I visited Aunty Kim again today to reaffirm my desire to host a community event at her salon on Tuesday, May 23rd. She continues to seem open to the idea, though I think she has major concerns about potentially closing the shop--even if by closing the shop she is well paid. She told me "Emily, it's not about the money, it's about the customers. If I close, the customers might go away and not come back. Most customers come in without appointment."
This I understand. It seems that the customer traffic ebbs and flows with the seasons. Frankly, sometimes I'm not sure how she sustains her business given how many times I have seen it very empty for almost half a day. I understand that given the precarious and unreliable nature of her business, it perhaps is not so helpful to bring in a bunch of customers for one day as a part of an event only to not be able to count on those customers returning again in the future.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how to disperse power and cultivate greater agency and authority with Aunty Kim in her participation in this project. She is clearly a very compassionate woman who cares about the well being of the people around her. I asked her if she believed there was any way to use the nail salon to help other people like refugees and those less fortunate. She responded with a sigh and said, "I can only help so many people. I want to help, but I cannot hire everyone. And you have to trust the people you help. Some people just are not good people."
I continue to fall back on the idea that maybe my words and my questions are getting lost in translation. Perhaps because she is a very practical and pragmatic person, she is not thinking broadly and creatively in that way about her business, but perhaps I am still not able to voice my questions in a way she will understand. I asked her if she had ever thought of hanging artwork on the walls of her salon. She laughed, "Emily! Where would I hang them? The walls are completely covered!"