Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bongiwe From Swaziland

When I first met Bongiwe, she seemed shy.  I saw her on a daily basis, but it seemed like I had to really ask a lot of questions in order to get her talking.  Once we became closer, I realized, that once she starts talking, you are in for a treat!  Bongiwe never fails in having a story to tell!  She grew up in Swaziland, which I am unfamiliar with.  I love listening to her when she tells me about the culture she grew up with, and listen to her as she speaks SiSwati, French, and Zulu on the phone with her family and friends.  She was raised in Swazi and ever since she can remember, her role model has been Nelson Mandella.  She explains to me how he liberated South Africa, which is close to Swaziland.  She says that, "I grew up being told stories of him and how he was such a hero. He spent many years in jail, and he was innocent the whole time.  He did nothing but good."  When she talks about her childhood, any one can see how she lights up, remembering all of her family and friends that are so far away right now.  When she started school, she had mostly male friends and just a few female friends.  However, society tended to look down on this, as male and female relationships were not encouraged. She laughs as she tells me the story about what she and her friends used to do.  At school, they would always have to pray in the morning, before recess, and before they went home at the end of the day.  There were 70 students in the small classroom.  Bongiwe says that this made it easy to get away with a lot.  At the end of the day, she and her friends would sneak out of the window to head home during the last prayer.  She thought that she would always get away with it, but one day her sister picked her up early, and Bongiwe was no where to be found.  It caused quite a bit of commotion, and her Dad punished her.  Bongiwe said, "That's the last time I ever snuck out of the window!"  Another time she remembers getting in trouble is when she walked with her helper to the bus stop.  They left around one, but Bongiwe did not come back until 6 that night.  Her mother grabbed a stick and punished her severely.  Still to this day, Bongiwe sticks to her story that she was with her helper the entire time! When I read this line back to her, she corrects me.  "No, not my story, but the truth."  Even though Bongiwe did have her rebellious times, she still has all her priorities in the right place.  She is excited to earn her college degree from Westminster, and expresses how much her education means to her.  Even though Bongiwe and I have had different experiences with different environments, we still have developed a close bond in the past semester because what is new for her is not always new for me; however, it works both ways.

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