‘Hodi!’ we call, waiting to enter the small schoolroom office of Good Hope.
‘Karibu!’ someone calls back, and we enter.
We’re meeting with Mama Oliver and Mama Asia, who work here at Good Hope, supporting and educating children and women affected by HIV/AIDS. East Africa has relatively high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, although there’s decent education here in Tanzania—enough for our driver one night to note that he suggest always wearing a condom when sleeping with a prostitute.
After exchanging the requisite dozen or so greetings, I introduce myself. ‘Jina langu ni Meaghan.’
‘Mai—’ Mama Oliver starts.
‘Jina langu ni Lulu,’ I concede.
‘Lulu!’ they laugh together. Lulu it is, like Meaghan, Margarita, פנינה, my birthstone: pearl. Luckily for me it’s a common female name in many cultures. As well it should be, its luminescent beauty belying its origins forged against constant abrasion.
We sit back, talking casually. Mama Oliver and Mama Asia tell us about Good Hope. We ask about the lights they’ve bought, their customers.
In Swahili, they explain how they plan to open a shop to generate income to support Good Hope’s activities. They don’t want to be a charity only. They want to support themselves.
My heart warms.
They want to buy many lights from us. Their customers like them, and they can see the profit potential.
‘Jua ni bure!’ Mama Oliver exclaims.
The sun is free.
Every day, she gets free inventory from the sun, which she uses to charge solar lights that she can then sell to her customers. When the lights’ batteries are empty, the customers return to swap them for full ones. Mama Oliver just keeps making money.
She understands the value proposition. She’s excited about what she can do with our lights, with the money that she’ll make from them.
The conversation continues affably. Music comes up, and Mama Oliver starts to hum. Adam takes out his phone, searches for a song, and places his phone down on the table as it plays.
They both dance a bit, and then Adam begins to sing. The situation is so ridiculous that I throw my head back and laugh loudly, unabashedly. Soon we’re all laughing and dancing in our seats.
I needed this.
I hope that all of our customers will be this pleased.