Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

The downsides of upcycling in Africa

December 3, 2018

One of the first things we discovered about living in Victoria Falls is that things are hard to find.

We are a tiny little settlement, far-flung from most major cities, and the selection in shops shows that, especially when you are trying to set up a home…under a deadline because the rellies are coming to stay for Christmas, and it is preferable that they have beds to sleep in, given that one of them is in her 90s. 

It just seems the kind thing to do.

So, very quickly we have become extreme upcyclers. But, I have to say, as much as I think this makes me an awesome, environmentally-friendly, creative human, there are a few downsides I have discovered. 

It started off well enough. We had a few random cages on the property that were pulled down, and the polls are now being used to build a shelter (it’s too sunny!) for our MASSIVE vegetable garden. 

“We are awesome,” I thought, with smug satisfaction.

Then, our stuff arrived from New Zealand, and we quickly sorted through it all to make sure any spare thing went to the cottage.

“Double awesome,” I thought, giving myself a pat on the back for my environmental friendliness.

Then, the house at Shongwe Lookout was gutted for renovation. I’m talking everything from beds and chairs and linen and towels to light switches and fixtures and curtain rails.

It all needed a place to go. We still needed stuff. So over to our house it all came, in huge, unsorted, dusty piles.

That was when the downsides of upcycling hit me. As I gazed at 30 dusty, stained, wasp-infected curtains, and endless broken furniture and kitchen stuff, I realised I needed A LOT of time to make it quirky, cool, and usable.

And time is what I do not have.

At that moment, I confess I ran out of pioneering spirit, and I cried. 

But, obviously, crying doesn’t actually solve the problem, so after I realised that we all got on with it.

By “we”, I mean that I decided to hire a bunch of other people to do the work for me. We now have a local carpenter (named Effort) fixing up old chairs and tables which look AMAZING. I found a professional laundry service at Victoria Falls Hotel and had all the linen back and looking good within two days. Faith sorted and cleaned all the kitchen utensils, while Emmanuel has lugged all manner of things around the property for me as we sort some of those piles.

To be fair, there is only so much space lugging creates. The simple fact is we just have to live in a bit of chaos for a while, until the cottage is finished.

Until then, I have just one battle to face, and it is a huge one. In fact, it is big enough to be called a spiritual battle, in the sense that it will either break my spirit, or make it. I have 30 odd curtains to beat into shape. They all have seams running randomly through the centre, or to one side. They all have different sized hems. They are all apparently random lengths.

And I have beginner level sewing skills.

After an hour of trying to find matching pairs on Saturday, my legs ache from jumping up and down to measure them. My shoulders and back ache from attempting to shake out the heavy sheets of fabric. My brain aches from trying to comprehend how someone could do SUCH a terrible job of sewing a rectangle. 

So I’m back on the upcycle horse, for now. But I may very well be bucked by a bunch of curtains. I’ll let you know how I get on. 

One thought on “The downsides of upcycling in Africa

  1. Viki Johnson says:

    Do these things with others is alway so much better!! Find more friends and tackle the curtains!


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