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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Two stories of old acquaintances and new bags

Last weekend I had the pleasure to acquire two very lovely articles through an interesting series of events, quite worth recording here.

The first is this beautiful purse that I’m SO happy to have! It’s a product of Mushmina, a brand that I’ve been long acquainted with and in admiration of here, but whose fair-trade prices have always been a bit steep for me. I went to a private sale of theirs on Saturday at a private home here in Casablanca, and got my new purse at 25% off, which put it within the realm of money I was willing to spend on a bag. Othman drove me and though we stayed for a very short amount of time it was nice to re-connect with a few people there and pick through the items on sale to decide on which would be my new bag. Mushmina was represented at the last Pages event, at which I looked at the stock displayed with such envy and dismay at not being able to buy anything, and chatted with the sales representative present about the company. I made the decision there that the first chance I got I would certainly buy a bag from them, and never thought it would be so soon!

It was a great purchase because not only had I been in need of a new purse, but I’ve been wanting a Mushmina bag for ages, since long before the Pages event, which just renewed my desire! The company is owned and operated by two American sisters, one of whom lives here and who I’ve had the pleasure to meet a handful of times (and see again at the sale!), and the other based in Pennsylvania. The fabrics are designed by the Mushmina team, manufactured in a factory close to Casablanca, and the raw materials (including leather from Marrakech) are then transported to a small village in the mountains of Morocco to be hand constructed into beautiful bags, scarves, jewelry, pillows, wallets and more. The women who assemble the products are paid per piece at a fair wage and are able to support themselves and their families much better for it, and the quality is so high that I have no fear that my slightly rough, everyday handling of my new bag will cause any serious issues. 

Check out Mushmina's website here, Facebook page here, and if you live in or around Philly consider stopping in at their American boutique located there! Also, if you have time to kill, enjoy the photos of their spring/summer 2014 collection here (modeled by a friend of mine) and see if you can spot my bag!

The second happy item I now own is this cute little Moroccan clutchone of those items you never think to buy for yourself, but upon receiving you realize how extremely useful they are. 

I was given it by an old acquaintance—Helene, who was actually a French teacher of mine during my first month studying abroad in Angers, France, in 2009! She was a fun and young Expression Orale teacher who we all really enjoyed learning from. She has been living in Morocco almost as long as I have, but at first she was a few hours south in a small town called Safi, and then moved an hour north to Rabat, so we’ve been remiss and haven’t seen each other at all, even though we did talk about it a while back! She contacted me a few weeks ago with a delightful request for help—she is applying to a program to teach French in the States and wanted some help to prepare for her interview which would be in English. I was more than happy for this reason to get together, catch up, swap teaching experiences (she’s been at the French equivalent of British Council—L’Institute Fran├žais—this whole time), and have a Sunday afternoon out of the norm!

We met at a Starbucks, which was not only conveniently located between the train station and our apartment, but which just I love for its non-Moroccan vibe. I’m no fan of Starbucks in the States, but I love going there here, because it transports me to Europe or the US with its free wifi, Brazilian music in the background, plethora of lone laptop users (a decidedly infrequent sight here) and English conversations! The day was overcast and chilly at that, and we both commented more than once how from our table it was hard to believe we were still in Morocco. It's a nice little break from the foreign sensory overload that is constant here.

Towards the end of our time together she presented me with this little big as a petite remerciment for helping her out. It was completely unnecessary on her part because just the pleasure of comparing our respective lives in this country on a Sunday afternoon out of the house was compensation enough, but I was happy to accept it, especially because my new purse deserved a new cute bag to go in it. The old pink baga hand-me-down from a little sisterwhich housed my epipen, inhaler and the like has now been retired to different usages and my medications are now much more stylish!

I've realized that when I am attuned to the opportunities for connection that present themselves in my life I end up benefiting to a great degree. While it's easier to just focus on work and and much-needed rest during my non-working hours, getting out of the house to connect with people brings great rewards, as these two lovely bags are small examples of!

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