by Hanna Schwing
If you follow the Awava blog, you know how busy the team was in Gulu this week. Our happy for the week, that which made all of the work worth it, came on Wednesday evening when everything fell into place.
Our goals for Wednesday all involved setting Lucy and the tailors up in a new shop because the Gulu market was scheduled to be demolished in September. Then it was pushed back to October. Now it's scheduled for sometime after elections which are scheduled for sometime in the first months of the new year. Politicians don't really want to be responsible for hundreds of market vendors losing their workspace a few months before elections. A few months after elections is fine though.
Here is a partial list of our goals:
- Have an electrician visit Lucy's new shop to install four new electrical outlets and two more lights. (There was one light extremely high and in the middle of the ceiling and one electrical outlet.)
- Finish a sandwich board to advertise the new location.
- Count the products that the tailors had completed.
- Start moving things into the new store.
- Be awesome. (Darlyne added this one to the list.)
After a quick breakfast and coffee to fuel the day ahead, we set out to accomplish our goals. First, we stopped by Lucy's new store to drop off the two pieces of the sandwich board--5 foot by 2 foot pieces of wood that Darlyne and I painted white the night before. Then, we went to the tailoring stall in the market, where we learned that on Tuesday night Lucy lost the purse that contained her phone and all of her keys--including the only key to her new shop. That meant that we needed to find a locksmith before we could have an electrician come to the store.
We arranged for the carpenter, Nelson, to come to the shop, and I went to meet him there and start painting the sandwich board. After I put down my paints, the first thing I noticed was that one of Lucy's windows had been knocked out in the hour since we had dropped off the pieces of the sandwich board, and the edge of the sidewalk was broken. The landlady told us that a truck had driven over the sidewalk and into the glass, but the driver agreed to pay for the glass to be replaced. Just lovely. We assumed it would be at least a week before the window was repaired.
Frustrated by the complications of the day, I started taping my handmade stencils to the sign in preparation to paint it. In the meantime, the locksmith showed up with Nelson. I borrowed a screwdriver to open the paints. After a significant struggle, the cans were open, revealing... a surprisingly liquid paint. Nothing like the acrylic paints I am used to. I cringed but kept going. I loaded my paint brush--just enough for acrylic paint, but far too much for oil paint. Needless to say, that plan failed. We decided to call a professional painter. I went to return the two unused paints, but was refused a refund because they had been opened. In the meantime, Nelson and his friend opened the door to the new store and installed a new lock.
My hands covered with dry oil paint, the Awava team took our lunch break. After being accosted by a mentally ill homeless man who seemed to really enjoy yelling, we finished our lunch. Darlyne and Kate went to the market stall to count products, and I went to meet the painter. On my way, I stopped by the supermarket we frequent in Gulu to make a small purchase. I didn't have any small money, and I was short 200 shillings (about 10 cents). The cashier smiled and said we'd sort out the change later.
I paused. I stared at him like he'd just turned into a giant green bug and offered to give me a free hair cut.
Something nice? Good luck? What was happening?
I smiled and walked out of the store, a bit scared of what would go wrong next.
When the painter appeared at the store, he said the stencils were good, gave us a fantastic price and said the sign could be done in an hour. I paused before agreeing, still reluctant to accept good news. We carried the sign to his shop, and on the way I saw Kate, Darlyne and the tailors carrying Awava products back to the hotel. They had finished counting! Goal #1 accomplished! The painters started on the sign. Everything was going well, so I said I would return in a few minutes and went to meet Kate and Darlyne at the new store.
Cheerfully walking to the shop, I found Kate and Darlyne while they were on the way to the supermarket to buy juice for the Awava team and the tailors. They had finished moving things for the day. Goal #2 accomplished! We sat at the new store for a while with the tailors, drinking juice, seeing how well we could operate the manual sewing machines and taking photos of the new space.
The electricians showed up, installed the extra four electrical outlets, and started attempting to add lights to the space. Goal #3 (half) accomplished! Unfortunately, there wasn't a sufficient ladder to reach the ceiling. They tried putting this together:
After attempting to use sewing machines to prop up the two ladders, Kate finally stopped them. We managed to convince them that there was another way to install the lights and their lives were more valuable than saving a few feet of wire. Everyone had a little laugh over that. Disaster averted, Darlyne and I joined Rosemary on her way back to the market and stopped at the sign painting shop. After they finished, Darlyne and I picked up the sign and returned to the store. Goal #4 accomplished!
Lucy seemed to love the sign. We all felt giddy. We had actually accomplished everything we set out to do. We sat in front of the fan and thanked each other for the hard work and looked around at the beautiful new shop, feeling ecstatic. There may have been tears of joy.
We had turned this space...:
...into this space:
We completely rocked Wednesday and dragged it back from the brink of horrible. Goal #5 accomplished!
When we go back to Gulu in November, we're having a grand opening for the store. Lucy's priest is going to bless the shop, I'm going to bake a cake, and we're going to give the artisans their business skills training certificates. I can't wait to see the final outcome of all of our work and celebrate with the ladies!