I was woken up at 7.00 and was out on the front porch area drinking tea with Michael, Malindi and Wilson by 8.00. The next person I was going to meet was the female coach for SKRUM – Naomi. I was introduced and we then got down to chatting about what needed to be done today and who and how it was going to get done. A list was formed about the plans for the next coaching session and the painting session for the day.
Michael proceeded to explain the IRB Level 1 Coaching qualification I will hopefully get by the time my 6 weeks are up. After this, they found me some old clothing to paint in when we got to the school, bags were packed, the trailer and the car was packed and me, Malindi and Wilson were on our way.
The weather at this point was far from the rain to which I arrived to. It was very hot and very dry and the boys warned me that where we were going was known to be the hottest place in Swaziland. This was confirmed by the blistering heat when we got there and as we were painting, right next to the school, a bush fire erupted and spread all along the bottom grassy field by the school! It was quite an amazing thing to watch and died down very quickly. I said to the boys after it had happened that, if that happened in England, there would have been mass panic, all the children and teachers would have been evacuated and the school would have been shut even though it was not a danger. Did you know that Sipho is the Swaziland word for ‘gift’?
Once we arrived at the school, we were greeted by the Headmaster and then directed to the Vice Headmaster as he was in charge. We had a nice chat with him and he helped us sort the problem we had realised when we got to the school. The problem was that Wilson (not me but he will try and blame it on me but it was him! Haha!) forgot the ladder! As Sipho had to go on a large wall and the school wanted it high on the wall – this was a key tool that we needed. Unfortunately, they did not have a ladder on site so we had to improvise with some old school benches stacked on top of each other. Not the safest of options but it worked and me and Malindi both voted for Wilson to go up and paint the high bits! The Vice Headmaster even joked saying he had a first aid kit if needed. Malindi’s argument was that he was a skrum half and a skrum half was needed more than a fly half in the national game, if Wilson did fall.
The Sipho was put up in stages: first the white base coat and then the blue surrounding it. The general outline was marked on top and the other stencils were used after this to get the neat “pushing for the future”. While we were painting, we arrested quite a crowd of the young children from the school. During the breaks of waiting for the paint to dry, we were able to get some rugby balls out and pass the ball around with the children. They thought this was brilliant fun and were passing the ball at any opportunity playing tricks on each other as to who they were going to pass to.
After saying to some of the children, just simple things like “how are you?” in Swazi, they were talking to the boys and all just burst out laughing. I asked what they were laughing at and Malindi said they didn’t believe that my name was Bethany. This did make me chuckle and I have now got my Swazi name of Betany, as this is how the Swazi children pronounce it. During the painting, I was able to take lots of pictures and had one child who I think will be a complete diva when he is older, as he kept jumping in all my pictures and wanted me to take them of him and he was such a little poser. Wilson was determined to scare me as when I was just about to place my paint brush on the wall, he would shout “Wait! Bethany….!” I would then ask what was wrong and he would say “Nothing – just be careful” and laugh at me. I have laughed so much today.
Once the Sipho was complete and the Vice Principle had been given his new rugby shirt, we headed back to base. After getting some food and saying that we were back to Michael and Linda, I had some tea and some pasta and was then left to relax for a bit. Also, after the boys had gone home and I helped Linda with some paper work, we were able to drink some wine and Michael again showed me some cooking skills and I helped cook a chicken tikka curry. They were still not brilliant but Michael did say my knife skills had improved but I still had a lot of work to do. Haha! Once dinner was eaten, we discussed family and scarey stories and even came up with a hilarious new comedy sketch (of which the content is secret, as we don’t want anyone to steal it). We will be contacting famous comedians tomorrow to discuss payment for our amazing new sketch. Live at the Apollo, here we come! Haha!
This is now the 450th school that SKRUM has visited and about the 70th school to get a Sipho.
It was an amazing experience and I’m sure I will paint many more Siphos on more schools in Swaziland and hopefully in England too. Happy Birthday Linda!
(Bethany is doing a volunteer placement with the charity SKRUM in Swaziland. The placement involves rugby coaching to schools and the community, AIDS education, painting of the charity logo on the outside of schools and generally being part of the team and getting involved in all aspects of running this charity.)
0044 1483 331551/ 0044 7833 208 158