Can you fix this?

This is a phrase I use more often than you’d think. This country has an abundance of skilled craftsmen and women whose businesses are all about fixing or altering what you already have.  

I have a ring I've worn since I was 13, and recently I’ve noticed it seemed too big, and I really wanted it to fit properly. There is a gold market in the north part of town where they not only sell gold jewelry, but silver, gems, and some antiques. The market is in the lowest level of a mall, and is a large open area filled with rows of glass display cases. Further back is a row of small, individual stores. Behind these, wrapping around the room, are booths where craftsmen and women work.  

I was at this gold market with a friend, and after admiring some enamel jewelry I asked the seller if she could tell me where to get my ring fixed. She immediately led us around the corner to a man sitting behind a work table in one of these booths. Here’s were it gets interesting.  

I hand him the ring, but I don’t know what size I need it. So first he pounds it back to a perfect circle (it had gotten rather bent out of shape, being too big) and then just eyeballs it as I tried it on. Using some special snips he cut a chunk of the silver out, and bent it together. I tried it on again, and it was the perfect size. Then he rewelded and polished the ring while my friend and I just stood there watching.  

We’re having pleasant conversation this whole time, and I’m suddenly worried I might not have enough cash on hand to pay (I only had 15 local currency, or about $5 in my wallet). So, while he’s still polishing, I quickly ask how much it will be, in case I need to go find an ATM. 5 local or about $1.70. Part of me expected this, but I was still astonished. When he finished, I handed him the 10 I had in my wallet and said I didn’t want any change. The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes.  


But jewelry isn’t the only thing you can get fixed. There are lots of seamstresses and cobblers around, too. Last year I asked my landlady, who is such a seamstress, to redo the lining in a leather jacket I originally got from the Goodwill. She told me to go buy 1.5 meters of fabric that I liked, and she fixed it right up. She even took the label off the old lining and put it on the new!  

Most recently I had the straps to a leather purse repaired, again, less than $2 for really nice workmanship.  

I have friends who have had shoes repaired or re-soled, clothes altered, and cell phones repaired (ok, so that last one didn’t end so well, but the service exists!). And if you need to have your kitchen knives sharpened, there are people who will do that, too. Pretty snazzy is all I’ve got to say about it.