I have a lot of things I want to say about a lot of things, but first I wanted to say something about Ingwavuma and my time there over the last few months (most of October, all of November, basically). And I want to start with that because I didn’t write very much about this trip there, particularly compared to last year.
But first, if you haven’t seen it, watch the video I made about Ingwavuma. Not because I think it’s great, but because until you see what Ingwavuma looks like I don’t think you can understand it.
I’ve written about a number of the instances and events in Ingwavuma, so I’ll say something more about the intangibles.
For me it’s salient characteristic is stillness. Things move and change slowly. People walk slowly. Sounds are laughing and shouting, goats bleating, cows mooing, roosters crowing. Clothes flap gently in the wind. Trees sway.
It’s a really gorgeous region. The rolling hills and valleys of the Lebombo Mountains are covered in lush green trees and accented with slate-grey rocky outcroppings. From the tops of the hills, you can see 20 or 30 miles on a clear day. At one end of town, the dirt road runs along a 700m drop-off looking over Swaziland.
Everyone greets everyone. I’d go for a walk and most everyone I’d pass would greet me and ask how I was.
People are nice. Like really nice.
There is a small non-Zulu community (60?). People tend to know each other and help each other out. It’s a nice community. Someone who arrives might get invited for a weekend away right away. And if you don’t help someone, who will? I found myself being a nicer person because of that. Who else is going to help change the tire? Or act as a courier of a box of books back to Cape Town? And it certainly wasn’t one-sided. I was invited to dinners where I hadn’t even met the hosts before and welcomed into homes when I got stuck without a phone somewhere.
There aren’t any bars and there’s one small cafe but no restaurants. There’s next to nothing in terms of entertainment that one can go out to. It takes away a lot of the social hang-ups. You want to spend time with someone? Invite them for dinner or to go for a walk or hike. And alcohol is not as free-flowing as in cities so you’re more likely to be offered tea or juice at someone’s house than a beer. It’s basically a completely different social paradigm than in most any other place I’ve been to.