Wednesday, February 25, 2009

There will be snacks

Almost finished chicken and chips, quarter avocado peel, top up bottle in a basket.
Empty, thick green bottle of 7UP with a straw.

This is the detritus on my bedside table at Jojo’s Palace. Got stuck at Nile Computers tonight – first the power went. The generator hum kicked in. Fans slowed to a stop and the mosquitoes rushed in, feasting at my ankles while I sat in the blue glow of my gmail screen (mountainscape) and waited out the token dry season storm.

I walked back to Jojo’s in the dark, my flip flops flapping and sucking at the streams of mud from the sudden and heavy rain. It had already passed, yet the wind was still blowing cool and crispy. The moonless night was somehow brightened by the breeze. Silhouettes of royal palms in the Gulu night sky.

Back to K’la on an early bus. Carry-on baggage = optimism.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cooking Class: bo ki tongweno or gulu frittata

Just before mid-day, Kevin and I set off for Prisca’s house. I tucked my market tote into the basket on the front of Lucy’s shiny pink Smart Lady bicycle and followed Kevin out of town, off the paved road and onto the dirt track to Prisca’s place. I bit it about halfway, in one of the dips in the road where potholes had been filled in with soft dust. I cannot remember the last time I fell off a bicycle, and I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to brush myself off.

Prisca’s youngest, Abey Goretti, was quick to make silent lion roars at me as soon as we arrived, showing me her teeth, pulling on my hands and giggling. Over chai and chapatti, I spoke to her husband, Charles, about architecture. We pored over the plans he’d had made for a tailoring center. He asked me how people in the US get around when it snows.

This being the second visit out to Prisca’s home, I was pulled into the kitchen tukul after chai to help with the cooking. The mid-day sun outside was already beating down, but somehow the kitchen stayed cool. The walls were darkened from the charcoal stove – a curved bump out from the wall with two divots shaped to hold the coals beneath a pot. The embers burned pinkish/coral/hot through a mini-hearth below. We set to work, with Goretti’s giggly help, removing the leaves from the bo or “green vegetables” and putting them into a winnowing basket. Since the bo comes from the earth, it goes outside in the sun for some minutes to let any earthly creatures escape before the cooking begins.

Oil, onions, garlic – we put handfuls of the washed local rice (Kevin and I picked out stones) into the pot to fry it before cooking. Kevin minced the bo and we cooked it with local salt and oil, adding chopped tomatoes and the hen’s eggs I’d scrambled previously.

Prisca took a moment to give Goretti a bath in a basin outside the doorway. Goretti screamed the entire time, furious to have the dust washed from her skin.

We spent two hours in the kitchen, and then feasted in the sitting room:
Bo ki tongweno ki tongweno ki nyanya ki mucele ki layata
(greens with eggs, fried eggs with tomato and oil; with rice and yams)

Next class: cooking chicken.

After eating, Prisca insisted that I bathe before returning to town. She led me to the borehole to fill a basin, and sent me off to a corner of the as-yet roofless house that Charles is building. There is a concrete edge around the wall, and the middle is still dirt, which makes for a nice place to rinse and dump the used bath water.

After bathing, Prisca then insisted on oiling my skin before sending me off to town on my bicycle. Freshly-greased mzungu on a bike in Gulu during dry season. You can probably easily imagine the red dirt that clung to my skin as every car passed by. I arrived in Gulu looking very much like a happy martian with aviators.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Inspiration Pieces

It's the day-before-big-shipment here in Kampala. My new home is currently awash with wax-print and batik. Today's major task is to photograph the new products (check out the new garden theme, below) and start updating the website. FedEx comes tomorrow to box it all up and send it off on a metal bird - to arrive in Boynton Beach, Florida, just 2 days later (barring any customs issues).

I've only been in Kampala for a week, but since I'm used to shorter trips, I have had a hard time dropping the "hit-the-ground- running" mentality. I wonder how long that will take. Do you wake up one day and "wait a second, I LIVE here" is no longer a thought?

In the meantime, the days have been spent on fabric research (primer coming soon). Many of One Mango Tree's newest customers are wholesalers who will buy in bulk. Combining the need for bulk fabrics with an emphasis on an all-African supply chain means that we need a new understanding of the fabric markets here in East Africa.

The fabrics in these photos are indicative of a subtle change in direction. On the right is The Original bag in a Tanzanian batik. On the left, amongst the musa acuminata is the Lunch Bag in a Congolese wax-print that Noela was able to pick up.

There's been a push lately for us to move into clothing - first from the Global Exchange buyers in LA, and now here in uganda with potential fashion design volunteers and a growing global market for beautiful, fair trade clothes. I find myself dreaming of kanga sundresses and wax-print wrap skirts - would people buy them?

Here is the proof - a couple of great finds related to African fashion and ethical fashion:

NY Times - Revealing New Layers of African Fashion
Blog - AfricaStyl


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