I spent a large chunk of my time today helping out at a charity stall at my office. We were selling yak blankets that I had got sent over from my friend in Nepal. These yak blankets are beautiful. They are soft and colorful and incredibly warm. I have always loved them and have for years been bringing them back for my friends and family. All of the women in my family that I love adore them.
They really do.
I have quite a few yak blankets draped around my apartment in Singapore too. They add colour to the place and they brighten my often dull life. Our little stall was raising money for the school program that we run in the Katunje district of Nepal. This is high in the majestic Himalaya mountain range. We volunteers were standing up all day. It was hard work.
I am footsore now.
I am battered.
It was nice however to be surrounded by people doing good. There were very kind and pleasant people from ten other charities there too. They were all supported in some way by my work colleagues. They are altruistic people. I like the word 'altruistic'. I like the concept too. These people give their own time to help others less fortunate than themselves. We should all do more of it. Goodness rubs off I think. I am a believer in karma and the general concept of doing good upon others. What goes around comes around.
I am definitely not a salesperson though. It is not my forte. I think perhaps I am a little too frank and my brutal honesty needs to be curbed. A number of people who came to our stall asked silly questions. Well they seemed silly to me. I gave them honest answers. Possibly a little too bluntly. The majority of these people had never been to Nepal so they knew little about what life was like over there. It is tough. It is harsh. It is one of the world's most impoverished nations.
On a number of occasions people asked me unusual things - with genuine concern.
"Were these blankets made using child labour?"
I was asked this more than once during the course of the day. Much more than once.
"Of course they were" I replied.
"Why do you think they are so bloody cheap?"
There was mostly nervous laughter and the odd blank stare. Was he being serious was ticking through their blank little minds? I was. I am. Families support each other in Nepal. Assistance in putting food on the table is a Nepalese child's responsibility to the family. A close team effort is required for the daily struggle for survival. The gentle and mostly Hindu Mountain People of Nepal love their children though.
As they should.
Anyway our charity tries to help a bit with education but we are small potatoes and we are not miracle workers.
Even more annoying was the more often repeated enquiry
"Were any Yaks harmed in the making of these blankets?"
This is true. I am serious!
"Absolutely" was my retort.
"Yaks can be large, unruly and dangerous beasts. They are formidable. They won't just roll over and let you cut their shaggy hair. The Farmers shear their wool by hand. The Nepalese will beat these fuckers into submission for shearing".
I received more stunned looks.
This is not really true. I thought I would just throw it out there.
The yak is formidable in size only. It is otherwise quite a docile and harmless creature. The yak lives at very great heights where the oxygen is thin and all movement is slow. It is very cold at such heights - which is why yak wool is so thick and luxurious.
The Nepalese Mountain people also make cheese and yoghurt from the Yak's milk. I have eaten both products many times. With mo-mos. These are Nepalese dumplings. They are delicious.
We were selling these Yak blankets cheap. S$25 each. They go on line in the UK for more than forty pounds and in the US for $80! They are not easy to get. As the day went on and people asked me how much they were - I was quoting one for $25, two for $60 and three for $100.
Ten for $500!
Some people saw the humor.
Other suckers bought it. Hook line and sinker!
We have run out now. They sold like hotcakes.