In coming to Waterford, I found a school that was quintessentially Waterfordian while whole-heartedly embracing the ideals of the UWC movement. My first year saw me settling into a new environment with challenges ranging from the effects of the altitude (Swaziland is a mountain kingdom) to being away from home. I found Waterford highly liberal and the administration provides the means for self-exploration in a big way while staying safe. Waterford is a buzzing community defined by events that encourage you to be fit and share culture as well as be socially and globally aware. I found Swaziland to be so drastically different to Bermuda but also so similar in that the family structure retains a high level of importance and hierarchy and respect to elders is paramount. However, my eyes were also opened to the scourge of absolute poverty, a highly unique political system called Tinkhundla and the reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in our world. Going to Swaziland was a privelage.
For orientation, we wore traditional dress. It was hard convincing people that our politicians really wore shorts. To most Africans, shorts are for 'small boys', not men. It was interesting learning the significance of everyone else's traditional dress as well as teaching them about how manly knee socks and pick are in Bermuda!
I learned during this first year what really mattered in life and the beauty of humanity as a universal trait that connects us all. Living on campus at Waterford, there is a sense of an equality among academics and I enjoyed close friendships with the children of Namibian education ministers and orphans alike. You don't always know who your friend is or where he or she comes from but you know that you share the commonality of seeking to make a progressive contribution to our world. I found Waterford to be an intense academic environment where everyone is hungry for the education that we have the privelage to be getting. IB1 ended on a big low with having to say goodbye to friends and confidantes from IB2 who graduated.
"My kids" as I came to call them were the groups of kids that a partner and I practiced reading English with every week. Community Service is compulsory in IB but it is highly rewarding and I loved seeing "my kids" every week.
The Hiking club climbed Mount Mlembe-the highest mountain in Swaziland.
IB2 was a highly intense academic experience and you realize in a big way the effectiveness of IB in preparing you for academic rigor both in tertiary education and for your chosen career path. It is important to balance academic responsibilities with school and wider community engagement.
'Agamenon' drama production, 2009.
Over my first midterm break, I travelled by school bus to Alexandra township in Johannesburg to visit my friend Fifi's family. It was one of the most enriching things I have ever done and I visit as much as I can. I know I always have a family in Alex and I have also developed an informal link-parent relationship with two of my friend's families in Swaziland. Opportunities like this are trully the most rewarding and it alleviates homesickness and broadens one's horizon to become part of a family unit other than yours. I also went by bus to visit my IB3 friend (a 2009 graduate of WK) in Namibia before she left for Georgetown University. I never knew a desert could be so beautiful and seeing golden red sand meet the sea is breathtaking. I have continued to strengthen friendships this year and learn more about the world around us. This year I became proficient in speaking siSwati, a national language of Swaziland and very similar to siZulu (of King Shakka Zulu's tribe in neighboring South Africa). I practice as often as I can and because I take it as a subject can read and write it too. It's exciting to learn a new language in a setting where it is spoken and I'm trying to improve and remember as much as I can before I leave in November! This year I decided what path I want to take in life and am now aiming to study international relations and linguistics at university in the US or UK. I love the notion that with the right skills and in the right place I can make a meaningful contribution to improving people's lives. I also hope to learn Arabic or KiSwahili and return to the African continent. Being here for two years has really changed my life in a bigger way than I even though was possible.
UWC Day-celebrating diversity. Romeo Makore (L) of Zimbabwe and Vivian Ojo (R) of Namibia are two of my close friends.