Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Swaziland.


July 27, 2010: Large lessons in expectation management.

Posted in Swaziland on August 10, 2010


At last we are in full swing, but it wasn't entirely the blessing it initially seemed. We now have a brick layer and supervisor committed to being with us every day. The trouble for us is that as long as there is cement we work, and that was the snag. The day was long, and the sun hot. For those of us assigned to shoveling sand through a screen the day started with energetic enthusiasm, waned to determination, and ended with exhaustion. Yes, we did, as so many people have worried, drink lots of water. And those were blessed breaks, sometimes extended guilty in the shade.

While one group screened sand, others helped with the building of the walls round the future washrooms. Two Swazi women, one with a baby on her back, joined us to mix concrete which we then brought to the required spot, where it was hauled up to the brick layer. At times we were actually allowed to help the brick layer, though he showed with significant doubts about this.

Our host brick layer and supervisor were relentless. They never stopped. Their wheelbarrows were always fuller than we could manage, their shoveling shriveled us with shame. What must they have been thinking? What were these soft whities doing? Why did their spades seem more useful as a tool to lean on than one to use for moving sand? But as always they were polite and gracious.

Elsewhere other things were happening...

A Citrus Legacy and a Lesson in Expectation and Perception Management

While our fellow group members worked steadfastly in the hot sun, toiling until exhaustion, three of us were to meet the SOS driver, Lucky, and van at eight in the morning. We were of the understanding that we would quickly run up to town with one of the house mothers to buy the trees that we collectively contributed towards. In fact, when I woke up that morning, I had an expectation and a perception that it would be as easy as at home...jump in the car, drive to Home Depot, buy the goods needed, return home, plant said trees. Simple, right? Baaaaaa haaaaa. Silly preconceived perceptions.

As it turned out, unbeknown to us, Lucky obviously had multiple other priorities to deal with. He dropped sick children off at the hospital, took another for a hearing aid and bought a heap of meat for the orphans. Our run to the greenhouse to buy trees was important, but obviously there were other pressing issues that day.

After all Lucky's other errands were done, he patiently attended to our mission. We went to one greenhouse and found just what the house mothers wanted...orange and lemon trees. We purchased an orange tree for each home and two lemon trees for the SOS village. We had a little bit of money left over so we went to another greenhouse where they expressed they could really do with some onion and cabbage seedlings. In all, this mission took six hours. Yet again, I think we learned a lesson in expectation management when dealing with a culture that clearly tries to be as efficient as possible, considering its resources.

When we got back to the SOS village with our goods, we were overwhelmed with a very appreciative group of people. In fact, one of the organization's leaders said, “We will have oranges forever now and every time we eat one, we will think of you.”

We leave behind a citrus legacy...we take away large lessons in expectation management.

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