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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Together, we shop for A Little Something

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It was a landmark day. Today was our first field trip, and we didn't start with something easy. Four of the women--Khadiga, Fatuma, Madina, and Mama Moumina went to their first Bead Expo. Susan, Anna, Jaime, and Sharon went, too.

You don't normally see brightly dressed African women meandering through the bead show here, so we were pretty easy to spot. From the moment we walked in the door, we received a very warm reception. First and foremost, the staff of the Rocky Mountain Bead Society helped us set up our field trip, and they kindly found ways to make the whole endeavor more feasible. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Joan Babcock welcomed us into her micro-macrame class and patiently worked with our students throughout the lesson. Although her class was full and it would have been easier for Joan to concentrate on her more experienced students, she made this afternoon a very special experience for our group. You see, the women of A Little Something have never taken a class with Americans before--at least, not side-by-side as peers. This kind of experience is at the heart of our philosophy of empowerment. It is a powerful moment if you are a person who has been marginalized your entire life.

The rest of the day was all about shopping! Beads, beads, beads, everywhere! We had a plan of perusing the entire exhibition hall and then circling back and buying, however, it seemed we could never progress more than a few booths at a time without being sucked into the Bead Expo Vortex that has such astounding gravitational pull that before you know it, you're in a booth with a strand of beads entertaining your hand.

The women had a set amount of cash to spend on beads and supplies for the program. They were supposed to work cooperatively to make their purchasing decisions and budget their money throughout the day. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Anna ended up managing the money because the women were all deeply mesmerized by sparkling Swarovski, Czech fire polish, faceted crystal and quartz, and a bajillion tubes of sparkly, bright seed beads. In other words, their reaction to their first bead show was exactly the same as anyone else's. The word "overwhelming" was uttered more than once.

Many people who encountered us were curious about our ensemble. The women answered those questions that they could, and the rest of us were happy to tell the story of A Little Something. Before we knew it, it was 6:00 and the hall was closing up for the night. We almost had to drag the women away from the sparkly pretties, but once we got outside, everyone realized the same thing: We were ready to sit down an put our feet up!

Today was a wonderful day. As the women climbed into the van and got situated, Mama Moumina told us something in Maay Maay. Then, she pointed to every one of us in turn, gave two thumbs up and said, "All good. Good, good, good!" Fatuma and Khadiga assured us they had fun. We all agreed we were tired, though.

The story doesn't end here. Oh, no. Tomorrow we're going back with the teen girls' group. More fun to come--we'll keep you posted!

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