Negotiating the weaving and its price was not a lightweight situation and this eventuality fell to another relative of Mr. Simlay: Mr. Bounleng, who was our driver, our guard (he was, it turned out, armed) and now our negotiator. However this simplifies the story a bit too casually. The reality went more like this. As we stepped from the swaying bridge and we walked down the dirt path leading through the village, past innumerable chickens, pigs and twittering, giggling little children that were coming out to peek at these unexpected, exotic visitors. Nervously we sauntered along, attempting to blend in and not seem totally out of place (which was impossible for obvious reasons) as we walked up to a weaver industriously working at her loom. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, we pulled out the scarf sample and showed it to her. In very short order she announced confidently that it couldn’t be woven. Quickly a large number of villagers were drawn to our discussion each taking the scarf and with a great show of solemnity and apparently in agreement, that as strange as it might seem, it would be an impossibility to weave this silk. Then suddenly from the midst of this crowd emerged a sarong clad, diminutive women of an incalculable age, who grabbed the scarf and began to twist it this way and that, checking the warp and weft threads while commenting that it was extremely poor weaving of an almost embarrassing sort. Then in a flick of an eye she looked at us and stated that she could indeed weave this silk, except that hers’ would be much finer, it would be number one quality. With her assent in place, nearly all of the weavers from the village agreed that they too could weave this silk. This was how we learned that the village had a chief weaver!
Now that issue was settled, we began to negotiate the details: price, time of delivery and so forth. This of course was not straightforward as you might imagine since we were proposing to begin working with a village of people just emerging from the chaos of a genocidal civil war.