Friday, January 30, 2009

Trip to Tegucigalpa with the potters!

Seeing us off for our adventure to Tegucigalpa!

In November, a bunch of volunteers near Tegucigalpa had been working to organize an artisan fair in the US Embassy and invited all volunteers who have some type of artisan group in their sites to bring people from their group and sell inside the Embassy in December. What a great opportunity for the potters! The fair was set for the beginning of December and since July, Ellen and I had been working hard to prepare everything for the trip. There were business workshops we had to cover (which Ellen and I luckily had already covered earlier) and we needed to accessorize our pottery with labels, business cards and catalogs. I also opened an e-mail account for the group and Ellen, who teaches computer classes, taught a group of potters how to use the computer and check the internet in case more orders came from contacts we would make in Teguz. Thanks to CooperaciĆ³n Espanola, the classes were paid for and the women, who originally could not afford the classes, can now use a mouse, use basic programs, and check e-mail!

Some of the beautiful pottery and clay artwork from La Campa

Because of budget cuts, there were no funds in Peace Corps to be able to cover any costs for this fair. And unfortunately, getting to Tegucigalpa is a long and rather expensive trip. But even still, two women (Herminia and Ursula . . . two of my best friends and supporters here), agreed that this was an opportunity we could not let pass us by and decided to go.

Ursula is a very active community leader and is involved in almost every project in some way. She also has been a confidant to me and supported me in more ways than I imagined or expected from anyone. If it weren´t for Ursula, I wouldn´t have been able to accomplish as much as I have and certainly my experience would have been a lot more difficult. Herminia is very intelligent and her husband, who is the main potter, does beautiful work. However, Herminia is less experienced with taking a leadership role and is even less experienced with traveling out of the community. So, I was most excited for this opportunity for her. This trip was her first time to Siguatepeque and to Tegucigalpa. It was also the longest time she had been away from her husband since they got married when she was 17 years old.

It´s time for the ladies to leave the village! Woohoo!! Herminia on the left and Ursula on the right.

So December 2nd came and we were ready to go! The fair was December 3rd but of course we had to leave a day early. I was excited to see how motivated Herminia and Ursula were for this trip and also excited to hang out with them outside of Nueva Esperanza. It would be an experience that none of us would forget. Herminia and Ursula wrote a letter to World Vision asking them to help us out with transportation and they said they would be happy to take us. So we filled the car with 11 boxes of pottery (each piece with a label tied on with a piece of corn husk), a stack of catalogs and business cards, and a huge sign that said ¨Alfareria de La Campa¨ which Ellen and I spent painstaking hours making and laminating by hand with contact paper. The head of World Vision in Gracias, Guillermo, took us straight to Tegucigalpa with one stop in Siguatepeque. The craziest thing happened when we were in Siguatepeque. I ran into my friend, Andrea, who I hadn’t seen since graduating from high school!! Herminia, Ursula, and I were in a small market looking at aisles of food when she came and stood in front of me. It was such a surreal moment and I was in disbelief. Andrea was on vacation with her family and boyfriend on the North Coast and were headed to Tegucigalpa when they decided to stop in the same rest stop in Siguatepeque as us. Small world, huh?

The artisan fair in the US Embassy

Herminia and Ursula selling to a customer

Some of what the potters make

In Tegucigalpa, I got to show Ursula and Herminia the Peace Corps office and introduced them to my project managers. Again, Herminia was making me laugh because every time we had to cross the road, she would run up and grab onto my arm. All the cars going in every direction was very overwhelming to her and she had no idea how I knew how to get across the street. Even Ursula, who has been to Tegucigalpa, commented that sometimes there’s just too much to look out for in the cities. It definitely is a shock going from the small towns to the big cities.

Herminia, Ursula, and I at our booth

During the fair, there were several other volunteers selling all kinds of artisan stuff. Getting into the Embassy was a little complicated. We sold a good amount and ended up taking the extra to a touristy town outside of Tegucigalpa called Valle de Angeles. There, we left four boxes in a store in consignment. So now La Campa pottery is finally out of La Campa!! Woohoo!!

Our newly labelled pottery and business cards

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