Ten Thousand Villages
Posted October 20, 2005on:
I went to a lovely store last week. It is located in an upscale neighborhood where men aren’t ashamed of eating quiches in public. That’s to tell you how upscale it is. There’s also a Dog Bakery not far from the store I want to write about. Yes, a Bakery that caters only to dogs. How unabashedly rich do you have to be to go to such a store? They sell the pastries by the pound. The mouth watering brownies and peanut butter bars do not look like dog pastry to me. And as non-canine as you are, you’d be almost tempted to eat them yourself.
Anyway, the store is called “Ten Thousand Villages” and it sells lovely crafts from around the world. I had been in one a long time ago, but in a different, also quite upscale, neighborhood. The gentleman at the door told me they were a non-profit store and that they practice fair trade (I still cannot decide if “Fair Trade” is just the latest marketing ploy or if it really is quite sincere? See my other post. They’re also fairly trading Malagasy Chocolate.).
Ten Thousand Villages offers plenty of delights : Alpaca shawls from Bolivia, baskets from Cambodia, modernist sculptures from Southern Africa, bamboo chimes. I especially loved the vivid blue Peacock Kite from Indonesia. My son has outgrown mobiles but who’s to say mommy cannot enjoy herself too, eh? Plus I get to help the Indonesian man who made the kite. You can even see his picture on the Ten Thousand Villages website. How cool is that? Ten Thousand Villages makes it a point to know personally all their artisans and value long term relationships with them.
I was surprised not to see any Malagasy crafts in the store and so I investigated a little bit…
It turns out the store is a program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). I did not know the Mennonites were so business savvy ! Somehow I always assimilated them to the Amish, which I now know is quite incorrect. Mea Culpa for my ignorance.
A bit of history here : The Mennonites separated from Luther when they thought Luther’s reforms did not go far enough. And the Amish separated from the Mennonites because they thought the Mennonites were not disciplined enough. The Amish value self-reliance above all: they do not use electricity or gas. They don’t get their water from Water Company Inc. They do not ride in cars but ride horse pulled bogeys. They wear outfits they sew themselves and whose pattern went out of style two centuries ago. They call everybody else “English” and they speak German even though they mainly live in the very American state of Pennsylvania. Harrison Ford fell in love with one in the movie “Witness“.
But obviously their Mennonite brothers have joined the XXI century. They are very present on the web. (Check out this very cool Mennonite blog http://mennoknight.blogspot.com). Their website says they are present in 60 countries. I wonder if they’re in Madagascar yet. They probably are. Now I am still wondering why they did not have Malagasy crafts in the store…