I was recently asked by my friend Sarah Branigan to answer some questions about new beginnings for her blog. The questions weren’t particularly hard – I was not expected to discuss my greater opinions on the universe or life but her questions sparked a lot of internal reflection on my year’s goals as well as several long conversations with friends.
One key question really threw me for the loop: “what are some of the things you are hoping to begin this year?” I found myself overwhelmed and somewhat disappointed in myself when I realized that many of my goals for 2011 were more about re-starting or re-focusing instead of starting from scratch and conquering new ambitions. Finally I responded to Sarah’s questions several weeks later than planned, humbled but with a greater understanding of what I plan to start this year. You can check out my answers and her blog here.
While my new goal of being more adventurous was still fresh on my mind, I found myself being critical of certain peoples’ seemingly total disinterest in leaving their comfort zones. I, all high and mighty, passed judgment on that their distant, safe, routine-filled lives… until I came to a shocking realization, that I myself might be living in a foreign land but I am just as inclined to fall into routine, socialize with the same group of people, and find comfort in the privacy of my cabana. In fact, I tend to be a reclusive home buddy, preferring to stay home to read and paint instead of partying and making lots of new friends. Just because I am living abroad does not necessarily mean that I am any more active in challenging the boundaries of my comfort zone.
With appreciation for the perspective, inspiration and self-evaluation that her inquiries sparked I offer full apologies to anyone (cough, cough … you know who you are) that I may have said some harsh things to.
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I enjoy my placement in the SEED project quite a lot. I work with several people, mainly a woman named Sonia and 2 extensionists that relay between the office and training in the field. There is much to be done in developing the arts and crafts sector, which is both great to be involved in deciding which direction the project will go, but it’s often very overwhelming. Where to begin? What’s already been started? Who do I need to talk to to get things moving? Is this even productive? What is the true capacity of the weavers and our training sessions?
The list goes on and on…
I get to work on all aspects of the development, from the business to the creative side. The pricing scale and business plan are not quite as fun as developing marketing products, such as appropriate sales tags that tell a bit about the Xindzala weavers and the baskets. I have yet to come up with a really sustainable way of developing marketing material that would be technically possible for others to continue once I am gone but also projects the image of the baskets as high-end artisan goods.
Because the baskets are made in the limited free time of rural female weavers and the quantity of products developed is not yet very high, and the price reflects that. They are rather expensive, perhaps not to most tourists, but definitely to locals. I have been responsible for setting up displays in the lobbies of several local hotels, as tourist season is about to peak for Christmas. The sales have been really encouraging, but now we don’t have enough stock to maintain the displays. The biggest challenge right now is getting the production quality and quantity up to par with the demand.
How do you simultaneously get poor people to spend their time producing something if there is no immediate fiscal reward? But then, if there is a market, how then do you get a retailer to sell your goods if you can’t guarantee your production?
Ooooh what a learning process this is.
I keep thinking about the mantra: Under-promise & Over-deliver. Begrudgingly I feel that I am struggling on the latter part.