The First Trip to the Village

It is a long and bumpy road up to the village. I am excited. And nervous. Everyone comes to greet us when we arrive and before I know it, we are surrounded by smiles and laughter. Emi starts introducing me but it is hard to keep track of names- especially Lao names! They are all so unfamiliar to me. I have patience with myself and know that I will learn them slowly. I listen carefully and try to make out the few words I know.

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We move inside to catch up with our sewers, but all the women from town come in to show off their product in hopes that we will purchase from them. We gather on the floor, touching textiles, exchanging smiles and listening to the rain.

We spend the afternoon quietly folding and tying scarves to dip in the indigo baths. When the scarves are done we walk down to rinse them in the river.

Rain, it is still raining, but it doesn’t bother me.

Finishing the first day at the village is exhausting. I can’t explain it. It is a full day, but there is something more strenuous about wanting to fit in, wanting to succeed and wanting to understand… trying to figure it all out as oppose to just wondering through as a regular tourist thinking “oh, isn’t that neat. Isn’t that pretty.”

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As I sit in bed in the evening images flash through my mind. The mist on the mountains. The fisherman throwing nets on the high river. Beating the indigo. The woven mats on the floors. One of the weavers helping me use my chopsticks. Another woman pulling fruit down from the trees with a long bamboo pole. Walking through the mud in flip flops. Betsy getting followed around by all the other dogs. Drinking wine, getting to know each other. Getting chased by a turkey. A young boy in a superman t-shirt gliding by on his bicycle.

So quiet. Rain. Rain. Rain.

On the second day we return to the village to work as our other guests go out on a trek. The 30 minute tuktuk ride flips me inside out! I stumble out of the back dizzy and trying not to throw up in the middle of the village road. As we settle in with the sewers to discuss upcoming projects I start to feel better. I begin to see the real village. I see that the day before there was more of a “performance” put on. The women are now very relaxed and casual with just Emi there. This is life, this is business now. They joke and discuss. One woman sprawls out and relaxes on the floor. Some of the men come in to watch TV or sleep over in the corner.

When it is lunch time they pull the table down and fill it with bowls of delicious food! We all use our hands to eat. I prefer this. I look around to see how others are doing it, what they are grabbing first and what they mix together. (The cucumbers! oh god, the fresh, crunchy, delicious, sweet cucumbers!!) Despite the language barrier, I feel included. How unique it is to be a part of this relationship that Emi has built with the people here.

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Returning “home” from the village was really strange. I felt like I had been on this big cultural adventure. I had already learned so much. I was feeling pretty positive. But the place I returned to wasn’t home at all. I’ve only been here a week. And it has been a wild week. So, I don’t really know why I expected to feel some kind of a relief or relaxation when I got back.

This place is still strange.
The street is still noisy.

My head cold is gone and the drums don’t wake me up in the morning anymore, but I still have the shits and I can’t get my body to feel quite right. I think I might be ravenously hungry, but my appetite is so minimal. The time it would take for my body to physically adjust was certainly not a factor I had given much consideration. Maybe it’s a good distraction as I slowly, subconsciously work through my mental adjustments.

I also was not expecting to be so creatively stunted. I have the feeling that I want to create, but I’m having trouble bringing my confidence up and making design decisions. It is all so new— the materials, the patterns, the colors, the techniques. I am trying to figure out what my own take is on all of it. What is my style? Who am I when I am here? I know my design perspective will develop. I will learn what I like, what works, and what we are and are not “limited” to in terms of design… finding the patience with myself is going to be the biggest difficulty.

 —Trying to pick what to write about is impossible. There is so much that I will never be able to explain to you. Hopefully as I continue to exist here, I will gain a better grasp. I will find words to show you how beautiful and special… and rare… this place is.

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