Author Archives: Antona Yost

Trash re-purposed into purses

The informant is a 23 year old female, originally from Salt Lake City, who recently was a Peace Corps volunteer in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. While in Ecuador she lived with a host family and observed and participated in many Ecuadorian customs.  One custom she was taught and picked up was the custom of re-purposing old chip, ice cream and other wrappers to make colorful pouches and purses.  She describes her experiences and this folk craft below.

“There’s a strong tradition in Ecuador at least, and I’ve been told in many South American cultures, of doing what is known as “Microempresas” which is a small business – like a cottage industry essentially.  Women especially will make things in their home out of every day objects or easily obtainable objects and resell them within their communities in order to make extra money.  One such activity that I was taught was in making purses and coinpurses up to the size of handbags out of recycled plastic – durable plastic bags such as chip bags or a thicker plastic wrapping that’s easily tearable.  And it’s appealing because you know people eat chips and have ice creams, things like that on a regular basis and it’s [the wrapper] something that would typically be discarded, and yet you can arrange the colors in different patterns.  Because it’s individual folds that are then folded together in a chain it’s variable in its patterns and colors. And then  sown together with wire or a fishing line or something that is also potentially a discarded object in order to make a pouch – and waterproof.  I guess the cool thing about that too is that it also gives an opportunity for people to pass that down within their communities as well as to other people. An easily translatable skill that people tend to get together and do as a community rather than something more self producing. ”

When queried, the informant gave more information about what kind of environment she made pouches in when she was living in Ecuador:

“I would make them solitarily just because it’s something that you can do with your hands while you’re watching TV or something – like knitting.  But people also would get together and you know trade bags and do it as a community effort.”

Information on process:

The first step of the process is cutting or tearing your plastic into usable rectangles.  The size of the rectangles is different depending on how big you want each individual stitch of the ‘weave’ to be.

The steps to transform this rectangle into a usable rectangle that can be hooked with other rectangles created as shown below:

Drawn by collector with input from informant

Drawn by collector with input from informant

You then connect these rectangles together in a line to create loops one rectangle wide.  You then sew all of these loops together, maybe add a zipper, to get you purse, pouch or coin purse


Created by informantt, photo by collector

Created by informant, photo by collector



This folk object definitely serves a useful function.  It is waterproof, looks interesting and the folk method used can produce a variety of different sizes and styles of objects.  The making of a these folk objects seems to build community and unity in two ways.  Firstly, the producers often gather together as a community to make these pouches.  Secondly, it fosters a care for the place they live in a it uses trash that otherwise might have been put into the dump or littered on the streets.  They are both building personal community while protecting/keeping clean their surroundings and environment.

The creation of this folk object is similar in many ways to a type of bracelet it was popular to make when I was young.  I used the same folding method when I was a kid to make bracelets out of Starburst wrappers.  I never sewed any of them together, but both folk objects are similar in their use of bright candy wrappers and the way they are folded.  I had never made or seen a pouch made from this method until shown this folk object.

“Hey Cow” game

Informant is a Pre-Med transfer student at USC who grew up in North Dakota.  He shared this game with me when we saw cows outside our windows on a bus going on tour with our choir. I later interviewed him again to get an accurate transcription of this game.

“I was in high school, I don’t know what year, and I went to Bible camp in North Dakota called Park River Bible camp.  And one of the games we would play on the bus, actually I think the only game we would play on the bus – I don’t remember – it was called “Hey, Cow”.

“Basically whenever you saw cows, the people on that side of the bus that the cows were on would yell “Hey Cow” out the window and would try to count how many cows looked at them.  This wasn’t a very strict game, obviously, I don’t think there were judges or anything.

“And then I guess whatever side of the bus had the most cows would win – I don’t know what they would win, they would just win the game. The game goes throughout the bus ride.  You would try to get everyone on your side to yell it so that you get the most volume so that you get the most cows [looking at you].”


The camp was for high school students and the informant says that a lot of people would play the game.  The informant enjoyed the game and thought it was fun but “not very seriously obviously because one side could have more cows than the other, therefore they have an unfair advantage.  It was like very casual competition.”


When asked to interpret why this game is played, the informant said “’cause there’s nothing else in North Dakota!”

While that is amusing, it is not completely true.  There are references online for this game being played all over America.  There is even a website claiming to have the “official “Hey Cow” rules”.  I think this game probably rose with the rise in long distance road trips.  When driving through the grain belt of America, the landscape can often start to feel repetitive and, especially for young kids in the car, might get boring.  Seeing a cow becomes an excitement (especially if you are a city kid) and being able to bother the cow in a casually competitive game could definitely help alleviate the boredom of long drives.


Kario Mart drinking game

The informant is a 21 year old student at USC studying Vocal Arts.  He lives in a house with some friends and they have a copy of Mario Kart.  This game turns Mario Kart into a drinking game.

“Kario Mart is a drinking game.  You are playing Mario Kart but the objective is to finish an entire beer or your drink, whatever it may be, by the time you cross the finish line.  However, because you can not drive while drinking, if you want to drink your drink, you have to set your controller down and effectively stop driving to drink at all.  So you’ll have to start of drinking, or however you want to do it, set your controller down, finish your drink before you cross the finish line.  Otherwise you have to take a shot.”

“I feel like this game is fun for a few rounds until everyone is buzzed well enough that you  forget that you need to play the drinking game and you just play Mario Kart.

“One of my friends told me this game. I would play this game on a weekend evening just hanging out with a small group of friends. You know when you are like ‘what else are we going to do? We’re going to play Mario Kart”.  But you were going to drink anyway so why not incorporate the drinking into the game.”


This game incorporates several elements of modern 20-somethings’ culture.  One element is that there is a strong affinity towards and enjoyment of the games of their youth.  There is a lot of nostalgia in playing video games that you enjoyed when you were young.  This enjoyment is only amplified by a light buzz.

Another element that it incorporates is the understanding that driving while under the influence is dangerous.  It both acknowledges this, by having the rule of the game to be that you technically can’t “drink and drive”, and makes light of it, as one of the main points of the game is to be amused as players’ skill levels drop while they drink more.

“Sadhu and the Shaak” – version 1

The informant is a 19 year old Occupational Therapy student at USC.  She was born in Calcutta, as were her parents.  She moved to California when she was young and has lived here ever since.  Her family is originally from Gujarat, an area in Western India, and she suspects that her family stories are from her Gujarati heritage. 

This version of the story is the one my informant told from her memory, before calling her mom to hear her mom’s version.  Her different version after talking to her mother can be found at this link:

“So there was this Sadhu who was a reincarnation of Mahavira who is one of the greatest Sadhus within the Jain religion. And so, how the Sadhus lived back in the day they lived a simple life, they didnt have any personal belongings or items to their name.  They would go house to house asking people for food and they would provide them with shelter and food.

“So one day the Sadhu was doing this and he came to a house and the lady made this shaak for him, and this shaak is a curry.  It was made of a vegetable that, if not cooked properly it becomes poisonous.  So she didn’t cook it properly and he noticed this but he still took it because it would be rude to say no.

“And instead of throwing it away because he didn’t want to throw it in the trash or throw it on the ground and have the ants eat it and have the ants die, because in the Jain religion the main core principle is Ahimsa which is non-violence to all living things, regardless of how big or small.  So even the killing of ants is not condoned.  So what this saint did, what this Sadhu did was he ate this poisonous shaak and he himself died in order to save the lives of these ants.

“So this is just a parable my mom used to tell me, and it just sort of conveys I guess the main core values of my religion which is just absolute non-violence to all living things and just self-sacrifice above all else, and above selfishness and above your own needs.”





“Aunque la mona…” Ecuadorian porverb

The informant is a 19 year old Ecuadorian student studying Architecture at the University of Southern California.  Her family is from Quito, Ecuador.  English is her second language.  She shared this proverb in Spanish and then translated and explained it in English.

“Aunque la mona se viste de seda, mona queda”

“Even if a ‘girl monkey’ dresses with silk, it’s still a monkey ”

“It means it doesn’t matter how you depict yourself, you’re still going to be the same person – like it doesn’t matter how you dress or whatever, you’re still going to be the same.”



This proverb means that even a change in outward appearance will not change the person inside.  The word “monkey” may have been used in this case as a poetic substitute for humans because of monkeys’ similarities to humans and because monkeys are quiet common in Ecuador.  This proverb seems to say that a monkey trying to make themselves more human by dressing up is still a monkey.  In other words, humans cannot change who or what they are by changing their appearances.