Not long ago, we entered a phase of serious soul-searching. We spent long hours considering the topic, viewing it from all angles and concluding that structural changes in our lifestyle were needed. We saw this as a real opportunity for personal growth.
The question: Why do we own so much crap?
A couple things forced us into this introspective phase: watching a 60 year old guy carrying 20 of our carpets on his back up four flights of stairs in 95 degree heat (he was a professional). Spending a day with the Red State Sibling allocating under-bed and under-couch space to carpets categorized thusly: really like, like and sort of like; and figuring out how to store other assorted crap in an apartment 2/3rds the size of the old one.
The conclusion: Stop. No More Textiles.
This commitment lasted approximately six weeks, buckling under the mildest pressure.
Last week, we took the scenic route back to Ubud from eastern Bali on our scooter, enjoying the sunrise and the fishing villages along a seaside road that washes out every monsoon. On the lee side of Mt. Agung, the area is scrubbly, overgrazed by Bali cattle and bumpy with black lava rock. Farmers grow coffee and boatmakers carve from tree trunks the solid but narrow hulls of jukung boats used for fishing. It’s not the Bali of rice terraces and coconut palms. It’s very poor and not a lot goes on.
After rounding a curve, we screeched to a halt in front of a shiny new bungalow with a large sign. “The Karya Sary Warna Alam Weaving Cooperative of East Sarya.” Whhaaaaat?
A young woman bounded out of the side yard and unlocked the door to the shop. It was 7:15 am. The collection was small, but stock of good quality. Her English wasn’t great so we couldn’t tell where the cooperative gets the cotton, what the pieces are called or used for or who does the weaving, but the colors were natural and she suggested locally sourced. She also, obviously, couldn’t explain who the hell comes to her lovely little shop in the middle of nowhere.
We selected a few fairly priced items.
Then we remembered: We had no cash -- like, just barely enough for scooter petrol and breakfast. Credit cards were out of the question, as they usually are in rural areas. The nearest ATM was a 50km round trip and not an option.
Then we remembered that other thing: Our commitment.
“Nope, sorry. No cash. Can’t buy,” we told the obviously-disappointed shopgal. We patted ourselves on the back for keeping our commitment to self-discipline and restraint. We briefly wondered if we would regret not buying a rare textile from its source but did not dwell because we had no money.
So today, we decided to go for a walk, just to see what was going on at Threads of Life, our favorite Ubud textile NGO. The gals there are chatty and the shop smells like the spices used to keep bugs away from the threads. Maybe they would be offering another class soon. That would be fun!
Hey, what's that in the window? A sample from The Karya Sary Warna Alam Weaving Cooperative of East Sarya? Shut up! It’s one of the cooperatives supported by Threads of Life. We explained that we had visited it and the TOL gals there were happy to tell us more about it and its pieces, which are called Rangrang (which means "space" in Balinese and refers, it seems, to a sort of slit weave used) and are used to hold up/cover boobs. They gave us an informative DVD with more information about the cooperative.
Yah, of course we bought one. Could we let this Rangrang be the only of the three unique types of textiles produced on Bali that we don’t own, simply because of some dumb decision made under duress? That would be silly and shortsighted, especially since it will look lovely on the Ikea bookshelf.