Friday, April 16, 2010

Ironing in the Village

Yes, the women do iron in the village. But how do you do that when there is no electricity? Well, this is how!

It is called an "iron box". You go into the kitchen (a mud room with a fire and rocks holding up a pot of whatever is cooking) The smoke from the fire is usually pouring out, so we poor mzungus have our eyes filled with tears everytime we get near it, but it doesn't seem to bother the ladies who are sitting in there through out the morning cooking food. You must get coals from the fire and put them into the iron box. It really works. Sometimes.

The first day we tried to use the iron box, the coals were not hot enough. It was too early in the day and the fires had not been burning long enough to get good, hot coals. Therefore, the iron was not hot enough and was basically useless. We, of course, did not understand this, having never had to use a fire for anything except enjoyment (and I don't even have a fireplace either) except for the yearly camping trips when I was a child. Of course, I was a child then and not in charge of the fire! Well, back on track here, we just thought that these were kind of ineffective and so decided to go ahead without the benefit of an iron. Never thought I could sew without an iron, but you do find other ways to press open seams - like warm fingers, sticks, and pulling the fabric over the edge of a sharp corner, like on a table.

The following day, we had had HOT coals and it was amazing how well this little iron worked. We didn't have an ironing board, of course, but we did have a table. We also used a brick to keep the iron on when not in use. Of course, for us, it was clunky and difficult to use, but the women of the village were very adept at using this iron and "went to town" with it.

I really wish I were sewing today instead of having to go to work. I'll even have to go to work tomorrow, my day off, because progress reports have to go home. Is it summer yet?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sewing in Uganda

We finally made it back, safe and sound. It is such a long travel time to Uganda - it was about 20 hours of flying and about 10 hours of driving and layovers. But, we made it there and had a great time. We started our time there with a trip into Kampala to buy fabric. Now, that is taking your life into your own hands! If you've ever seen the way they drive in Italy, just multiply that by about 10 and you'll have the craziness of Uganda. Apparently there are few driving laws, and the ones that they do have, no one adheres to. Everyone drives agressively, and they only leave about 2 inches of space between vehicles, front, back and both sides! Trying to cross the street is like going on Fear Factor, but if you enjoy market style shopping, you would love it. We had a Ugandan lady with us named Betty, and she got us the great prices. If you go by yourself to Uganda and buy anything you pay the "Mzungu" (white person) price. If you have a Ugandan buy, it is about 50% cheaper.

We bought some beautiful wax prints that we cut and used for the ladies to make skirts. Fabric for making Kitenge (a type of Ugandan dress - and the kind of fabric we used) is sold in 6 yard lengths for anywhere from 1500 to 2500 Ugandan Shillings a yard/meter. We were able to get most of our fabric for about $.75 USD per meter. Other cotton fabric with a looser weave that is mostly used for over-skirtss (like we would use an apron to keep our clothes clean) is sold in 4 yard lengths, for about the same price.

So, after we purchased our fabrics, we took them back to our room and cut them into 2 yard lengths so the ladies could choose thier fabric and cut them out to make skirts. Some of the women we worked with had done a little sewing, a couple were fairly good, and some we beginners. Most did not speak English, but a few did and helped translate for us. The official language of Uganda is English, but even when they do speak English, it is hard to understand since they have a different pronunciation and intonation of the words.

They also have a different rhythm to their speech and use different phrases. For example, instead of saying "You're welcome" they say "OK, please" I love listening to them speak in the native Lugandan and in English. We had rented 2 treadle machines to use at the church and did all of our work in one of the rooms that used to be a school room. As you can see in the pictures, the walls are made of mud and have an opening at the top. This particular building had a metal roof, but part of it was thatch. It also leaked. It rained many of the days we were there, but the rain starts and stops suddenly, and dries up quickly.

The women loved the skirts, and most of them made 2 different skirts. On the last day, several of the women made tote bags. We usually started working with the women around 10:00 in the morning and sewed until around 2:00. At that time, we took a break and ate lunch. Other women had been cooking all morning in the room next to us, usually beans, rice, pineapple, and some kind of meat, but since I am a vegetarian, I did not eat the meat except for one day when they served fish. The women cook over a fire in large pots and the cooking, cleaning, and serving ends up being an all-day affair for them.

In the afternoons, we did a bible study with the women for about an hour and a half to two hours. We had about 20-30 women come on any given day. We talked with them about Christian living and worked in the book of Ephesians. Some of the women had Lugandan bibles, some had English bibles, but most could not read. We encouraged them to get together with some of the other women to encourage each other, read God's word, pray, and lift each other up. The women really loved this time and each day we had more than the day before. It was really a blessing to be there and be part of these women's lives. These ladies were the nicest people with the sweetest spirits. I felt like crying when we left because I know how much I will miss them.

I will have more to share later, but in the mean time, you can see more pictures here. Sewing in Uganda Album