Saturday, May 17, 2008

Getting There is Half the Fun (?)

That is what they say, isn't it? Maybe they haven't flown from Denver to Entebbe, Uganda, missed several flights, waited an entire day in Heathrow Airport, and found, after 48 long hours of travel, that their luggage was in Brussels (for one week...) Anyway, that was 2 weeks ago and I'm finally shaking the jet lag and starting to enjoy Uganda again.

Let me just describe one morning last week so that the feeling of the place, rather than the facts, are communicated.

BeadforLife is an organization designed to help women escape from extreme poverty. It does this by taking an indigenous craft, making beautiful beads from paper, and then teaching women to fashion these beads into necklaces, bracelets, etc. to be shipped and sold in the United States and internationally through parties held at people's homes. In this way, a connection is formed between women in America and women in Uganda and the path out of extreme poverty becomes less steep.

On Thursday, the women from the Mukisa Group came to the office to sell their beads. This is only Mukisa's second bead sale after training so they are very excited and enthusiastic. Each sale begins with the beaders and BFL staff forming a circle, singing, dancing, and sharing announcements. As I sat in my office, which has a big balcony overlooking the porch and yard below (and much of Kampala!), I could hear thewomen and their children gathering for the sale. There are approximately 50 women and 2 men in the Mukisa group. There are babies and children and bags and bags of beads that the beaders have worked on for the 2 weeks prior to the sale. After the greetings, songs and dances (which I do my best to participate in...) the sale begins in earnest. Each one is paid the highest price for her beads and is carefully instructed on how to make jewelry that Mzungu (white people but all North Americans in general) will want to buy. Often the yellow beads are held up to my skin by the other buyers to show what doesn't work with Mzungu skin color. I do not mind being the model for these lessons. It fact, it may become a second career. But I do need to remind them that North Americans come in all colors!

After the sale, w
hich usually lasts up to four hours, all staff gathers for a communal lunch and afterwards, the inventory staff begin to bundle the beads whichwill then be sent to Boulder for distribution to those hosting parties and events across the U.S and Europe. It is such a female time, the bundling. There is chatting, laughing, serious talk about families and children all while working in the shade of the tent on jewelry other women will wear..