Monday, September 29, 2014

In the past week I was just sitting there... Ibungilo waiting for the Lulu girls, while sewing some handcrafts. It's blazing hot in the sun but these goats don't care.

...wondering if I'm the only one freaked out by this t-shirt.

...waiting for a Lulu facilitator to meet me on the road so I can visit her house. These sugar canes are a familiar site in TZ.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I was just sitting there... frustrated

...trying to figure out this crochet thing! ?? I was the comic relief for the girls yesterday.

UPDATE: I realized the picture never posted. Here it is!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Livable Wage

Speaking of "rethinking things," I had another humbling experience the other day, this time relating to money. You'd think after living in Tanzania almost 3 years that I'd be fully aware of the (sub)standard of living in which most people here live. But no, I can still be struck dumb by small conversations that just hit me over the head by surprise.

Last week, while we were waiting for more girls to show up to group, I was talking with Violet, one of our Lulu facilitators-in-training. Violet, a young mother of 2, was keeping herself busy by crocheting while we were waiting for other girls to show up, so I asked her what she was sewing. "A baby hat," she replied. One of the skills the Lulu girls are taught is how to crochet hats, blankets, baby sweaters, purses, and other items, all of which can be highly sought after in their communities. "Are you selling them to people in your neighborhood?" I asked her. She replied affirmatively, so then I asked her how much she can sell a hat for. She said it depending on if the buyer supplied their own yarn. She said it's hard to make a lot of money because people want to reduce the price. They purchase their own yarn and just pay Violet for the work.

"So," I responded. "If someone supplies their own yarn, how much can you sell it for?" She said about 2,000 Tanzanian Shillings (about $1.25 US). "And how long does it take you to make one hat?" "About 2 days," she said. At this point I was going to affirm her earlier comment about not making a lot of money and talk more with her about how to make ends meet. "So, 2000 Shillings for 2 days of work," I said. "Yeah, that's..." She interrupted me and said, "Yeah, so that's not too bad. Two days' work for 2000 Shillings."!

What do we do with $1.25? I will spend more than that on a beer when I go out to dinner. I can't imagine trying to live on that for 2 days. Granted, this girl will take that money and contribute it to the larger household income earned from other members so it'll be stretched further. But still, it ain't much.

Now, I don't expect any of us, myself included, to reduce our expenses and only live in $.75/day. It's not an ideal way to live and I wouldn't want it for myself, just as I don't want it for Violet and her family. Instead, I wish there were an easier way to increase her salary. To give her what she deserves and to have it be enough to raise her children within a solid home and with a good education. I hope that'll come with time. At least this is a start. Because the money she's getting now and the skills she's gained is more than she had before. But still, I don't think I'll look at 2000 Shillings the same way again.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Rethinking things

Lately I've been having some Lulu girls stop by my house because they're making handcrafts for an order that I received. So, as they finish their products they stop by the house so I can give them last minute touch-up suggestions and then to finally sell them to me.

One girl, Eliza, stopped by the other evening while I was preparing dinner. You might recall from pictures that when you enter our house we have a long hallway that leads to the living room. When we walked through the hallway Eliza immediately stopped, took off her shoes, and then proceeded to sit in the hallway on the rug. I didn't think much of it but just said to her, "Here, come in here and sit on a chair," and welcomed her further into the living room to the couches.

It didn't surprise me in any way that she'd stopped to sit on the rug because a lot of Tanzanians sit on rugs on the floor. And I had completely forgotten about it until later that night when I walked through again and I got to thinking about it and I just kind of thought it's an interesting anecdotal story. It just got me thinking about needs and wants and taking things for granted. I know that to a lot of people it looks like we have a simple life. And in a lot of ways we do live a simple life. Our house is pretty bare bones and no-frills. But the flip side of that is the side that Eliza saw when she came into the house the other day. In the eyes of a lot of other people, what we have and the way we live is quite extravagant. When the rug in our hallway is a perfectly adequate place to sit, fancier still than what most others have in their house, and we are just using it as a pass-through, then I think it's really clear that we're doing okay.

So, it's just a nice reminder to me about all that I have and that there's always another way to look at things. And I really appreciate Eliza for helping me change my perspective about such a simple thing as my hallway. Whenever I walk through I think I'll be reminded of her visit and I will remember to be thankful for what I have.

I was just sitting there... at the traffic light.

Wait. What? When did we get that a second traffic light in Mwanza!?

Monday, September 01, 2014

I'm just sitting here at Lulu...

I'm just sitting here..

at the Lulu Bwiru classroom. After being at the hospital in town (yes, entering week two of illnesses) it made more sense to just come here a little early rather than waste time in town (while feeling like crap).