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Monday, July 24, 2006

Rowan Mahler, Fashionista

One if the first things you notice when you come to Dar es Salaam (ok maybe not one of the first things) is that there are clothes hanging all about. As with most of the dryer-less world, there are clothes hanging on clothes lines - drying in the sun after having been washed. But most of the clothes you spot in the city are hanging from trees - part of an extensive system of informal used clothing "stores" at the side of the road. They hang pants on round hangers so you can see how nice and butt-beautiful you'll look in them. (Yes... only in Africa.) They hang shoes cascading one below the next - sometimes 20 in a cascade. There are fabulous looking sexy outfits, frilly and shiny little girl dresses (made in China), and full length body-hiding black abyas (you know, the kind you see Saudi women wearing), and lots more - all hanging in those there trees. I think it is kind of quaint and colorful to have so many clothes in the trees. Many of my smaller American colleagues have bought tree clothes - and after a good washing - all have been happy with their purchases. And if I saw something I thought could fit me I would buy it, too. Not because I liked what was hanging there - but because it is part of the African experience.

Yet, despite the fact that there are clothes in the trees everywhere we go, Rowan only just noticed them - today. We were driving to a new school (yes the camp across the street is over) and at some point Rowan looked up and said, "Mommy. Shirt. Pants. Shoes!" And the only thing I could think was...

Oy vey!

You see, Rowan has been indulging in an ever increasing obsession with clothes. I suppose perhaps it is age appropriate for a girl. But for the past month or so, she jumps out of bed every morning and instead of asking for milk, begs for me to open her closet doors so she can start picking out clothes.

And as you'd expect of a two-year-old, sometimes she is right on, and sometimes she is so very very off. The biggest issue we have is that she would prefer to wear pajamas - all day long. Even better if the pajamas are adorned with a flowers pattern. And oftentimes she wants to wear long sleeves in the 100% humidity.

Rowan's biggest rule, however, is the pinker the better. And let me tell you, pink has never been part of my vocabulary. I'm a black girl myself.

But frequent costume changes are now the order of the day. She usually changes at least twice before school, once when she gets back, after her nap, before her bath, and then there are often two post-bath outfits before an appropriate set of pajamas drape her little body. At least it means the housekeeper has laundry to do every day - and that keeps her happy. (My housekeeper seems obsessed with the washing machine - but that is a blog for another day.)

But no matter what Rowan is wearing, after she's managed to dress herself, she always lets me know...

I so pretty

And so she is.

But, you can imagine that it is with much trepidation that we move forward into the era of noticing tree clothes. See, I bought out all the 2-T clothes I could find at Children's Place, the Gap, Old Navy, and Overstock.com before we got on the plane to Tanzania - thinking that we wouldn't be able to find acceptable clothes here - not. I bought so much stuff that when the housekeeper unpacked Rowan's suitcase when we moved into our house, her eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger until she looked like she would faint under the burden of my American consumerist ways.

But the thing is we didn't really need to bring clothes at all, because all of the clothes donated by American families to Goodwill or their local church - by you - will be hanging in the trees of Tanzania by next year. So don't be surprised if you see a photo of Rowan in your darling daughter's favorite Hanna Anderson ensemble. In Africa, Hanna Anderson grows on trees.


Blogger Mom101 said...

Hanna Anderson growns on trees - ha, great line! It reminds me of the illustrations in "Caps For Sale," when the monkey throws all the hats up into the trees.

Don't forget...we too wore pajamas to school. although we passed it off as punk, and we were a little older than Rowan.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Mothering Mini said...

Margot has started carrying a purse around - I think it's hysterical. This must be pre-wired behavior. I never suggested she carry a purse! Next thing you know she's going to ask for knock-offs from Canal Street (well, hopefully she asks for knock-offs, because there's no way she's getting the real deal!).

10:00 PM  
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3:44 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

just be glad there is no bloomingdales in tanzania! not to gender role stereotype, but boy am I glad I have boys- i just have to worry about fast cars.

6:45 AM  
Blogger debbie Segor said...

Chloe's only two and is already picking out her clothes as well. She refuses to wear dresses and now seems to not like skorts.


12:25 AM  
Blogger Food Mum said...

I remember the pyjamas to school punk days too. My daughters are also into pink pyjamas and frequent forays into the wardrobe, leaving my son hopping with impatience as yet another outfit is considered 1 minute before we need to leave for school. Definitely in the genes - pink ones.

10:52 PM  

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