February 5 -- Agailjhara, Bangladesh

First, let me tell how the group visits generally went. Usually we were greeted with flower garlands and a greeting in Bengali. Then we would sit and talk group to group through an interpreter. We'd ask any questions we had, and answer any they had. (which usually consisted of place more orders!) Certain members might tell their stories and then we were offered dahb, green coconut juice that we'll come to miss, and a snack of some kind. There was always a gift from them and we presented a calendar from one of the cities/states one of us comes from for them to hang in their workroom/office to remember us. We'd then see the process of what they make. Then, if there was shop, we'd buy what we want. The end of the visits was always kinda informal and we'd just leave. That felt kinda weird. It was also weird because we couldn't really communicate one-on-one except through hand motions.

Bagdha Rope and Twine

To get to Bagdha, we had a boat ride down a canal of the Ganges river. We arrived to rice being processed on the bank of the river and a growing group of kids and other onlookers as we walked down the path to the village. Once at the entrance, we were given garlands of marigolds and a greeting in Bengali. Bagdha being the first group we visited, if really felt surreal. Actually walking to the village, seeing the women working and sitting in front of us was amazing. Listening to their stories about how far they've come as a group and individually was also weird because I'd only heard second hand how people's lives were being improved. Now there were people right in front of me telling me that what I'm doing is really making a difference. This feeling was repeated with every group we visited, but the first time was the most touching. This group was working on an order for "The Body Shop" making bath mits from hemp twine. This group gets most of it's business from European groups that purchase balls of hemp twine to use around their gardens. They take raw hemp, clean it, and spin it, then either braid it or knit it depending on the order.

Keya Palm Handicrafts

Keya Palm makes handicrafts out of keya leaves and palm leaves. Rings from keya leaves and star garlands from palm leaves are some of our top selling items. It's amazing how fast they can fold a star from 4 pieces of leaf! This group was similar to the last because it was all women. They take keya and palm leaves and cut them down a bit and then cut them down even more with this razor. The leaves are dyed if necessary, then they fold stars and rings. Streamers are assembled with string and then the items are packaged here as well.

Biborton Handmade Paper

Earlier in the day we had driven past Biborton on our way to the other groups...now we are finally there! The papers are so vibrant even from the road. This group makes handmade paper from water hyacinth. The stems are mashed and boiled and then placed in a tub with a given color. Using screens, they then lift the paper evenly (this is hard...I tried!) and the screen is then placed in the yard to dry. After drying the paper is calendered, or flattened, and cut, using hydrolic machine. This paper is then used to make cards, gift bags, photo albums, and journals.

Also at this group we were invited to see the homes of some of the artisans. This was a tangeable way for us to see how lives had been improved. Still cramped by our measures, these houses mean very much. They are much sturdier when the monsoons come since they have cement pillars instead of the traditional bamboo pillars. A tightly packed mud foundation raises the house from the ground giving more protection. Tin walls last longer than woven leaf walls. The kitchen is still outside, but it's usually too hot to cook inside anyway!


February 3

February 4

February 5

February 6

February 7

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February 9

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February 23