Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Knitting Together

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My trip to Tanzania was one of the bigger steps that I have made toward starting my business to import crafts from Tanzania to the United States. Other big steps have included quitting preschool teaching, getting a business license, getting all registered with the government, picking a name, building a website (ongoing), and accepting poverty with no end in sight. Ah, the sacrifices for the things we love.

So for two weeks I was traveling with my mom meeting with various artisan groups, most of which were all women. The main group that I am launching the business with is a group of basket weavers from the really remote center of Tanzania. I also am doing some product research and development with a few other groups who do batik, embroidery, jewelery and other kinds of basket weaving.

On the very first day of the trip we met with a women's group that is weaving banana leaves into baskets and purses. While I was meeting with the group one of the women stood off to the side knitting while she listened. At the end of the meeting I went to the car and pulled out my knitting which was currently Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts (perfect traveling project). Little did I know how interesting my knitting would be! The other woman had never seen knitting in the round, or double pointed needles, OR fair isle/stranded knitting (working two colors at once to make a pattern). She was really eager to try my project so I let her give it a go as the whole rest of the group looked on giggling. The poor woman was knitting a hat flat like a square! I could see the gears turning in her head as she worked my mitten in the round. It was one of those fun things that happens when you travel and you end up connecting with people in ways that you never would even imagine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tanzania celebrates Obama

As some of you know I was recently in Tanzania working with small artisan groups to develop a line of products to import to the United States. It is hard to know where to start in blogging about this trip but I guess one place to start is in sharing what it was like to be in Tanzania during the US elections.

It had been a hard decision to be gone over election day for many reasons including having volunteered for Obama since before the primary. We had to go when we did though because the rainy season was coming and if we waited any longer some of the roads that we needed to travel may become impassable. So I sent in my absentee ballot before I left, took my Obama pin to wear every day, and crossed my fingers, and toes, and held my breath...

I am sure you have seen many pictures in the news about the international response to Obama and this was certainly true where we were. We saw many buildings painted with images of him, Obama t-shirts, many cars with Obama bumper stickers, spare tire covers, and even mini buses painted with his image and the Yes We Can slogan. People loved our pins and many people asked if we would give them ours. We had planned on bringing buttons to give away but after going to 4 different Obama headquarters in different cities and having them all be out, we finally gave up.

Because of the time change the election was not offically called until the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday so then while the US was sleeping Tanzania was partying.

Here is the email that I sent out on Wednesday after the election.

Dear friends and family,

While you are all sleeping back in the US I am celebrating in the streets with all of Tanzania! My mom and I were actually out in the bush this morning and had previously wondered and worried whether or not we would quickly hear the election news while out in a national park. But at 6:30 this morning the screams of joy could be heard across the safari camp as the staff got the first official news of Obama's victory over their radios and the one tv. Now back in Arusha we are wearing our Obama pins and are stopped up and down every street greeted with hugs and great excitement.

The local mini buses are painted with Obama signs, and we have seen cars with his name written into the dust on windshields of cars. Lots of t-shirts, newspapers, people are celebrating. For them this is also a big victory, Obama stands for a great deal to the people here. It is a clear reminder that nothing is impossible and that with hard work and determination one can overcome any obstacle. We have talked to many people that feel that he is their president too. I have also heard that Kenya is declaring tomorrow a national holiday, it sounds like mostly because everyone is partying so hard no one will be able to go to work tomorrow.

It has made for a really powerful end to an extremely important trip for me as I start my business working with small women's groups of artists. It has sealed an already strong bond and sense that we are really one big family and that there is no alternative but to work together to make a difference in our communities and the world. One of the biggest things that I am doing in my work is taking down the boarders and fences between people and the sense that Obama is trying to do the same is overwhelming here.

I will send more in a few days when I am back in the US and I can put some photos online as well.

So much love and peace to you all. Now the real work begins, don't turn your backs, Obama is made up of all of us and we must stick with him and offer our greatest efforts to make this a better world.


Here are some of the Obama related photos that I took on the trip. There were so many more that I wished I could have taken but it is a big no no in Tanzania to take photos without permission and also not a great idea to hang out of a car window with a camera, it might get swipped. The group photo is my mom and I with the Oliver's Camp staff in the Tarengire National Park, all of us wearing our pins and grinning just hours after the news had come in. Also the last photo is of an artisit named Samuel in Arusha that we had make some paintings for us.

Dala dala's for ObamaDon't forget to vote ellies!Oliver's Camp staff show supportOliver's Camp celebratingSamuel and Sarah