Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hakuna Matata na Fairtrade!

On my previous visits to Europe, in 2006, 2007 and more recently 2010, i started and ended my trips in Frankfurt am Main. The endings, usually 2 to 3 days before my return flights to Nairobi, were at the house of a friend, Stefan, who runs a Fairtrade shop on Bergerstrasse in the Bornheim region of Frankfurt city.So naturally i found myself spending an hour or so at the shop on each occassion, and was quite delighted to discover soap stone carvings from Tabaka, near Kisii town in Western Kenya. I had been on a field study class project on environmental management plans for the soap stone mining region before, and knew exactly what it took to get the final product ready.

Ursula and Stefan infront of the Fairtrade shop in Bornheim
Well, this year i found myself making a presentation on Fairtrade, at the parking lot of the Forest School Barbarka where i live and work, on World Fairtrade Day, celebrated across the world every 14th of May. This year's theme was 'Trade for all-Fairtrade your world'.I prepared a basic presentation in English; basic means i put in more pictures than words and avoided creating an 'academic sounding presentation' in favour of a more general, easy flowing and colourful presentation.

Winding up the presentation
For the simple reason that i am still learning to communicate in Polish, and was relying on a translator to explain things.I have learnt that this modus operandi takes twice as much time, than if i were to do the presentation in one language.
The weather was abit 'iffy' with clouds hovering over the skies for most of the afternoon, and that probably put a dent in the attendance.The concept of Fairtrade in Poland is also not as strong as in other countries such as Germany, for example, and you will be lucky to find a Fairtrade shop or products in most cities.Nevertheless, we got quorum a little after 15.15hrs and i went through the slides, explaining what Fairtrade is and its contribution, socially, economically and environmentally to producers and their communities, as well as showcasing products from Kenya, from vegetables to flowers to soap stone to tea.The translation bit was a welcome relief as it allowed me to catch my breath and reorganize my thoughts.My colleague, Michał has proven himself, time and again since my very first day here, to be an excellent translator.More helpfully, he had the sense to come to my room and for a brief discussion over a cup of Tanzanian Fairtrade coffee, on the content of the presentation before we started.

The Fairtrade coffee and tea table

Now a few days earlier, the Director of the Forest School, Monika, had suggested that i cook something Kenyan for the audience to sample as part of the day's event. Those of you who have known me longer, can attest to the fact that calling me a lousy cook would be an  insult to members of the 'lousy cooking fraternity'.It was no mean feat trying to wriggle myself out of the idea. Eventually i succeeded in convincing (perhaps even confusing!) all concerned that the real typical Kenyan dish was ugali, and getting the ingredients for that would mean flying me to Nairobi and back.And of course being an ecological organization, we are mindful of our carbon foot print and the idea was eventually tossed out the window. However, the director is a shrewd operator. If i couldn't cook, then i had to sing. Fair enough, i thought to myself. But the offer became more tantalizing, when on Friday morning, Lukasz, a colleague who works on the line park or 'parki linowy' as we say in Polish, very calmly broke the news that he plays African drums, and has singers who sing African music.
Lukasz, (in the long-sleeved 'African' shirt) and his team

He offered to back me up with the drums and the background singers. It was an offer i couldn't refuse!
After the presentation, Lukasz and his team performed two songs from Mali and Senegal. Soon it was time to sing 'Hakuna matata', a song in Kiswahili which means 'No problem'.
On stage with Lukasz's team
The backup was simply superb and the result was evident from the thunderous applause of those in attendance.And in the spirit of East African-Polish co-operation, there was free Fairtrade Tanzanian coffee for all.Hakuna matata na Fairtrade!!

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