Being an Iowa girl, when someone mentions a bale, I automatically think of hay bales. Here in Liberia, a bale is usually clothes. Ever wonder what happens to all those clothes that go to Goodwill and other places that no one buys. Well some of them come in bales to Liberia. They can be bought in different grades ranging from fair to excellent. The better the quality of clothes the higher the price of the bale. The Liberians will buy these bales at the market and then sell the items for profit.
So what does that have to do with a party? A bale party is where a bunch of ladies pool their money to buy a bale of shirts, skirts, or pants. For our party, it was shirts. Winter and I gathered with other ladies from our compound for the party. As we each arrived, we put our contribution towards the bale in basket. (The money above the price of the bale went to the benevolence fund at the hospital.) We also brought snacks since every good party has snacks.
After the ladies have arrived, the bale was opened, and we spent 15 minutes scoping out which shirts we might want to snag once the real fun began.
After the sorting, each lady drew a number. The evening proceed much like a white elephant party would. Each lady chose a shirt according to her number. She either chose a shirt from the pile or stole one from a shirt already chosen. By the end of the evening, each lady had a nice pile of shirts for herself, her family, and maybe even for ladies that she worked with.
Some of the shirts were great finds. Others were great for a good laugh with their crazy sayings. Still others were destined to become rags. One lady gathered the leftover solid shirts to use to make a rag rug. The timing of the party was great for Winter and I. I was needing some more casual shirts especially for working out. Whereas Winter was needing some more shirts for layering. Winter and I also found some shirts that we thought would be a great fit for our house lady who comes twice a week. The challenge in choosing what shirt you want is figuring out if the shirt will fit and what it will actually look like without all the wrinkles. Here is Winter next to her finds.
Besides getting a few new shirts, the party was a great way to spend time with ladies from on our compound and off. I was able to get to know the lady who started the bale parties. She came to Liberia in 1986. During her time here, her daughters and she were in need of some new skirts since their skirts were all falling apart. They decided it would be cheaper to get a bale of skirts, pick out what they wanted, and then give away the rest. From this came the idea of making the event into a party.
The next day Winter and I washed all the shirts and tried them on. Of the ones we picked the night before, we each kept about 8 shirts. The others we set aside for Felecia, our house lady. Felecia was so excited. She had been needing some more clothes and felt like this was an answer to prayer. We knew that any shirts that she didn’t use for her and her daughter, she would find a good home for in her neighborhood.
Here is a picture from later in the week where some of the ladies and girls from the party were wearing shirts we got from the bale party.
Over the holidays, it was wonderful having Winter and David here with us in Liberia. I was glad that Winter and I were able to experience the bale party for the first time together.