I'm at the House of Two Urns, a magical B&B in Chicago this week. It's just a few minutes from the Blue Line's Division stop, but it feels a world away from the busy hustle of Chicago.
I've been here three times now, twice for a writer's retreat and once to continue my dream of seeing all thirty active MLB ballparks. It's a fantastic, welcoming place run by wonderful people who happen to be active in Chicago's literary and artistic community. In the winter, Miguel and Kapra run artist's residencies, which is a clever way to supplement their business during Chicago's frozen winters while enriching the lives of working artists.
What is a residency in this context?
For instance, Two Urns' residencies are one week long because they focus on community, holding dinners, recommending events, and encouraging artists--especially their visual artists--to spend time in Chicago's thriving art scene getting inspired, making contacts, and planning projects. I wouldn't expect to come here to complete an entire body of oil paintings, which would be best done at home. Even a writer might not make much headway with a week of uninterrupted time--although I accomplished much more than I thought I could the last time I came. What I love the most about residencies is the space away from the daily treadmill that makes it hard to plan realistic future events. I often find myself planning my next residency--even applying for it--during my time! It feels like cheating on the current residency, but I'm wild about the psychic distance from my desk at home that allows me to push forward with my writing.
I'll be writing more about residencies, and holding myself accountable to my personal goals this week!
Our sale day was Monday, the day that our trip could really begin as people came in at varying times over the weekend.
What is a sale day? It's when the women in the beading program bring in their products--made to look like the model, with beads and supplies that BeadforLife provides--and BeadforLife inspects them and buys each one that is sale-worthy.
The women are generally quite nervous, since their handmade products reflect their work and, in turn, influence their livelihood, so the sale always begins with a drumming and dancing session: a fun, high-energy activity that is entrenched in Ugandan culture.
Because of crazy rush-hour traffic, the women trickle in at different times. Many of them were waiting when we arrived at the office. Others arrived while we were inspecting the jewelry. It was a small sale since they ordered the product, our YP program bracelet, in a small quantity. Although the bracelet isn't yet available, it's meant to be sold almost exclusively by YPs. It was special to be buying a product that we had designed. A larger sale involves more women and more product, and takes the entire day, but ours was finished by lunchtime.
Although at first it was unclear what the sale would involve, it became clearer as the staff members explained the quality standards for the product. The beads must be well-sealed so they don't disintegrate when confronted with the elements; the beads must be clean since the paper is vulnerable before it's sealed; the beads must be the right color and of a uniform size. The elastic has to be durable and well-fitted--we were asked to stretch it quite violently to make sure it would hold--and hidden in the beads of the bracelet, or, if that's not possible, made almost undetectable.
All of us were quite eager to take a bracelet home for ourselves, and excited to share them with you.
Uganda is banned from using Weebly, but my iPad app still works. I'll be posting mini-updates here and then writing more about my experiences once I am able. Because the blog function doesn't work in the app, I have created this page entitled 'Blog' and will be updating it manually, no posts.
I made it to Kampala with no problems and I've already met and talked with some amazing people as we wait for the rest of our crew to assemble. The hotel is a nice budget option, although the Internet is beyond flaky, meaning I'm not even sure how often I can update, but I have planned to do so a few times. Everyone has been friendly, and I'm feeling well-rested and ready for anything.