FRESH COAT OF PAINT

5.18.12

GROWING UP

The snow outside is blowing by the glass window outside my office window in downtown Chicago. I feel like I’m trapped inside a snow globe and my sun kissed skin is wishing for the hot African sun it left last week. I’m staring blankly at the happy people eating Grande Cheese pizzas on my computer screen, wondering what my legacy in this world will be. I’m confused as I remember my high school graduation, my plans for the future and everything I strived so hard to make happen between now and then. This is exactly what I wanted, but now that I’m here, I feel it lacking. I need to go back to Africa- I did more work there in 6 weeks then my 7 year career in advertising. I spend the rest of the day searching for ways to return, landing on the Peace Corps website… this is how it begins.

It never ceases to amaze me how time flies more and more as you get older. When your a child, you never seem to notice time- age takes forever. Then college comes, and the rush is on to finish, but classes drag on, each semester has endless obstacles. Graduation finally arrives and your tossed into the fishbowl of cubicles and watching the clock, praying for 5 o’clock to roll around. I feel like I have spent most of my life waiting for work to end, a new semester to begin, a promotion to kick in… waiting… waiting… waiting. This year I have stopped waiting, and started living and I haven’t been happier.

I took my first trip to South Africa this week. It was just a night, but it was nice to see the lights of a city. I stopped at McDonald’s for a value meal and fountain soda (which was especially nice), and indulged in endless cups of coffee in to-go cups. I studied each billboard we passed, and was comforted in the frustration of early morning traffic. These things seemed so familiar in such a foreign place. I love Africa, but having little trinkets of home, make it easier for me to admit that this will be my home for a long time to come.

There has been a lot of setbacks in my PC work the last month. My counterparts are here one day and gone without warning the next. Everyone seems to be searching for work outside Swaziland, where they have money to hire. NGOs are all pulling out, one by one, leaving gaps in funding that I can’t fill. No else seems to notice in my community, aside from me. They all carry on with their daily activities and pray that an answer will come to them.

My make is hard at work on her store, which is up, running and providing a sturdy shelter against an uncertain storm. I visited the shop with George, and his nephew a few weeks ago, and we all agreed it could use a little fixing up. All of my friends in Mbabane have been dying to see where I live, and after daily conversations about my frustrations with my work, they are eager to help me with a project. Make’s store is just what we needed. Fifteen friends so far, have volunteered to go on the 2 hour drive to my site, bringing with them some left over paints, bushes and wood so we can fix up Make’s shop. I’m pretty excited about the painting party (to take place on June 16), and feel so blessed to have such an amazing group of friends here.

My friend Kieren also has some painting for me to do this weekend at his parents Buhleni Farms, where they have opened a new campsite. I love his farm, the project is in conjunction with Chasing Horizons, and I always love an excuse to paint! Murals will be painted on the new outdoor kitchen/brii area- my little mark on one of my favorite places in Swaziland 🙂

Monday I am also going to begin a few projects at Swazi Ceramics, the pottery company i’ve been wanting to work with since I got in Swaziland. I’m going to create a few designs for mosaic table tops as well as paint a few designs for the pottery. This will be an awesome project (if for nothing more than preserving my creative sanity) and I’m looking forward to working with the company to further network with the creative people of SD.

I’m also hoping to team up with a few young budding graphic designers here, and teach them how to use the design programs and a few techniques.

A lot has changed in the last year, and its hard for me to believe its already nearly June! So much is going to change in this next year too, I can feel a new adventure brewing already. New friends, new places, new life on a new continent I want to call my home. Stay tuned 🙂

I AM AN ARTIST

5.25.12

Hidden just outside the city limits, in a loud, dusty industrial circle sits a little piece of heaven. People painting on freshly fired pottery, wet clay slapping against the wheel, shelves of colorful works of art line the walls. Swazi Ceramics is as busy as a bee hive monday – friday. Busy with creative minds colliding and crafting hands magically coating everything in sight with beautiful images of Africa. I’m standing in the middle of the dust covered room, soaking in the smell of the hot kiln and fresh glaze. I’m introduced to a few people, and told to start designing five mosaic table tops that have to be completed in 3 days- in time to sell at the biggest music festival in Swaziland, Bushfire.

I sort through endless bowls of square, rectangle, and triangle tiles, arranging them in a colorful patterns. When everything is perfect, I begin to mix the grout, and stick them down- making sure everything is level as I go. I have never done this before- nothing even close to this, but somehow every action is intentional. A few Swazi artist come over and remark on my speed, and designs. One woman says, “nothing is impossible for an artist.” i’ve never considered myself much of an artist. I like to doodle, I draw mostly on my computer. But this weekend, as I sit in the middle of this bustling art studio, I feel like one of them, and I am so happy to be a part of the club.

When I leave the studio, my jeans are delightfully covered in white smears of dried grout. I take this as a sign of success, and proudly wear them home. The white, among bright spots of red, yellow and blue from painting a few days before make my jeans a canvas all on their own.

Just a few days before I was given the task of painting a mural for the new over-lander campsite at Buhleni Farms. A whole, stark white canvas, sitting, waiting, for me. I was over joyed as a opened a few cans of bright paint and began bushing it on the walls. No plan, no pencil outlines, no clients telling me what to design- just me and a bush. I spent the whole day painting every surface of the building in bright reds, oranges, blues- I must say it’s pretty freak’n beautiful.

On the days I’m not in the studio, or painting epic murals, I design on my computer. My friends have giving me their dinning room, along with a desk and chair for my “office”. I spend my weekends designing logos, brochures, posters for local entrepreneurs, starting new, young businesses in Swaziland. Some days its just me in the house. Others a young neighbor comes over and uses the studio down the hallway to record a few hip hop tracks. Alistair is barely 20 years old, and is an aspiring rapper. He spends all day creating beats and writing lyrics in the little room- he is amazing- no really- AMAZING. At night, when he leaves, Mandla comes home from work, and begins to create his set-list for his weekend DJ gigs. There is always music in this house- the creativity must be contiguous, because I have never felt so inspired.

Last night, I went to my friend Rebecca’s house for a glass of wine and a little “lady-time”. She has been a great friend in the last month and has a few projects from the Global Fund set up for me. She also suggested that I begin teaching Art Classes for kids. She has an adorable 2 ½ year old little girl, who reminds me a lot of Claire (favorite color- pink :). She is a creative little nugget, and was so excited at the thought of crafting with me. I may just give it a go.

Sometimes I feel like the whole universe tries to direct you to where you are suppose to be- and it can take years (roughly 28 sometimes). I feel like this little spot, this tiny spec on the map, at the southern tip of Africa, is where the universe wanted me to be. My whole life, every job, every adventure, has lead me here. To be a part of this creative little group. I feel like a part of it all and I have never felt so confident and creative- I feel like I could take on anything. Truly, nothing is impossible for an artist.

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