Sunday, February 26, 2012

Solar Cooking in ILAVE, El Collao, Puno, Peru

Eduardo Mamani with Tara, yams cooking in the Sun Star that we built in 1997, and the brand new ULOG with extra reflectors on the right.
Cross Cultural Exchange
At the invitation of the Munincipalidad de El Collao, Ilave, Sam and I gave a Solar Cooking presentation and demonstration to a gathering of at least 200 government officials from the area. We had a ULOG cooker newly made in Puno and an older 4 reflector panel we had made in 1997 on Taquile Island. We cooked yams in both cookers in partly cloudy conditions. Actually, they printed 300 copies of our cooker building instructions and ran out.

We were introduced as campesinos from the United States, which means we live in the country (not the city) and have an agricultural connection. All true. The audience for my talk was very attentive. Many understood my Spanish, but the talk was translated into Aymara as well. I got the biggest fun responses when I described how to cook a tough old hen past her egg-laying days by cooking it all day for free (no fuel use, just the sun) in a solar cooking for a nice tender meat soup.

Of course, the main advantages of solar cooking are 1) saving fuel costs, 2) saving time--since you can merely adjust the cooker every hour or so and get on with your business, 3) protecting the environment--less deforestation, less smoke, less fossil fuels 4) protecting health--free water purification and no lung impacts from smoky wood fires in an enclosed kitchen. Some areas in this region are suffering from floods as a result of the heavy rains this year, so protecting the ground cover and sterilizing water are priorities.

Sunday is market day in Ilave, so the town was hopping. Besides, it is still Carnaval so we came acrosss beautiful constumed dancers, funny clowns. Also, the different cultural style of dress for this region is beautiful: emboridered short jackets on some women, full skirts (longer than on Taquile), colorful and elaborate.

We are invited to return on Tuesday to demonstrate and present again for a women's group which promotes breast feeding and family health.

Here's a coincidence. Alipia comes to Taquile most Tuesdays and walks around the island from house to house selling bread and whatever else she things she can sell. Last week it was extra skirts for Carnaval dress up. She lives in Ilave and is a member of the women's group for which we will demonstrate this Tuesday. Besides that, she is a good friend of our co-mother, Eufrasia, and stays in our house when she stays overnight on Taquile! Eduardo had asked to to bring us our official invitation from the municipalidad, only because he know she was going to Taquile, and thought she might find us on the paths, but here she was a guest in our home, and no trouble finding us.

Madres: Vaso de Leche
Tuesday we returned to Ilave to repeat Sunday's talk for about 250 women. The talks before ours included information about safe pregnancies, child nutrition and prevention of domestic violence. We were the last speakers. I was brief because the sun was good for cooking and the yams were already well cooked after under 2 hours in cookers up on the roof. Lots of good questions and interest from the women.

Before we left City Hall, we were introduced to the City Manager, a handsome and personable man, who, it turns out, has his own solar cooker. In fact, he has the 3 cooker combination promoted by Cedesol, our friends in Bolivia. David and Ruth recommend a combination of super efficient twig stove, ULOG solar cooker and heat retention cooking. The latter is when you wrap up the partially cooked food while it is still hot so it continues cooking with the retained heat, sometimes known as a hay box, although blankets or any sort of insulation works.

He also told us about a community with 150 cookers, also from David and Ruth's project of several years ago. I suggested that they enroll those people to help promote solar cooking in the rest of the region. They invited us to come back and help do the promotion, which we would love, but really if they have their own people we can just come and help coach after they get started.

Quick conclusion is that the City and County of Ilave now has a lot of excitement going about solar cooking. Groups of carpenters may work together to build quantities of cookers at a lower cost to distribute in the rural areas. I'll be excited to see how they progress by the time we visit again, probably in 2 years.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Carnaval on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

First you dress up with lots of red clothing:
Sam wore the usual black trousers, white wool full sleeved shirt, black and white vest, red 6"wide intricately woven cummerbund, red pintay chullo hat. For carnaval he added a black short jacket with colored yarn along the front, draped diagonally with a 6" red sash, carrying a red manta tied diagonally over the other shoulder--and twelve red coca purses. Yes, 12 coca purses with lots of extra yarn fringe and some with dangling balls of yarn, carfully arranged to be all at the same level below his waist so when he spun around they flew out like a twirling skirt.
Tara wore 6 skirts in ascending fullness, so when she spun around they flew out in colorful levels. The top skirt was bright red, lifted in front and pinned in back (makes a convenient pocket in the front) to reveal the bright yellow second skirt. Sweater was white for contrast and somewhat covered by the intricately woven red manta tied over both shoulders (see the last blog entry for mantas in process of being woven).
Both of us carried wichichis (pronounced wee chee wee chee), yarn baubles to spin in our hands and hit people in the back with a sort of hug while yelling ¡Whee pay!

Next you follow the sound of the base drum to the first house of the morning. In our case, our co-father, Lino, holds a major office this year and is an authoridad, thus leading one of the 9 dancing groups. First thing in the morning, we are served nice hot vegetable soup with lots of potatoes when we arrive. Then when the rain (finally) stops, watermelon is served and beer (too much) and sometimes sodas or other non-alcoholic drink. The music is intermittent at first, drums and wooden or bamboo flutes, in a two-phrase rhythm and melody that ends with twirling. After the beer gets going, the music is more consistent, two coca estallias, one for the men and one for the women, are opened and coca offered in generous hands full to all the adults present.

By now the music is going strong, most of the men are playing flutes or drums, and the women begin to dance, swishing their skirts and twirling, flipping their wichiwichis energetically, overhead on the twirl. The base drums keep a syncopated steady rhythm, the snare drums have their own beat, and the many sizes of flutes have their own melodies in harmony and disharmony steady and clear. Someone calls out ¡Haco! !Let's go! and the parade begins.

Young and\or energetic women generally lead the parade, yellow to lime green are a favorite colors for the second skirt, so the twirling adds a flash of contrasting color, whichiwhichis flashing all the while. Next is the band, the men in black and red. Trailing behind are lless energetic women, often with children, and the drunks who can't keep up with the band.

Yes drunks are a problem. I love this festival, but dislike the drunkenness. Besides the beer, which is over abundant but not that strong, each man (and some women) generally has a little bottle of very strong trago, which might be described as rot-gut alcohol. Sometimes a finer quality strong drink will turn up, but not often. Each man serves it by filling the tiny bottlecap and offering it ceremoniously to another person, who puts a few drops on the ground as an offering to Pacha Mama, salutes those around him, then drinks the contents of the cap and shakes the remainder on the ground before handing it back. If one is clever, he can offer a lot to Pacha Mama, wet his lips and throw the rest on the ground. I found that I could spit it out onto a pom-pom of my wheecheewheechee as well. Nasty stuff. More on the drunkenness some other time.

Back to the Dance Progressive Party Parade
We dance in procession to the next house. When we arrive we seach out the hostess and give her a handful of coca leaves. She is busy with all the last minute details, as is her husband and the rest of the hosting household. A blanket is placed on a stone bench in the courtyard and the authoridad and his assistants sit in the center of the blanket. In front of him on the ground are more blankets. The wife of the authoridad and her entourage sit on the ground opposite the men. In between, on an additional cloth is places a steaming mound of fiabre, which is an assortment of steamed new potatoes, cooked field corn, haba/fava beans, chuño (freeze dried potatoes), k'aya (freeze dried oca), and sometimes fish (soup is only served first thing in the morning). A bowl of spicy salsa is placed in the middle of this mound; it can be chopped chiles with onion, tomatoes, lime juice, sometimes canned tuna.

After everyone eats as much as they want, any leftover food is offered to be taken home. In the women's mantas are food-carrying-cloths called uncuñas, and maybe even plastic bags, to take away the abundance (breakfast at our house included the leftovers scrambled with eggs). Next watermelon is brought forth in tubs with knives for cutting and the assistants cut pieces for everyone. Shortly afterward a case of 650ml beer is mostly opened and passed around with (if we're lucky) a cup per bottle. Sometimes the person given the bottle will serve those around him/her by pouring and offering the cup--as with the alcohol, a little is poured on the ground as an offering to the Pacha Mama, surrounding people are saluted, then one drinks and shakes out the cup. Sometimes after pouring one's own cup, you hand the bottle off, followed by the cup--then you aren't stuck trying to pawn off the over abundance of opened bottles. It seems that being given the opened bottle is an honor, so and excess of bottles are opened to give more honor! I suppose it offends my Methodist upbringing, both the waste and the drunkenness.

 Tara and Sam All Dressed Up

Orlando jumps up on a rock, to cheer on the dancers

See how we parade along the path, the lively girls leading the procession.

As before, the estallias are opened, coca passed around, and ¡Haco! off we go. This time you dance for a mile over a 13,000 foot pass down to the next house, more or less repeat the picnic, etc., and dance for a while until ¡Haco! a half mile hike back over the pass through the plaza where a tourist sees Sam and yells "How did you get here?" then to another house. Repeat. ¡Haco! This time up the ridge well above the pass to a glorious view of the lake and the Island, all green and potato flowers in bloom, beautiful girls in yellow and red skirts twirling, rhythm and music and community and coca and snowcapped mountains on the other side of the lake emerging from the clouds.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Taquile Complex Weaving: Tejido Taquileño

Carnaval Preparations
All the women are weaving actively in preparation for Carnaval, or Marti Gras, the week-long festival that starts on March 20. Dress is very colorful, so instead of the usual black manta, or carrying shawl, women wear a bright red and richly patterned manta.
Below is Delia´s work. You see the bird in process:
She has this previously made weaving of a bird to view as a pattern.

It takes 2 woven pieces sewn together to make the manta. Most of the women weave them in two different warping sessions, but Delia has a large loom and is doing hers all in one long piece which she will cut and assemble.

Below, Inez has a different design. You see her picking out the pattern in the double warp section. The white or the colored threads are brought up or down, one at a time, to make the figures.

And below, Eufrasia is also working in a bird design. Each weft thread is pounded in with a polished llama bone. When women are weaving, you can hear the click click click as she taps the bone against the threads to the wooden dowel.

I have tried repetedly to upload a video of Inez, showing her amazing capability in picking out the pattern on the double warp. I may try again, so check in; I hope you get to see it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Macusani, High Altitude Andean Town

Stories about Macusani will have to come later, as we leave for Taquile on Valentines day, tomorrow morning early, and I'm being kicked off the computer.

Here's the big mountain near town: Allinqhapaq

A mushroom bas-relief sculpture decorates the switchback to the hill behind the plaza.

Masucani is the Alpaca Capital of the world:

A new road has been built in the last couple of years, making access to this lovely town much easier than in the past.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Candelaria Puno

February 2: Groundhog Day, Candlemass, Bridget's Day, the cross quarter between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. But in Puno, Peru, the first two weeks of February is the biggest festival of the year, Fiesta de la Candelaria, in honor of the patron saint of the city, La Virgen de la Candelaria, and one of the biggest festivals in South America. We timed our visit to Peru this year to be able to attend.

Oops, sideways and this computer won't let me change it, but see the flower petals poured from the upper story window.

Feb. 2 itself is a solemn day. After mass in the big church in the Plaza de Armas, a procession of people emerges, carrying the large statue of the Virgin all decorated with flowers. The parade is led by indigenous musicians playing pan pipes and drums with full skirted dancers. Priestly people walk near the statue, which is followed by several more indigenous music and dance groups. Everyone throws flowers on the statue in veneration and prayer. As the parade proceeds though the downtown streets, in every block, a few second and third story windows are decorated with a white cloth, which signals the statue to stop. From the windows people would extend a long pole with a basket full of flower petals which they would pour over the statue, retract, refill, and pour again.

The cool part was that groups of people decorated the street in front of the procession--I mean the street itself.
They took dyed sawdust and chalk and flower petals and made complex and beautiful "paintings" right on the pavement. Any part of the parade that was in front of the Virgen walked around the paintings so that those carrying the statue walked on the fresh artwork. Of course it was destroyed after all the walkers and dancers, and then the street cleaners came and swept it all up. Sort of like sand paintings, expressions of devotion and impermanence.

Beautiful, but possibly the slowest parade I've ever witnessed. Sam and I went for a little hike after walking the whole route to watch the street paintings being created and returned soon enough to watch the end of the procession.
Indigenous Dances, February 5 I've ducked into this internet place because it is pouring rain on the parade right now, and can't post pictures until I've saved from my camera, so you're out of luck right now. Because today was the most colorful, fun, rhythmic day you can imagine. Sam and I got up early to go to the Stadium to watch the Indigenous dance competition.

See how the dance group is in formation on the stadium floor.

82 groups performed, starting at 7:00am and ending around 6:00pm. We missed the first and last 5 groups. Some groups had at least 150 dancers and musicians. I'd love to post a video, so much movement and sound, but no luck with rented computers.

After performing in the stadium, the dance groups perform in the street! Even in the rain!! The following are street pictures:
It's a close up parade of the groups we watched from up in the bleachers in the Stadium. I'm tapping and twirling with them, the beat grabs my body and reaches into my soul.

February 11-13 Danzas Mestizas

We skipped the stadium performances in favor of the street. As dance groups completed their stadium performances they paraded through the streets with their bands and dancers. They had no set parade route on Sunday, so we would catch groups on different streets, sometimes with crowds of spectators and sometimes with more room to watch and enjoy. This weekend's dances are not purely indigenous, but a mix of the history of Peru, as one dancer told me, a mix of everything. Many dances have traditional costumes and steps and themes--and names.

The dancers were very friendly and invited people to have their pictures taken with them. Here is Natalia with a dancer:

The dancers removed their masks to take a break and even danced with their heavy masks in their hands. This picture was taken from our hotel window to the street below, a Diablada mask on TOP of the dancer's head!

More friendly dancers with Sam.

Several dance groups took a nice long break on the street in front of our hotel, so Sam and I joined them. They were totally enthusiastic about us being there, "Welcome to Peru! Welcome to Puno and Candelaria!" One woman in a gold full skirt and multiple peticoats and long fringed shawl, who told me she was from Cusco but her husband from Puno, took my hands and had me dancing and twirling with her. Such fun and such welcoming energy.

Tonight a group of men with sparkly embroidery on their outfits, bells on their boots, whooping it up in leaps and jumps, twirling and waving their hats in the air. Wow!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rock Work: Taquile Community Project

The Taquile Community needed to make a major repair of a big hole in on of the docks at the Salacancha port. The Mayor had put out a call for workers to start work on Monday, March 23. Each worker would be paid out of funds available from tourist entry fees.
Picture above shows the hole, although in a later stage of repair. So many people showed up to work that the Taquile Island officers (authoridades) decided to add a lower level to the existing dock, useful for when Lake Titicaca water level is low, and a new trail so arriving tourists wouldn't have to walk in the mud during rainy season.
Men moved rocks with 3-4 ft. steel bars; Sam did a lot of this work, sending big rocks down to the wetsuited workers in the water.They placed the big rocks around the outside of the new dock and women carried backfill, all sizes of rocks.
I worked with the women. We walked out on the beach and filled our woven plastic sacos with as many rocks as we wanted to carry. Then brought them to where the men needed the backfill.
Idas y vueltas. I kept thinking of that T.S. Elliot line, "...and the women come and go...." and we did speak, though not of Michaelangelo, mainly while we were gathering our rocks. We would take breaks as needed, sharing coca. I wore my local traditional clothing after that first half day on Monday, so I fit right in.
Many of the men were splitting the sandstone with chisel and hammer.
The split rocks from across the water were ferried on rafts.
Of course we got a lunch break and one day Sam brought a watermelon to share.
Late in the day the men would share alcohol. Sam joined in the male bonding, though kept his indulgence to a minimum.Cement was mixed with sand and gravel to create a good mixto in a volcano-shaped lago, then shoveled into buckets. Sam ended up on the lower level hauling buckets of cement to seal the rocks for the new dock.
He and Elias worked together, noting a competition of who got the most messy with concrete. Elias worked really hard, as did Sam.
This picture shows the new trail, nearly finished.
High winds caused waves that washed away the final coat of concrete on the dock, so it was left incomplete for the time being. If I get a picture of the finished work I´ll post it later.
Sam and I met new people and both earned a lot of respect from the broader community for joining in the hard work. We worked on the project for a full three days and a half. Except for that final layer of concrete on the dock, it was finished in 5 days.

Harvesting Eucalyptus on Taquile

As an Authority in charge of a dance group on Taquile for Carnaval (Marti Gras), Lino and his family will need lots of firewood for cooking. Our first full day on Taquile, January 19, we stoped by Lino and Valeria's house to pay our respects and the Maestro Chainsaw Master arrived ready to cut cut down a couple of big Eucalyptus trees just above the house.

After throwing a line up over a big branch and tying the end of the rope to a big rock, the Maestro cut the tree and everyone pulled on the rope so it would fall where they wanted.

Everyone pitched in, cutting and piling branches to dry, gathering even tiny twigs and seeds--all for firewood.

Here Lino is splitting a fresh log into burnable pieces using a chisel for a wedge with a heavy hammer. Sam split logs as well. Hard work and tough on the arm muscles.

A few straight lengths were milled with the chainsaw into lumber. I was impressed with the skill of the Maestro with the chainsaw.

The bark peeled easily and smoothly from the logs. The children, mainly Christian, Clever and Edith, used the circles of bark to play and make little houses around each other. This was Edith's turn to tuck into their play house. She is 9 now and an absolute delight.