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Tenafly Traveler Takes People Around The World In 50 Fabrics

Judy Manton at her "Fabulous Fabrics from Five Continents" exhibit at the Bergenfield Public Library. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A bark cloth bag made in a Peruvian Amazonian village. Judy Manton traded her jungle boots to get it. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Part of a Pakistani kurta with mirror stitching. Small mirrors are stitched into the fabric. Desert people believed they could ward off evil. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Fabric from a kroma, a Cambodian cloth used as head wraps, baby carriers and protectors from the sun and mosquitoes. Pictured is Judy Manton's guide in that country. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
The national wrap of Burma, the longyi, featuring shell work. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Judy Manton, a cross-cultural studies professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, says she was born to be an international adventurer. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

BERGENFIELD, N.J. — For more than 60 years, Judy Manton of Tenafly – traveler and language teacher extraordinaire – has been collecting stories and fabrics on her global adventures.

One day Manton, also a cross-cultural studies professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, had a brainstorm.

“I thought, Why keep all these wonderful things under my bed? Why not do something with them? ” she said.

And so the traveling exhibit, called “Fabulous Fabrics from Five Continents,” is making its way around Bergen County.

Now it’s at the Bergenfield Public Library , where the tireless Manton, 78, will deliver a PowerPoint presentation on her travels at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 21.

The exhibit on the lower level features 51 pieces. Even without the talk, it fascinates.

Each piece comes with a simple narrative.

There’s the Bark Cloth Bag, made in a Peruvian Amazonian village, for instance. Manton traded her jungle boots for it in 1996.

And a piece of a Pakistani kurta, featuring mirror stitching. The narrative reads:

“Desert people believed these mirrors had the power to ward off evil and protect the weavers.”

“I was born to be an international adventurer,” Manton told Daily Voice.

It started for Manton, an Indiana native, back in college: when she was a sophomore, she asked herself why she was studying Spanish in Wisconsin when Mexico was on the southern border.

So off she went to Mexico City College.

The next summer, she returned with the American Friends Service Committee, lived in a village and taught English for the first time.

That’s what became her career.

Her adventures continued in Asia with her late ex-husband, Tom, who was born in Burma. And then their three boys.

One of her first excursions with her new husband in the 1960s was an overland trip from Germany to Burma. They bought a Volkwagen Bug in Germany straight from the factory.

“We followed the route of Alexander the Great,” Manton recalled, “and we named our first son Alexander.”

Such adventures are still happening for Manton, who has two master’s degrees – one in Latin American Studies, the other in Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language.

Her long career was teaching English to adult immigrants in New York City as well as traveling with the Zigen Fund to teach abroad.

Spanish is Manton’s second language while her Chinese is on an intermediate level. She’s been to China 30 times.

Manton most enjoys teaching English in remote areas of the world where, she says, the adventures are best.

“We were in Shanxi Province in north central China, a place where people live in caves in the hillsides,” she said.

“One of the English teachers invited us to her home, in a cave, and she had TV and Internet.”

“Fabulous Fabrics” will be in Bergenfield through the end of the month.

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