NAIL BALANCE GAME IN CHINO - EVEN TOUGH CHALLENGES HAVE A SOLUTION When I visit our artisan partners in Peru, the basic things that I almost always do are: 1) review and pay for products they have made for CACE as part of an order (Yully does this during visits to the Ampiyacu) 2) review other products they have available for sale - these may be items they've made for sale to tourists or new ideas they want to show us 3) talk about how the sales of their and other artisan group's products are doing in the U.S. This trip I shared how our sales of bird and sloth ornaments had been increasing. 4) talk about how our workshops have been helpful (or not) and how future CACE workshops might better address their needs to develop new products or improve their organization. These are interesting and sometimes tough conversations, so when possible I try to introduce some kind of fun activity or game that can lighten the energy and promote cooperation. This trip, I offered the nail balance challenge to the artisans at Chino and villages in the Ampiyacu. To make the "puzzle," I bought 15 nails at a hardware store and found a piece of scrap piece of wood in a house where some construction was going on. I asked one man in Brillo Nuevo to hammer one nail upright in the middle of the wood. Here's the challenge - balance 12 nails on top of the nail stuck in the wood. None of these nails can touch the wood or anything else (ie can't be held by someone's fingers). While I've seen as many as eight people (US students) trying to solve this puzzle together, it was interesting to find that when presented to these artisans, only a few of the women usually came forward to try. If young people were around, the older ones generally encouraged them to do it. The most common strategy that people tried was to try to balance one nail on top of another. A few intrepid ones tried to build a sort of box. I never rushed them, but at some point (usually 10 to 20 minutes), every group reached a point where they gave up. Even though they didn't solve the puzzle, though, they had fun trying to do it together. I will admit up front that I didn't figure this puzzle out myself. I got the solution off the internet. When I showed the artisans how to do it, they went "Oh, I see." A few of them then adopted this strategy and did it themselves. I usually followed up this demonstration with a simple debriefing. Basic questions were: How many of you thought that there really was no way to solve this puzzle? (some said yes, some said no). What did it take to solve this puzzle? (thinking about the problem in a different way) Are there any problems you are facing as artisans or in your life that seem unsolvable? How can you take a fresh look at this problem to find a creative solution. Just because a challenge seems hard doesn't mean you can't figure it out.
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