One of my teammates is thinking about starting a small business to make and sell handicrafts locally, and I’ve been sharing some of my own design ideas with her lately to help her think through what might be good sellers. For years now I’ve been collecting pieces of traditional fabrics from Asian markets, with the hopes of one day having time to design my own bags and skirts. Now I can make the time to do it, all in the name of helping a co-worker get her business up and running.
We have also been talking about teaching our friends in the villages how to make bead jewelry so they can sell it here in town for some extra income. One of our main problems for now is finding the supplies to make large quantities of jewelry. Beads are abundant in larger cities in Asia, but in our small town they are hard to come by. So when a local friend told me I could find wholesale beads in the Thai import market near my apartment, I went to check it out.
I easily found the store she told me about, but was disappointed when I realized that the vast majority of their stock was Buddhist prayer beads. I did find one small bin of simple jade beads of various shades, though, and decided to buy a few as a sample. As I was digging through the bin and haggling with the Chinese shop owner over the price, I glanced up and realized the only other customer in the store was a Burmese Muslim jade dealer who was sorting through a stack of threads for making necklaces and bracelets.
It was one of those odd moments in life where I catch myself thinking, “How on earth did I end up here?” A Christian girl from Texas, shopping next to a Burmese Muslim man wearing a long beard and a longyi, in a Chinese Buddhist shop of imports from Thailand. Surreal.