This post was written by Rowan Whiteside.
Swaziland is one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world. Tucked between South Africa and Mozambique, it is often left off world maps – forgotten, or just deemed unnecessary.
This is the second posting to go up in a short time. The management of my website has moved to John Price. I want to say a big thank you to Shela McCullough and Linda Mtambo of HEARD for all that they did to keep my posts flowing! By early next year we will have looked at the design of the site and changed it. I hope to make it somewhat interactive.
I was in the UK and South Africa in late September and early October. The first part of the trip was covered in my last posting. This one is about Durban, Cape Town and Norwich. After 24 hours in Durban (a silly side trip because I was not paying attention to my travel plans), I flew to Cape Town for a Health Systems Symposium. These meetings are held every two years, this was the third, the first I had been to. As all my South African family lives in Cape Town and the environs I was able to see them. My visits to the South Africa will become less frequent in the years ahead, so this is important to me.
What do Waterloo, Ontario and Mbabane, Swaziland have in common? Apart from the fact that I have lived in both! A few nights ago, in Waterloo, there was a severe thunderstorm, the first I have experienced here. The flashing and crashing reminded me of the summer afternoon thunderstorms in Mbabane. The high veld of Swaziland has one of the highest rates of lightning strikes in the world. I gleaned this factoid when, as a freelance reporter, on the monthly newspaper ‘Business in Swaziland’, I interviewed the CEO of the Swaziland Electricity Board. This writing experience of nearly 40 years ago was great fun. We were paid 75 cents per column inch published, which meant that as soon as the paper appeared, we ‘journalists’ took out a ruler to work out what was due to us.
I spent my first month in Waterloo starting in mid-January, and came back to the UK for 10 days in February. On the Saturday before I left, for the first time, the temperature climbed to 0°C. It has been as cold as -25°C. The town was covered by a white blanket. This is beautiful and has the effect of muffling sound; it makes everything seem very peaceful. There is a downside; it took me at least half an hour to dig the snow off the drive so I could get the car on the road. There is a snow plough that comes down the cul-de-sac where I am living that clears the road, leaving banks of snow across the driveway. The snow shovel is large and, although snow is light, I was sweating by the time it was cleared.
The past month has been hectic but rather fun. I left Durban, as promised, on 19 December 2013. That was sad. The last days involved clearing out my office, deciding what needed to be shipped to Canada, stored in the flat, put in the suitcase, or given away. I know that to some extent, I keep my life in boxes. The University of KwaZulu-Natal box is now closed, and, hopefully, the important residual parts are in transit. There is a lot to reflect on, of course. How could there not be after 30 years?
I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunities I did, to connect with people, to build an organisation and support my team’s contribution to knowledge and science which, hopefully, makes a positive difference. I am proud of my own substantial publishing record.
At the end of October I was involved in a series of Board meetings. The first was my final one as Executive Director of HEARD. This was held in our offices on 18 October. It was a bit unusual for us to hold it in Durban as we usually met in Johannesburg. This involved the least travelling for the Board members.