A few weeks ago, I met Jessica Goudeau for a late-night coffee. The director of Hill Country Hill Tribers, I wanted to pick her brain about her work with Burmese refugees in her community as I seek to start a similar project in my area through Scarlet Threads. We ended up talking late into the night about adoption, China, refugees, mothering, and the ways orange soda and spicy cheetos seem to have global appeal.
After telling her my chief struggle with Scarlet Threads is the way we communicate its message, she asked me to write for her Questions of Travel Series... It took me a while, but I was finally able to give voice to the tension I feel. I hope you'll take a moment to read this... Scarlet Threads is most definitely a work-in-progress led by a woman who learns from her mistakes, and while I'm afraid that there are many things we have done poorly, I want to invite you on the journey as we seek to better fulfill our mission of Work. Dignity. Beauty.
The rusty iron gate, plastered with peeling Chinese New Year greetings, creaked open and it was like I’d never been gone at all. I stepped inside her courtyard and part of me felt like I was home. It’d been two years since I’d walked the narrow streets of this tiny little village on the outskirts of Beijing, but it was like I’d never left. I wiped my feet and ducked in as she held back the thick green blanket that served as an insulating door to her home. The warmth immediately enveloped me… The clean scent of clothes drying over radiators filled the room, and as drops of moisture sizzled and popped on the hot grates, it added a much-needed touch of humidity to the dry winter air. Sunlight streamed through the broad windows in her 四合院 (sìhéyuàn); a traditional Chinese courtyard home carefully arranged to take full-advantage of the fleeting winter sun with windows positioned to soak in warmth as long as possible.
Deng immediately pulled back my jacket to peer at my waist. “Too thin!” she exclaimed, but a broad smile was sweeping across her face, and really I knew she was just welcoming me home. For the last several years, we had worked together… she the lead seamstress, me (along with my brave sister-in-law Eileen) the leader-of-everything-else of a small fair trade sewing cooperative, Scarlet Threads, we’d founded while living 4 years in rural China. She kneeled down with excitement to meet my pint-sized shadow. My two-year-old daughter made this trip with me, coming back to her birthplace to see the people who shaped our lives in the years leading up to her arrival. We left when she was one month old. I still have the carefully pieced blanket made by Deng, thick with warmth and love, given to me a few weeks before my baby was born in that harsh Beijing winter.
Read the rest here...