Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Well, based on my (ever so slight!) exhaustion-related breakdown this week, I would suggest yes. However, looking back on what caused the exhaustion, I don’t think anyone could claim it’s too much.
Last weekend was the annual Bushfire Festival, Swaziland’s International Festival of the Arts. If you remember my blog from last year, you will understand the hype around Bushfire in terms of much-anticipated cultural acts, as well as financial benefit to my organisation. The hype extends far beyond Swaziland’s borders (Bushfire was actually cited as one of the top 9 music festivals in the world by MTV), so once again I was blessed to have awesome buddies from across Southern Africa come and visit: Kate and Emma from Lesotho; Alice from Durban; Ryan from East London; John and Kailash from Johannesburg.
Compared with last year, the event seemed to pass as quickly as it came. No longer being a newbie at Gone Rural boMake, I was dragged into the thick of preparations resulting in many late nights and countless trips to Mbabane, Manzini, Matsapha in search of ever-elusive merchandise T-shirts. When the event finally came, I was so busy working, recovering or catching up with people that by Sunday evening there were only four bands that I actually really remember watching. Never fear, they were four fantastic bands: Kwa Zulu Natal pop princess Toya Delazy, the dance-worthy Jeremy Loops, the sweet and playful voices of The Soil, and the crazy 187 beats per minute moves of Shangaan Electro. The weekend was capped off nicely with my awesome friends shouting me dinner at Summerfields and buying me an amazing Coral Stephens handwoven scarf (thanks guys!).
Fortunately, Monday was a “day off”. Of course, I spent it doing study (more on that later), meeting with Dr Sam Duby to discuss renewable energy project options for our groups (exciting!), followed by a mountain bike ride and yoga.
Back at work on Tuesday and the excitement continued. After six long and challenging months, it was time to hand the keys for a new eco-friendly community hall to our artisans in eMdlangwe. The project started in August 2012, when eMdlangwe community members (including many of our artisans) were trained to build Adobe mudbricks. After approaching the idea with great gusto and working tirelessly to make over 500 bricks in two days, a heavy downpour of rain washed every single brick away before it had the chance to dry. With full credit to them, the community jumped straight back into it and by the end of September had finished the walls and roof. Just as we celebrated, a huge storm promptly tore the roof from the building and left the corrugated iron in a crumpled mess a small distance away. With no money left in the budget, an urgent fundraising effort led SwaziKids to come to our financial rescue. The final touch, consisting of a layer of lime to seal the walls, came to fruition only a month ago after we discovered that lime could not be sourced in Swaziland.
Now that it is fully complete, the building looks amazing. Needless to say, after all the setbacks, the community was pretty excited about taking ownership. Like with all good Swazi parties, the Chief was in attendance as guest of honour, speeches abounded (although thankfully short), presents were handed out, piles of fried chicken, rice and salads were being devoured, and singing and dancing shook the roof… and the soul. Perhaps the most touching point in the day for me, however, was when they called up one of the artisans and made her sit in the middle of the room. It turns out that this particular artisan was the first to bring Jenny Thorne and Gone Rural to eMdlangwe 20 years ago, and the one to teach them the weaving techniques. The community was so grateful, that they wanted to present her with gifts and money. Another lady, the mother-in-law of one of the artisans, was also presented with a gift in thanks for supporting her daughter-in-law to work with Gone Rural when, traditionally, her husband’s needs should take priority. Kind of puts things in perspective.
With so much perspective, there’s no wonder I feel exhausted. However, check out these videos and tell me if you can ever have too much of this.