We always grill a steak for our Lao guests when they come to San Francisco. Steak is very different here than in Laos. We usually serve it with rice and wasabi seaweed (stand-ins for Lao sticky rice and Mekong seaweed) and put out several hot sauces, from Tabasco to Sriracha (stand-ins for Lao hot sauce, jaew). And add salad, corn-on-the-cob and squash (another vegetable not readily available in Laos). And for dessert we try to have fresh fruits that are not grown in Laos-apricots, strawberries, cantaloupe, and Bandith’s favorite-cherries.
Our friends from Laos are always up for trying new foods and that definitely includes Bandith. However, he did not like hamburgers the first time he tried one at a McDonald’s. We told him those weren’t really hamburgers and took him to a restaurant we knew would have a great hamburger. Here he is with all the trimmings, and slathering on the ketchup, per our advice. Now that's a good American hamburger.
Going to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market brought another new cuisine to taste. Christmas chile, combining both the red and green chile, sopapillas, guacamole, and tamales. Tacos, especially off a taco truck, was another new food. This is the taco truck in the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM that serves fantastic tacos, cooked over a flame, along with their homemade salsa.
Bandith did not believe us when we said there are hot sauces and salsas in the U.S. that are as hot as what he likes in Laos. He’d taste the various condiments put out and deem them to be nothing. Then Mark roasted some habaneros for him, the taste of which, has been burned into his memory because now he takes a little taste of the hot sauce before spooning it on his food.
Every year we are enchanted by the decorations, drawing from cultures around the world, that are produced anew for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. From the moment you enter the vibrant entrance gate, it’s immediately apparent you are entering another world or perhaps many worlds.
Even the trees are dressed and the clouds are always in their best form during Market time. I just love the juxtaposition of the adobe museums, the natural landscaping and the bright colors. My photos don't come close to conveying the experience of being surrounded by all this color.
The rows and rows of artisans’ handcrafts provide so much fascination and interest on their own. Add to that all the decorations above and right beside you - you can’t help but be drawn into the excitement and start dreaming of where the artisans may have come from. Are we in Nepal or Peru or maybe China?
Click here for Santa Fe International Folk Art Market website.
We are always thrilled when National Geographic features a piece of Orijyn jewelry in their catalog or e-commerce site. This year there will be an Orijyn necklace-a design with the special Dok Phikhoun flower and leaf, along with a bangle, bracelet, and earrings. http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/clothing/jewelry/bracelets/lao-silver-necklace
We are also honored to have part of our video showing how the intricate Dok Phikhoun jewelry is made, on National Geographic’s blog, “Behind the Scenes”. http://blog.store.nationalgeographic.com/lao-jewelry
Many thanks to National Geographic!
The Dok Phikoun flower is very special to the Lao Buddhists. It is believed to bring the wearer good luck, good health and protect them on their travels. Even the King’s elephant war saddle incorporates the flower in the design. That is why the Lao like to wear jewelry that has the flower on it and there are many ways to wear the flowered jewelry, as you can see from our offerings.
When Bandith came to the US for our first Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, he wore a thin silver bracelet adorned with the tiny silver Dok Phikoun flowers. He was asked many times if he would sell the bracelet and each time he would say that he couldn’t because his mum gave it to him to protect him during his trip. We have since been able to work with that silversmith and bring that bracelet to you in two sizes. http://www.orijyn.com/Bracelets-The_Bandith_7_-633.html
The Dok Phikoun jewelry is also worn during ceremonies and weddings. The bride and the groom are decked out in coils of jewelry chains made with tiny Dok Phikoun flower. Our Dok Phikoun chains are the same ones worn in these ceremonies, usually in the gold or white silver. http://www.orijyn.com/Silver_Necklaces_The_Dok_Phikoun_33_.html
Please take a look at the video Mark produced, showing the intricate process of making each of the Dok Phikhoun flowers. Click the right hand banner on our website or visit youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF2kYbwkXVA
After learning about the significance of the flower, we were very curious about the actual flower and were told that it only blooms once a year for a very short duration. The Lao say you shouldn’t talk around the tree or it will drop it’s flowers. It sounded a little like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus but Bandith was able to get a photo of the actual flower when it bloomed in his neighbor’s courtyard.
We love meeting people at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. The artisans, volunteers and people who come to browse and buy. Every encounter just adds to our excitement of being at the Market. Each year we’re at the Market, there are a few people who see the sign identifying the handcraft’s country of origin and ask us where “Lao PDR” is. We reply that Lao is the Lao name and Laos is the English name for the country.
Then they ask about the “PDR”. It stands for “People’s Democratic Republic” but we, as the other artisan groups from Laos like to say, it stands for “Please Don’t Rush”. Laos is considered the most laid-back country in Southeast Asia with “quite possibly the most chilled-out people on earth “, according to “The Lonely Planet”. But I think it earns the “Please Don’t Rush” moniker not just because the people are chilled-out, but because Laos merits more than a quick three day visit.
People who have been to Laos or are going will stop by our booth and it’s fun to share experiences of this wonderful country. One memorable experience was meeting an American woman who had worked for a non-governmental organization in Laos in the 70’s. She started singing some Lao children’s songs she learned while working in a school there. Bandith joined in, amazed. He said he hadn’t heard those songs since he was a child.
On the last day of the Market, children go from booth to booth to collect country flags to put in their Santa Fe “passport”. It's always fun to meet the children and find out which countries they want to travel to after having been to the Market. Bandith especially enjoys handing out the Lao flag stickers and telling them a little something about his country, Lao PDR.
Click here for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market website.
Before our very first Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, Bandith did a private ceremony under a tree in the yard of the house we were renting, asking for a good and prosperous Market. Mark and I were made aware of this as we were packing up to leave Santa Fe-Bandith announced that we needed to thank the tree for our good fortune and great memories at the Market. We rushed around gathering the items he asked for, quickly performed the ceremony, and left the items under the tree on our dash to the airport.
Now before each Market, we wouldn’t dream of skipping over the blessing ceremony. Bandith brings over special knotted threads, blessed by priests in his temple. Sometimes they are from a very special temple or blessed by a very special monk. We now buy eggs to boil, flowers, and fruit at the market as soon as we arrive in Santa Fe, in anticipation of the ceremony. Upon arriving at the rented house, Bandith will survey the trees in the yard. Early the first morning of the Market, he arranges the items on plates, in even numbers, brings glasses of water and places everything under the chosen tree.
The oldest in our group-it has been Mark’s father the last two years-will start the ceremonies, holding the plate of eggs and repeating after Bandith, asking for blessings for the Market. The plate is touched to the head in the direction of the tree and passed to the next person. Then he does the same with the plate of fruit and flowers. We each repeat the good wishes in order of age. Then we tie the white silk threads on each others’ wrists-expressing our hopes and wishes for each person. We try to touch each other’s arm or shoulder to bring all our energies together as each person is saying their blessings. Afterwards, the dishes are placed around the tree and we each pour some water at the base of the tree.
The baci ceremony is deeply ingrained in the Lao culture. One year we were at San Francisco DeYoung Museum's Fair Trade show but the first day brought only a few people. Bandith’s sister-in-law, Jiep, was helping us and immediately berated Bandith for not having performed a baci prior to the show. The next morning we were at his chosen tree (in our neighbor’s backyard), performing the ceremony, along with lit candles that he insisted should stay lit until they burned to the ground, even as we raced to the museum. I was never so thankful for thick, drizzly San Francisco fog.
According to the Lao Heritage Foundation, “in Laos, white is the color of peace, good fortune, honesty and warmth. The white cotton thread is a lasting symbol of continuity and brotherhood in the community and permanence. The baci threads should be worn for at least three days subsequently and should be untied rather than cut off. Usually it is preferred that they are kept until they fall off by themselves. The baci ceremony runs deep in the Lao psyche. In different parts of the country the ceremony differs slightly in meaning. In general, it is nonetheless an emphasis of the value of life, of social and family bonds, of forgiveness, renewal and homage to heavenly beings.”
At last year’s Market, Bandith brought a supply of blessed baci threads to tie on the wrists of people buying Lao jewelry. A double blessing that year-the Dok Phikhoun flower on the jewelry and the baci thread.
Click here for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market website.
(Every trip to Laos includes a baci ceremony. Please see our FaceBook post of May 28, 2013 - a memorable baci ceremony of blessings and hopes for Sombath’s safe return.)
I eagerly wait for the latest blog post by Maryam in “My Marrakesh, a place for lifestyle and design”. http://moroccanmaryam.typepad.com
Her blog details “the bemused tales of an American family’s quest to build a guest house in Marrakesh”. Now open and ready for your visit. (If you can't visit quite yet-take a spin through the website and make plans for next year!) http://peacockpavilions.com
No matter how much paperwork is piled up, I am always swept away by her exquisite, dreamy images of life in that part of the world. And she teases with her evocative copy-it all combines to make you crave more, more!
Maryam is a lover and supporter of handcrafts, in every form, as is evident from the guest house, her blog and wonderfully curated Red Thread Souk. She has also written and photographed two beautiful blog posts about the handcrafted, ethnic jewelry she loves, including Orijyn’s Nong Khai Large Cuff http://www.orijyn.com/Cuff-The_Nong_Khai_Large_Cuff-616.html
. We absolutely love the photos she took of the cuff, don’t you?
Morocco:and a tale of tribal jewelry
(click on link and scroll down the page for this post)
Cairo: and a tale of jewelry
(click on link and scroll down the page for this post)
We are so grateful for the support of handcraft lovers around the world. Thank you all!
We are coming into the summer months when flies are more prevalent in San Francisco. (Yes, we do have warm summer days once in a while!)
After one particularly maddening bout of flies, Mark brought home a fly swatter he'd been talking about that is used in Laos. I was thinking it would be similar to the fly swatters we grew up with, having maybe a larger surface but the one he showed up with is the new, improved Chinese-made version of a fly swatter.
Buddhist though they are, we’ve been told this is used throughout Laos. The fly swatter electrocutes the fly as it passes through the smiling face grate. Not only that, you hear the snap of the electricity as the fly is being electrocuted so you know you actually killed the fly. It's very disconcerting and feels like a lethal weapon when you hear that crack. And it looks a little scary, plugged into the wall socket, gathering strength for the next swarm of flies.
The Santa Fe Folk Art Market is like taking a trip around the world while walking through the brightly decorated tents of the market. Besides the artisans in their native dress and the exquisite handcrafts piled high and hung from the walls, there is music and dance from around the globe and wonderful smells wafting from the food bazaar-it’s a feast for all the senses.
One booth after the other – musical instruments from Uzbekistan, Maasai beaded jewelry from Kenya, felt work from Kyrgyzstan, bandhani tie dye textiles and embroideries from India, Zapotec natural dye weavings from Mexico, silver jewelry from the once nomadic Tuaregs of Niger, indigo-dyed clothing from a northern Thai women’s cooperative and on and on...
And much like a souk there are so many treasures tucked away in each artisan’s stall and a story to go with each piece. Many of these handcraft techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. Some of these handcrafts may not survive to another generation. The market is the largest of its kind-helping to bring greater awareness and opportunity to these artisans and their handcrafts.
The market strives to “create a world that values the humanity of the hand-made, honors timeless cultural traditions, and embraces the vision of dignified livelihoods for folk artists across the globe.”
We are excited each year we are asked to come to the marketplace. We cherish the friendships we’ve made and hope that each artisan will continue to flourish.
Click here Santa Fe International Folk Art Market website.
Before Mark goes to Laos, he does a drive for children’s books and reading glasses. He always fills a 50 pound box to take over. Last fall, Windhorse Foundation generously donated 100 pairs of reading glasses for the weavers in the villages and Mark was able to take them over.
We met Don Kraft and Lorna Bender and the Windhorse Foundation when we donated a piece of the Orijyn jewelry for their yearly fundraiser auction. The foundation is an all-volunteer organization, founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, that provides aid to villages and orphanages in Southeast Asia. They make available health-related, financial, educational and other forms of support. They have been working with several villages and orphanages in northern Laos.
Saoban handed out the glasses to the older women weavers who often have to stop weaving due to their eyesight. For that generation, weaving is a basis of self-worth in the community. The reading glasses gives them a renewed sense of self-esteem by allowing them to keep weaving, help pass on their skills and contribute to the family’s daily needs.
Kop chai lai lai- many thanks to Don and Lorna and the Windhorse Foundation.