Wednesday, August 26, 2009

{Summer Lovin}

Dear Internet, for the last couple of months you have had the pleasure of hearing from our Sseko Summer Intern. I was so excited to have Kelley on board for the very beginning. But dear golly, has she exceeded any expectations I had for our first in-country intern. Interns to come, (more on that later) I am just going to be honest, you have some pretty big Ssekos to fill.

I was 100% transparent with Kell from the get go. I shot straight with her and told her that when I said I was looking for a "self-starter" that wasn't just the phrase my finger landed on when I flipped through the "Phrases to Use In a Job Description Handbook."

I told her that her time in Uganda would likely reflect what my time looked like. And that time was filled with trial and error, often frustration. It was an experience I would never change, but also not one that I would throw just anybody's way. I knew it would require someone willing to take risks and to get knocked down.

It turns out, when you are a young woman starting a small business in a foreign developing economy, with a primary workforce of young Ugandan women who you hope will leave your company 9 months after they started to pursue university...well, no one is telling you what to do or how to do it. You learn the hard way, and there is almost a guarantee that you will spend some amount of time wandering alone through some muddy market, thankful for the pouring down rain that disguises your tears.

I told her that her responsibilities would cover a lot and be erratic at times. From fabric buying to quality control, Kelley would be my go-to for issues across the board.

But the most important thing to me, was to send someone who I was confident would love well. Would love the Sseko girls and the ones they loved. Someone who would allow herself to be loved. To grow and to be changed. And I am so blessed and excited to report, that she did just that.

So. Without further adieu, here is the last update from our BEST EVER SSEKO SUMMER INTERN. Enjoy.

It was a night that had the makings of disaster written all over it… Beginning with the Boda Boda ride from hell (everything I mean everything went wrong-no gas, got lost, knicked by a matatu, hit every pothole… the list goes on) It almost made me turn around and not go see the girls. To top it off, I fell asleep to the sound of heavens know what creature gnawing through the wall. I asked Mercy what it was and she just replied,

“Don’t worry. You have a mosquito net. It won’t be able to get to you”

“Mercy, that thing is chewing through plaster. Do you really think a mosquito net is going to do anything?”

“We’ll find out tonight, won’t we?”

This night, this quirky little night, was hands down the best night I’ve had in Uganda.

We had a sandal deadline to meet so we were burning the midnight oil (literally… the room we worked in had no electricity and all we had was a lantern and oil). I knew it was going to be a late night so I came well prepared with the most essential items:

Eclairs.Caramel.Toffe.Mountain Dew.

Every package of candy I pulled out of my bag provoked a louder shout of joy from the girls. We all had a fantastic sugar buzz and were working hard (only breaking for an Éclair or two or twenty) when Rebecca took a swig of her soda and declared; “Now we are doing the Dew.” (That quickly became the catch phrase of the night. We were doing the Dew for sure.)

I think it might have been a mixture of the sugar, caffeine, and fumes from the glue, but I had just come from aerobics and we needed a break … so… I led some aerobics on the front lawn… at midnight. It eventually turned into an impromptu dance party (Mary is a pretty darn good dancer), which evolved into karaoke performances from the front porch (the light worked perfect as a spotlight).

Dancing under the stars in the middle of the night, I was so overwhelmed by how much I have grown to love these girls. They have completely won my heart. I stopped and just watched them smile and laugh and was filled with such joy. It reminded me so much of our first night together and I realized just how far we had come.

I know these girls.

Mary has these bouts of sassiness and antagonizes Rebecca to no end, Mercy loves one on one conversation and is always learning incredible things, Rebecca is so reserved, but her facial expressions tell all.

I know these girls.

Mary is going to be an incredible mom. She is fantastic with children. Mercy has a hunger for knowledge and is wise beyond her years. Rebecca is so intelligent yet possesses so much humility that you might never know.

I never thought we would get there and we did. I don’t know when it happened, but I fell hopelessly in love with these girls. They became friends that I cherish. I’ve laughed, cried, cooked, danced, cleaned, worked…lived with these girls. I know their hearts and they know mine.

Those sweet moments of dancing and laughter were such a manifestation of the journey we had made this summer. It was the realization that these girls are forever tied to my heart.

That creature could have gnawed through my mosquito net barricade… and I’d still say it was hands down the best night.

Friday, August 14, 2009

{but mom said it isn't polite to flash}

In the latest Update from our intern in Uganda, Kelley sheds a little light on some hilarious tid bits of life with the Sseko ladies. gosh. I love these women.


I’ve been initiated into the late night flash club. This is a big deal. You have no idea. But, it’s probably not what you’re thinking… In Uganda, a flash is basically the ding-dong ditch of the phone with positive connotations. It’s a compliment to have people dial your number; let it ring twice, then hang up. The later you receive a flash, the better (in my opinion). Let me give you a little history of my experience with the flash.

I discovered it the first night I spent the night at the girl’s school. We said our goodnights, tucked in our mosquito nets and snuggled underneath our blankets. I was starry eyed and all smiles as I drifted off to sleep. About an hour into my jet-lagged sleep, I was abruptly awakened by one of the girl’s phones. I didn’t think much of it and started to fall back asleep… until five minutes later…another ring…and then another ring…. all….night…long The strangeness of it all climaxed when the rings were going simultaneously with the rooster at 4 A.M. I couldn’t help but start laughing. I put my hands on my head, took a deep breath and tried to bury my head in the pillow and just block out Africa for a few hours.

The next morning I did some detective work and slyly went through the call history on their phones. Each of the girls had received a minimum of fifteen phone calls that night! I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation for why they were receiving phone calls from such a wide range of people- from Grandpa Pap to Cousin Suzie to Friend Brenda, so I brought it up casually during tea and g-nuts…

“So… last night…. Did something big happen?”

“No, not really, why?”

“Well, it seemed like your phones were ringing all night. Is everything okay?”

“Oh, sure. Those are just our friends calling to say hi.”

“Oh, of course. I see.” (I tried to act like this was perfectly normal and that of course my friends in the States call me in the middle of the night to say hello and catch up or better yet just let it ring and then hang up! They smiled and nodded and we continued sipping on our tea.)

“So…is there a particular reason your friends and family members like to call you so late at night?”

“Well, it’s because of the 99% discount. Between the hours of 2 and 6, all phone calls are 99% off so it’s about ½ a shilling to talk for like an hour. So, this is when everyone catches up on life news. It means someone is thinking of you!”

I had no response to this. I just started laughing at the absurdity of this discount policy.Those people at the cell phone company have no idea what they are doing to Ugandan’s sleeping patterns!! I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a heart to heart in the middle of the night? I realized I would have no friends and my family would hate me if I had been raised in Uganda. I’m not too pleasant when my sleep is interrupted.

I don’t know what happened, but I eventually became jealous of the late night flash. I wanted someone to flash me! The girls refused for such a long time because they didn’t want to wake me up in the middle of the night. I got flashed all day long, but never at night. I let the subject drop for a few weeks and had really forgotten all about the flash until one night… you guessed it… my phone rang at 2 A.M.!!!!!!! Mercy was flashing me. I let out a squeal of delight. I'm in! I was ecstatic to stay the least. I never knew so much joy could come from being woken up by a phone call only to have the person on the other end hang up. Welcome to the late night flash club. It’s just as good as I thought. I think I might just bring the tradition back to the States… better put your phones on silent :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

{another great excuse to visit Portland}

It has been on my list of places to go. Now even more people to see!

I had the pleasure of meeting KJ of Global Sistergoods last week. Here are a couple of things that are neat-o about this company:

1.) Started by sisters. That's just fun. (Alex, if you are reading this, take note. I WILL hunt you down upon college graduate to work with me.)

2.) Great vision. Global Sistergoods looks for and sells beautiful handmade work from women all over the globe.

3.) They are based in Portland. Which to a Midwesterner like me, means automatic neat-0 points. Sigh.

4.) She likes beer and coffee. And if I go to Portland I will join her for a little of both.

Please take a second to check out their website. There is just a lot of great stuff from home decor to clothing to gifts.

It was so refreshing and encouraging to chat with KJ about her adventures in Not-Just-For-Profit business. Great to know that it CAN be done. But also to be forewarned that two years down the road I will still probably be in hyper-learning-oh-my-gosh-what-am-i-doing?? mode.

Please check out their website. And their blog that features a recent interview with Sseko!

If you think they are as nifty as I do, let them know!

Monday, August 10, 2009

{first ever Sseko giveaway!}

hello to all you cool cats out there.

i am excited to announce that the Budget Savvy Bride is doing an awesome Sseko giveaway on their website!!

Pick out your favorite Sseko style and go to to comment on the blog to enter. You can also Tweet about it and post about it on your own blog for additional entries. There is no limit to how many times you can enter!

The winner will get a pair of Ssekos with a pattern and solid pair of straps of their choice!

Let the games begin!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

{the 80's are back}

The latest update from our RockStar summer intern:

I’ve had “Girls just want to have fun” stuck in my head for the last week or so. Belting it out in the shower, rocking out to it on my Ipod, hoping there’s a techno version that will play during aerobics class. It’s been all over my psyche. I don’t know why. I’ve got a hunch that it might possibly be kind of connected to the girls. I blame them. They could probably teach Cyndi Lauper a thing or two because; well, these girls know how to have fun. They are simply always laughing. I thought I laughed a lot. I met my match-they outsmile, outlaugh, completely outdo me. It’s quite tiresome to try to compete.

We got to spend a day on the town (Kampala that is) on a massive fabric shopping spree. When I told them about our outing they were ecstatic to say the least. Shrieks of joy and giggles followed by a scurry for cute outfits so they could look their best on our shopping adventure. I asked the girls if they could handle Kampala, and Rebecca responded, “I know we can handle Kampala… the question is can Kampala can handle us?” (side note: I really really really love these girls. Especially during moments like this.)

We went into town in style, walking down a dirt road and running for cover from the dust whenever a truck would pass by, boarding matatus (think old school mini van with 15 Ugandans crammed inside), hopping on boda bodas (think jumping on the back of a Ugandan’s motorcycle for 50 cents and weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds to reach your destination). There wasn’t a dull moment to say the least. We had a great time in Kampala. The girls loved being away from Matugga and just being in the city for the day. Every chance they got they told me how much fun they were having (as if the all smiles weren’t testimony enough). I think my favorite moment of the day was on the matatu ride home. We were all trying to eat ice cream and the matatu was bouncing around like crazy, hitting every pot hole so that none of us could get our spoons in our mouths. We had failed attempt after failed attempt of getting that ice cream in our mouths. We all just started laughing, harder and harder with every bump we hit. Most of the ice cream melted before we could eat it.

We arrived home with absolute perfect timing. Literally, the second we stepped foot inside their room, it started pouring down rain. It was a deafening roar of rain on the tin roof so we all just huddled together in the room, smiling and just being together. Dancing with no music. Singing with no radio. Laughing about…. nothing. Having fun with… nothing. Take that Cindy Lauper. We wrote the book on having fun.