Many of you know that I started a weekly embroidery afternoon class for the refugee women in our village late last year. We have been meeting more or less regularly, depending on my workload, for the past few months. It soon turned out that embroidery, or indeed crafts, wasn't an option for all of them. Why make 'superfluous stuff' when you have been in survival mode for most of your life? For me, it was especially hard to connect to the African ladies. My super-efficient organised analytical mind does not seem to go well with the African way of life. That says more about my limitations than about the African way of life. And sorry for grouping a whole continent together too.
And here are my lovely ladies: Tetyana from Ukraine, Rushda from Pakistan and Segal from Somalia. When you look closely, you can see that I myself have made integration progress too. Yes, after years of living on and off in Germany and England, I have finally understood the benefits of windows with curtains. No small feat for the Dutch, I tell you!
Thanks to some very generous gifts from some of you, my ladies are all working on their own projects. Let me show you what they have been stitching. Tetyana has been an avid stitcher all her life, although being a chemistry teacher and mum of twin daughters did not leave her with a lot of spare time on her hands. She works on an Easter placemat. Easter? Yes, lucky Tetyana celebrates Easter in early May with the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Plenty of time left to finish on time!
Rushda has the advantage of being fluent in English. She loves to peruse my extensive embroidery library. And she loves bullion knots. She is the queen of bullion knots! Don't her sunflowers look pretty? It is not easy for her to leave the house on her own as that is not accepted social behaviour for a decent woman in Pakistan. With two young children to care for, she finds little time to stitch. We are now trying to find a second-hand playpen so that her one-year old son can safely play in my studio when mum is stitching. After all, scissors and needles are pretty dangerous.
And last but not least, Segal, a teen from Somalia. Definitely a country you do not want to live born a woman. She wants to tell us so much about her life, but is handicapped by our limited understanding of Somali. I am especially happy that she has returned to my class. And that we have found something she loves to do and excels in. Last week, she started to draw traditional Somali floral patterns and copied them onto fabric. Can't wait to see them full-colour in thread.
And in between the stitching we talk a lot about our former lives and the differences to our lives here in Germany. We eat cookies. Very important. And we sip a nice cuppa. Integration is fun.
Jessica M. Grimm
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