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Mbita Opening Ceremony29th July '18

Mbita opening ceremony

The day had finally arrived. All of our hard work had been leading up to this very moment. We were led single file up to the very front row, eager eyes staring at us expectantly. Music was blaring out from the speakers and the excited voices echoed around us as we took our seats under the gazebo. The programmes were passed down the row and all of our eyes darted down the planned events, through the multitude of speeches and dances until we saw “Abbey Gate College Music 12:40”. Wait a second, we didn’t know about this! The best time to find out about your performance is never usually as the event is starting but the cool collective knowledge of our team ensured we didn’t panic and we knew exactly what we were going to do. And before we knew it the opening ceremony had begun.

The Opening Ceremony of the new kitchen at Mbita Primary can only be described as a truly different experience. Different in the fact that you will never have experienced anything like it in your life. It embodied everything that is brilliant about Eswatini, no matter how mad it can seem.

The group arrived at Mbita Primary in plenty of time for the 11:00? start of the Ceremony. In true Swazi style the builders were still working on parts of the kitchen and the Ceremony certainly didn’t seem as though it would be starting in 20 minutes. That assumption was proved correct and an hour later the chairs for the event arrived in their multitude. All transported by a Police van. This was serious stuff, a police escort for plastic chairs, this was no laughing matter. After unloading what seemed like an infinite amount of stacked plastic chairs from the back of a police truck it seemed as though the moment was getting closer. At this point we met a man from the Ministry for Education who told us he would just “go and talk to the headteachers about a programme for the event.” For an event starting 1:20 hours ago this was impeccable planning. Whilst they sorted out the running order the chairs were sorted out into rows and the eager crowds of children from all three schools in the area, Mbita and Mlinzi Primary and High schools, began to gather along with their parents.

It was now 2 hours after the original planned start and Mbita Primary Headmistress Linah arrived so the celebrations could finally begin. Everyone took their seats and the welcoming of the multitudes of esteemed guests began. Their were representatives for many important people, such as a Minister for Education, a man from the Tourism Ministry and a representative for a local chief. A very warm welcome was extended to everyone and they thanked us for helping with our efforts with the kitchen and in the community. All three schools were incredibly generous to us and bestowed us fabulous gifts of Swazi robes, personally engraved pencil holders engraved with each of the teams names and a certificate for all of our efforts. Every member of the team was so grateful for the kind gifts and then we settled down to witness the celebrations that were to follow.

What did follow was a fantastic display of traditional African dancing from all three schools and if you have never had chance to see such dances you are missing out. The passion and skill demonstrated in the dancing was stunning and the fluidness and the almost improvised feeling of the singing and dancing was something to behold. Each dancer had bells attached to their ankles and a solo dancer would throw their leg into the air and slam it down to the unison beat of the groups clap. My description cannot do this justice and the awesome craziness of the dancing was quite inspiring.

Unfortunately the slightly unexpected dilemma of the “Abbey Gate College Music” still hung over our heads but luckily due to a large proportion of the team being in the school choir we whipped together a performance of Parry’s “My Soul their is a Country”. This was a far more restrained performance with substantially less leg flailing than the previous dancing but the audience seemed to appreciate hearing a different genre of music, much the same as we appreciated the African genre.

What followed was a short speech of thanks from members of the group to show our gratitude for the kind welcome shown by the community and then we went to finally open the kitchen. We all excitedly hurried over to our project we had all thrown so much effort into. And after nominating Jack Green (as official builder communicator) to help ‘cut the ribbon’ into the kitchen, it became officially open! Hooray! It was so satisfying to see that all the cement mixing, plastering, re-plastering and painting had actually made something that looked rather good.

Everyone from Mbita took the time to say how pleased and grateful they were for the kitchen and there were many photos taken. One of our group, Jasper, was even interviewed by the press and the group would appear in the National Newspaper, the Swazi Observer!

Eventually it was time for the last leg of this incredible ceremony, the food. And what a feast it was. We felt like royalty as we were treated to a large assortment of wonderful foods, including goats and chickens kindly donated by local people. We had not eaten so much food in weeks and we were all completely full! A fitting end to an absolutely exceptional day.

None of our team will ever forget the day of the opening ceremony, it opened us up to the crazy wonderfulness of Swazi culture and we were so grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the Mbita kitchen project.

Written by Harry

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