Thursday, October 27, 2011

What is the Place of Fashion in a Third World Country?

When I write this, I realize that I am walking a very delicate line. When I say "fashion," let me be clear: I appreciate matching colors and clothes that fit correctly just as much as the next woman. I do not, however, go out of my way to be in the latest style, and count myself blessed to wear hand me downs. I'm as picky in my own way about what I wear as most people, I just have different priorities, such as modesty, frugality, comfort and personal preference. With that said... there are several questions I have about "fashion" in the sense of the word where one goes to extraordinary monetary and other lengths mainly to be in style. Living in a third-world country only highlighted feelings of dislike for fashion and stirred up many questions that I don't have the answers to. Questions like:

-Where does fashion fall on the scale of what really matters in life?
-How does fashion fit in the third-world priority list?
-When you have the money, should you be able to spend it in any way you choose?
-Is there a social or moral obligation attached to wealth? (Especially in a very poor country?)
-In a developing country, is it wise to flaunt the fact that you are wealthy?
-Is fashion a form of art and, if so, should that change my perception?
-Would I feel the same way if the fashion of said country weren't determined by people in Europe, but by the local culture?
-What if someone DOES try to do their part to help others, but still spends money on fashion. Shouldn't they have that right? (since you can't tell just by looking at them if they help others or not.)

I don't have the answers to those questions. I just have more thoughts about it:

-Fashion puts emphasis on the outside.
-First impressions are important; the way one dresses will indelibly have an impact on how they are received... but people are so much more than clothes.
-The media's training of the public to be hyper-critical of others fashion-wise has made this an even bigger issue.
-I usually find fashion to be a distraction from the real problems in life that need our concentration.
-Much of fashion is driven by pride.

In a world of extremes, like Guatemala, I constantly saw two sides of this struggle: The people with money, (or those who wanted you to think they had money,) would go to extravagant lengths to look their part. In a practical sense, this was just free advertising for those who would rob them. In a country where flashy cars are a beacon for armed assault at any red light, especially in heavy city traffic, I was always surprised with how very many overtly nice cars there were. When the majority of the people in Guatemala can not afford a car, many of the ones who could seemed to flaunt it.
A student in my class the first year I taught had her mother kidnapped over one of the school breaks. Thankfully, everything worked out well and she was able to get back to her family, but this is not always the case. The family will always deal with emotional trauma from that event... even though they took the necessary precautions that go along with being fashionable here: armored cars and bodyguards.
On the flip side of this situation, many of the people earned the money they used to support their lifestyles the hard way. They worked their way to their positions and didn't expect things in life to be handed to them. In turn, they were in constant danger of being robbed, and, in the very least, treated with jealous disdain by the majority of people in their country (if they chose to associate with them.)

What are your thoughts on fashion in a third world country and the socio-economic responsibilities of these two divisions of classes in relation to fashion?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hand-crafted Hammered Dulcimers in Bennington, Oklahoma

Something I really enjoy about visiting different places, be they Guatemala, Canada, Mexico, Texas or Oklahoma, is finding people who specialize in doing things well by hand. Like many people, I see the decline in many hand crafted things and am worried by it. I appreciate people who have those specialized skills.

While in Guatemala we saw many amazing woodworkers, weavers, and leather workers to mention a few. While in the States, we took the opportunity while in Bennington, Oklahoma to visit a handmade hammered dulcimer shop: Master Works Hammer Dulcimers and Bowed Psalteries designed by Russel Cook.

We lucked out since our friends and cousin works there, and we got a personal tour!

First, Russel, part owner and craftsman of the handcrafted dulcimer shop, played an amazingly talented demonstration and explained some of the set up for chords and how to hold the hammers.

We then got to see many hammered dulcimers in progress on carpeted storage shelves to protect the beautifully finished different woods.

Russel showed us how the wood changes color with water, which gives you an idea of what the finished product will look like polished. This rare piece of wood alone cost as much as a used car!

Many tiny precise holes are drilled individually into each dulcimer.

Here is the hole-cutting station, one of the very labor intensive parts of creating a good dulcimer.

A hammered dulcimer is played on a special stand. My cousin uses this station to create the stands.

Another of my cousin's workstations where she sands the delicate dulcimer parts by hand.

A customer trying his hand at playing the dulcimer.

I was amazed at how much precision and intricate detail went into each and every hammered dulcimer. People from all over the world who know how to play hammered dulcimers know about this little shop in Bennington, OK. Hand-crafted hammered dulcimers can sell anywhere from $1,200-$5,000 depending on the rarity of the wood, age, condition and special additions. If you would like to see a hammered dulcimer being played, check out this version of Amazing Grace:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moving to Guatemala/Abroad with Children for the First Time: Interview- Things to Bring

Another soon-to-be expat mother moving to Africa posted some questions for advice on what to bring:

1. What are the top 3 kitchen items you would take to a foreign country?

2. What are the best children's books you would take?

3. What are the best toys/activities that occupy kids on a VERY LONG plane ride?

4. What would you put on your iPod? Favorite Worship Songs? Best all around music?

5. What Podcasts do you listen to?

6. Favorite games?

Thanks for your input!!

When we moved to Guatemala, I had many of the same questions, so I thought I would share what worked for us. It will also help me remember what to bring in our upcoming international experience with 2 children this time.

1.When we moved to Guatemala, the kitchen things I missed the most were GOOD cooking utensils. Everything easily available in Guatemala was plastic that melted when it got hot. Yuck! I am glad I brought my good knives, and the mixer came in handy.

2. Since we moved when our daughter was barely talking, but planned to eventually homeschool- here's what worked for me with books: Between the ages of 2 and 3 there is literally a brain and language explosion! I was grateful that I brought books that could work for several age ranges including some that are good for beginning readers. Our daughter loved the Dr. Seuss, Curious George and things like that. I tried to mainly bring the ones that were big books with many stories inside to cut down on luggage. One thing is certain, no matter what you bring, it seems more books are always going to be in demand.

3. Something my daughter really likes are those magnetic drawing boards with the "pencil" attached and the little lever that "erases" the picture so that you can start over. I like it because it isn't messy and we can practice letters, drawing and storytelling. Besides this, we use books, a variety of snacks and that's about it. Guatemala was only a 3 hour flight for us, thankfully, so we haven't invested in electronic gadgets yet. Something I think she would really enjoy is an MP3 player with headphones since she loves music so much.

4. I wished I had access to more worship music in English in Guatemala, because I realized that my daughter was missing out on it and that she really enjoyed it when we came back to the States to visit. For her, specifically the simple worship songs work well since she's still learning the words. (Which I thought ironic since I hate worship music for the same repetition that makes it easy for her.) For you? I'm not good at suggesting music...

5. N/A

6. Right now we're really into tactile games like Jenga and blocks. But I like that we have Dominoes because it's really great for math/matching concepts(and making trains.) We also like Uno, Phase 10 and "Bancopoly;" the Guatemalan version of Monopoly. I look forward to when we can play games like Apples to Apples as a family. I have to admit, however, that no game beats just regular play outside with grass, dirt, pebbles and sticks and anything found in your new natural environment. Kids love nature (mostly) and can have a ball with the simplest items outside combined with a great imagination!

Hopefully,  that was some help, though we have different kinds of kids and ages. I know that no matter how much you plan, when you get there you'll still realize something you'll have wished you'd brought. But it's OK. We're moms and improvising is one of our superpowers! ;)

Do you have suggestions for things that worked for you when moving abroad, particularly with children?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

Something I've been wanting to try for a long time is making my own liquid laundry detergent. The recipe we decided to use was the Duggar family recipe. (The directions in italics are their property that I simply followed.)

4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water.

-Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

In the beginning it looks like this:

After about 7-10 minutes it looks like this:
Finally, around 12-15 minutes later, it starts to look like this:

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax.

Here's the 1/2 cup Borax:

 1/2 cup of Borax to 1 cup of washing soda:

 -Stir well until all powder is dissolved.

-Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap...

and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

Something we decided would be a good idea to do is to mark the wooden spoon we were using to stir the soap with a "laundry soap only" spoon so someone wouldn't end up with soapy tasting baked goods one day.

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - in some stores or may be purchased online here (at Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must be sodium carbonate!!" Check out this information on using baking soda to make washing soda.

NOTE: ™ = Trademark. All trademarks are property of their respective owners. Results may vary. All recipes are valid for non-commercial useotherwise written permission must be obtained from the The Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar Family. © Copyright 2011

Have you ever tried making your own laundry soap?
Yes, and I enjoyed it.
Yes, but I wouldn't do it again.
No, but I would like to.
No and I'm not interested. free polls