searching and talking

Deep sigh. This week, which is still a day and half (Saturday mornings are spent training Yeng’s staff at NETPRO) away from being over, has been all about looking for things and people and about talking about things with people. I’ve driven around the city to all the markets, looking for someone who will import some worsted weight yarn for me. It seems not many market vendors are interested in doing anything other than what they are doing now, regardless of the opportunity for profit. This is interesting! I even told one vendor I would buy over a hundred pairs of bamboo knitting needles if he would source them for me. He yawned and waved me off. I think I have a lot to learn about doing business in Cambodia… I’ve spent countless hours online trying to find distributors in China (a major source of good quality yarn) but all I can get to are the factories and they need orders to be in the tonnes of yarn and I’m not quite ready for that...

Stitch by stitch

I guess at this early life stage of this blog it might be pertinent to explain why I am throwing caution to the wind and armed with only my enthusiasm and high expectations, starting a knitting co-op type social enterprise in Cambodia. It all started when I was in Austria, a 6 year old child of a refugee family fleeing Communist Poland for a better life in Canada. Being so young, I didn’t fully understand the situation we were in, just that we weren’t home and were never going back. When my mother and sister started knitting hats and sweaters, I knew I had to get in on the action. I demanded to be instructed in the fine art of crochet and armed with a crochet hook and a string of yarn, I made my first chain. I was so proud of my creation, I wore it as a necklace and sometimes as a headband. Was my love of all things yarnish born then? Probably not, but I do remember the fascination and awe that stitch by stitch, a new entity was slowly created by my own two hands. Stitch by stitch. That is what appeals to me most about knitting. It is a slow and laborious process, sometimes monotonous, always meditative, that results in an end product completely unlike what one starts with: two sticks and some yarn. Now, stitch by stitch I hope that I can help women in Cambodia improve their situations through fair, flexible and rewarding employment. Throughout the ages, women have clothed their families and kept them warm in winter, stitch by stitch, and...

Getting started

This first thing I need to do before anything else, is get a good translator to help me. My Khmer is very basic and although I can get by at the market and around town, its not enough for talking to people in government offices or making inquiries at factories. So the search for a translator begins! I decided that it would be best, most appropriate really, to hire a female translator since I’d like the person involved to take up knitting in order to be able to translate patterns later on. Doing that will be impossible without knowing how to work with two sticks and a string and I really don’t think there are too many Cambodian men willing to assault their masculinity by learning to knit. I was quite clear in the ad, stating that we are looking for a part-time female translator. Despite this, no less than 5 men have applied asking “is it ok that I am male?” Hmmm? Through the interview process I met a lot of interesting women, some with great English but most already working full time and hoping that the part time position could be done in the evenings and weekends. I was almost in despair when I finally interviewed the perfect candidate. Great English, free during the week and genuinely more interested in part time work in order to be able to spend more time with her son and who really understood what I was trying to do. As an added bonus, she is a hibernating knitter. Not for...