After we finished lunch we moved on to the second project- wrapped earrings. The second project was harder to manage because not instead of 6 women, we had 13! The women had to share the pliers, which meant teaching the technique went slower as the women had to switch off with one and another. Post lunch the children were tired and crying and I spent the first 15 minutes of the class shouting instructions over the wails of sleepy, grumpy babies!
Also, with only one translator, who was always assisting someone, I had difficulty explaining and helping those in need. Although I can teach by doing, it helps to be able to explain to a person why their circle is not turning out right. I did my best, but the language barrier was- well- a barrier. Fortunately, after a few rounds of wrapped loops, and the babies calming down, the women were able to focus and continue with the project on their own.
While I was teaching I noticed little Mirabel plopped herself next to me, watching me intently. She also secretly slipped me a piece of bubble gum. Being the youngest in the group, Mirabel didn’t have much opportunity with the shared pliers and after I finished teaching I let her use mine with the intention of working with her one on one. When I looked down she was doing the technique herself- she learned it just from watching! Every time she looked up at me she gave me a big smile and then went back to the work, switching between my pliers like a pro.
Eventually all the women, except one, finished their earrings, which was a big accomplishment considering the rough start we had. The woman who didn’t finish was someone I had tried to work with one on one, but who didn’t watch me. She was determined to do it her way, which caused her problems in the end. Eventually, after trying to help her four times, I had to stop- not because I gave up on her, but because she didn’t want to learn. Later I found out the other women scolded her, telling her that without an interest and willingness to learn and listen to me, she wasn’t going to be able to do it.
All that aside, I was very happy with the class, especially seeing the women wearing their earrings home. Later Dorinda told me about how hard life is for women in the campo. One of the women’s husbands ran off with another woman, leaving her with 3 little kinds to raise alone. Others have husbands who are alcoholics, spending all their money on alcohol, and worst yet, hitting them. Even those with good, hardworking husbands, have so many kids (up to 8) that they are constantly carrying a baby with them, cooking for their family, washing clothes, and cleaning- and that is outside of their daily work in the pastures.
The women have nothing that is left for just them- time, resources, food- their lives are devoted to their families and work to support their families. The jewelry classes are a time for them to do something for themselves, take a break from the hard work and hardness of life, and play with pretty beads and beautiful colors. Better yet, they get something to keep, something that is theirs that they don’t have to give away.
Writing this brings tears to my eyes because I think about how much we have in the Western World and yet, how a single bracelet and pair of earrings, can mean so much to these women. While I have a jewelry box overflowing with pieces I wear once a year, these women have two small pieces of jewelry that will be treasured. Simple, cheap plastic beads that will make them feel beautiful and remind them of a day they had to themselves.
After the class we piled into the truck and dropped off the women so they wouldn’t have to walk as far. As I got out to say goodbye, one of the women asked me if I would be back next year. I said yes, realizing, like the women in the prison, the women here have one more thing to look forward to each year.
Written August 5, 2012