The “Africa-Op” was an artist co-op enterprise that took advantage of cheap available warehouse space to sell their work at bargain prices. The building was a wood- framed structure, its roof and walls covered in corrugated metal sheeting, and filled with rows of shelves that, to my delight, contained hundreds of fabric art pieces to choose from. I was surprised that only one young staff person manned the store. I was like a kid in a candy shop as he helped me rummage through scores of shelved items, then unfolded them and lay them on the floor so that I could see their patterns. Large heavy cotton sheets, hand painted with images of giraffes, elephants and zebras, framed in bold colorful graphic patterns, were exactly what I had envisaged: local crafting, not overly commercialized, and easy to pack in my carry-on.
Because business was at a standstill that day, the young salesman was eager to accommodate me despite my indecision. And he didn’t mind that we were leaving the place in a mess with fabrics strewn over most of the floor area. James was also keen to help, offering his recommendations for what he considered to be the best picks. He also suggested that it would not be inappropriate to haggle over the price, so I did (with some success) and then we left the place, both feeling pretty satisfied with our artistic adventure.
I was lucky to have met James; I would never have found these hidden treasures without him. How could I not reward him for his enterprising efforts? Before parting, I offered him a healthy “fee.” He rewarded me with two of the most common and wonderful characteristics I have come to discover of Tanzanians; a broad-grinned smile and a hearty handshake.
In the afternoon it was Majengo site visit number three. I was happy to see the floor slab completed and the concrete block walls rising. I took a few measurements of the new washroom layout as a check, and noticed the washroom width was too small by 8 inches. Since only three courses of blocks had been laid at this point, Hemedi said it would be no problem to move the walls over.
Later in the afternoon, Teddy arrived from her nursery school to have lunch. After the usual warm greeting, she continued with her efforts to speak English and asked, in the halting English I had become accustomed to, “Babu, you would like to come to our church this Sunday?”
“That would be fine,” I said. “Thank you. What should I expect?” “There will be lots of entertainment. You will enjoy.” “Ahsante, I will be there.”