The rain has been in and out all day, a very welcome shower in this land with a piercing sun. Inside, cold air fills the office and design studio to protect extensive technology from the blazing heat and salty tropical air. Matt and Devin are working on all sorts of administrative tasks on their computers, strategically navigating the multifaceted world of ecommerce. Through the window in the design studio, Rodel has a handful of new projects open in Photoshop, and Chito is managing all the finances. Ben is translating digital design templates to the paper cutter, which hums along as Konlulu meticulously produces soon-to-be wallets.
Earlier, John and Sam helped Daniel and Milton unload the truck full of banana trees that Milton brought today. They filled their work with chatter, smiles, and sweat. I can here the zing and churn of the fiber extractor, letting me know that Daniel and Milton are processing the banana tree trunks. They’ll contribute to the tunnel of drying banana fiber and pass off the dried fibers to Clifton in the heart of the factory. From Clifton’s corner, he can see the neatly hung fibers, the racks of drying paper, and the finished product workers folding and sewing the banana paper into wallets. Focused on mixing the pulp, Clifton dunks his hand in the big vat, feeling for a semi-fluid texture. Satisfied with the consistency, he wheels a rugged blue bucket of the rich golden pulp to a rectangular tub.
Rodney methodically pours pitcher after pitcher of pulp into the rectangular tub. Then, with outstretched arms, he reaches to the opposite side of the tub, perpendicularly lowers the screen, and gently brings it upwards and pulls it closer to his body. He lifts it up, even and level, and the water swiftly drips out through the screen. Several aisles of these pulp-filled screens dry on racks in the open-air factory. Milton closely monitors the drying process, checking for various properties of the paper. He also maintains the paper room, which has its own distinct smell of tropical air and freshly dried banana in a cool, dark space. The room is full of stacks of banana paper of various ages, sizes, and blends with pineapple, taro, and recycled paper from the local high school.
Meanwhile, Mia pauses her inventory project to greet visitors. They inquire about Green Banana Paper and she smiles and chats with them, proudly pointing out several things around the factory. She calls Milton over to lead the visitors through a complimentary factory tour. There’s still more happening at this eco-factory. Sewing machines spur and music plays as Merlyn, Kenye, Ancili, SueAnnie, Mirah, Nolina, Shrue, and Stacia nimbly craft wallets from the recently made paper. The girls are quiet, but they poke fun with each other. At another table, William’s creativity flows through his pen as he sketches abstract designs.
The day carries on and the island air cleanses our bodies, one sweat droplet after the next. On their way out, the workers mingle and chat under the banana trees. Waves roll in on the beach across the street, and the absence of the team puts the factory to sleep for the night.
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