December. It’s that time of the year where people suddenly realise that there are only three working weeks left in which to cram all those activities that you didn’t get done throughout the rest of the year.
It is also a time for celebrating.
Probably, most importantly, it is a time to be thankful.
This December has had all of the above in oversized quantities.
Work wise, planning is the word. Two weeks ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to put ideas forward at the UNFPA’s Strategic Planning meeting in Piggs Peak. This was my first opportunity to schmooze with the big guns and hopefully show our organisation as a tour de force that’s worth partnering with when funds are released next year. Then, last week, I facilitated our organisation’s own Strategic Planning Day to set the agenda for the next five years. After five hours of intense brain work, I was elated to have colleagues tell me how much they enjoyed the day and that, for once, they left there feeling inspired. Also last week, Australian Volunteers International held their annual training workshop, on the appropriate theme of strategic fundraising. On top of all that, the EU and UN, either sadistically or to narrow the application pool, seem to putting out their call for proposals over Christmas. So, I have been working day and night in an attempt to whip out three thesis-length applications before everybody disperses. Now I’m delegating.
Fortunately, all this last-minute work is punctuated by Christmas celebrations. Two weeks ago, my workplace hired a bus to enable 14 of my workmates and I to head to the Bend-Down Boutique (BDB) for some 6am 2nd hand Christmas bargains (although admittedly, the prices seem to conspicuously rise as you get closer to ‘C’ Day). AVI also held a fantastic Christmas dinner at the Italian Consulate-come-Italian restaurant with three courses of homemade pasta, TurDuckEn (Turkey stuffed with a Duck stuffed with a Chicken – don’t ask, just eat) and the ever-popular Tiramisu. As the family / friends of other volunteers arrive in Swaziland to meet their loved ones, there’s always an excuse to hold a party in their honour, too. Finally, our Gone Rural end-of-year gathering is to be held tomorrow with team building games and hot dogs (a very Swazi choice!). Needless to say, the Christmas diet is already out the window.
Amidst all this work and eating, I have been constantly reminded of my incredibly, ridiculously good fortune, with a few opportunities to pay forward some of the joy that Swaziland has given me since March. Last Saturday, the Cycling Association of Swaziland organised a bicycle toy run to the children’s ward of RFM Hospital. 70 cyclists, supported by the country’s police, took to the highway and then crammed into the make-shift children’s ward (while the actual ward is under construction) to deliver stuffed presents of joy. Of course, half the kids were too young to know what was going on, while some of the others appeared, sadly, too sick to care. Their mothers were very grateful, though. Then a friend of mine organised a fundraising evening to help our small but ever-present refugee population enjoy their Christmas – based on the amount they raised, the kids might be eating caviar Christmas day! Last weekend, the Swaziland Homeopathic Project held a fundraising spectacle to raise funds for an integrated health centre and to remember those lives lost to HIV/AIDS. The spectacle was in the form of (eco-friendly, biodegradable) lanterns being released into the sky. It was truly a sight to behold and a pertinent moment to remind each of us to rise up and spread the light that we have inside us. Finally, throughout December, Gone Rural and Gone Rural boMake have also been spreading their light by delivering Christmas hampers to our beautiful artisans, although seeing our ladies get their dancing groove on makes me think it’s the ladies that are spreading their light to us.
So, after all this working, celebrating and giving, I have to admit, I’m a little exhausted. Fortunately, after a last-minute scramble and with thanks to my beautiful friends for taking me in, it seems I will have ample opportunity to relax during my 2-week break to…… (drumroll)….. Kenya! Yep, Christmas will be spent drinking wine in the Masai Mara, and New Year’s partying on a beach South of Mombasa.
Thank you, all of you, for an amazing 2012. May the adventures continue in 2013. Have a truly safe and special Christmas and New Year break.