Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cultural Survival at Tiverton, RI

The sun was shining, the temperature was mid-70's and the crowds were out and shopping.

Before we were set up, a couple came to the booth. A big burly man and his wife were excitedly asking questions about the ostrich eggshell jewelry. "We didn't get a form yet, they told me. Will you put this necklace aside? We'll be right back." The bazaar hadn't officially opened and so a volunteer wasn't yet set up to hand out purchase forms. They had to hunt one down.

Now, we all know, the first rule of sales is not to let your customer out of your sight. I should have gotten them a form, but I had more to put out and it's the type of event that draws people who are supportive, so I put the necklace aside and let them go.

A flood of women came by. Chatting, pointing, touching everything they could reach. A flurry of buying and I knew it was going to be a good day. One woman, there's always at least one, befriended us right off the bat. Peter says I draw it out of people. I don't know about that. But she was very friendly and spent a great deal of time in our booth. At some point, someone else needed our attention and after waiting on those customers, she was still there. "I'm waiting to see if that woman is really buying that necklace." she confided in me. "I will buy these things but if she puts that necklace back, I want it." I had to smile. "Another woman took a necklace right out of my hand and bought it!" she told me indignantly. I apologized. "Oh no. It's not your fault. I just didn't move fast enough." Gotta love that!

The "other" woman did decide on another necklace and my new-found friend snatched it up. "Write me up before she changes her mind!" she and I conspired. One day, she'll email us about going to Botswana. I just know it.

The rest of the day brought interesting conversation, some die-hard and new fans of marula oil. I brought black soap products and a couple bought several bars of soap saying they didn't know you could get it in the USA!

Toward the afternoon, a young woman came by the booth. At first, I noticed her lingering just beyond and when her companion (her father?) caught up with her, she whispered to him, "I think it's her." She approached me with such eagerness I met her halfway. "We met at your house in Ghanzi." she began. I tried to place her - was she a Peace Corps volunteer, a wayward tourist, a friend of a friend... As she continued to describe our meeting, she finally saw recognition in my eyes and told me her name. "Of course." I said and it was like we were long-lost friends. In reality, we had only met once for less than an hour. She had come with our friend because their car was broken down and we never heard from or had seen her again - until yesterday...

Several people had come by surprised we were from Cold Spring - we were nearly 5 hours from "home". One woman goes to church with my mom and aunt. Another is working in Garrison at an acquaintance's home. Such a small world, made smaller by a common interest - fair trade.

We don't make a tremendous amount of money at these Cultural Survival Bazaars, but we have made some good good friends, some supportive customers, and some great connections. And the beauty of the work, the surroundings, and the many people who make the event a "success" is a great enough reason to keep going. . . going to the events but also keep going with the sales and awareness of fair trade products.

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