Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Family Time

These two good friends are cousins, Natalia age 13 and Juana Luz age 14. Both are our goddaughters, growing up and beautiful.

We brought Cusi a gift, a set of artisan projects, from her godparents Luke and Ellen from Gunnison. In this picture she is concentrating on an arrangement of beads for a bracelet for herself. The candle making kit suggested using a hair dryer to warm and soften the pressed wax so it could be rolled around a wick, but we figured out that body heat would do the trick! We've had fun working together with the projects.

Cusi's little sister, Sarita. On our 2006 trip Sam made a very special relationship with her just as she was learning to walk! Now they are fast friends.

Sam has remade a magic relationship with sweet, shy Cecilia. I did something to make her laugh and slightly cover her face just as I snapped the picture. He admits that these little girls easily steal his heart.

Laundry drying at the rough dock just below our house.My good friend, Nancy Schweiger, eats watermelon here with Eufrasia. Nancy and Sue Pritchett are godmothers to Ivan, Silvano and Ruperta's oldest son. This is their first visit since cutting his hair in the godparent ceremony 7 years ago.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Family on Taquile

Edith, possibly the most delightful 3rd grader on the planet, carrying a load of twigs for firewood and her sister, Juana Luz, after a day of stone fence-building around a field.
Juana Luz wanted her picture taken. If you look very closely, you can see the 20,000 ft. snowcapped peaks in Bolivia across the lake.

The local Friday market, just down the hill from our house, showing school supplies. We bought school supplies for all of our godchildren and some of their siblings (we bought them in Puno: more selection); we're trading woven goods for school supplies for one of the good neighbors.

Cusi, Sarita and Sam--It's a love affair! (Community Trail building in the background.)

First day of Kindergarden for our grandson, Clever--with his beautiful mother, Ruperta.
Walking about the island, we come across groups rehearsing dances in anticipation of anniversary celebration of the Distrito de Amantani, a "county" made up of the islands of Amantani and Taquile. Coming April 8-11, 6 bands and 6 dance troups competing all at the same time in the schoolyard: Cacaphony, excitement, color and costumes. Stay tuned.

Solar Powered Computers at School

Coming to Taquile last week we rode on the bus with a crew of electricians and workers who were coming to Taquile to install a solar/wind powered computer program for the Elementary School. EuroSolar has 27 identical projects for schools in the Department of Puno, including five 170W PV panels, a wind turbine, 24V worth of batteries inverted to the Peruvian standard of 22V, and a water tank with an ultra-violet water purifier on the line, a refrigerator, and 5 laptops plus mouse and keyboard. Very cool.

Here's the project in process. The 6-man crew, plus several Taquileños, finished the installation in 4 days. The ground wires were in long deep pits, covered first with sheep dung before the dirt and rocks. Water in the dung makes a better electrical conductor that just dirt.

Showing the water tank, windmill (they call it a mariposa, or butterfly) and the 850W of PV panels. The trouble with 27 identical projects is that individual issues aren't considered: How will they get the water up into the tank? Climb a ladder with water on their backs after hauling in from the well 100 meters downhill? The Taquileños suggested a pump, not included in the project. They probably will still need to haul the water up the hill before pumping it up to the tank.
Final view of the installation, including the fence. Taquileños had built the control/battery building and the cement foundations for the PV array as well as the water tower in advance of the crew's arrival.

Five Fujitsu Siemens business notebooks, plus keyboard and mouse (so they'll know how to use them when they come to town and use other computers). Satelite internet is promised to come next year.

This is a picture of the PV array which was installed at the high school several years ago. Local parents complain that when the teachers leave they take the key, so no one else can use the computers. I suggested they train someone and make him "president of the computers" (seems that everyone is president of something), if they want to keep it open.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Community Trail Building


Imagine how the Incas made their roads and buildings. What we saw was a panorama of perhaps 800 people, red sweaters and hats against the green fields and grey rock, building 600 meters (think over 6 football fields long) of improved trail about 5 feet wide. Taquile is composed of 6 suyos or neighborhoods (thus the 6 dance troups). In this massive community project, each suyo completed 100 meters of new trail. Men using wedges and big hammers pounded and split the sandstone rock into blocks; the sound is chink, chink, chink of metal on metal. They carried rocks in wheelbarrows and on their backs. Armando had a nice sheepskin to pad his back from the heavy rock. Think two feet by three and six inches thick; I can't guess the weight.

Women sorted gravel and brought it to the trail, carried bags of sand from the beach (a long climb), bags of cement from the boat (the same long climb) and smaller rocks. Very hard work. Very. Sometimes they found sit-down work.

We walked the whole length of the job, greeting and receiving greetings from people we've known for years as we went. We played with some of the children--Cusi and Sarita babysitting their little brother Johel. We carried a few rocks, our token contribution, but then joined in the rock placement work. Just like any rock walkway project (only without the truck to drop off the pallet of flagstone), we worked with Armando to help put the puzzle together of which rock fit where, and chipping or leveling the sand underneath to make a level path. In some places, culverts were made with rock passageways for water to flow underneath. In other places several levels of rock were built up to reduce the dips, level the trail.

On the boat returning to Puno yesterday, we met an engineer from Puno who had consulted on the construction of the trail.

The whole project was done in three days, the authorities walking up and down to pass out coca leaves. It's a beautiful trail, smooth enough to walk upon in the dark without a flashlight, no stairs. I personally grieved some of the beautiful living rock that was split apart to build the trail, but no one else seemed to care, and really, Taquile has a lot of rock.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Solar Cooking Carpenter

A fellow solar cooker, Remegio Arnao.

When we are in Puno, we always seem to find Eduardo, a tour guide who helped us get to the airport during a strike 14 years ago. Today he brought us to visit a carpenter who worked with a French NGO making solar cookers. We rode a combi (van-like bus) up to the highest part of Alto Puno (into a neighborhood of Habitat for Humanity houses) where we met Remigio Arnao, a very skilled carpenter who is constructing the wonderful ULOG solar cookers.

He learned his trade about 10 years ago from David and Ruth Whitfield--our Bolivian friends from Cedesol! She is the one whom I taught to solar cook in 2000, and who has since built over 5,000 cookers with women in Bolivia. This old carpenter was fabulous, and we became instant comrades. He lives alone, and works independently. Today he baked a little cake for himself!

I like the design of the ULOG a lot. The cookers that we've been making have a design flaw in that the glass breaks too easily; on the ULOG the glass is not only protected with a hinged door, it is framed and double with a dead air space between, providing that insulation and thus efficiency. The ULOG is also bigger than the cooker that we've been making, thus better fits into this culture.

I've been wanting to get this ULOG design to Taquile for years, and now we find a local producer. We're going to buy one of his cookers for our family on Taquile. ¡Hooray!

March 24, We buy the cooker
Remigio Arnao and Tara with our newly finished ULOG solar cooker in his workshop.

The ULOG cooker has the distinct design of two panes of glass framed. See the hinges on the bottom? In order to open the cooker, you close the reflector down over the glass and lift up the whole glass and reflector assembly. The advantage is that the glass is carefully protected, and difficult to break. Cool!

Remigio was pleased to see us when we returned today to buy the newly finished cooker. He had cooked a rice dish in the new cooker and said it took 2 hours instead of the 2 1/2 hours that his 9-year-old cooker takes. It seemed to be a trick to catch for the right bus, so we caught a different one and walked quite a ways from the Yanamayo prison to his house. We carried the cooker back into town in a combi, paying for two extra seats.

When Ruperta saw it in our room, she hugged it!

Postscript: Solar Store in Puno
ElectroSol in Bellavista neighborhood sells solar PV panels and parts, thermal hot water systems, and this one style of parabolic solar cooker (done for the day).

We helped Silvano buy a regulator so he could charge batteries with his 85 watt panel.
Silvano's panel was too big for the regulator we had brought, so we bought one at ElectroSol. See the hot water panel and tank behind us.

March 30 update.

Remigio was all out of "placas offset," used offset printer plates, necessary to make his cookers. We found some at a print shop in Puno and brought them to him, ordered additional reflectors to power up the ULOG. They are smaller than the ones he is used to using from Bolivia, but he is creative and thinks he can make the cookers and reflectors just fine. ¡What a guy!

Warm Springs and Geologic wonders

We love taking our family on excursions to places they might otherwise never be able to visit. In this case, two co-mothers, Eufasia and Valeria, and our "daughter" Ruperta, with her son our "grandson," Clever, joined us for exploration, fun and healing. About 3 hours worth of bus rides brought us to this high altitude adventure. We are at 4059 m.s.n.m., or 13,317 feet above sea level.
We stayed in a hotel for two nights, soaked and hiked and enjoyed good food.

We had to hire a car and driver to get to this beautiful canyon of eroded rocks, and curious ruins. After our hike, Walter, the driver, took us on an extra drive down the canyon and took this group shot showing some of the rock formations behind us. We are at 4059 m.s.n.m., or 13,317 feet above sea level.

The curious ruins look a lot like graneries in ancient southwestern USA. A local man told me they are houses of people a long long time ago who were extremely short (about 2 feet tall, to judge by their houses). I'll have to do some research....

Fun in the bubbly warm springs water: Eufraisia, Valeria, Ruperta, Clever y Samuel. It took stong encouragement to get the women loosen their grips on the railing and to allow us to support their heads to float in the mineral-rich water, but they all did it! We all came away feeling relaxed and healed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Potato Fields in Bloom

¡We took the boat to Taquile on Sunday--at last! Just below our house are several potato fields in full bloom: purple and burgandy and white. I think we arrived just in time for the peak of beauty. It's rainy season, so all the terraces are green and growing. We ate new potatoes and young oca from the fields. AND the night sky is fantastic! It has been clear, the Southern Cross, Mars, the Milky Way: I was up in the night on Sunday after the moon rose. Silver reflection on the lake and then from behind s cloud shaped like a woman. Exquisite.

All of our extended family has come to visit us in the first couple of days, and it has been a time full of love and news. During most of the year, everyone has their own busy lives. When we come, they all get together, so much of the conversation is in Quechua of them catching up on their own news with each other. They tell us how we unite the family.

Monday was the first day of school. Our goddaughter, Natalia, starts her first year of High School this year. We're very proud of her; many of her cousins and even one of her brothers and her sister didn't get past elementary school. The community held a big ceremony: All the officers of Taquile were there in full regalia. They did a coca leaf ceremony, passed soda pop all around to the spectators. Speeches were made in both Quechua and Spanish: One told the students, "Your education is not just for you, not just for the community, but to lift up the whole country." The government has put some money into the school and therefore has stricter requirements for attendance (Taquile students have always been somewhat lax). A few years ago a 20 panel solar array was installed and this year we see the satelite internet connection. I didn't ask if each student gets to have a personal email address!

A few days ago Valeria's cow pulled her off balance, she fell and is in some serious pain, so we told her we wanted to take her to some hot springs. We started plans to go NEXT week, but all of a sudden it seemed best to go right away. That's why you can read this post. We're back in Puno, leaving tomorrow for some wonderful thermal springs north of here. The group is comfortably small, Ruperta, Eufrasia and Valeria, plus Sam and I, and I think 5-yr-old Clever will be coming too. Silvano and Lino have community obligations, though Lino may join us after a day.

One of our most pleasurable experiences here is to take small groups on excusions to places they probably won't be able to afford to visit on their own. Prices in Peru are quite cheap compared to the U.S., so we can afford these marvelous outings. It's great fun to travel with our Taquile family. We can all be tourists together, different than being an ordinary tourist.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Puno and our Taquile family at last!

Beautiful bus ride from Arequipa to Puno. It starts in the dry barren desert and moves high over mountain passes into a wetter zone. We saw cameloids: domestic herds of Alpaca being raised for their wool and wild vicuña-- a delicate, lithe, cinnamon colored animal--exquisite. We saw flamingos in shallow high mountain lakes.

Then at last we arrived in the bus station in Puno to find our family waiting: Silvano and Ruperta are our hijos (children) by virtue of our specific participation in their wedding; Jorge-Ivan (age 10) and Hugo-Clever (are 5) are therefore our grandchildren. How about that!

Saturday is market day in Puno, so we spent the rest of the afternoon buying staples: fresh vegetables and fruits, plus quinoa, oil, etc., and propane for cooking. We'll use their solar cookers when we can, but it is the rainy season and fuel of wood and dung are scarce. We bought enough to share with the extended families. We will all eat well together.

Tourism is very low this year, and this has been their main source of income so finances are tight. They can grow only about half the food they need. In the evening we all went out for chicken dinner, a tradition with us and a treat.

Tomorrow we will go to Taquile to be with the rest of the family and I'll be out of computer connection for a couple of weeks. Perhaps after that I'll be able to post some pictures.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Arequipa, Solar and a bit of tourism

We took the overnight express bus from Lima to Arequipa. The Pan-American Highway out of Lima starts as a many-laned freeway and soon becomes a winding two lane road. Avatar was the featured movie of the evening! Later the full moon lit the landscape we could see when we were awake. In one place, sand had blown over a whole lane in the highway. In early morning light one great sand slide glowed mother-of -pearl. The Peruvian coast is desert, punctuated by great oases wherever flow the big rivers out of the Andes. These fertile areas grow great quantities of food: olives, bananas, melons, squash (I´ve seen leaves 12 inches across!), figs (everywhere right now, must be in season, yum), even grains: rice, corn.

Arequipa is a city of nearly a million people, altitude 2,300 meters or 7,800 feet above sea level. It´s hot. Not as hot as Lima, but we´re sweating. Everyone else seems to put on jackets at night as we are finally comfortable. Our goal here was to try to reconnect with some solar cooks we met several years ago, Patricia Gootee and Geovana Rivera, but we had no luck. This city has close to 360 days of sun every year, so is perfect for solar applications. The street near our hotel is full of shops selling solar hot water equipment. A few stores displayed parabolic solar cookers made in Peru. In our wanderings in the city we see many buildings with solar hot water panels and tanks on the rooftops. They have an advantage here where it never freezes--much simpler installation than in cold climates.

We stay at a sweet little hospedaje with an interior garden. Our hostess is 84 year old Blanca. She took us under her wing two years ago and we find ourselves hugging her and her sons who run the place. She has been sick these last three months; we hope she gets better to visit her in two more years.

Just down from our hotel is the Museo del Arte Contemporania, the only contemporary art museum in all of Peru, according to the curator. My favorite is a ceramic piece in the permanent collection: two 24" (60cm) spheres mounted on a glass and iron stand with a mirror below, stoneware with big glassy melted-out drops and writing all around and around. One is in Spanish, "no es lo que haces no es lo que quieres no es lo que esperes no es lo que no haces ..." and the other in English "no more war no more inequity no more disbelief no more pain no more illusions no more words." Picture below:

We meant to go to Puno today, but a strike in Puno against a big dam project, the Inambari Dam, kept us here being tourists an extra day. Tomorrow for sure we will be in Puno with our Taquile family.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taquile Youth in Lima

We arrived in Lima Friday night and met Delfin the next morning. Luckily, these young people all have cell phones, so we can connect easily. He shares a room with Alex (who is brother to Maria, wife of Elias); they both have jobs in small motor repair shop. The roof of their apartment is perfect for solar cooking, so we left him an instruction booklet on how to make a box cooker. We´ll see if this young bachelor will go to the trouble to make and use it. Fredy came from his Chicken raising job and spent a whole day with us.

Noemi is happily with her husband, Alejandro, with their fat happy 9-mo-old baby, Alexander (pronounce it in Spanish). All these young adults are ages 24-27, except Noemi´s husband who is 42. We wondered about the age difference, but he is a wonderful father, and they seem happy in love, and his Mother and sisters love Noemi and the baby. We are deeply reassured to see our oldest god-daughter taken care of and happy.

Sunday we took everyone to the big Anthropology Museum. We like taking our family to museums or archeological sites since they probably wouldn´t spend the entry fee or the time to go by themselves--and after all, this is THEIR culture. My favorite piece there is a small sculpture of a deer and her fawn in a lovely tender pose, which I remember from 1988, our last visit to that museum. Noemi was especially taken with the textiles, being a skilled weaver herself.

Monday it was the Museo Amano: this small museum has a beautiful collection of pre-Columbian pottery and a room full of textiles. Entrance is free with an advance appointment required, and every group is guided. The guide remembered us from last year, and after the tour gave me her contact information with an invitation to make a special appointment when we bring our textile-artist family so they can take more time to study the work. Noemi couldn´t be there since she had to work, soI hope her husband will bring here there some day. Delfin and Alex are skilled knitters and spinners, and appreciated the complex fine weaving, more like the work of their mothers and sisters. In particular Delfin noted a "sampler" which contained about 20 different textile techniques in different sections which had been sewn together.

We´ve enjoyed playing with the baby; spent some time in shady parks. Taking everyone out to dinner is always a fun outing. Telling family jokes and stories from our many visits. When my spanish wasn´t so good, I warned Celbia not to choke on bones in the soup, but mixed up "huesos" with "huecos," so she had to stare at her soup to figure out how their could be a "hole" in it! Hard to say goodbye, but Lima is hot now in summertime and we´re looking forward to seeing the rest of the family in the cool highlands of the Altiplano.

We leave Lima tonight (Tuesday Mar 2) for Arequipa by express bus for a brief stop before heading on to Puno and Taquile.