I’m siting at my desk, in my little sun-room of the house staring at my computer. I spent the morning creating lists of potential clients. Creating design work, out of thin air. I’m fortunate to be in a small country with virtually no professional graphic designers and a hot spot of potential clients with terrible promotional materials. I’m sitting below a series of post-its stuck to the wall, sighting debts to be paid, and envelope with receipts validating the hustle we have accomplished thus far. There is a week left of August and I can’t wait to see it end. September will soon be here, and we will get the finical refresh we all need. This month we have all felt the hustle.
I think I accidently ran over someone’s cat… or maybe 7 of them. I don’t remember doing this, but how else can you explain the bad luck we have been cursed with in August? KIA (where George and Mandla work) is having one of the largest production/factory strikes in Korea, that the car industry has ever known. The first day of the strike they cut production by 75% = thousands and thousands of cars lost. Swaziland makes up a tiny, fraction of KIA sales worldwide, and doesn’t fair much better in Africa in general when competing with South Africa right next door. People who buy KIA cars in Swaziland already wait 3-6 months for their cars because there are no cars in stock here. The strike in Korea means that SD won’t be expecting any new stock for months more. When your a car salesmen, this bits the big one.
With this in the background, there have been little things like: my debit card expiring- with the renewal being sent to the wrong PO box and now lost in postal space. George hustled for 300 buck commission, then lost 200 on the way home. I bought 100 bucks of electricity and lost the receipt (all electricity here is prepaid. You purchase it from the store and get a number to type into a meter. It’s about 40 bucks a day). Trixie, (our rescued pit bull) attacked a dog that wandered into our yard in the middle of the night, we had to call the vet to put it down ( it was really sad, no one here is compassionate about animals, so while I was holding the rubber band around the dogs arm preparing for the deathly injection, I was talking to the dog and the vet said “oh, he can’t hear you… he’s already dead” – awesome). I also lost my big client this month, due to some shady backdoor deal.
I won’t lie, this month has been rough. However, this experience has made my choice to live here somehow more real. I’ve always been a hustler- now I’m just in another hemisphere. I’ve learned to appreciate my friends, especially my roommates. We have become a “money hustling machine”. Mandla has set me up with a couple random jobs, which I complete and invoice on the fly- this has managed to come at perfect times, and gets us through the rest of the week. We have all been outsourcing for cash and gained new sources of income to supplement
I’ve been able to gain a few new clients which is awesome. I’m working with an NGO here that is planning a HUGE event for AIDS awareness in December, called “Spread the Light”. On the last day there will be a large event with Dj’s, dancing and the lighting of hundreds of lanterns that we will release (much like in the movie “Tangled”) I’m designing the T-shirts and a few other promotional items.
I’ve also started working for a volunteer company called ALL OUT AFRICA, as their new marketing coordinator. This really rocks because its all commission based and I can work from home. They offer some really amazing volunteer opportunities in Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa. I’ll be posting more about this soon soon, but if anyone is interested in volunteering, can help me network or wants some more information let me know.
September is on the horizon, and being one of the months with the most holidays in Swaziland, I am looking forward to the benefits. We are on the rise; what goes down must come up; karma; hard work pays off; it always gets better— whichever one you want to go with, we are believing in all of them! We have plans to go to Kruger National Game Park in SA in the coming weeks, as well a few other short trips. This week we have felt the summer sun several days in a row, had the first rains in months have fallen- everything is turning green, we even slept with the windows open last night. Its going to be awesome- and I’m annoyingly optimistic 🙂
GARDEN OR FARM?
It was born from boredom. The sun was out for the first time in a week of rain, cold and grey skies. Sasja and I were sitting on the lawn soaking in each delightful ray of sun, basking in the warmth, but we were still somehow restless. I wanted to make something, DO something, use what was left of my jellied muscles for a greater good. I glance around the yard, and the old vegetable patch in the back yard stands out… “well it’s free to dig”, I think.
We throw on some work clothes, grab a couple shovels from the garage and head towards the old, overgrown, weed strewn veggie patch. We spend 3 hours, sweating, raking, shoveling, tilling the land until we have a 8 x 8 foot patch of rich black soil turned up. We were quite proud of ourselves, and the aching blisters on our hands were our trophies for all our hard work.
In the next couple days we revisited the patch. Breaking up the large chunks of soil, defining the edging, building up individual beds, preparing the land for planting; although we didn’t have anything to plant yet. When George lost his job, the garden continued to progress… bigger and bigger and bigger, mostly, unintentionally.
You see, since we moved in, there has been a “dirt patch” in the front of our house. This strange piece of yard between the driveway/sidewalk/courtyard. Its a pretty decent size piece of yard, but everything we try to plant refuses to grow. For months it sat as a dusty, rectangle with not a single blade of grass or weed growing. Then a friend delivered 3 truck fulls of horse manure we tilled into the ground, hoping to give the dust some much needed vitiation- still nothing. I bought some bushes that were suppose to grow, expand and cover the ground, but they still sit in their holes, struggling for life. George’s unemployment now had a mission and it’s to make something happen to this patch. He has begun transplanting squares of grass from the backyard into this cursed, lifeless piece of land in the front. He has spent 4 full days filling the space, and still has 1/3 left to do… like I said… a large chunk of land. As we fill this hole in the front, the holes in the back have expanded, so we decided to incorporate them into an extended garden. This is a lot of garden.
When I got my first payment from the 10 new mosaic tables tops I designed for a local coffee shop, I went hunting for seedlings. We checked all over town, but all of the plants were sad looking, or lacking in variety. We eventually ended up at the local market, and I was so happy we did. Winding through the front part of the market, inside big warehouse buildings with narrow aisles filled with fruits, veggies and touristy souvenirs, towards the back section. I didn’t know this existed, or the market went this deep. We pass crowds of people, all gawking at the sight of a would-be-tourist in this hidden section. We end up surrounded by make-shift stalls, made of old pallets, milk crates and tarps. It’s a strange kind of beautiful.
We find a stall of seedlings and I begin piling them up. Each little green cluster in a small bowl, labeled with the price and type of plant. So cheap! I can’t believe the quality and price, and my disbelief keeps going for more and more little bowls of seeds. I’m so happy with myself as I leave with 5 bags of baby plants, I can’t wait to go home and get them in the ground!
As I’m planting in our epic size garden, I’m slowly beginning to realize its not big enough. I don’t know how this happened. Or more so, I don’t know how they fit 20 seedlings into each of those tiny little bowls. I’ve planted 2 bowls and our first garden patch is full! We have over 100 heads of lettuce, 90 heads of cabbage, 100 onion, 40 potatoes, 50 butternut squash so far planted. But we steel have more cabbage, more lettuce, beetroot, broccoli and tomatoes left to plant. We need to double the size of our garden.
Now, i’ve been impressed with my little flower garden in the front of the house- I haven’t lost a daisy yet. However, I was hoping to “try out” gardening, not plant a farm big enough to feed half of Swaziland. However, I figure if I can manage to successfully grow half our farm, we will still be eating salad and cabbage for at least a month straight- so the probability is really on my side.
I am excited about our garden and hope that it will help cut some costs this summer on produce. Its ironic really; I was trained for gardening in the Peace Corps- to teach people about building sustainable lives for themselves. It took me moving to the urban area for me to really NEED a sustainable solution to our crazy grocery bill. But I suppose when you live with 3 grown boys, an epic size garden is as sustainable as you can get.