Saturday, December 19, 2009
Interesting cloth, right? Nice and bright. Very eye-catching. Look...it has little people on it....wait a minute. Exactly what is going on here? Are those scantily clad young women on a bib? Are they serving beer? Yes, I believe that is the famous African Primus beer, to be specific.
Perhaps there has been some mistake. What is this item anyway? Surely it is not what I think it is...a baby bib.
And yet, indeed, it is. This must be the only bib in the world, made out of Primus beer cloth, for your umm...beer guzzling toddlers?!?!?!
Welcome to the SHONA bloopers round. When I asked Roy, one of our craftspeople, to sew some children's bibs, I suppose he thought he was being.. well... thematic. You know food and drinks go together, beer bottles and milk bottles... Or maybe he just thought the design looked snazzy.
I do not think this was his idea of a joke. I am quite sure he sewed these in all earnestness. But I have been giggling for days, imagining the horrified looks I would get if I tried to sell these. Actually I am probably getting horrified looks just for including this in a bloopers round on my blog, but I just had to share it.
One of my favorite parts of working in different cultures, are the inevitable bloopers that result, on both my part and others. I mean if we can't laugh at all those things that didn't quite translate as planned, we'll be in for a long road.
Here is another one...
Last month I opened my latest SHONA shipment to find quite a surprise. Nestled amidst the tote bags and purses was a curious and yet familiar sight. A two pound bag of rice, fresh out of the Goma market.
"Oh no!!!" I exclaimed. "What am I going to do with a bag of rice! I'll have to create a whole new category in our store for "food items"...no that will never work. What about eBay. People buy all kinds of crazy stuff on ebay. Maybe bags of rice from war-torn countries are a novelty item of some sort.... No, probably not."
I mean it. This was a bag of rice, straight from Goma. Well, actually probably originally from Asia. The rice is still mixed with rocks and dirt, so that you can tell it is authentic. I suppose there is no market for it, even on ebay. Certainly not if I mark-up the price to cover what it cost us to ship it. I would have to mark it up at least 10 times over.
And yet my craftspeople sent me a two pound bag of rice. And when I translate it, it turns out to be be just about the most precious of bag of rice in the world.
You see the SHONA women knew that my husband and I returned to the US without jobs, and they knew that getting jobs isn't easy in this economy. They knew that I had been doing everything I could to keep SHONA going, while at the same time relocating and looking for a job. And they knew that we miss Congo. And so they sent us a little rice from Goma, to help along the way. This is the most normal thing in the world to them. They would have done the same thing for a neighbor in the next house, or a relative in the next town over. They share what they have. I am just a little further away.
And I cherish that , because in Goma I often struggled with NOT being like other people. By virtue of my skin color and my passport, I was often seen as the rich American, and to tell the truth, I often was the rich American. I often did have more money than others, and I certainly had more resources. And yet I struggled to communicate to people that I was just another person, like anyone else, that I could run out of money and that I too could get hurt and bleed.
Argentine and Mapendo sent me rice. So what if it cost a ridiculous amount of money to send? Don't worry, I won't be selling it on eBay anytime soon. That two pound bag of rice, which looks exactly like every other 2 pound bag of rice in Goma, is one of my most prized possessions. Everytime I look at it, I smile and am thankful again.
(However if you have any suggestions for what I can do with some beer bibs, let me know!!)
( I must point out that these beer bibs are also incredible examples of hard work at SHONA. Do you see how perfectly centered those scantily clad women are? This is not a naturally occuring phenomenon, this is the result of me insisting time and time again that the design must be in the center! Apparently I never thought to mention that the design should not involve beer bottles on a child's bib. Alas. )