A small basket made in Eritrea.

When I had my first blog I’d occasionally run giveaways on it to distribute books and CDs I no longer wanted or needed to whomever claimed them. In the wake of one of these giveaways, I received an email from a young man in Asmara, Eritrea, inquiring about one of the books. He was nominally a student in electrical engineering, he said, but the facilities and the course itself left a great deal to be desired. Having managed to learn English, he was eager to read English-language books, then in very short supply in Asmara. The volume he’d asked about was one I’d already sent elsewhere, but I posted off some others to him.

We maintained a sporadic email correspondence for six or seven years thereafter. Now and then I’d send him more books and other odds & ends, and he reciprocated by sending items in return. I was grateful for the bags of shiro powder he sent – my introduction to that foodstuff. Among the items he mailed to me was the decorative basket pictured above. It’s a beautifully-made thing, roughly 11cm/4⅓" tall, and with a similar diameter. The purplish colouration around the lid (which fits neatly and snugly) has faded slightly over the years. I used it to store garlic for a while until I stopped eating the stuff. Since then it’s been in need of a new purpose.