Soooo, remember when we were in Iringa, Tanzania one, two – five buses and a boat ride ago? Well when we were there, we stayed at a place called Neema Crafts Guest House.  Neema is a not for profit organization that employes 106 deaf and handicap Tanzanians to make all things crafty-wonderful.  My father worked with deaf and handicap people in his second career, so remembering him, I was immediately drawn to their cause.  I took a tour of their facilities and OMG I thought I’d died and gone to creative workshop heaven.

Being a creative person, it’s been one of the most challenging parts of traveling – not being able to spread out and get creative.  All I’ve had is my journal and a few pens, so mandalas have been my main creative outlet.  How could I be a part of the Neema workshop, filled with sewing machines, looms, hand dyed fabrics and yarns, screen printing equipment and a carpentry workshop – are you kidding me, a carpentry workshop?  Oh happy day!

Where is all this going?  Let me back up a bit…  When I was in Brazil I had an inspiration – I needed a mandala bag!  I cut up one of my white linen skirts that I’d bought in a London thrift shop and proceeded to hand sew myself a bag with my travel sewing kit, then I drew my favorite mandala onto the bag.  The mandala bag was born; but the broader idea was to make them on a larger scale and sell them on Etsy.

Since I couldn’t carry my sewing machine in my big bag, I knew I couldn’t possibly start a creative project of that scale until I settled somewhere…  That is, until I ran into the Neema Craft people.  I couldn’t pass up this serendipitous moment.  J and I spent an extra week in Iringa so I could work on product development and they’ve begun making mandala bags for me.  Hurrah!  Is it the most cost effective way to produce mandala bags?  Certainly not.  But what a great cause!  Hopefully I can sell a few bags and make a little money for myself and help the Neema craft people as well.  Perfect!

One of my goals while traveling was to find another career path using my creative skills.  I knew things would begin to fall into place if I was patient.  I’ve been gone a long time now and this traveling stuff doesn’t pay for itself, you know? Hopefully the mandala bag will be just one of several artistic endeavors I’ll establish so I can carry on without returning to the world of construction.  OMG I’m going to become one of those artsy people with unreliable income.  Did you ever think you’d see the day?  Aggghhhh how scary!

So, here we go – mandala bags.  In 12 to 16 weeks, they should be available.  I’ll keep you posted on how the project is going and will share the Etsy link when they’re ready to go.  On today, my one year anniversary of leaving the U.S., I am excited to be sharing this Big News with you all.

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