Gratitude: Bushfire

This past week was a whirlwind. I hardly remember what happened before Bushfire, eSwatini’s incredible music festival.

Before Bushfire, I spent three lessons at school preparing for a debate. My students chose an incredibly difficult topic that I believe they are underestimating. However it turns out, it is a learning experience for these kids. For a handful of them, Thursday was the first time they had ever touched a computer, let alone use the internet. Sending them off into the internet to do research on assisted suicide couldn’t even begin until we had a crash course in computer basics.

eSwatini is humbling on days like that. I receive daily reflections from a company called Holstee, and I have recently received a few about gratitude. In one of these reflections, the author paused to think about how grateful he is for running water. I don’t think he was ever a Peace Corps Volunteer, but if he really wants a lesson in gratitude, Peace Corps is the place. It is a headfirst dive into minimalist living and a place to learn what you really need in life.

Running water makes life easy. What I have appreciated more is the electricity and internet I have. I used a lot of both this past week as I spent the mornings memorizing the siSwati and isiZulu words to a handful of songs I expected would be played at Bushfire.

The ones I already knew paid off the most, though. I was nearly moved to tears of joy during Velemseni’s performance of her new song “Shisa” that was a perfectly-timed release in the weeks approaching Bushfire and her performance of “Hey Mamma” with a surprise addition of Bholoja, who sang only in siSwati that I 100 percent understood.



On Saturday I experienced another chunk of my 15 minutes of eSwatini fame. When your skin color makes you stick out, people watch. I was in the front row, ready to scream and dance and sing along with all of the other women of eSwatini who love Sands. I was regularly shown on the big screen during his performance as I knew all the words to his already-released songs, and I can understand his siSwati even when I don’t understand the words, so singing along to the choruses of his new songs was easy.


Sands down on one knee singing “Vuma,” which means to accept. It is used to asked someone to marry you.

My actions were noticed enough that I was approached after the show by the keys player from the group about how much I obviously loved the performance. And then when I got home on Monday, make told me I was shown singing along to Sands during Bushfire clips on both news channels on Sunday night.

Then on Sunday I went to an incredibly intimate performance by Bholoja who honored my request for him to sing my favorite song of his.


Thanking Bholoja for playing my favorite song. 

During the weekend I appreciated the music of so many varied performers. I miss the music scene of Salt Lake City, and Bushfire has overfilled that gap. I wouldn’t buy a ticket to see a band I had never heard of in SLC, but at Bushfire the weekend is largely filled with performers whose music I do not know. Their Bushfire performances turn me into fans. I am grateful for a weekend filled with friends and music both new and old. I am also grateful to have a year to recover before the next one.

This entry was posted in Africa, eSwatini, Peace Corps, Swaziland and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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