Monday, September 13, 2010

Guatemalan Guides

All the way back from Guatemala, I cried and cried. I'd missed my family terribly and was happy to get home, but that wasn't it. I also wasn't crying because I'd miss the people and place because of all of the places I've visited, I knew I'd return.
I'm not quite sure what exactly has made me this emotional. Could be the fact that I was insecure about going on a trip without Peter. And returning with miraculously no problems, I was relieved.
In Pakistan, I went without Peter but I had the US government to guide me. The Pakistan Handmade crew totally held our hands from dawn to dusk.
But on this trip, aside from a list of suggestions for hotels, the trip was completely up to us. Up to us to manage where we were to go and what we were to do. I wanted to take full advantage so I tried to plan some activities before and after the Trade Fair. Some plans worked, but others didn't and I was free for the last two days of the trip. I wasn't worried, though. Something always comes along...and it did.
The Trade Fair was a great surprise. Taking my job very seriously, I worried I would only find the typical Guatemalan crafts - weaving, worry dolls and beaded keychains which would mean not purchasing anything, which would be counterproductive. But there was very little of that. There were beautiful, elegant, unusual crafts made from recycled materials. There were weavings that were delicate and different from any other weaving I'd witnessed in the past. There were countries that I had not found crafts from in the past, like El Salvador and Honduras. And so many interesting dedicated designers and artists that I again overspent, but happily devoted my days to walking the show.
During the first evening of the show, I met a vivacious and bubbly woman with the same name as mine (coincidence). She proceeded to pull information from me that I would never ordinarily give up. She was a lot of fun and a fast friend. It would be the next day that I would get to know her friend and companion on this trip, Shelley. Seal and Shelley have great jobs as buyers for a high-end, well established store in Santa Barbara. I was able to pick their brains about so many aspects of their business - a business I could only dream Women's Work would one day grow up to be.
Another coincidence is that both are fans of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency with Shelley having read all of the books and has a special place for them on her bookshelf next to Nancy Drew. What an honor! We would spend some enjoyable evenings together, so I was glad I hadn't planned anything in particular.
I would buy from four new vendors and have promised to look into products from several others. One of the businesses I was most impressed with was La Casa Guatemala. Sandra, who works for Casa, was telling me about how she would be working on Saturday to visit one of the women's groups who were graduating from an incubator project and would be giving them their certificates. I boldly asked if I could go along. She agreed! And off we went.
I emailed my family that I was once again going to an out of the way place with a woman I just met to meet with women producers - much like my situation when I first encountered the San. And as luck/coincidence/fate would have it, the encounter deeply moved me and I spent the day with my mind racing with ideas about how we could collaborate. Before I left San Pedro and the care of Sandra, I gave her my card. As she shared the card with the others, someone asked what the woman and the baby were doing. I explained about the ostrich eggshell and the San women I worked with. All of a sudden, Sandra realized something. Now, I had told her this story during the Trade Fair and I made her cry. She hadn't put two and two together until just now. Her boss, one of the most respected people in Guatemala for his craft development, had visited Botswana, visited the San Bushmen of the Kalahari. His step father was John Marshall - renown documentarian of Bushmen culture. It turns out her boss and I knew the very same people. Wow, was all we could say to each other. What a coincidence!
But there are no coincidences, just messages, signs that tell you that you are on the right or wrong track, that guide you toward a better understanding and in my case, validation that what I am doing is the right thing for me.
I think I was crying because I had the understanding that most people could only wish for--a life with meaning and a purpose.

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