Ugly Bookends

By April 20th, 2014

Family & Friends,

In 2012 our student Multnomah Kigali Kompletion team came to train Africans in setting up the library.  The wooden book shelves were beautiful, but we had no bookends.  Since very few Africans own books, they had no idea what a bookend was.  We priced some cheap metal bookends on the internet.  It would cost about $2,000.  That night the team started to brainstorm on an affordable way to create bookends.  We even created a prototype.  Someone had some zip-lock bags.  We filled one with dirt and stones and found that it took about one pound for a bag to perform as a bookend for large books.  Then we wrapped some beautiful African cloth around the baggie.  Voila!  For approximately nothing we could produce beautiful bookends.  We envisioned each row of books with a different color of bags giving the library a very festive Rwandan look.   We took them the next day to show to the dozen Rwandan students who were setting up the library.  We proudly displayed our prototype.  Their faces dropped.  They hemmed and hawed in a very African fashion.  We knew something was wrong, but could not guess what.  The tipping point in the demonstration came when they tried to encourage us.  They said, “We could use these, until we can get real bookends.”   Then they asked, “What do you use in America?”  I said, “We use these ugly metal things.”  They smiled and said, “That’s what we want.”  Since then plastic bags have been made illegal in Rwanda anyway.  So we are ordering some very ugly metal things to keep our books on the up and up.

G

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

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