be told “other side please”. Driving to the capital city of Mbabane where the Swaziland Olympic and Games Association office is located, I enjoyed witnessing mountains in all directions and the astonishing amount of cattle walking the street. Exhausted but with some food in the back of his truck, we made our way to my residence, Bombaso’s – “the place where the world comes together”. With the place packed for the upcoming busy weekend, I’ve been placed in the bachelor pad and quite honestly, it almost feels like too much of a luxury.
Settling in the next couple days, I’ve made plenty of walks into the City Centre to check out the shops and grocery shop. The walk down is 35-40 minutes, while the walk up with groceries is a little longer and fuels a nice little burn in the calves, shoulders, and arms. With no gym, there’s no doubt this will contribute to staying in shape and frankly, I’m ok with that. The locals are full of smiles, friendly, and love a “brother-like” handshake. The views are amazing, morning, afternoon, and night; however, I am taken back a bit by the sun setting by 5:30 pm, dark completely by 6-6:15 pm, a year round occurrence for Swazi’s. The temperature changes dramatically to going from 27⁰C by 10 am, to 17⁰C at sunset, to 10⁰C or cooler by 9 pm. With my daytime shorts and t-shirt/tank top, I’ve gained a few stares and laughs especially it being winter here and many locals in pants, sweaters and toques. Truth be told, I miss one of my toques for the nighttime. Slowly becoming accustomed, a challenge was the currency exchange and I am rather surprised that most food prices are pretty much on par with us in Canada. Avocados are grown locally and according to Dalton, many families own a tree so I’ll be continuing my guilty pleasure there.
Met my boss on Friday, Muriel Hofer, the Secretary General and I believe our working relationship will be a great one in which I believe she will serve as a mentor. With a masters in policy, there is much to learn and develop as a Sport Manager and a leader in the sport industry. I enjoy the passion I can feel in her voice, as it appears she is stern, but will be fair and really only has high expectations of the progress taking place in Swaziland Sport! No problem for me with that, as the words of my mentor this past summer, Harry Erskine resonate with me: “if you’re the hardest working person everyday, you’ll only make progress and have success”. I plan on taking that mindset into the workplace for these next three and a half months and leave a legacy future QE Scholars can build upon. More on that later as my first day will be Tuesday, August 30, 2016 but my first impression of Ms. Hofer was two thumbs up.
Lastly, I was able to witness one of, if not the biggest event of the year for Swaziland on Sunday, August 28. Celebrating their Kingdom and African culture, the reed dance cumulates a week long progress in which marriageable women take part in gathering reeds for the King. Upon giving the reeds, they dance all day long for the King and other Presidents of African countries (this actually occurred on the Monday, a holiday). Coming together in separate communities, the girls dressed in colourful Swazi clothes, chanting and marching around the Stadium. Girls who had red feathers in their hair are royalty – princesses.
Can’t say I’ve seen anything like it before but the spirit the girls had for the day was noteworthy – whether they agree with the topless part of the day is debatable according to Ms. Hofer, but celebrating their culture is clearly something they cherish. See below for pictures!
A quick shoutout to my many loving family members who have supported me through my 25 years of life, leading me to the position I am now. To all Brock faculty who have been wonderfully inspirational in their teachings, pushing me to dig deeper and continue developing as a leader. To the friends who have kept pushing me forward and the lovely girlfriend who keeps me smiling! Looking forward to the work and fun ahead, can’t wait to get some hiking in. Until next time, cheers!