Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter, 2016

Community Unity

Easter preparations start a week or more ahead of time with singing rehearsals. Six or seven groups get together to practice harmonies and accompaniment, usually an electric piano and various stringed instruments. Ruperta and Ivan started late with only a couple of rehearsals with the Huayllano group, but they have participated every year and know the music. Ivan plays a beautiful mandolin. Performances are vigils in the churches Thursday through Saturday nights.

Thursday we went to the Adventist Church in Huayrapata, rather close to our house. Armando is an excellent music teacher and musician of many instruments, from keyboards to stringed instruments and even the accordian. He coached the chorus, probably 30 people of all ages, including many of our family members. He accompanied on the electric piano.

One song which they know in Spanish, Cant Aleluya al Señor, I taught him several years ago the English, Sing Halleluia to the Lord, and the Hebrew, Shir Alleluya a Donai. He taught the three languages to the chorus and I joined them in front of the room for the song. I was most welcome. Happily, the Adventists don't stay up all night and we got a good night's sleep.

That is not the case with the rest of the community. Good Friday, six groups sang in the big Catholic church in the plaza beginning at 8pm and singing until 2am! Sam and I crowded into the back of the room behind a group of men and listened until the Huayllano group sang and then gave up our seats to the singers and found fresh air and company outside the church. We definitely did not keep the vigil until 2am with the singers.
Six different groups sang in rotation at the main church.
Saturday was the sweetest evening for me. Huayllano is the furthest to the south, nearly an hour hike from our house. They have their own smaller Catholic Church, newly painted a couple of weeks ago. We went early with Ruperta and Ivan, and ate soup with the chorus. Huge pots of soup were served; we brought our own bowls and spoons. Afterward everyone came into the community room, had a sort of meeting. Singers are committed to attend every rehearsal on time or they are fined! The meeting listed the fines. I think this is how they pay for the beer, of which we drank until time to sing.
from the balcony
 I sat behind and within a group of men, one of whom had large print, large paper words of the songs. Mostly in Quechua with a few recognizable words for me. I was able to totally sing along. I was also welcomed to join the men in singin, even thought the women sit on the floor and have counterpoint and harmony.
Words to songs I could read!
This elegant man sat at the end of my pew.
At one point, during a break in the singing, all the men in the pews in front and behind me, probably 15 or so, began actively trading the coca leaves--they totally included me, Sam too. Arms reached around and under other arms with hands full of coca, everyone smiling and sharing in this traditional gesture of relationship. I was enthralled.

We stayed until midnight and walked home in moonlight, the waves of the lake and the wind in the trees whispering their songs. Magic night.

Easter Sunday
Easter is the annual ceremony to pay the Patcha Mama, the Mother Earth, for the whole year. Families individually create their own despatchos and bring them to the shamen or pacos at the ceremony. A despatcho is a dispatch or a sending of prayer, of intention. Traditionally a large cloth, especially woven for the purpose, is filled with coca leaves and opened with respect. Each family member chooses well-shaped leaves in groups of three, called a k'intu. Each k'intu holds the prayers and intentions of the person who chooses the leaves. These physical prayers are placed on a large piece of paper, topped with flower petals, sweets and wine, maybe medicine, sometimes drawings or other symbols of the intentions. Then the paper is folded closed and carried to the top of the mountain.
family despatcho after breakfast

Our family had many prayers for the healing of Luz Nati (see Bus Accident Story for details), many for the safe travels and success and return of Sam and I, for healthy crops, for gratitude of all our blessings. Sam and I carried this, and also the despatcho from Gonzalo's family, up to Mulcina, the ceremonial site at the high point of Taquile.

We got to the plaza in time to join the procession to Mulcina with the village officers.
Autoridades emerge from mass at the church
We followed the wives of the Autoridades to the highest point on Taquile. The many-colored skirts make a flowers as they climb the hill.
The procession was lead by a band playing a syncopated rhythm. They intermittently played during the activities up on Mulcina.

Many many estallias full of coca leaves are shared, k'intus chosen and offered. This long ceremony of gratitude to the Earth lasts until dusk.
 estallias full of coca leaves
Sam receives coca leaves

Women share with women; men with men
The gender sharing (not strict) includes the beer. This older woman and I shared beer and coca:

At the end of the day, we followed the procession down the hill to an evening of food and, later, beer. We slipped out after soup, full with the magic of the ritual and celebration.

Estufas Mejoradas

Clean burning wood cookstoves

We love solar cooking and promote it whenever we can, but the truth is that wood and twigs and dung  fuel will continue to be the primary means of cooking on Taquile. Lung irritation is common. I have sat in smoky kitchens where I had to hunch down to a meter above the floor level to breathe under the layer of smoke that filled the room. The answer is simple: Chimneys

Three meters of flexible galvanized metal will make two chimneys 2.5 meters high with a generous Chinese cap:

Yarn and a nail make an effective compass.
Fredy had a riveting tool that made assembling the chimney quick and, well, someone easy.
Silvano, Sam and Fredy with 2 chimneys and the ceramic base.
We purchased two of these ceramic foundations. It was difficult to find them with the chimney hole designed in.
lovely terra cotta

The stove is then finished with an air and ash metal floor.
We made the holes too small, darn.
First stove was installed in Grandma Josefa's kitchen where both Edith and Juana Luz are staying, going to school on Taquile while their parents build boats in Puno. This stove replaced the previous smoky stove where the walls and ceiling of the cooking alcove were covered with soot.
a very dirty smokey job

Second installation was for Asunta. Instead of installing it in the old sooty kitchen, they decided to make a new kitchen in a room that was already constructed. Asunta's father, Felipe, has taken a course in estufas mejoradas or better stoves and knows lots of details that we missed on Josefas's stove. In addition, building it in a new clean space was a pleasure.

Chimney installed; Felipe lays out the ceramic foundation
The mud layer closest to the fire is mixed with sifted dung for insulation.
finished with adobe
Final coat is smooth adobe. Armado finished the job with pride of ownership.

Tested when it was wet, small changes, and waited only one day to actually cook.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Harvest time on Taquile

Early Potato Harvest
We helped digging and carrying new potatoes.
Digging potatoes
 After harvest we  pour out the sacks so we don't carry the dirt home.

Small mid-morning harvest
Sam carries potatoes; all I have to carry are the hoes

Silvano repairs the Chakitaklya, the Andean Foot Plow,
for early sod-busting in preparation for next year's planting. He has made the curved parts from manzanita wood, carefully pruned and chosen for the right shape.
Brand new chakitaklya

assembled with rawhide
 After wrapping tightly with rawhide, Silvano drives sticks under the hide to make it even tighter. When it dries it will be a strong tool, ready to take busting sod to an art form.
make it really tight
Harvest time is also Back-to-School time
Here are some pictures from opening day celebrations:
Elementary school kids get balloons

Secondary gets confetti in their hair
Secondary School also had a bit stonger pomp and circumstance:
Seated in the upper right are the officers of Taquile

I am told that less than a quarter of the students show up for the first week. However, education on Taquile is getting more strict. They doubled the number of teachers in the High School this year, and most of the elementary grades have two rooms per grade. I hope this means more attention and smaller classes.

More Solar on Taquile

Students get lights 

We have a reputation for bringing the first solar electric energy to Taquile in 1988, starting a movement that now has upwards of 90% of the households on Taquile with Photovoltaic power.  ¿How could we come home to Colorado and say, "Everyone has solar except our own family." Therefore we bought and installed solar in two households serving 5 school students.

The Asunta/Armando branch of the family, who usually live in Lachon on the Capachica Penninsula where grid power is available, will be in school on Taquile this year. Their house had no power, so we bought the panels and battery and installed lights to cook and study by.
we prepare for a coca leaf blessing on the new equipment
This installation will provide study lighting for three students: Kusi, Sarita and Yhoel.
Kusi is delighted with nearly-installed panel and lights

For the Valeria/Lino branch of the family, they have been living in Puno building boats, so their house was also not wired. Happily, Fredy had a panel and charge controller, so all we had to supply was the battery and lights.Juana Luz and Edith are now happy to be able to study in the evenings at home. Grandma Josefa is pretty happy, too.
Juana and Edith are happy to get school supplies as well
Natalia shows Josefa some photos

Natalia and Josefa

Bus Accident

Bus Accident near Puno kills 7, injures 42

Including one of our family members, Luz Nati Yucra Quispe, eldest daughter of Gonzalo and Pelajia. Fredy called from Puno to give us the news that around dawn on Monday, March 14, the bus from Tacna went off the road and turned on its side near Loripongo, about an hour west of Puno. Nati was coming home to Taquile for a visit, bringing watermelon and other fruits. Her brothers, Elias and Christian, were both at the bus terminal to meet her when they heard the news.

Nati was in the middle of the bus on an aisle, and was relatively lucky with the diagnosis of a splintered fracture on her upper arm, a break that would require surgery. Many passengers lost limbs and were horribly cut. The public hospital is fully covered by insurance, but private facilities are not. With the really terrible injuries triaged in front of her,Nati languished there for three days with very little care. Then suddenly the doctors slapped some plaster on her arm and prepared to discharge her. Corruption? Bus Company payoff of the doctors?

With help and advice from doctor and technician from the medical clinic on Taquile, we got her into a private facility where she had the surgery Thursday and is now recovering in a hotel room we rented for her and her parents in Puno. We are also helping to pay for the private hospital and medical bills, which must be paid up front. We are not certain if the insurance will eventually repay them.

News story on the accident says 5 dead and 30 injured, but the count went to 7 dead and 30 injured.

Nati rests and recouperates

 The driver was apparently drunk as empty bottles were found in the cab. He fled the scene but was caught. I highly discourage anyone ever riding in Transportes San Martin, the culpable bus company.

All of Nati's luggage was lost except the watermelon, which is reportedly broken and rotting in the Juliaca offices of the bus company.

Update March 30
Nati's parents brought her home to Taquile on March 24, for quieter and less expensive recuperation. She is weak and still has quite a bit of pain.
Sam helped her walk up the path from the boat.
Elias brought her on his new boat, so they were able to dock at our little port just below the house. Still quite a walk for one in pain.

Feeling a little better day by day
Nati can now walk around the patio--no big walks to neighbors or the plaza yet. Comfortable sleep is still a dream. Trasitional herbal and alternative healers are now stepping up for the long-term cure.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Real Life

Back on Taquile Island
The vacation was wonderful, yet back to real life on Taquile is the best.

We are still trading solar equipment for the excellent quality Taquileño textiles. Sometimes this gives us an opportunity to make friends with another lovely child.

Estefani (age 2 1/2) with Sam
School will start soon, so the kids head up a volley-ball game almost every afternoon.
Eufrasia goes for the ball, skirts and all.
Our big project was to install enough solar power to run a refrigerator in the store that Delfin and Eufrasia have, just across the path from the high school and near the elementary school. The taller panel is an excellent 80W, a couple of years old. The other two are 85W each, brand new. Probably the total will be 240W. He has been selling icecream from an ice chest. Now a cloudy day of less demand will not destroy the profits. Other options are grand. I believe that besides the Medical Center, this is the only refrigeration on the Island.

We visit the Plaza and hike to the highest point on Taquile, the ceremonial site of Mulcina, almost every day.

Visits to family members and friends are a special kind of hike. Mercedez is 96 years old and has lived her live in this high altitude sun. She still walks and works a bit in her field and sometimes weaves.
Grandma Mercedez with Silvano

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Family Vacations

Memorable travels
Noemi and Alejandro on Taquile
We supported a couple of family vacations right away before the start of the school year. First of all, Noemi had not been to Taquile for 6 years, not since her oldest, Alexander, was a baby. She and Alejandro had come to introduce him to her home, but the the trip was riddled with bus breakdowns and cold weather and her new husband didn´t have any fun.
This trip they spent time on Llachon with Asunta´s family (thus wisely avoiding Carnaval), then came to Taquile to be with us and the rest of the extended family. On Taquile they spent a day working in the fields of her mother, Celbia, and helped father, Felipe, on a building project. Then we spent a day at the beach where we played volleyball and swam, and the kids made sand castles. Back on Llachon they went to a big church choral performance of Asunta and Armando´s chorus while Kusi and Sam and I babysat. The next day again we played Volley and swam. Alejandro will now be more willing to come visit Noemi´s side of the family.

For the children, Alexander age 7, Dayana age 5, and Bianca nearly 2, it was special for them to be in the country, playing freely outside in ways they could not in Lima, and also important for them to see the place and culture of their mother. 

swimming in Lake Titicaca
Celbia delighted to have her baby granddaughter, Bianca, with her
More Memorable Travels 
We had returned with Noemi and family to LLachon to Asunta and Armando´s house on February 19 mainly on Noemi´s solicitation. We then realized that if we were going to take this family for an excursion to Sicuani before school started, it needed to be right away. So we all took the bus to Juliaca the following Monday, Feb. 22, bade Noemi´s family safe travels to Lima, and brought a contingent of 8 people to Sicuani: Asunta, Armando, Kusi age 15, Sarita age11, and Yhoel age 7, plus Sam and I. We found a reasonable hotel with shared batheroom. Three beds in one big room for them and a double bed room for us. 

Tuesday we bought a picnic and caught the taxi car up to the Aguas Termales, about a half-hour ride back up near the pass. Sam and I had been there last year and loved it, with the multiple, many-temperature pools. The kids had swum in Lake Titicaca and, indeed, the water is not as cold near Llachon as it is off Taquile, but still their water skills were sparse. At first they would scrunch up their faces and hold their ears lightly so no water would enter anywhere. I recalled my old swim intructor skills from my youth and we played. They let go of their ears rather quickly and bagan blowing bubbles, learning the simple skill of taking a breath out of water and blowing it out underwater. After a while they were doing the breaststroke more or less. I was astounded at the progress, particuarly of Yhoel and Sarita. We returned Thursday for another day of water play. By the end of Thursday, even Kusi was floating on her back in comfort. The littler kids were paddling around the pool. I started calling Yhoel a little fish, pescadito.
In the evenings, in their big hotel room, we played a rhyme game and when someone missed and had to do their penalty, it was a joke or a dance or a song or being arranged as a statue--lots of laughter and wholesome family fun. One evening we recalled memories from our 30 years of visiting Lake Titicaca, how Sam taught Sarita to walk in 2006, how Kusi would say HO-LA with her mouth exaggerating the shape, how we were digging potatoes and Sam grabbed Asunta´s brown, potato-colored toe! More laughter.

Sarita, Yhoel, and Kusi in front of the Viracocha Temple wall
 Wednesday we went to the ruins of Raqchi, in the other direction about a half-hour bus ride. These are the Inca temple of Viracocha. We hired a local guide, Deniz, who was knowledgable and spoke very clearly. He led us around for an hour and then we were on our own.

the hospedaje of the Inca when he came to worship

Celbia made friends with a local woman

Ceramic Studio Visit
When our guide, Deniz, learned that we are potters, he invited us to visit his father´s studio. Wonderful! Collegues in clay! I understood all his techniques and we were invited to come and work together someday.

In the ceramic studio of Gonzalo Rodriguez Moron

Museo de Tupac Amaru
After such a full day, we still had one more stop. The town of Tinta, a little bit further, has the house of Peruvian Revolutionary and Inca descendent, Tupac Amaru. I found the story more than chilling, as it portrayed not only the leader´s birth and  committment to the freedom of his people, but the terrible torture that the Spanish Conquistadores visited upon him and his family.