In traditional African culture, you are nobody outside of the community. Your survival depends on being part of the group. We in the West pride ourselves in our individuality. “I think, therefore I am.” In reality, it should be: ‘I am because you are’.
Robert’s sister is just finishing a big renovation job on an old house in Schleitheim. She’s a single mom of three teenage boys. Tomorrow is moving day and for a week already friends and relatives helped her clean, sort and pack. “How would I ever do this without people to help who care about me?” she asks.
The trades people are still in the house, finishing last minute jobs – putting down tiles, the final touches on the floors and installing bathroom sinks. Last Friday Barbara put on an ‘Uufrichti Fescht’ – a party for all the trades people that were part of the renovation. The framers were there, the bricklayers, the painters, the guys who did the tiling, the kitchen, etc., even the architect.
Barbara’s son Luke and Robert operated the grill; friends brought potato salad and desserts. There was plenty of beer, cold drinks and good fellowship. The party lasted until midnight.
“Uufrichti’ used to be the norm when a new building was put up, or a major renovation undertaken. It was the builder’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to all those who helped made it possible. Matthias Gasser, the architect, says. “Even in rural areas, it is becoming rare to have an ‘Uufrichti’. He thinks it is because many people come from outside the area, and don’t have any connections to those around them. They pick the trades people that are the cheapest, often from outside the area too. It is a purely business connection.
Matthias himself grew up in Schleitheim, and most of the trades people are either from the area or close by. Matthias commented on the good atmosphere on the site during building.
Many of the people at the party were young men, who were thrilled to be invited. “They don’t do this much anymore,” one said.
It takes community to build community: Last Sunday Robert and I rode in the seventh annual SlowUp (Slow down, cheer Up!) bcycle ride. It was a fun ride, 38 kilometres long, through Schaffhausen and nearby Germany. An estimated 25,000 people took part in the ride, young and old, of all biking abilities. At every road junction (and in this country there are a lot!) there were volunteers directing traffic. Every village along the way – nine including the city of Schaffhausen – had party tents and activities for the participants. Almost all of that was manned by volunteers. Some villages turned the weekend into a village fest, with every club taking part in some way. The whole event was great fun, and only possible because people worked together.