Bill nodded, so Cath got on the bus and sat down. She had planned to do an announcement but was it worth it for such a small turn out? Bill started up a commentary.
Cath hardly heard as all she could think about was how few people came, what a waste of time and money the trip had been. She knew now she wasn't a spontaneous person, why did she let Millie talk her into this?
Why did she think it would be a success? Why did she think she could change things in someone else's country?
She wondered if Jack thought she was a failure too. She looked across at him but he was leaning over asking Bill something. She looked out the window. They had turned off the highway and it felt like the tall, dark green, trees were closing in on the road. The forest was definitely getting denser. As they kept driving she was entering a new place, completely different from where she had been only a few minutes before. There was no rushing traffic and the trees dominated with their towering heads. Houses were scattered amongst them as they approached the small cluster of white buildings that was the visitors' centre.
Cath let Bill lead the small group across the gravel into the centre. She missed most of the historical explanation as the small number of the group was accentuated by the large room.
The others seemed to be enjoying it at least. She started to pay attention as a short, lithe, elderly woman in a salmon coloured traditional Indian dress, sat down with some clay in the middle of the room at a small table. She didn't speak and her face was contoured with lines that seem say she had seen a lot and nothing would surprise her now. She worked fast and soon a small pot was formed. She deftly made beautiful, detailed, patterns in the sides. The man describing it was saying how well known the Catawba were for their pottery. They used the clay from the nearby river. As he finished speaking, she finished the pot and they all admired her fast, skilled handiwork. Then as the man went on to introduce the dancers, there was a collective gasp from the small group as the woman pushed her palm into the pot and squashed it flat, back into a lump of river clay.
She shrugged her shoulders and picked it up to carry it back to the corner of the room. She was not bothered by their naivety - she could whip up another pot in ten minutes.
Cath loved the dancers and momentarily forgot about the unhappy knot in her stomach. They had dances for all the repetitive chores. Her favourite was the dance to flatten the grass before setting up the camp. She thought of herself putting the stereo on loud and singing along when she did the washing up of the pots or cleaned the bathroom. "We are all quite similar really." She thought to herself.
Then the performance was over. Cath, pulled out all her professional skills and hoped she did a good job of hiding her disappointment at the low numbers while thanking everyone for their time. The rest of the group went to look in the small, gift shop. Cath stayed behind to thank the hosts for all their efforts and apologise for the small turnout.
The elderly woman came up to her.
"I loved your pottery..."
The woman put a hand on her arm, before she went any further. "Thank you for taking the time. I could see you were disappointed about the turn out but you bothered. I thought you wouldn't see it through when I first heard of your plan."
Cath didn't know what to say. "Thanks" She mumbled. Somehow her efforts to thank others had ended in her being thanked.
Bill got them all back on the bus and dropped them across the road from the hotel.
Cath and Jack sat down for a coffee in the foyer.
"Well what did you think."
Cath stroked the handle of her cup. She was about to speak and then the tears welled up before she could stop them.
"I don't know why I did this." She managed to squeak out. Before Jack could reply, it all poured out. All her doubts about leaving her job, not getting the job at Millie's work, the bad reference, the lost luggage, the weird things that kept happening once she got here and now the dismal turn out. Her life was a mess and the coffee was bad.
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