What does a working experience at We Are KAL look like? We would like to introduce our intern Jimmy to you, the first one who accompanied us during our wool harvest and processing. He was a great part of our team and we are very, very grateful for his commitment. In this post Jimmy will share his background, the experience with the KAL team in Ladakh in July and August 2018 and his ideas for the future. Enjoy!
Jimmy and Angtak collecting the sheep wool in Kharnak.
"But who am I?
I am from the French countryside, not far from Lyon. I grew up surrounded by fields and since a very young age nature attracts me.
I first studied anthropology and political science at university for a year, a year that was so rewarding for my understanding of the social world. But the too theoretical aspect of these disciplines left me hungry. I then turned to agricultural studies: nothing more natural for a young person who grew up in the countryside!
And today I am a student in agriculture engineering school in Montpellier, in the south of France. What fascinates me since the beginning of these studies is the link between nature and culture.
Always writing down valuable information for his own research.
In an increasingly urban world where we hear a lot about the negative impact of humans on the planet, we often forget that there are also positive synergies.
Part of the biodiversity exists today only through human activities! This is for example the case of grasslands; Without animal breeding, the landscapes would be invaded by the forests and all the country flowers would disappear in the shade of the trees.
It is therefore this strong link between Man and nature that I am questioning, for the moment as a simple observer of what already exists, through traineeships in gardening, beekeeping and today in wool with We Are Kal.
Jimmy together with the weavers Tashi Yangchen, Padma Angmo and Tsering Yangzom cleaning the sheep wool after skirting it. Here dung and thick hair is removed.
Paradoxically, we live in a hyper-connected era, which allows us to inform ourselves about everything to finally realize that we do not know anything.
Our society is based on consumption, but apart from the often misleading and manipulative marketing, nothing tells us about the history of objects.
Who designed it? In what conditions ? Where do the raw materials come from?
The sectors are obscure and the ambient dishonesty, stimulated by the dictates of profit, unfortunately lets me imagine the worst practices. This is particularly the case of textiles.
It is therefore in search of meaning in the design of clothing and accessories that I turned to KAL. After a quick search on the internet and a Skype interview, in late June I find myself with a plane ticket in hand to Ladakh, in the Himalayas in northern India, to live 2 months with Catherine and Angtak.
Jimmy and Angtak during the washing process, discussing organic ways of wool washing.
Drying sheep and lambs wool in the sun.
We do not do social business for the image but to contribute to the good and because it makes us feel good.
Nomads live in extreme conditions, summer and winter. However, they laugh all the time and warmly receive foreign visitors.
A smiling people, filled with positive energy that is rubbing off on you. It is surprising when you are French where, as Sylvain Tesson says, "France is a paradise populated by people who believe in hell" where complaining is part of our tradition.
In Ladakh, among the nomads as well as those who are settled, it is the sharing that is essential, and it is even an obligation.
How many times have I been invited to eat with strangers with such insistence, confusing at first, that breaks any shyness?
Taking the bus on the Leh-Manali highway, crossing numerous passes above 5000m to deliver our wool to the carding facility.
At the carding facility in Kullu together with Catherine.
From a professional point of view, Catherine taught me that it is quite possible to start your own business thousands of miles from home: it's a question of will!
One could quickly become discouraged when it comes to riding the bus for 26 hours with 100kg of wool, or when it is necessary to climb steep mountain paths loaded with 40kg of lambs wool, by night, through the wet forest to reach the house of a weaver.
Catherine and Angtak are not simple managers of a company but they live a total experience: physical, creative and human. And KAL's work in Ladakh seems meaningful to me.
Here, the settled nomads are experiencing the most important change in their history. KAL creates well-paid work and retains the know-how of the disappearing tradition of weaving.
This wool hat or scarf is not a simple warm and cozy accessory. It is a story full of humanity that accompanies these products. From nomads to weavers, all levels of wool processing are an opportunity for exchange, for the business of course, but which has nothing to do with an austere and stressful professional meeting as can be found in France. In Ladakh it is above all the desire for healthy and friendly cooperation that is developing.
The KAL team is more like a group of friends than a pyramid organization. We are not looking for quick production but the well-being of everyone.
In the workshop of our weaver Vishwanath, seeing the fresh spun wool on the loom.
And now ?
I have already traveled well but I have never been so much in the intimacy of such a foreign culture. This internship is an experience that changed my life. Back in France, I fully appreciate all the facilities that govern my country. But I am also aware of the turbulence that reigns in people's minds.
Why are we in such a hurry? Why do we constantly need to prove to others to exist? It is the tranquil spirit governed by a certain inner peace that I find my family, my friends.
I will now be careful not to fall into the spiral of hyper-connectivity, competition and the search for popularity that dictate many behaviors in the West. But to approach things according to the method advocated by the most revered person of Ladakh, the Dalai Lama: wisdom, compassion and love. After receiving so much from the entire KAL team, it's my turn to give.
I am looking for a solution to electrify the shearing of sheep among nomads. Today, the wool is cut on the animal using scissors. It is a long, difficult job that creates irregularities in the size of the fibers. My goal is to find financing for the purchase of electric mowers. This change would have a dual purpose: to make the nomads' lives easier and to improve the quality of the wool for KAL.
I do not know how to thank Catherine and Angtak. These two lovers welcomed me with so much kindness and brought me so much! Another big thank you to both of you for this extraordinary experience!"
Jimmy in a self-designed jacket made from our yak and sheep wool textile, together with Angtak and Catherine.