When I lived with my host family I washed my clothes in the quebrada. It was a fun way to get to know the women of the community and get out of the house. Washing clothes in a river felt so serene and natural. I pretended to be Pocohontos, soaking in my surroundings while cleaning my clothes. The Ngabe way of washing clothes is the slapping method. After scrubbing an article with soap, you pound it over and over again on a flat rock. This sends the suds flying and strengthens your arm muscles! The process is repeated several times after thorough rinses. Now that I live in my own home I use a different method: the scrub board and cubo. I do miss those times though in the river with all the women.
One thing I don’t miss about the experience is seeing how much old clothing was thrown into the water. Dresses and pants were snagged under rocks and along the banks. Underwear and shirts were thrown into the branches above. I’ve learned that there is a vital lack of education surrounding pollution and trash management. The connection seems to be lost between throwing clothes in a river and sea life being eventually affected by it. I tried giving charlas about it, but the information never seemed to stick. So instead, I tried to turn old clothing into a commodity: rugs!
To make a recycled shag rug you need old clothing, an old saco, and a nail. First, clean the clothes you found! Once they are nice and clean, cut them into strips the length of your hand and 2″ thick (mas o menos). Cut open the saco and spread it out, so there is only one layer. Cut the saco to the dimensions you want to make your rug. I recommend not making it too large as it could feel overwhelming to finish. Once you have your saco and clothing strips ready, get a nail or something similar. Start along the edges of the saco, tying the strips closely so the rug won’t fray. Place one end of the cloth strip on the tip of the nail, and lightly poke the nail through the saco. Tie the two ends. You will repeat this until the edges are covered. From there, I worked my way into the center starting at each corner. Again, cover the tip of the nail with one end of the cloth and gently poke the nail through the saco. Since this is not an edge, you now have to repeat this in the other direction. Then tie the two ends together. Depending on the material, you can make one or two knots. I decided to sew on the Peace Corps symbol in the middle of the rug so I’d have to do less tying. This is a great activity to do when children visit your house. The little girls loved cutting strips of fabric while I weaved them through the saco. Several women in the community have also made rugs and hopefully it’ll become a “cool” thing to do with old clothes. I know Kabe thinks so (as he lays on it snoring)!
This is another type of recycle rug. Cut clothes into strips and weave them through extra chicken wire. Thanks for the cool idea Courtney!