I returned yesterday from my overnight visit to two communities: Anccaca and Laraqueri, where I was invited to share in the textile work of the local women. Overall it was a positive experience, but I was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is getting smaller and more comfy as I mature. I still think it is important to push the limits from time to time. I definitely learn about myself as I learn about other cultures.
I went by combi about an hour to Rosa's house (a member of the alpaca co-op) in Anccaca. In the morning we went and dug potatoes and checked out the alpacas.
Rosa had arranged for some other members of the cooperative to meet at her place for a day of spinning, knitting and chatting.
I wish I had gone prepared with a knitting project. Rosa gave me a circular needle and a ball of handspun alpaca to use, but I couldn't remember the lace pattern I wanted to use. I made a few attempts, but with no success. I enjoyed playing with the kids and taught them a few action songs.
Lunch was boiled potatoes of a few different varieties, served with fried cheese. It makes a very tasty combo. I told Maude it is their version of poutine. We were also offered chunks of alpaca, but I wasn't in the mood.
I was also dying for a cup of coffee, and didn't feel I should ask. Eventually I did ask for boiling water and made myself and Rosa a cup of black tea with emergency teabags I brought from home.
For dinner I was served alpaca noodle soup (very good), and more potatoes, fried cheese and rice.
It was very peaceful there, and Rosa made a big effort to make me comfortable. She had cleaned out a spare room for me, in a small adobe building.
She had furnished it with a bed (sunken in the middle like a hammock) with clean sheets and brand new blankets. These blankets were the heaviest I have encountered yet, but I was still cosier in my lightweight down sleeping bag. There was also a wardrobe, table and chair, and an electric light. Just outside was a small block building, with a clean porcelain squatty potty, cold shower and sink.
I slept surprisingly well, and in the morning had a breakfast of flat bread, potatoes, fried cheese, broad beans and corn. I fear that I will take on the typical Peruvian shape from eating the typical Peruvian diet.
During the previous day, one of the younger women who was seven months pregnant, was complaining of pain all over her body. She just sat quietly and didn't participate much. I was very sad to hear in the morning, that she had lost the baby that night, a baby boy. I still haven't got the details, but apparently she was using a local "treatment" to ease the pain, which was to sniff gasoline on a cloth. Maude and I were horrified to hear that. Someone definitely needs to do some health education here. That should include lessons on the importance of soap, as well as dental hygiene. Many women are missing a number of teeth and their gums look swollen and red.
From Rosa's I was to go a few kilometres further down the road to Laraqueri, to spend the day with Prudencia's family and more members of the co-op. Rosa was quite insistent that she needed to deliver me safely there by combi, but I was equally insistent that I could manage on my own. The next minute she flagged down a neighbour on a small motorbike, and I got a ride on the back. I wish I had a photo of that.
The motorbike delivered me to the door of Prudencia's house. I was invited into the work area, an open space in the middle of the house, with corrugated plastic roof to keep out the rain but let in the light. Here is where they have a floor loom set up, and Prudencia and her husband, Lucas, were working together to put on a warp of handspun wool.
The loom was not that different from my own, although more rustic. The warp was about a metre wide, and was going to be woven into fabric for a new underskirt for Prudencia. It was quite coarse and looked like it would be itchy.
Other members of the co-op arrived and we had another morning of spinning, knitting and chatting.
Prudencia showed me how to use her electric spinning machine to add more twist to the wool she would use for weaving. Their knitting yarn has almost no twist when it is plied, because it is softer like that.
Prudencia also brought out all of her wares to show me, and was eager to have me photograph them. I was very interested in a rope and a sling which were spun and braided of the coarsest alpaca hair. I bought them both to add to my rope "collection" (jute headstrap from Darjeeling, and yak rope from Bhutan).
Prudencia served all of us potatoes and fried cheese for lunch. I had asked for a cup of coffee earlier so that I avoided the caffeine withdrawal I'd experienced the day before. I am definitely addicted.
After lunch we all walked up the hill behind Prudencia's house to see the view of Laraqueri and surrounding hills. Beautiful.
Not much later I caught a combi back to Puno. I felt like I'd been in another world for days and days.