Kaphunga, the village in the sky, Matjana preschool

The village in the sky: Kaphunga Village, Matjana Preschool

I know i am skipping a couple of weeks here, last month was just too hard for me to put into words.

Anyways, since i had to apply for my mozambique visa in mbabane, swaziland i decided to visit another place in this beautiful country full of nice people. Through warmshowers i got the contacts to the head teacher of a nice little preschool all the way up in the mountains. So on the way back from mbabane i decided to visit this place for a couple of days.

I absolutely do not regret this decision. Even though its a bit off route and something like 600 m higher than the surrounding lowveld and can only be reached on really horrible dirtroads this is exactly the kind of experience i was also looking for: To be with the people in the rural areas of swaziland, see their traditions and how their every day life looks like.

The icing on the cake: Its a really wonderful area, coming up here i felt more and more like im on top of the world. Basically ive got a 360 degree view of all the surrounding area, hills, mountains, a lake and lots of granite boulders. I was so lucky that 3 policemen and women gave me a lift otherwise i would have surely broke myself on the way up. Roads with cobbles as big as your fist dont help on the battle against 15 percent steep roads. The adventure getting to this world of its own was big enough, its so far away from everything that i had to bring all my food for the 3 days, theres no shops, nothing to do, just the calm village overlooking the lowlands. But, of course theres a strange red bike that can easily carry 4 kids at once so dont worry, i wont get bored.

The preschool is a nice small building on top of a gentle green hill which is one of the highest amongst the surrounding hills. Theres another building which i believe is the kitchen but it was not used today. Ive got my own small traditional clay hut with a bed (Oh yeah i cant appreciate beds enough even though the matress is the softest thing since foam was invented so basically im lying on the frame - still its amazing). At the moment theres also the building site for the new school building because theres even more kids in the area that want to go to preschool and they are trying to provide space for all of them.

At the moment the school has something like 20 - 25 kids and was founded in 2007 by local people and an australian woman. As i understood all of the money they need they get through donations, theres no help from government (in that case i guess that means the king who is leading a luxurious life with 14 wives and an appropriate number of palaces). The school has got three teachers of which Ncobile is the head teacher. They all get paid by the matjana preschool foundation and Ncobile is also supported to get further training.

School starts every morning at 8 and the school also involves lots of playing, traditional dancing, small lessons on safety, health and selfcare but also the first steps in english, mathematics etc. The first day i felt the women have a really nice way of teaching the kids, theres lots of encouraging them and cheering when one of the kids answered a difficult question correctly. Theres also a school council that is formed by parents to decide upon school issues and teaching plans (i believe).
The kids do the morning greetings as well as singing songs together, some dancing and playing, but they also start with painting and forming all sorts of alien looking shapes from dough. They get to listen to biblical stories (at least thats what my mind made out of the swati storytelling) and they get time to play outside and chase each other (and me).

They are learning the days of the week, the months and how to count in english, at the moment there is still a lot of disagreement about the days of the week and the months of the year, but all of this is subject to current discussion amongst the kids and will be solved in the next months. To be fair, its not easy to name the months of the year in reverse order. Counting and parts of their body is also part of their lessons, it just helps to know how this thing is called that you just hit on the wall.

Just when i arrived here i already wondered how all the kids might get to school, because like a lot of Swazi rural areas there is no real village center. (Random movie suggestion: Der Weg zur Schule). The houses just lay scattered all over the surrounding hills and the village of kaphunga is basically the name of an area, 10s of kilometers wide from one side to the other on top of a mountain range where theres big compounds distributed randomly.

For me the language barrier sometimes is just too big, which makes it hard to talk to the kids, also because they dont really seem to understand that i dont speak a single word of Siswati, so they just keep babbling and i keep smiling and shrugging my shoulders. Anyways its possible to play with them and just spend time at the preschool which is a nice change from everydays cycling routine and a much needed moment of regaining strength before the race through mozambique is on in a couple of days.

As i am here for two days now, the kids get more and more curious about me, they visit me in the mornings, me having breakfast seems to be something like a comedy show to them because they're laughing like crazy when im munching on my peanutbutterbread. And of course they want to ride on the bike and play the guitar all the time which can be really tiring to tell them over and over again its not going to happen this moment.
This is even more difficult as of course all of them want to get on the bike, preferably all at once. So its not long until one of the kids hurts itself or something on the bike breaks and im never done with carrying them around. So, when i got surrounded by hundreds of kids in front of the primary school one day, I decided just to carry some of them back to the preschool to hide the bike (because im a nice guy that loves to see kids smile and I'm quite easy to persuade). While all the others were running next to the bike the expectable happened and one of the kids in the back got its foot stuck in the spokes (Even though i tried to make sure they know where and where not to put hands and feet). And there you go: Crying and and an eighth in the rim.

Being quite pissed off by the kids (and maybe myself for letting it happen instead of just leaving my bike at my hut on the hill) now i had to try to fix the rim for my first time, without any experience and lacking some of the tools that make this more easy. While 5 of the kids were constantly playing with the bike and moving the pedals. Meaning i had to try putting more or less tension but hopefully not too much on the spokes to even out the eighth. And because the shitty asian spare tyre im using atm is a quite big mountain bike tire, theres not much space on either side so its got to be quite accurate (actually I already cut off the whole profile of the tire with a knive on one side already just to be able to fit it on the bike in the first place. Improvising is the way how to get around in africa - got to use that more i guess)

Thats the point when being with the kids can be really tough and annoying, when i get the feeling that things constantly break and i cant get them to leave me alone or stop doing silly things, because they dont understand what I'm saying. And when this puts the continuation of the trip in danger its even more stressful, but also I don't want to be angry with them. Apart from playing with them after school and joining them in some activities theres just not a lot for me to do, most of the "school" is held in english.

So after these 3 days and a last evening cooking some Ital food with some rastas nearby the sad moment to leave kaphunga had come, the next days where holidays and i really felt the need to continue to the next big change: Mozambique