It’s in my bucket list to travel in Africa thus when this opportunity came I was very excited. But more than the travel opportunity, it is the desire to be able to make a difference and to be able to give back and to change community.
Swaziland is one of the smallest independent states located in Southern part of Africa. Officially called as the Kingdom of Swaziland, is an absolute Monarchy and is a developing economy and with estimated population of 1.2 Million as of January, 1 2016 per United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Swazi population faces health issues, the highest HIV infection rate in the world at 27% of all adults as of 2013 per www.avert.org. Tuberculosis is also a significant problem in the country. But despite the health issues that the country is facing, Swaziland is a beautiful (with breathtaking country sides), peaceful and quiet, and I would say is a must visit country in Africa. People are very friendly, hospitable, and religious (majority are Christians). In two months, I have visited few of the country’s beautiful places (See above Photo), learn and understand Swazi history and tradition. Their culture is just interistingly unbelievable. There are more to see in this little paradise and I must say, there are more beautiful things here in Africa than what we see in movies and televisions. I believe, Swaziland is the best starting point if you want to travel to Africa.
After of almost 21hours flight from KL (including layover & connecting flights), I arrived at King MSWATI III International Airport. At the Immigration, the officer asked which city I am going and I confidently said “I am going to Mbabane (em-ba-beyn)”. I got surprised and felt embarrased when she laughed and told me the right pronounciation, “Em-ba-ba-ne”. I just apologized, thank her, and laughed with her. After that, without any other questions, she stamped my passport and let me in. I was saved (another secret story) by this blooper…lol. With now my favorite taxi driver, we immediately headed to the guest house in Mbabane, put down my luggages, and went straight to the town to buy food and local SIM CARD. Then the next day after attending Sunday mass, I got invited and joined the family dinner of one of the NGO Officers who is living in the same guest house. On my 3rd week while walking around the mall, I randomly met a Filipino teacher and introduced me to other Pinoy’s here in Swaziland. I also found a Christian Church (Mbabane Chapel) to go to every Sunday for praise and worship.
Whew! It has been two months already. Time flies so fast!
First day high, I was introduced to my NGO Manager, my teammates, and other colleagues in the office. They are all nice and welcoming. The office setting is like GSK, open area, nice ambience, cool! Then I got my laptop, set up emails, and got tons of reading documents.
During my first month to be honest, I was so stressed and overwhelmed and somewhat frustrated. Not to mention the effect of jetlag that lasted for 3 weeks. I felt like I am back to zero (well it is actually true as I know nothing about Health Financing). I was not so sure and I can’t figure out how my skills can fit. But just like my NGO manager told me, they are not expecting me to learn everything immediately, just don’t be afraid to ask questions. From then on, I come to office everyday with just an open mind, ready to learn new things. I tried to step back few times and now taking it slowly with clearer directions. Now, I am really looking forward to learn new things, like even as simple as writing memos, creating visual presentation, preparing project plan, etc.
In two months that I am here, I am learning to complain less or not to complain at all. I learned that if things are not working properly, instead of just asking why and just finding answers, we should also start finding solution, start asking what we can do to improve or to fix it and then DO it. Small and simple improvements are better than no improvement at all. Just like the song in the Milo TV Commercial, “Great things start from small beginnings…” Change always starts from our own self. We may not see or feel the impact now, but if we continue to do good things (big or small, it does’nt matter), in the long run we will see the huge positive impact. Everyday as I reflect, I constantly remind myself the main reason why I am here, to be an instrument in providing sustainable and high impact change to community and to GSK. With this in my heart and mind, I am now more focus, more positive, and more excited to work.
Again, let me end by saying Big Thank you to Ms Nette and Pat for always believing in me and for their advises and words of wisdom. Thanks also to all my dear friends in Malaysia and Philippines and other parts of the world (you know who you are) for always chatting and staying connected (no homesickness!).