Friday, May 13, 2011

Artisans 2 Ways

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

This morning Erin called to let me know that she and her friends from the US of A were out and about in Thies, wandering the market and soaking in the fabulous atmosphere in Thies. As the de-facto Thies tour guide I considered it my obligation and my pleasure to tag along. Erin's friends has only been in Senegal for less than 36 hours when I met up with them and they had already been out to dinner in Dakar, gone to Erin's village for a baptism, grabbed a beer at the Catholic bar, and spent the night at Massa Massa. This seems like a whirlwind tour, but it gets better because they came to Senegal via Nepal where they had gone for a friends wedding! They are literally circumnavigating the world in one trip! San Fransisco to Nepal to Dubai to Senegal and back again. I can't say I'm not jealous.

I've been trying to take a lot more pictures of Thies recently because I'm running out of time and I'm realizing that I don't have the mundane pictures of every day life/ every day Thies that I will most definitely want when I'm home so, walking around with Erin and her friends was a great excuse to take pictures. Walking around in a big group of toubabs also makes taking pictures less awkward or perhaps so awkward that it really just doesn't matter anymore. One of Erin's friends is an avid quilter so we visited a ton of fabric stalls and really looked at the patterns and different options which I haven't done in a long time. It was also nice just to actually look around since so often when I'm walking in Thies I have my blinders on and go straight to my destination. Having visitors that weren't my own helped me to slow down, enjoy, and really take in my surroundings.

The market was oddly dead for a Thursday so we were able to take our time, walk in a group, and we weren't harassed too much, which was nice. After checking out most of the fabric stalls in the market as well as all of the fruits and vegetables, we headed over to see Mme. Ly. Since it was only 11:30am Mme. Ly was still setting up. It takes the woman an eternity to get everything out and displayed the way she wants it. I was immediately put to work taking out all of the earrings, which was fine because I got to see Erin and her friends look through everything. It was fascinating to watch since the girls went straight for the designs and colors that Katherine, Mme. Ly, Khady and I have been working on. Mme. Ly and Khady noticed it as well and were happy that the colors I've told them about and that they've seen in the American magazines I've given them really do sell better than other models and colors. The girls were really happy with their jewelry purchases, even Erin bought a new design in a fabulous coral color!

There's only one place to go after Mme. Ly's and that's to Dioss' atelier. We walked into a picture perfect scene of Dioss listening to old French music (quite loudly I might add), smoking a cigarette, and checking out Facebook on his computer. It just doesn't get any better than that. A member of his boy posse was working on the backgrounds of cards and cleaning brushes. Classic Dioss. Through a conversation with Erin I learned that Dioss is originally from a village near Erin's village where he has a field. I immediately called him out on the fact that there's no way he actually attends to his field. The man loves his shoes WAY too much. He didn't even put up a fight and conceded that Erin is a much better farmer than he is, but that the two of us should go visit her. I'm making sure this happens because I'm pretty sure that I feel more comfortable in a village than Dioss does and I want to see him squirm!

This fantastic morning was capped off with a delicious lunch at Massa Massa. I was in a great mood after grabbing a Sandra (the cheapest, most delicious ice cream available at the Total station) with Erin and her friends and then parting ways with them at the post office. Shout out to Jo Ellen for sending "end of service" supplies to get us through the next two months. I'm ridiculously excited for the Rice Krispie treats. Everything is safe in sound in Thies! Everything was great...

And then... the ugly side of dealing with artisans reared its ugly head. The St. Louis Jazz Fest expo is turning into a logistical, monetary, and emotional nightmare. The artisan association is just in it's infancy and there are still lots of problems and issues to resolve. Compound this with the fact that Katherine is working with fairly unhelpful people in St. Louis who are organizing the expo and we have no idea what's going on. Earlier this week Mme. Ly and I called all of the artisans to see who wanted to attend the expo and since then Katherine and I have been figuring out a way for a group of PCVs to advance the money to pay for the expo since the money is due before our next artisan meeting on May 24th. To say this has been a challenge is an understatement and things went from bad to worse tonight when I thought that we would have to get three tables and not two. I feel terrible, but at this point we're hoping that one artisan drops out so that there will be three artisans at each booth. Hopefully in the future, the association will have more money and the artisans will be communicating better with each other so that sudden death situations like this don't materialize, but for now things to be under control. That is... under control after Mme. Ly and I sat on the floor of her house, the dark, as she called artisans and told them they had to have their money for the expo to their PCV by 12pm tomorrow. We will see what happens!

New pictures of Thies are up in the "Cape Verde" album.


  1. What a fun day! A real survey of all your relationships and accomplishments and a rice crispie treat to top it off!

  2. Speaking of taking pictures, have you tried out the polaroid yet? I can only imagine Ahmed's reaction.