Saturday, February 18, 2017

Construction projects

This time of year seems to be a big opportunity for construction projects. Delfin is building an addition to the family tienda; German (pronounced “Herman”)  is breaking ground for a new house for his new family with our goddaughter, Natalia; the parents Erica, of one of our favorite little girls, are building a huge new structure in anticipation of their Matrimonio in May. In addition, two community work projects are beginning this week. One is a new boat dock on the south end of the Island; the other is an improved trail along the SW ridge that faces Puno.

Taquile is made up of 6 sectors, or suyos. Three of the sectors will alternate, two days at a time, working on the dock—which may take a couple of weeks. The three others will simultaneously work on the trail. Usually Sam and I get in on these public projects, such as when we helped build a dock in 2010, or dug the trench for the water pipe for the solar water pumping project in 2013. However, this year we are hosting two friends from Colorado during these projects, and will be busy putting them to work installing solar energy on a couple of houses. More about that in a future blog.

The dock project was in its second day. Above you see the men mostly out in the water and the women carrying medium sized rocks. It was sunny and hot; hard work. The workers will be paid, but they MUST show up on time and every day their suyo is required to be there.
A week later, we see progress

chipping along a sedementary line will break the rock

All hands with pry-bars to lift a giant rock.
Below Sam, Delfin, and German are excavating rock where will eventually be the floor of the new house.  The rock is sedimentary and can be broken along the lines of the geological layers.

These following pictures are from the construction of Erica´s parent´s house. Sam had a height advantage, passing up the buckets of cement mix to be poured into the forms around the top of the first floor. This will hold up the wooden beams that will form the floor for the second floor.
Mix by turning the pile three times (no dust masks, yikes!)
Then add water to the center and use the wet mix

Sam had a height advantage

 I helped the women carry the micro-mini rock/sand to mix with the cement from a quarry near the ruins.
the quarry

The chainsaw masters were cutting eucalyptus trees for the second story floor boards. They needed to turn and lift a big log so we women stopped our carrying to help pull. It took a couple more men from the cement project to get it to move.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Amantani Pays the Pacha Mama

Annual Harvest Ceremony January 18 on the Island of Amantani, sister island to Taquile

The day starts with heavy rain, so we delay our departure in Santiago´s small fishing boat for the hour and a half ride to Isla Amantani. Sam and I had seen publicity about this annual ceremony, a pagado la Pacha Mama and wanted to participate. In our section of Lake Titicaca are three high ceremonial sites: Mulcina on Taquile, Auki Karu on the Capachica Penninsula near Lachon, and Pacha Tata with Pacha Mama on Amantani. We have particpated in Taquile´s Pagado la Pacha Mama which takes place every Easter Sunday, and in 2015 we were welcomed at a festival of first fruits, the deeply moving harvest festival on the heights above Lachon. See this LINK: Blessing-of-first-fruits for that story. Many folk tales associate the three sites, so we were pleased to be able to celebrate on Amantani.

The rain slowed and we left Taquile a bit late, enjoyed a beautiful adventurous ride across the lake with Santiago and Silvano. When we passed closely to the rock seagull roost between the two islands, the annoyed birds flew with hints of the of Alfred Hitchcock movie:
Our rain-delayed start had us arriving at the ceremonial site on the Pacha Mama heights just as the sacred ceremony ended. We will have to come again some other year for the full experience. Particpants in the ritual were now eating lunch and preparing to dance. The four of us found a quiet spot behind the rock-walled ceremonial enclosure and did our own ceremony. We had brought a despacho, a prayer bundle from our family on Taquile, and we made our own coca ceremony. Silvano took the role of shaman and buried the bundles on the heights. 

We ate our picnic in time to follow the dancers in procession to the saddle between the two Pacha high points. 
There the 10 communities of Amantani performed a dance competition. Each group had a band and dancers with flags to represent the potato flowers. The following is a video. I was not able to run it from Peruvian computers; hope you can, to see some of the energy of the dance.
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 Amanani clothing is richly embroidered. The women wear the same sort of head covering as on Taquile, the chuco, but with embroidery which is done by the men on treadle sewing machines.

First Week: Babies and gifts

We jump right in
We arrive in Puno on Thursday, January 12, and after an afternoon and night for rest and altitude adjustment, we are off buying  a solar panel, 65watt for the trade we had arranged for last year with Olga, a single mother who makes less than a dollar a day.
We visit the family of Gonzalo, staying in Puno these weeks to care for Jenfer and her prematurely born baby boy. The baby is in the hospital in an incubator. The doctors recommend the neo-natal unit in Lima but the logistics of living in that hot costal city, where they would have no real family suppport, are prohibitive. A week later, they are able to bring the baby to Taquile where both mother and baby seem to be thriving. We give the beauiful crocheted yellow baby blanket made by my mother, Irene Miller, to this baby. So far his name is "Junior." Jenfer´s husband, Alex, is bright and cheerful. We are glad for this happy couple to be together.
Rose petals are part of the curandero healing process
Irene´s other blanket was received by our goddaughter, Natalia, whose baby girl, Leyda, was born September 25. Natalia´s husband, German (in English, pronouce it like Herman), is a loving father and a talented man. In our solar installations, he has been the most skilled electrical worker; he was installing mosaic tile for a restaurant upgrade on the other side of the island this first week of our visit.

We bring gifts for various godparents and penpals from the US. Kusi and her siblings are thrilled with their gifts from Luke and Ellen of Gunnison, Colorado.

Lizbet is pretty happy with gifts from her penpal, Morgan, in the land of maple sugar and moose. The simple wind-up toys were a hit for awhile, animated with stories and accessories of leaves and flowers.
We also bring gifts of money for several families, from godparents and supportive friends and family in the US. I don´t have permission to name all the donors (though I will be pleased to list you when I have that permission), thank you, thank you. $100 goes a long way here, and can make a huge difference.

We catch a cargo boat from Puno at 6:00am with all our luggage and a load a bricks that we helped load onto the boat the night before (and  helped unload onto the Taquile dock). The lake was rough and one pile of bricks toppled; luckily no one was hurt. I spoke up with my kiln-building brick expertise and tied in the stack by overlapping courses.
Next day, Sam helped carry the bricks up to German´s building site. He and Eufrasia could carry 5 at a time: some of the guys carried as many as 8. Stay tuned for a post about construction projects.