For the last 7 months I have been wondering if there would be a way to actually share with you at home what life in Swaziland is like for me. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before and I wasn’t sure there would ever be a way to give you a glimpse of this life. I think I might have found it though. The other night I was watching Beauty and the Beast and I realized how if you watch the beginning of the movie, you in the states, will have at least a little idea of what life is like here. No there aren’t people singing all the time when they wander down the streets it’s more about the words they say.
For those of you that don’t have the movie, or haven’t seen it in a while I will give a little synopsis. It starts with Belle walking into town singing about how town is always the same and the people are always the same. As she gets into town people start to notice her and sing about her. There are two women that sing “that girl is strange no question” and another part where people sing about how her nose is always “stuck in a book”. Belle can’t make it through town without being talked about.
Next we meet Gaston, he proposed to Belle without actually having gotten to know her or going on a date with her. He tells her women shouldn’t read books because it leads to thinking. Later he shows up at her house with an ambush wedding with no doubt in his mind that she will say yes, even though he hasn’t done anything to actually get to know her.
So of course this is a Disney movie but it’s kind of scary how much it reflects my life these days. I get noticed and talked about no matter where I go. I don’t even need to go to town. People come to my house and look in my windows (like I mentioned in my post: The Fishbowl Effect). When I’m in town though it gets even worse for sure. I get talked about and pointed at. Just the other day I was reading outside at my house and a teacher from the school came up to me and asked why I’m always reading because it’s so boring. That is probably at least the 10th time I have had that exact same conversation.
As for Gaston, he is actually a rather tame version of a Swazi man in town. He at least knows Belle’s name. Sure he doesn’t know anything else about her but he does know her name, her father’s name and her father’s occupation. I have been told I need to marry men or that they love me, and that’s the first thing they have ever said to me. My response is always to ask if they know my name. If they don’t then I say I can’t continue the conversation that wouldn’t love me enough to start with asking my name. It doesn’t always work but it’s working well enough. The surprise wedding is even Swazi. I’ve never had it happen to me but I’ve had men tell me they will “theka” me. This is when they show up at your house and you get married that day. There is no proposal or courting period. Now women do have the right to refuse but in the past that right did not exist. Let me be clear though, I have never had a Swazi man try to theka me nor will it ever actually happen. Part of the process involves sending someone to throw meat into the bride’s parents house, this is I guess the first payment of the lebola (dowery). Since my parents live on another continent the guy will have a hard time fulfilling this needed part of the equation. Also I can just say no and talk about the (fake) husband I already have. Sometimes he lives with me in Swaziland, sometimes he lives in the states. It just depends on what I need him for that day.
I never thought that I would be able to find so many parallels in my life to an animated Disney movie. After the first 20-30 minutes Belle’s life heads in a completely different direction than my own, which I am thankful for (I don’t need a guy like the beast in my life), but the beginning of that movie is the closet way that I can get people at home to see a little bit what my life is like here.