One of my new years resolutions was to spend a few days out in the field really learning about silk production. So at the beginning of March, I trekked out to a town called Morarano, 7 km south of the main road about 10 km west of my town. This is a very small town where the actual weavers in my cooperative live. I went there back in July with the Madagascar Cooperative Foundation to film about the silk process and we were the first white people who had ever been there. So I was definitely still a spectacle upon my return.
I spent the afternoon talking to my main weaver, Radany, and his family about the silk process. I watched them weave the scarves and hand roll the cocoons into thread. Then, Radany told me I could help him dye the purple and green thread to be used in the scarves my mom will sell in Ann Arbor when she comes here in July. Cool! First, we started boiling water. Then, we add a certain green leaf (for the green dye) and part of a banana tree that makes sap. Radany told me the sap from the tree helps seal in the color. Then we added yellow and blue chemical packets to make the deep green color. They do some natural dying but the really vibrant colors come from packaged dyes they purchase in Tana. They wanted to take a lot of pictures of me helping them, which was pretty adorable. They also are not great with a camera so it took a lot of editing to get them decent. Check them out on my facebook page!
So we finished up the dying and left the cocoons and thread to dry, and went outside to wash the scarves that were already finished being woven so they would be clean and soft and ready for sale. There was a serious photo shoot with that as well, which the whole town seemed to be involved in. It was definitely their entertainment for the day. Then we had dinner and called it a night. A rather interesting and sleepless night though. I was sharing their one bed with their eldest daughter (they have 6 kids) while everyone else slept on the floor. The mattress was made out of grass and plastic, which sent my allergies into an absolute frenzy. They also left a battery powered light on all night that was right in my face and I was freeeeezing. So all in all not the best night, but a very productive learning experience.
The next day was a national holiday in Madagascar—International Women’s Day. There was a big celebration in the town where some of my silk cultivators live, so myself and a large number of the women and girls from Morarano took off early in the morning to try and catch a large truck on the main road 7 km away. We got to the road but the truck was late, so I spent an hour telling probably 100 young girls about American culture and English, after not having slept the night before. Really great experience but my brain was so exhausted!
When the truck finally arrived, we piled probably 100 young women and girls into the back of this Mercedes semi to drive the 5 km to the event. Hilarity ensued. We were all falling over each other trying to stand up or sit down or something, and everyone was jovial and singing very loudly. It was really funny.
We finally arrived at the event and I was again an incredible source of entertainment. Some high school girls immediately rushed over to talk to me, and a large group assembled to see my responses. You can tell they were kind of the “cool” girls who wanted me as a status symbol more than a friend. They also asked me to play soccer with them later after all of the different girls groups presented their dances. I agreed, not knowing that meant playing in front of the entire commune with jerseys and everything. Very official. So we watched the dances for a little while, with everyone I knew telling me to join each group (as if I knew the choreography, I am not magical!) and then the moment arrived for the soccer game. Everytime I touched the ball the entire audience laughed. My dad said it was probably like watching grandma play soccer, just so out of the ordinary. At one point the ball hit a spike over the goal and popped, so while we were waiting for someone to find a new one, I took that opportunity to let them know I had to go home and get some sleep.
But now I am famous in the rural commune of Miarinarivo II, everyone knows who I am.