Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Moving in!

Ramadan is waiting on me by the beach now. We are going to the market to buy new locks for our doors. We have two of them. And four windows and four walls! 
It used to be a storage room and was really dirty. But these ladies had it clean in no time.

Took this on the way to buy locks (the first time).

All ready to move in! 

Precious Alima and Amazing Twyla

Our newest edition!!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


i miss seasons. and these things:
1. coats-barbour international jacket 2. jeans-jcrew toothpick jeans 3. boots-l.l.bean boots 4. tennis-the old folks/the tennis gang 5. the cabin- hartwell, ga 30643

galeria dos sonhos

I have been living and breathing sewing. I sew in my sleep. All 3 of our machines are broken though and it is frustrating. One is with Francois in "a shop" in the baixa. The others are waiting on the visitor coming in a few weeks who can hopefully help us. One really needs a part that I am trying to get sent up from South Africa. I am seeing the need for us to invest in a treadle, but I don't like the quality of sewing they produce. But it is our only other choice at the moment. I have resorted to using the interlocker for what we can and then hand sewing. So far it is working. We can do runners and cocktail napkins and lots of things this way. Well, not lots. So we really need to get these machines running. Andrea arrives Thursday with a brand new INDUSTRIAL SINGER! AND she has gotten a few of our goods in a shop in London. You can view a few of our things HERE. And you can always purchase on our ETSY SITE. (New products arriving there October 1st).

Sempre Bonita Veronica

Friday, September 20, 2013

To Betty

Dear Betty, 

So sorry I have not posted. I have been busy, of course, and then there were the days we didn't have electricity. I did get on the computer yesterday but spent the time writing an article for the Hartwell paper. I hope it's good. Sewing class is rolling along, but our machines are broken. Something is now wrong with every machine. I am praying in a repairman. With one it is a major engine issue, the others are issues with bobbin tension and small things that I cannot seem to fix. We did finally get the interlocker working and so I have now, yet again, changed gears in what we are doing and designing, to make things that I can solely make by hand or the interlocker or those combined. I have been doing afternoon tutoring sessions with one of my students, Rofi. He reminds me of myself. He looks at me so confused. And I usually return the look. Then we laugh. I love that kid. 

I bought Veronica big canvas prints of photos I took of her when we had her little birthday celebration when Mom & Dad were here. (I took pictures and will show you). I wish you could have seen her face and heard her. She kept saying, "wow, wow" over and over. She pointed to herself and said, "I am beautiful." She said she is going to put them in her bedroom. I had seen the little tiny tattered pictures of distant family she had on a piece of cardboard box in her bedroom and wanted to give her nice photos of her family. It was fun. I love that woman. 

We have running water this morning. A rarity. We have also been without gas in the whole town and I have been conservative with heating water and cooking. Today is pay day for the Gallery employees and I love pay day. I love giving them a nice wad of cash and watching their faces of joy and appreciation. Ramadan has virtually been working for almost nothing and today I am paying him a full salary. Pray the business grows so that we can keep doing this. We really need to get into another shop, or two. Andrea took some of our things to London to try to sell there.

I am supposed to meet with a local hotel here about us having space in their lobby. Pray about that. 

It's starting to get hot here but that's one of those things I don't want to even talk about for fear the weather can hear me. 

I had a dream last night that I was in a mall trying to find Macy's. I kept walking around inside and could not find it. Then I thought it would be easier to find if I walked around the outside of the mall, so I did. But I just kept on walking around. Each time I came to a corner I would expect to see Macy's around the corner but it was never there. I think it means I am overdue for a day at the mall with you.

I just finished breakfast and I have to get ready for work.

I love hearing from you. Write when you can and I will do the same.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

long day

i'm exhausted. but here is what we made. one machine is broken. completely dead. i took it to the only guy i knew who could fix it and he got out a phillips head the size of my arm to try to unscrew these teeny tiny screws. i politely declined his assistance and grabbed my machine and got out of there. men. we move to our new space on Monday. we are making these and clutches and iPad sleeves until we use up all our remnants. it is going to take a month for our latest goods to get to the States so meanwhile i have to invest more to have more to do while we wait. beth, the business planner has also drafted us an inventory sheet. we are getting organized! 

and by "we" i mean twyla taylor. my idea, her labor. we are indebted. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

muito orgulhoso (very proud)

I've been dreaming about this day for a very long time, two years actually, maybe more. For sure more. For years and years I have been dreaming about working in Africa and helping the poor get jobs. Yesterday, ten of my students graduated from an internship at a local hotel/restaurant and I could not be more proud of them. They behaved, showed up on time, worked hard and have made me so proud. It was none of my doing but solely them just stepping up to their potential because they were given a chance. I am so honored to know these young men. Their starched clothing is deceitful. You would have to walk a day in their shoes to understand their lives and the poverty. They were promised to be the first choices in any future hiring at Kauri. The "resort" wants 10 more interns so we will resume the program in October. From this, they will receive letters of recommendation from the general manager, which should help with future employment. There are other hotels in the area and we want to help find them full time employment. Now with their experience this should be a little easier.

Cesar and Rofi (standing) still want to go to university and Amilcar (purple shirt) is anxious to get back to our Galeria dos Sonhos and we are missing him there. I am beaming. All I did was show up. I simply came here and I live my life as normally as possible. (I did dig a worm out of my finger during this ceremony.) But when I look at this picture, I don't see myself as Mother Teresa. I see stellar young men who have changed my life and a simple white girl who 10 years too late finally said yes to God's call on her life, and He redeemed it all so perfectly as only He can do.

You too can all celebrate in their accomplishment as you, my encouragers, have made this happen. Thank you.

Much love,

Friday, September 6, 2013

Alima, a Godsend.

she’s good. real good. Alima is her name and now two days a week she will be sewing those super straight lines of hers on OUR serviettes! her work is stunning. i am massively impressed. and she is just so sweet and adorable and kind. i really love having her on our team. so now i have SIX employees and still not sure how we are going to do this but believing.

since we will soon be sold in the Atlanta coffee shop, i wanted to create a line of products just for them. things coffee shop people buy. so we made these iPad sleeves and will make some in various sizes for other gadgets. i am also experimenting with clutches and cosmetic bags. interfacing is not something i can rely on getting locally, so i also want to experiment with other textiles to see what can work as a substitute. 

also, my visa expires Saturday so i went into town today to immigration to renew it. it was so easy! i just pulled my scooter right in front, handed them my paper work and voila! going to immigration is usually almost as bad as tribunal court. but this time, i bet i didn't sit in those ancient tweed covered sofas 5 minutes. it was such a breeze. and it was cheap! i thought it would be $100 but it was only $16. i’m not a tourist anymore and i am finally coming into my own in this, my scattered, dusty little town. i stopped into 556 for a very late lunch and ran into Ana and Ina, and got to have lunch with them. i love hanging out with them. i feel known and loved and understood. 

later today i met a couple from Austin, Texas who have a composting business. they just came over to look at the property where i live to scope out the place for composting and maybe getting chickens. i really, really want to have our own chickens. i just need to convince the community that we need them. eggs benedict anyone? composting is so easy and i don’t know why we don’t do it. 

*in the publishing of this message i got word that we are getting our own room! the sewing school. galeria dos sonhos will actually have a place of our very own. oh, how i will miss spending my morning's with jim and twyla, but not lugging stuff out from under the bed in her guest room. we now have our very own space! not outdoors! i can hardly wait. such great news. we can have proper tables and actual walls where the wind won't blow dirt all over us and the machines. right now we are sewing on plastic tables and our machines bounce up and down when you sew. ecstatic! this is such good news. this means we are now going to work another hour. the girls don't know this yet. but we really need to be working a bit longer. we've been leaving to get out of The Taylor's way and give them back their home for the afternoon. but now we will break for rice and beans and then, "Back to work!" 

Ramadan teaching Alima. i think this is going to be the other way around very soon.

beautiful, talented Alima

i thought the fact that someone etched the price of a DIRE into the counter at immigration was funny.  19,200? that must have been a very long time ago.

AND i bathed last night! with hot water. what is up with that? awful. i know!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

gallery of dreams and a new hiree

We are having fun watching our labor turn into these creations. So much fun that I hired another worker. Actually, that was not why. I am a sucker. I so adore and admire these women that when one finds me I cannot turn her away. Her vibrant head wrap. Those big brown eyes. Francois had asked me if I would take her. Once a week only. I know her. I understand a little of her life and what she goes home to. She is a part of our little cleaning lady gang here on our base. I see her 3 days a week. Now I am going to see her twice, at the Gallery when she comes to the hut to sew with us. I wish you could have seen her face when I asked her to come and work with us. PRICELESS. She has a nose ring and it is way cool and she pulls it off beautifully. As Francois told me, she is older and the cleaning and hauling water is so hard on these older women and for them to sew is such a gift. Apparently she knows how. She was taught to sew but not how to cut things out and make patterns. So I will teach her. I love her heart and her personality and am excited to have added her to the team. How in the world we are going to fit her in to our little assembly line in our little gazebo I do not know. Nor do I know how I am going to pay her as we are still a little in the red. But the Business Plan is so, so beautiful and promising. We just need one more big sale and all of that will be profit. We are almost there! Our plan really is incredible. You should see the numbers. We don't need to sell a whole lot to keep us going. I can keep these 5, now 6! people employed easily with our current production rates, we just need to get in a few more shops. Speaking of which, we will soon be on a shelf in Chattahoochee Coffee Shop in Atlanta, Georgia! (Mary West, tell your friends. Kylene Compaan, you are my hero.)

A load of goods will be shipped next week, one dress in a size 5 (the one Luci is wearing below), one pillow cover in the Afonso yellow & purple pattern, lots of napkins and runners in all sorts of colors, NEW cocktail napkins and the bow ties from the photo above. Look for them on our Etsy page HERE. We made this clutch today and are playing around with designs for fabric goods that will sell well at Chattahoochee Coffee; iPad sleeves, cosmetic bags and more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

gallery of dreams

the past two days we have not had electricity. it makes our fancy electric machines, for the moment, worthless and i see the value in the rusty old treadles. these are days when you wonder if this can happen, can you run a sewing business in a country with unreliable electricity or do we have to change our methods to more primitive ones? but then these lovely labels Andrea ordered arrived today and i remembered i had forgotten to post the pics i took of Luci this weekend. and the vision all comes back again. and at least something productive occurred. the online shop has contacted us and we are interested in using them to sell our products. we will be on a shelf in the Atlanta coffee shop in 8 days. this is happening. and you can buy here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

i'm enough.

pardon her French. :)

faith like veronica

I've had another sleepless night. There is SOMETHING in this house that I am allergic to and it causes sneezing and a itchy throat and makes for such an awful nights sleep. Not to mention the mosquitos and the Mosques- screaming, blaring in a scratchy microphone at 3:00am. It usually awakens me to my own "call to prayer" and I do so willingly and with both eyes shut, but this time it just made me mad. I've wondered if I could tolerate it more if I knew what he was saying, but it is probably best that I don't. 

Veronica just left. She got here at the crack of dawn. She did my laundry by hauling water on her head and filled my bath room and kitchen buckets in the same manner. She wore a plastic bag tightly around her hair. I watched her cleaning the bathroom, taking long stares at herself in the mirror. She's a little vain. I like this about her. I am rarely here when she is here but we didn't have electricity today so I canceled sewing class. I am normally prepared for days like this. We could have cut out patterns and price tags, but all I could think about was going back to my dark house for a nap. So I did. Veronica dropped pots and pans and banged around in the kitchen, but I slept in spite of it all. I woke up in time to find the power back on and her ironing my linen pants. She was about to give up because she couldn't get the iron to work. I twisted the dial until it lit up and began ironing. She sat in the chair next to me and I ironed while she talked. I finished the pants and she picked up a shirt and we switched places. We talked about men and babies, what most all women talk about, eventually. She's my age and has had 6 children. One died when he was 1 week old, Martinu. She talked about her poverty and praised God in the next breath. She is full of life. Her faith inspires me. He takes care of her, she says. She's not bitter or angry or fearful. Just vain and happy and full of life. It's a moment I want to bottle up and keep for forever. Lying on the rope bed with Veronica. She taught me how to say, "I love you" in Makua, but I have already forgotten.

Last week I noticed Veronica wearing make-up and I told her, "You look beautiful today." She smiled, waited a beat and replied, "I always look beautiful."  Yes, my friend, I stand corrected, you always look beautiful, you always amaze me, and you always trick me into doing my own ironing. 

After lunch, I met with the GM of the restaurant where the boys are interning and we have plans to have their graduation ceremony on Saturday. He is paying them 1000 mets for one month of full-time labor. It's a little more than $30. He doesn't have to pay them anything so we are grateful for that but it just seems like such a small amount for so much hard work. I think I want to find a way to double that, which mostly likely means me and you. I know they will most likely squander it and they will all be walking around with new cell phones next week but I want to see them rewarded. 

I've been thinking a lot about Rofi, who we assisted in applying for a scholarship. All he needs for four years of university is $5000USD. I wish I could find a way to have him work for me during the summer and make enough to support himself each year. That means I need a business, a license, capital and revenue. I know there are solutions and many of them quite simple. But he needs a solution now. I always feel like my work here is a drop in the bucket, but when the bucket is empty it does make a difference. 

I am constantly blown away at how my just showing up has created so many little things that are helping. I love having a job where I get to see the fruit of my labor every day. And the real secret is that I don't know what I am doing. I speak the language like a two year old. I have no credentials in telling Africans how to live their lives, but every day I get to help them with immediate needs and long term ones too. And every day they make me the most grateful woman on earth. It is the same cycle for me. I wake up completely clueless and often sleep deprived, but go about my day simply being who I am, and trying to join the Africans in their relationship focused flow of life. They make fun of how fast I walk and work and I try to slow down and join them. I teach what little I know and they forever change me. I want it bottled up, the cup of joy and the cup of suffering. It is my biggest prayer, that it sticks.