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Bad money karma: The falling dollar & its effect on a former South African bantustan village -- and me!

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Message Jane Stillwater
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(To see photos of Motswedi's high school, some school children I taught there, the women's stationery samples and the box they rode in on, go to my blog)


Last summer I spent two months living in Motswedi, a small village in a former South African bantustan. I loved Motswedi! The people I met there were what my Aunt Evelyn used to call, "the best people on earth". And, really, it wasn't out in the middle of nowhere -- even though the nearest internet connection was in Zeerust, 20 miles away. They had electricity. They had standpipes within walking distance of every home. They had a high school. And they had friendly people who would do anything for you.

I miss Motswedi!

And two weeks ago, I got a HUGE package in the mail. It was from Motswedi. "We have a women's paper-making cooperative here," wrote my friend Letta. "I'm sending you some samples. Could you try to sell them for us?" Sure.

"My daughter Ashley works down the street from a stationery store," I wrote Letta back. "Let me go see if they will market them for you." That would be great! The samples she sent were wonderful. They'd sell like hotcakes. I'd be helping out "my" village. I'd be doing good deeds, they'd have income, this was perfect!

But I hadn't counted on George W. Bush throwing a monkey wrench into my plans. Good grief! Is there nothing that this man can't keep from ruining? What's his PROBLEM! First he ruined Christianity's reputation for generations to come. Then he screwed up the peace dividend. Now he's gone and ruined the economy. Humph.

America used to be a land of overflowing wealth. There was extra money to spend on almost anything. You could always get your neighbor to buy extra boxes of Girl Scout cookies or buy tickets to a raffle or whatever. Nowadays you can't count on hitting anyone up for ANYTHING. This economy has no extra cash.

But how can I explain this to my friend Letta and the women's crafts cooperative? That America is no longer the place with Deep Pockets? How can I tell them that when I trundled off to the stationery store yesterday with my box of samples under my arm, the stationery store was CLOSED. Closed. It had gone out of business. Oops.

What to do now? I have three choices. I can sell the samples myself out in front of the grocery store (along with a basket of apples and a sign that reads "Will work for food"). Or I can buy the samples myself, using the money I get after I sell off that silver urn my mother left me -- silver is now selling at $18.50 an ounce (up $6.50 an ounce from the last time I checked on silver prices a few months ago). Or I can sell the stationery to YOU.

If you want to buy some wonderful stationery made by the wonderful women of a former South African bantustan village out of wonderful paper they have hand-made themselves, contact me! That is, if GWB hasn't already completely depleted your bank account and foreclosed on your home....

PS: A set of three cards with envelopes costs 70 rand, er, nine dollars -- including postage (that is, if you don't live at the South Pole). And the memory books run from nine dollars up to $15, depending on the size. I can be reached at And type the word "Stationery" in the subject line so that I will know it's from you.

And if you want to buy items directly from the women of Motswedi themselves, contact Letta Sehume at the Khadija Community Arts and Crafts Project, PO Box 24, Motswedi, 2870, Northwest, South Africa. Tel: 018 365 1138, Fax: 018 365 1138, e-mail: (but don't expect an answer any time soon -- Letta's gotta go off to Zeerust to access her e-mail.)
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Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring (more...)
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