Mone means pillow in Lao language. We met our friend Mone, who is not in fact a pillow, but a twenty-eightish year old woman from southern Laos. She is only four-foot eight, and can sit with her legs flat-out in front of her for hours.
The day started when dad got us up early to rent bicycles and bike to the other side of the river and through villages and that kind of thing. However, after four different unsuccessful bike shops, and the bright, hot sun on our shoulders (which had not been sun screened that morning) we admitted defeat and sat in the shade with a sandwich and a smoothie. Mom suggested that we split up: Porter and dad go do whatever, and she and I go check out a weaving class she had looked up. To get there, we had to cross the bamboo bridge. A really scary bridge over the river made out of bamboo that creaked and popped, and pretty much made us feel like we would fall through at any moment.
On the other side of the river we passed a homemade jewelry shop, and followed signs to The Weaving Sisters weaving class. We walked into the workshop to see beautiful table runners and tapestries hanging on the walls. We called out “Hello? Hello?” and Mone walked in from the back. Upon seeing our sweaty faces, she offered us a glass of cold water. As mom and I admired her weaving, Mone talked to us about weaving, where she was from in the south of Lao, and her family. Almost immediately I knew I liked her. It certainly helped that I was a whole head taller than her too!!! Then mom started asking questions about the weaving class. How much it was, how long it took, if she had any openings. She told us all about it, and mom and I thought we might enjoy weaving, despite the slightly spendy price. We asked if we could do a class right then, and I could tell Mone was a little taken aback, but she agreed and said to come back in about forty-five minutes so she could set up. Mom however, told Mone that our guesthouse was not very close and it was hot outside, and asked if we could stay instead to help her set up. Mone obliged, and we picked the colors we wanted for the headbands she would teach us to weave. After that we watched as she strung hundreds of little threads on a big loom. Then she proceeded to show us how to weave on a back-strap loom.
The loom is set up on your body like so: a strap across your back (obviously) that connects to the loom itself. The thread stretched out across the span of your legs, with your feet pressed up against a stick at the end. It looks incredibly complicated at first, there are so many bamboo sticks, and you have to move this one at a certain point, apply pressure with your feet here, relax them there, lift this up, slide that. Mone is a great teacher, though, and after a while, we got into the rhythm of weaving, and started enjoying it immensely. About halfway through, my lower back started to hurt from sitting up against the wall for two hours. When we were almost finished, Mone came out with a plate of fresh mango slices, which made me like her even more. By the end of the day, I could actually sit down with my legs out in front of me and touch my toes! I have never been able to do that before. When we were finished, the headbands looked amazing. I could not believe that I had made that. With the leftover tassels, Mone rolled them on her leg in a certain way, then tied a knot, so there were braid-like tassels on both ends of the headband.
This was an amazing experience, and I am so glad that we did it. Throughout the four or so hours of weaving, Mone was great company, and I loved talking to her. After we were finished, Mone’s friend came in. Her name was Nikki, and she was really nice. Apparently she worked at the jewelry shop we had passed earlier. Nikki said the something that made my day:
Mom asked her how old I looked. Nikki replied “Well, her face looks young, but because she is so tall, I would say about fourteen.” Mom and I cracked up.
I was so glad, that a boring day filled with hot sun and bike shops galore, had turned into the awesome day complete with weaving, shade and a short new friend.
Note from dad: When Amy and Mia returned, they were so enamored with their experience, and with Mone, that we all went back for a visit the next day. Also, Mone had conducted the entire class on faith that Amy would pay the next day. So, we returned to meet her, and to pay. Mia described her very well, I won’t add any more except a few more photos: