- a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program
When people ask us how we’re doing we say “things are going well, we’re starting to settle into our routine”. Which is true, we’re already fairly accustomed to a daily schedule and while it seems almost banal when you’re in the midst of it, a good friend reminded me that she actually has no idea what daily life in Swazi might look like so I thought I’d share:
The sun rises early here. Today our room started to lighten at 5:48am. We have beautifully woven curtains that effectively block out light but much to Jon’s vexation, I enjoy slowly waking up with the sunlight rather than to an alarm in a dark room. To keep on schedule, we have an alarm set for 7am and the first action of every day is to tie up our mosquito net. There’s some famous quote about the best way to ensure a productive life is to make your bed every morning and while we rarely do that at home, it’s become part of our routine here.
Once out of bed, whoever makes it to the kitchen first puts on the kettle and the water boils as we get ready. Getting dressed takes mere minutes as it’s consistently too hot for pants, so I select one of the three day dresses or two skirts I brought and only have to decide if it’s a flats or sandals kind of shoe day. Breakfast consists of yogurt with muesli and fresh fruit (lately I’ve been jiving on passion fruit) with tea (black for me, rooibos for Jon).
Work starts at 8am on week days but since our commute takes 2 minutes (literally: we timed it, from door to desk was 2 minutes 3 seconds), we’re able to move at a fairly leisurely pace. To get to our office, we walk through the weavery and are greeted every morning by the friendly faces of the women who are starting their day as well. Before even stepping inside, we see the women at the dye station who are prepping the fires to heat the pots of dye, which will be used to create beautifully vibrant fibers in a whole array of colors. Then we step inside the workshop and it’s already quite a hive of activity. The radio has been turned up and there are women at the wheels spinning threads, winding them around bobbins. The looms are often already manned and as the shuttles shoot back and forth beautiful patterns start to form, well on their ways to becoming scarfs or shawls or blankets (or other things!) We hike our way up a flight of stairs to the lofted admin offices, open the windows, and start the work day.
I think everybody says “there’s no such thing as a usual day here” but it’s true here, there’s no such thing as a usual work day here. There are ongoing projects, sure, and each Monday we have a staff meeting to discuss updates and the plan for the week, but there are also a variety of activities or diversions that pop up each day. Sometimes it’s a new small project that needs to be tackled in a particular afternoon, or a visitor coming to help out or train the women. Sometimes the power just goes out for no real reason (that happened today… and yesterday). It’s unpredictable but that’s kind of what makes it fun, right? Sometimes my nine year old pal Khetti comes up and we take a break from work to play games, practice math, or learn origami. She’s bright, and fun, and eager to learn new things – this week she completed my homemade times table chart and learned to play the game Risk (on Jon’s phone)
At 4pm the bell rings to signal the end of the work day on the manufacturing floor and all the women pile into one truck to be driven home. I’d say it’s precarious but they pack in pretty tightly and somehow they all seem secure. The building becomes quiet save for the radio which stays on, turned down, so that Spooks Cat doesn’t get lonely overnight. Since it’s spring here, the days are starting to lengthen but currently the sun is already lowering by 5pm and it casts a really lovely glow across the vacant workshop as we leave for the evening.
Once home, we lounge. I don’t think Jon has napped in over a week, which amazes me, but he’s found a handful of books that keep him enthralled and most days after work, he settles in to read (lately, it’s been so hot that he immediately takes refuge in the coolest room, our bedroom, with the curtains drawn to keep the heat out). Aspirationally, I brought a thin mat with the goal of doing yoga in my down time but have only managed a few sun salutations. Instead, I more often find myself in the hammock on the porch, reading a book or playing a game while watching out for birds and bugs I haven’t seen before. On cooler days, we occasionally venture down to the river to climb around on the rocks and soak in the beauty of place, and to get an ever so slight cardio burst on the trek back up hill to home.
The sun finally sets just before 6pm and the bugs come out in force, which usually drives me inside. It works out well though because then it’s time to prepare dinner. As Jon mentioned before, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the offerings of the local supermarkets and it’s practically been business as usual when it comes to dinner. We also recently signed up for a farm produce delivery box that comes once a week we’ve had a bounty of leafy greens, fresh herbs, and local fruits and veg.
Dinner is often accompanied by a game. We brought a few of our favorites with us and I don’t think we’ve made it through an entire day without playing cribbage at least once. We have a few Netflix shows downloaded but are running out pretty quickly, so we try to spread them out (although we pretty much burned through the second season of Ozarks, which we downloaded the day it was released, while in the Dubai airport). We have plenty to read and use BookBub to get new books when we run out. With the sun setting so early, by 9pm it’s been dark for 3 hours and we’re usually pretty beat so we turn in.