By Samantha Bergdhal – 2 week volunteer
I have been enjoying a week and a half in this lovely, welcoming village. My time here has been flying by far too fast for my liking as every day opens a door for new opportunities and learning experiences.
These past two days have brought one experience truly unique to anything I have had the chance to try in my life thus far. Weaving. Before I tell you about the process itself, I will explain how such an opportunity came to be.
There are only a few people in the village that speak English really well, although they all do their best to learn new words and expand their knowledge, one woman in particular, May, has spent her days working with a non-profit American organization among other projects. This work along with her amazing ability to pick up and retain words she hears, has helped form her almost perfect English.
May graciously invited us to come around any time she was free to learn the art that is weaving, and consequently had the whole next day free if anyone was keen to learn. Of course we all were. The next day after an exciting hike, a well needed shower and delicious meal cooked by our homestays, we all had an hour to kill before heading to the school to teach English to the village kids. We saw our chance and headed to the building where some of the women spend their time weaving.
The weaving process, we quickly realized, is not one for multiple people to learn at once. May gave us a bag of yarn and we all set out choosing our colours. I chose a creamy white, royal blue, and a plum purple. Since the others were still choosing their colours, I jumped at the chance to begin learning.
The process is much too complicated for me to explain through words after only doing once. To summarize, before the actual weave on the loom begins, you first have to create your design with your chosen colours by wrapping the yarn around a series of 5 poles sticking out of a wooden plank about 4.5 feet long in a specific manner.
We built up two inches of the cream yarn and about a centimeter of the blue before it was time to go to the school. May promised to finish the rest of the design so we could begin learning the actual weaving process later on. Extremely keen to finish my very own scarf as soon as we got back from the school I went directly to the weaving workshop. Most of my time was spent watching May and one of the other women in the village fix all the little mistakes we had made during the build-up process.
Once it was finally in working order my turn came and let me tell you, the actual loom process is not nearly as easy to pick up as the design building process, but I was determined to complete a scarf of my very own. I spent about two and a half hours trying very hard to finish but it felt like I was getting nowhere. My respect for the women that spend days working on looms much more complicated and larger than mine continued to build.
To put into perspective, once I decided to call it a day, May continued to work on her beautiful and intricate design, building more than an inch every fifteen minutes. She puts her skills to good use as the association she works for sells the products her and other women weave to raise funds to help refugees in Burma and now more so in Syria. They also help citizens who cannot afford to get an education go to university or college and get the degree they have always dreamed about. The amount of work they put into the shirts, scarves, tote bags and other beautiful products not only to sell for this organization but to support and clothe their families is truly humbling.
If you come to spend some time in the village with KSES and the opportunity to learn weaving presents itself, I advise you to take it. Whether or not I get a completed scarf, the experience and new skill I have learnt and may be able to use sometime in the future is definitely worth the hard work it took.
If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t shy away from a new challenge, plus loves hanging out with elephants, Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is the place for you.