Above all else, Sri Lanka has taught me about communication. People always ask me about the language barrier. While I cannot deny the importance of learning the language of the culture I am in, I have realized that verbal communication is just one facet of a large exchange between individuals. In the States and at MIT, I feel like so much of my life is contained in my mental domain and somehow verbal communication becomes the reality of my interactions and traps me from moving beyond the surface. Sri Lanka has shown me that there is also physcial communication, emotional communication, and aesthetic communication. Sri Lanka has also taught me that listening is perhaps the most important part of communication… listening to those around me and listening to myself so that I can interact with the world in the most effective way. Because of this, I feel like I live more fully than I have ever lived before. I am forced to communicate in new ways that are completely foreign to me but at the same time are completely real. There is no room for politeness or forced exchange. It’s all real and it’s all refreshing.
Working with the girls on their jewelry has developed my sense of aesthetic communication. Suneetha always works in sets of twos when she is beading. Sindu uses long stretches of solid, bold colors. Damni always moves from small beads to big to small. Tiara has no sense of matching or what anyone might call aesthetic at all but she takes a certain pride in her carefree approach to her work.
60 splashes of color–60 bracelets completed in a few hours of diligent work. The girls are on fire. Since I allowed them to make products when I am not there and to run the program themselves without adult supervision they have become more passionate than ever before. They have such a pride in their work and they are so eager to help one another, to take on responsibility, to supervise our workshops and to help insure that everything is accounted for. I spread out all 60 bracelets created yesterday for them to see before I left. They all picked up the bracelets that they had made and showed them to one another and counted them in English for me.
I allowed them to choose more beads to make bracelets before our next class on Saturday. They began to set their own goals, each wanting to make more bracelets than they had ever made before. I realized a dry erase board to track the number of products they have made and set goals for the upcoming week would be a fun exercise. I will go to get the dry erase board tomorrow.
The program is progressing perfectly. I really cannot explain how everything has worked out, how it continuously develops so smoothly. Everyone here, including myself, is astounded. Everything always falls into place. I keep refining and adjusting my expectations, going with what seems best at the time. I am more concerned about their ability to organize themselves, maintain and sustain the program themselves and feel that they have accomplished something than having a large product repertoire.
The bags being sponsored by MAST Cares (Victoria’s Secret) are coming along nicely as well. I can’t wait to show you all! I wanted them to be simple but unique. I designed them to have the seam come up the front middle and tie in the front rather than on the side like a traditional drawstring bag. Punsara has finished the image that will be screenprinted on the bag. It’s a beautiful, graceful Sri Lankan woman and will be printed on the side of the bag, wrapping around from the front to the back. I went shopping with Julie (from Victoria’s Secret) for a small bead to pull the drawstring tight today. We found something that works perfectly. We’ve also selected the fabric and cord. So, production will begin soon! We are now just making the pattern and creating instructions (both written and pictorial) for the girls who will be making the bags.
Some of the girls who are leaving soon want to continue to produce jewelry and I have found some women to pick up their products monthly and drop off new supplies once they leave Ma-Sevana. Overall, I think we have developed a strong product, beautiful packaging, a fabulous team of support, and some happy girls. Still tons more to do but things are great. I am so alive and full of energy. I am stretching, growing, loving, learning, listening… communicating with myself and all around me.