Day 54

Back to the grind.

Needless to say, coming back Monday to the foundation after an hour of sleep the night before was interesting. Monday was a big day at Chol Chol: the weavers were meeting in the large kitchen for their monthly gathering and the Rakizuam group was meeting to prepare their strategy for the coming months and finalize their plans to travel to Cuba to visit artisans in Trinidad. So a lot going on!

I’m glad that we were there though, and that we did take that flight from Santiago rather than the bus (which would have made us miss Monday). I was able to show the Rakizuam group the first video I made of Don Jose, and they were all really excited about the idea of having codes on each of the products to show a video of the artisan behind the piece. So much so that four more asked to have their videos created! I’m happy that people are willing to open up their homes to us and show us more about what they do!

But with ups come downs, and I had my first semi-panic (although it probably wasn’t visible) with speaking Spanish to a group of people. I’ve been able to comprehend what Susana and Yasmin have been talking about to me (for the most part), but it usually doesn’t require a huge response from me. They are more instructional conversations about what they had in mind for something, or that another artisan wants a video, etc. After I showed the video, Susana asked me to explain my project to everyone (a group of about 8 or 9 people) and I just froze. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but I couldn’t even formulate the sentences to explain the process of the QR codes and driving to the web. Thank goodness that Susana didn’t let the silence go long and was able to explain the project.

It did make me feel pretty down, though. For how much respect and confidence Susana has put in us, I felt unprofessional that I couldn’t even explain something and my confidence got in the way of things. It was pretty easy for me to explain after the fact (talking to myself in Spanish, haha) and I kept thinking, “C’mon Sarah – you can structure a sentence!” I may be a bit hard on myself now, but I’m hoping I can improve more within the next few months.

Another interesting thing that happened — a potential volunteer walked into the foundation looking to learn more information. She was from the United States but was born in Chile and spoke great Spanish, so Nick and I joked she already brought more value, haha. But it was good – she works in education and wants to raise awareness of Mapuche and their traditions to local schools and connect with her roots. She ended up staying a good amount of time, talking to Susana, then to Nick and I about our volunteer experience. She had the same fear as many (including us) in wanting to make sure the organization was really doing good and helping the community (rather than some organizations that can feel like a scam). After talking a bit, she’ll hopefully be back at the end of the year to work with the foundation. Yasmin waved us in to eat a lunch that Don Jose had prepared (which was delicious!). By then, it was almost 4pm, so we finished the day and snagged a puppy to take to Señora Elena the next day (she was adopting this puppy).

Señora Elena at work.

Tuesday, we had a visit with Señora Elena to drop the lucky pup to his forever home. We’re happy for him, we think he’ll do well there. Señora Elena made us breakfast (with the most delicious bread we’ve ever had) and we shared some mate tea. Then we started the video. She has a pretty diversified source of income, which is great for her. She had a large farm where she can sell flour and many other veggies in addition to weaving. And her husband was a weaver at one time too! Pretty crazy and the first time we’ve seen a male weaver. We stayed a bit (after an interesting drop-in by government workers to “gather information”) and we were on our way, but not after buying two loaves of bread from her. We stopped by a market near there with great prices and got some groceries. We finished up the work day at home.

Wednesday was a busy one: two artisan visits and the Brazilians’ last day. 😦 We came to the foundation to drop off some donated items that were collected from the store (for the wildfires), then made our way to pick up the daughter of Señora Rosa in Nueva Imperial, and she would help direct us to her mother’s place. This was great, since most of our treks involve stopping at least three times asking for directions after faulty directions in the countryside. We arrived and Señora Rosa had just finished preparing a lama to be woven. We captured her video, then she asked us to stay for lunch. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that we get to do this everyday; we get to visit these incredibly welcoming and talented artisans and get such a unique experience here – one that I had no idea we were going to get. In the beginning, I hoped that we would get to know one or two artisans, but now I know almost 10! Nick and I were talking about that Monday, with all of the artisans that were at the foundation, we recognized so many! It was a cool realization, and we still have four more months of it (!!!)

We stayed and had lunch with her, and she learned that we were from the United States (which she said, “I never expected that I’d host Americans today!”) Even at the end, her daughter asked to take pictures of us, which we were a little surprised, but open to! You never know, with the normal American stereotype, how people will perceive you when you say you are form the U.S., haha. But we thought it was nice!

After that, we headed to Señora Maria’s place. We walked in to find 4-day old piglets, which was just ADORABLE. She led us into her work space where she spun wool, as she wasn’t working on anything currently. She had a really cool antique spinning machine which we hadn’t seen in use before. She was a little shy, but after a few tries, she agreed to show us how the machine was used.

One thing that Juan Manuel had asked both artisans today is if they heard about the International Women’s Day celebration at the foundation on March 8. Neither of them had heard about it, which made me a little nervous. I had designed an invitation a week ago, but it seems nothing had moved with it yet. It has the potential to be a really cool event, and I want it to be a success! So on the car ride over, the three of us (Nick, Juan Manuel, and I) chatted on our strategy for finding out how to drive the plans for the day forward.

We headed back to the Foundation, and little did we know that Susana and Yasmin had been working all day on International Women’s Day, which was awesome. They had an outline of the day and some ideas for the graphics around the grounds. They really want it to be an experience and I’m excited that it’s moving forward! So lots of work to do in the coming weeks.

We also found out that another artisan (basically the queen artisan, as Nick and I like to say, because the foundation places a tremendous amount of trust in her) wants her video taken as well. She has actually had several videos of her taken, since she’s the foundation’s go-to artisan, so I was surprised that she wanted another video (and flattered). But I just thought it was funny, because I was modeling all of my videos after one of another volunteer of her, so they could match in terms of the QR code project. But happy to do it! So we are headed there tomorrow morning, before Nick has a demo with the same software company, only this time it will be given in Spanish with Susana and Viviana present.

Something has been weighing on me in terms of these videos. I enjoy creating them, but it is slightly outside of my comfort zone and my area of expertise. But I want to do as much as I can to help, and it seems like the videos are the biggest thing to tackle right now. But as more and more artisans are asking for their videos to be taken, I am starting to feel behind on some of my other major projects, like creating an online catalog and restructuring the website, among other things. I keep scooting them down the priority list, and I want to make sure I can deliver everything that I said I would that first week. I’ll need to prioritize certain days to work on certain projects, so I can keep them all moving along. Keep making progress! And I have to remind myself that we still have four more months here. But I still feel like I could work all day and all night and still have work to do.

The entire group!

Enough of that though – we had to send the Brazilians off properly by grabbing a beer after leaving the foundation. We missed a lunch with the group since we were visiting artisans, so it was nice to sit down and chat with them over some cervesas. We’re going to miss them! They really helped during their 5 weeks here. All the work they did on the new rooms are going to be used for the International Women’s Day celebration and were already used Monday for the Rakizuam meeting (including the new kitchen!). And I know the information they gathered will help Nick a lot with his productivity projects and analyzing data.

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