Friday, March 21, 2014

There's Underwear On Your Head...

There’s been some kind of creative awakening here on campus. Everywhere you look, someone is staring intently at a needle and thread, or stringing tiny beads into earrings, or pulling colored string tight into bracelets. The sewing machine is whirring and the hot glue gun is gluing – and out come pillowcases and bookbags and barrettes. It’s a regular sweatshop up here, but only because it’s now officially “Summer” and not because of unfavorable work conditions.

Fellow volunteer teacher Wendi and I model our wares,
Much of this Renaissance is owed to a visit from some generous campus donors, who spent two wonderfully helpful weeks on campus helping the girls with business plans, teaching skills, contributing to the talent show, and creating generous merriment. The woman of the group brought giant magical bags full of craft supplies, and half of the dining room has since been converted into a workshop. Now, there are grand plans to make bags for elementary school students in the nearest village, to weave bracelets for a global non-profit distributor, and for individuals with the drive they’re pumping out art as fast as they can to sell during Semana Santa, on break.

And as a selfish benefit, I get to learn too! A particularly delightful class, taught by 2nd-Year Student Betis, showed us how to turn unwanted t-shirt fabric into headbands. “Bring An Old Shirt!” the sign said, advertising the time and place. I went to my room and looked at my shirts. They’re in pretty good condition, and I plan on leaving nearly everything (I need enough clothing to legally board a plane, of course), to the girls. But I wanted to make a headband so badly…

From the fanny to my fair locks! It's recycling!
…Underwear! There’s nothing that wears out faster when scrubbing your clothing on a rough rock surface than undies. I rifled through my box of unmentionables (which I’m mentioning now, of course) and pulled out a newly-unwearable pair: holes through and through from the Honduran laundry experience. Proudly toting my craft material, the girls laughed at my holey calsones.

But after some snipping, stretching and weaving, my result was the same as everyone else's, and it goes to show that there's almost nothing we can't reuse. 

Now, my grandfather was a Class-A Packrat, so I'm careful what I preserve for crafts and what I get rid of, but at TLC the opportunity to recycle instead of trash is not only abundant, it's necessary. We have no landfill, we have no sanitation service. If it isn't reused in some way, it gets burned...and it smells bad. Every time I have to throw plastic onto a bonfire, it feels so disgusting, and don't even get me started on the aerosol: we can't do anything with aerosol. 

So aside from underwear headbands, this week we are also smashing bag after bag of glass, smooshing bag after bag of plastic, to go under a new concrete floor that will be poured soon. Our own type of "landfill." We are collecting anything clean and countable for the nearest kindergarten. If one of our volunteers gets his project organized, then all plastic bottles will become colorful bricks. 

Necessity is the mother of innovation, and here in Honduras, there are over thirty of us "mothers" inventing the heck out of garbage. It's something I want you to know, because even though it's easier to put your underwear in a garbage can, isn't it much more heart-filling and time-worthy to do something with it? And doesn't it look so darn trendy? 

Some girls are going to sell them, I'm going to continue to make them, and hopefully, it can be one mighty colorful conversation starter about being resourceful, being grateful, and being adorably adorned with underwear.

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