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Takeo: Take Two

February 14, 2010

I haven’t finished updating about my first trip to the villages, and now I’m back from my second. It’s hard to keep up here! Granted, this trip was much much shorter – I spent two days traveling and one day working. Getting there and back is the hard part. Nine hours of travel wears you down. I’m going to have to get better at adjusting to this routine as I’ll be heading to the villages every two to three weeks!

One of the main reasons for going was to attend Mr. Mich’s daughter’s wedding. It was incredible. I danced. A lot. As a barang, I was a popular guest and asked to dance many many times. I’d like to think I held my own doing the Khmer dances, but was relieved when a hip hop song came on and everyone just danced like you would at a bar back home. Mr. Mich seemed very happy that I was able to make it, as having a Westerner in attendance made him seem very important. Frankly, he is. He is invaluable to our weaving operation -a real problem-solver with years of experience in both weaving and dyeing- so I was happy to help him on such a special day.

On Friday, I went to meet with the weavers and to review the first set of production orders. It’s amazing to see the project coming to fruition. To be able to touch and hold and see sarongs that have been made and finished in part because I am here. To be part of giving someone a job, putting money into their pockets and household and village. That was an incredible feeling. Of course, it wasn’t all good. Some of the products weren’t up to Western standards, so I had to show the weaver the flaws and make sure they understood how to correct them. That was hard.

Two of my weavers decided to save set-up time by sharing a loom. What they didn’t realize is that it’s practically impossible to finish the order in time when they aren’t each working full-time on their own loom. So we had to discuss why this wasn’t a great decision and the fact that I won’t be able to pay both of them the discussed amount because they won’t be able to make the product. That was sad and indicative of how difficult it can be for the weavers to think long-term. They aren’t always able to think through all possible consequences of a decision or action, which is part of a general lack of conceptual thinking in a place that has been so focused on survival for so long.

There have been a few issues matching color, so I’m not sure if the big order I’ve been busting my butt on will come to fruition. It might get cancelled, but I’m hopeful that something else will pull through. Either way, this is all part of the learning curve and the mistakes would have to be made and learned from at some point in the process. I’m glad to have some of them behind us. There are sure to be many more bumps on the road ahead that will require my full attention!

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