Sunday, January 22, 2012

And this is life in Goma

Mapendo sitting on one of the few things she still owns, her wooden bed frame. It is covered with sheets since she no longer has a mattress.

3 weeks ago thieves entered the house where Mapendo lives while she was at the shop working. They stole pretty much everything she owns, except the wooden frame of her bed. She came home to discover that everything was gone, except the clothes on her back.

This is how the new year started for Mapendo. For 3 weeks she has worn the same clothes everyday, because she has no others, and slept on the wooden slats of her bed, since the thieves stole her mattress.

But it is worse than that. Those thieves made off not only with all of her possessions but also all of her earnings for the month of December. Mapendo normally wouldn't keep money at home, but she had been preparing to send money to her mother who has been sick, and to take care of the many other family responsibilities that she carries.

Mapendo with her nieces and nephews, who she helps care for since their father died.

The irony is this. Just that week Mapendo had called in a carpenter to take measurements for a new door on her bedroom. In a country with little security, strong doors matter a lot. Trying to be prudent, Mapendo had set aside her own money to have a new door installed. And she thinks it was this very action that drew attention to her and led to the robbery. In the irony of Goma, the very act of trying to make yourself even slightly more secure, and protect the very little that you have, can make you a target.

Mapendo spent the first 3 weeks of the new year with no mattress, no clothes and no money, and I had no idea of what was happening. I have been busy with the new baby and Mapendo was embarrassed to tell me. When I found out I gave her enough money to buy a new mattress and a few pairs of clothes. But she still desperately misses the rest of the money she lost, money that should have gone to help her family and buy food for the month. The beautiful reality of SHONA is that the money each artisan earns touches the lives of so many. But on the flip side, when that money get lost, so many people feel it.

I asked Mapendo what she has been thinking these past three weeks. She answered, "nilifunga roho". Literally that means "I closed my heart", it carries with it the idea of hardening oneself/steeling oneself for difficult times.

This is life in Goma, where too often it is necessary "kufunga roho"...and yet the people of Goma open their hearts and carry on, again and again. As for Mapendo she is anxious to get back to work, and to start again.

I'm in the process of listing our new stock in our store, so please check it out, and consider buying something from SHONA this month, in support of Mapendo as she gets on her feet again. Or if you'd like to directly send a little money her way click here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Stock thanks to Baby Claire

Three cheers for Baby Claire, who slept for 3 hours in the afternoon, letting me get most of the new SHONA stock photographed.

Keep your eyes on our website for the new stock posting in the next few days, along with a great sale! (And if you're curious about some of our new cloth colors and designs take a look at the photo below!) OK, I better run...Baby Claire is no longer sleeping!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The challenge begins

This is Claire Neema. She arrived on December 27th. She is doing great, at nine pounds, and is super chill and sleepy all day, but ready to party all night!

And these are 2 packages from Congo. Filled with SHONA merchandise. They arrived on January 3rd.

They are also doing great. Except that they are still sitting in my apartment untouched. I only opened them so I could take this picture.

So begins the challenge. Claire is a beautiful new addition to our life and we love her infinitely. But I am also a bit sleep deprived and fuzzy at this point, finding it rather difficult to accomplish...well...much of anything beyond keeping Claire fed and clothed. Well...mostly just fed. Her grandmother seems to have taken over the "clothed" part...delighting in the huge array of outfits we have been given. If it were up to me, Claire would still be in a diaper and t shirt everyday.

At some point I will actually get some pictures of these new products, that the SHONA ladies work so hard on, and you will see me announce new stuff in our online store. I'm not sure if that will be a day from now or a month from now. But at least you'll know the effort that went into getting those new pictures online, in the midst of all the pauses.

So far my experience of having a child seems to be a lot like an African rainstorm. In Africa, you glance at the sky from time to time, and sometimes you see the clouds rolling in. You know it will rain soon, and so life just pauses. If you are out walking, you stand under an overhang and wait for the rain to pass. Often you end up crowded under the overhang with a random collection of people that were passing by. And so you make new friends. Or if you are out visiting someone, they put on another cup of tea, and you settle in for a slightly longer visit. And if you were at home getting ready to go somewhere, you just wait. You put your feet up, listen to the sound of rain hitting a tin roof, and enjoy the pause in the middle of the day.

Now, my days seem to have many of these pauses. Not because of rain, but because of Claire. Claire decides she is hungry and starts crying, and my whole world is put on pause.

The African rain was one of my favorite parts of Africa. It slows life down, and reminds us that we don't really run the world according to our own schedule. Seeing the clouds roll in, and hearing the patter of rain on tin roofs, helped me to enjoy the moment, even when it isn't exactly what I planned to do. It gave me permission to surrender myself and my time.

And so here I am now, with Claire. And I hope that I can cherish these pauses as well. These breaks throughout the day (and mostly the night!!) where I put down my hands full of work and sit in a rocking chair, listening to the quiet breathing (and snuffling) of this little baby...these breaks are precious too.

In fact I've taken 2 of them, just in the midst of writing this one blog entry. So if my blog entries seem fewer and farther between, and my product photos take longer to get online, you can know that they are punctuated by the cry of a little one, who just like the sound of rain on a tin roof, helps to remind me that life is made richer because of these pauses in the midst of our days.