Journey to Asia – Part 2

Karen and I finally got to meet the girls who are working for us. They are beautiful, very gentle, patient and biddable. The girls come from the poor parts of the city. They all have children, one child has a definite handicap from a fall were he broke his hip and it was never properly dealt with. The girls have been working for Kate at Spirited Clothes from one month to eight, one had left to start a government job but quickly came back to work for Kate. You can see they like working with and feel very grateful to Kate as they are paid a decent wage and are not bullied in any way. They do understand and appreciate Kate’s fastidious manner as it gives them pride in their workmanship.

Kate was thinking about adding a kimono to the Spirited Clothes range. Unbeknownst to me, I was the guinea pig who had to supervise the making of this garment. In the middle of a very hot, muggy day I am kneeling on a marble floor laying out paper patterns on the underside of the white spotted cotton material. We decided the underside of the material was far more interesting in design and texture. There are no pins and chalk is not allowed, incase it is overused by the girls. 

The fans are turned off or they will shift the paper patterns. Thankfully, no men are in the room and I can strip off as much as I am decently allowed as perspiration is dripping off my body. I carefully and meticulously cut each piece knowing that I have an audience of half a dozen women watching me. After I finish, I breathe a sigh of relief and hope it will all sew beautifully together after we come back from seeing the children of a slum village.

We were invited to attend an event in one of the slum areas outside of town. Our small bus carried our team through crowded and messy streets. No road rules seem to apply. If you want a lane you just make a new one. The honking of horns is not a melodious tune but tends to grate on the ears and one has to tune out. They just love saying hello with their horns! 

The slum village is built on mud and clay. It had rained that day and walking through the laneways was like an obstacle course slipping and sliding, missing the slushy red mud as motor and push bikes weave around us. The village borders a filthy river that the villages use to wash their clothes. They are very lucky that a ministry built a water well, where fresh water can be pumped up and the children don’t have to drink from the river. Unfortunately, some of the villagers do suffer from dysentery, scurvy, cholera, typhoid and malaria. 

At the end of the lane, the children were politely waiting for us, sitting in neat rows (this is so unlike Australian children who seem to always have ‘ants in their pants’). Some of the gorgeous children sang for us. We had to wait while the pastors organised themselves, the school teacher in me could see we were a bit bored so I started teaching the children how to ‘high five’ they liked it and created an instinct rapport with the kids. 

After a few small speeches and a quick prayer, we handed out bananas, bread and hard boiled eggs. This meal would be considered one of their most nutricious and only around $105 AUD.  Kate paid for this and would love to be able to donate this every week. After the food was distributed we walked a bit further and were inundated by the older women to pray for them. It was quite humbling.

There was no reprieve, once we returned I had to produce a kimono. The wonderful thing was I had one of the girls, Rani do the sewing under my watchful eye. Let’s just say, I made a few mistakes which I will just call practice runs. Everything could be unpicked and re-sewn. In the process, we found a better way to do it. The most difficult bit was the panel that bordered the open section and the collar. In the end, a kimono was created and Kate loved it so all the sweat, perseverance and unpicking paid off. Hallelujah!

That night was the start of a 24 hour diarrhoea attack that laid me very low. A doctor had to be called, I don’t know what he injected or what pills I had to swallow but I think whatever weight I put on before I left for Asia vacated my body during this period. The poor doctor could not come back as he had to have heart scans and sent more pills for me instead. I felt so bad for the doctor, whoever hears about a doctor not able to attend to you as he is sick? I still haven’t heard how he is.

A group of 16-24 year old boys came to visit. They mainly live around the train station. My heart melted at seeing their beautiful, gentle demeanour. The boys sat in rows and quietly waited, polite and well mannered.  As soon as I arrived, one quickly grabbed a chair for me. He was the designated father of the troop and had been taking responsibility of the boys for years. He was married to one of the three women that made up their family. 

One of the gorgeous girls had had her baby stolen from her when she was asleep. She was also tortured fighting off a rapist. She only had two fingers on one hand and her arm was scarred from fending off the knife wounds. One can’t imagine the horror and mental anguish of what she had gone through yet she kept smiling and laughing with us. One of the boys had a spider monkey which seemed to create the boys a lot of mischief. The monkey had fallen off the train and one boy jumped to his rescue resulting in losing an arm. Kate had tried to get close to the monkey but he reared and scowled at her quite aggressively. I was not tempted to pat him though I felt secure having completed all my rabies vaccinations. The boys were given presents and a meal, if only we could do more for them. 

When we were leaving for our destination the boys found us at the train station and gave us a red rose each. It’s amazing how they who have nothing still found something to give us. The boys were proudly wearing the donated T-shirts we had brought from Australia. Kate had asked them, what was the one thing they would like and their answer was a wash and a shave. We have found that everyone here seems very fastidious about their hygiene, even walking through the slums, no one  smells offensively. Kate left instructions that the boys would have their wish and the girls were to be given a sari each.

We still had so much luggage! Even after giving away much of the donated clothes we had gained more stuff, Kate had bought new material and packed lots of the pants that Karen and I would take to Australia and Kate to Italy. Seven full, heavy bags crowded our train carriage. This carriage was not air conditioned and seats could not be reserved like our last train trip. Thankfully, it was only a five hour journey. After every stop, more people came on board. It was looking more and more like busy peak hour in Sydney. Quite recovered from my travel tummy I could safely stay in my seat as I did not dare leave it to visit the toilet just in case someone claimed it. Kate had already warned me that she had done many seven hour long train trips standing up.

I can’t sign off without mentioning the bathing routine here. If you happen to see a shower head in the bathroom, just know it’s purely decorative as it only emits a fine spray that is only good for misting fragile petals in a hothouse. If you hear the term a ‘wet bathroom’ this is probably where it originated from. Firstly, you soap your body whilst a bucket fills up with water, usually cold. Secondly, once fully lathered, you fill a one litre jug from the collected water and you start dousing and throwing water over different sections of your body till you cant feel the soap any longer. Remember to place the toilet paper in a dry zone and forget keeping the toilet seat dry! It’s a liberating and very freeing experience throwing water around. This could be taken up by western cultures as you actually use less water.

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