Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day of the Dead, November 2

photo by Emerita
The morning of Day of the Dead started with another ceremony - not a long one, but a few minutes of conversation with and remembrance of the persons we wished could have enjoyed this meal with us. Instead we ate the now 'tasteless' food. Since all our ancestors feasted all night on the essence of what we offered up last night there was little left but the 'shells' of the goodies - I do think though that the ancestors were kind and left quite a bit of taste for us to enjoy.

The first plate of many which I filled and emptied this morning. And the company was.... absolutely excellent from first to last bite.

All at the table - photo by Emerita
And here we are at the Cemetery where is fun and full where the conversations with the ancestors, the newly dead or the ones who have been absent from our reality for a long time flourish and flutter - young and old alike are busy communicating and respectfully remembering. The men atop this rolling staircase are celebrating and having a drink with their relatives - whose remains are placed too high up to talk to them directly when standing on the path below, but with this aid of a rolling staircase it works fine, one could even say it is close to comfortable!

Sound systems are not easy to operate nor come by and so... to make sure that everyone can hear the words of importance a megaphone is used. The choir sang loud and beautifully enough to be heard without amplification although ......

I did feel my heart hop and skip a few times when the repairs going on at this grave site 50 meters further along the pathway got a bit too loud - power-drills are not soundless, with or without amplifying.
A photo of a grave site we walked by on our meanderings at the cemetery that day - there are rose-petals in the pattern of a cross on top of the grave and my eyes caught the beauty of the purple candle sitting there on its rock. What I didn't see until I came back and uploaded my photos to the Ipad was ..... the two cigarettes neatly placed on the rock next to the candle rock - as an offering to the dearly departed - one of his/her favorites perhaps. In all the wall cubicles one could observe miniature favorites of the dead family member, be it a soccer-ball, a car, little battery run dancing flowers, you name it, it was there. I have never seen a cemetery this lively ever in my life - paintbrushes were in use to smarten up cement tombs, beer bottles were carried in, dogs were about, I observed two kids around ten years old sitting at a grave-site making patterns with rose-petals - living and dead mingling above and below in their heads and hearts. It was lovely to see and an honour to be part of, even if I was on this day 'just an observer'.

Day of the Living, November 1

Preparing lunch for November 1 - we did not celebrate Halloween on Oct. 31 - we completely ignored it - instead on this Nov. 1 we are preparing a wonderful lunch in the orno outside - chicken, plantain, sweet potatoes, what else could any one wish for. It is a day for celebrating family and friends and I am fortunate to belong to the friends part of this and get to spend the whole day with Emerita and Valerio's family at Apulaya.
Apolonia and Modesto getting the orno going so there will be enough warmth and embers to turn the chicken pieces and veggetables into delectable morsels in just over an hour's baking. Anais is busy with her good friend Chava - the little dog that will do whatever Anais tells her to do. Buddies!

Delicious tomato and peanut sauce for dipping the above mentioned orno baked vegetables in when they have been served on our plates in just a little while.

 Looking at this photo I am thinking that I need to remember how Emerita did this - or I have to make my own version of this - the fact is, this made a scrumptious 'salsa'.

Chicken exiting the orno with the aid of Valerio and Modesto, not to forget the oven mits. That orno is very hot indeed.
We enjoyed our lunch at the table from the 6 year old to the almost 105 year old - although we were missing one person, a new Apulaya art student and volunteer , Lucie from ..... Alberta!
She did arrive eventually, plane cancellations etc from Lima to Cusco are hard to control,  the circle complete for our evening ceremony.
Photo by Emerita  Anais, Pia and Lucie, waiting for ceremony to start.

Earlier in the day I had been invited to also place treats on the ceremony table in the hall way.  We went to the market and I had a ball purchasing treats for my family and friends. The treats are made/bought with the intent to make relatives who have passed on happy - this is an offering of some of their favorite foods - on this night after the celebration of Day of the Living - All Souls Night - our relatives come to stay with us, to see how we are doing and to give us a hand if we reach out and ask for their help. In this reciprocal culture when we give an offering we are entitled to ask for help or guidance in return. This was a bit foreign to me but I sent off thoughts to the people in my life who have already passed on, family members and friends - strange how long the list is when one starts to really think about it - and wonderful to know that .... this was in honour of all of these 'souls', spirits, it felt overwhelming and good at the same time.
Modesto, Anais and Apolonia. Photo by Emerita

We are waiting for the ceremony to begin. Modesto (on the left) is a paqo - a mediator between the natural and the supernatural worlds - he will perform the ceremony, a blessing, a mass over the foods and treats - calling on our ancestors, inviting them to come and enjoy this meal we are offering them and asking for their protection and aid or support as one feels one needs it. Anais is excited, to be looking at all the treats (which won't be eaten until the next morning) and to be with her grandparents during this beautiful and peaceful ceremony. It is a time of joy, being able to connect with our departed loved ones.

Spiritual view ...... ah, no, it was Emerita who had gone up the stairs in order to get this view - in a moment or two the ceremony will start, the lights were turned down a bit so it wasn't too bright, it was evening around 7 or 8 pm after all -
the ceremony lasted for a couple of hours, was read and recited in a beautiful mix of languages, Spanish, Quechua and Latin - my heart was filling up with sadness, longing, happiness, pleasure, memories, respect and thankfulness that I was able to honour 'my dead' in this manner - a whole new and wonderful way of connecting with loved ones now existing in a different realm.

Bands and views from Juana's in Huaran

When the sun got too high in the sky arrangements were made for me to sit in a shaded place just so my 'pretty face' wouldn't 'come to harm' again. I was moved just inside the kitchen door - a stick was hammered into the ground just outside the kitchen door with the most magnificently large and impressive axe and then..... I was placed on a low stool with blankets and sheepskins on top for comfortable softness. Then it was time to get 'hooked up', one end of the warp to the stick/peg outside the kitchen door and the other end to the woven belt I had tied around my waist sitting on the comfortable stool just inside the threshold in the kitchen.

This was my view - and as the rain came later we both jumped up, Juana and I, and took the laundry down.This is where Juana cooked us lunch and boiled water for tea - the kittens were just starting to move out of their box and surprisingly so, though perhaps it shouldn't be, they never ended up in the fire, they knew how close to get. They were in constant motion looking for food, playing a bit and looking for food again. Their mom would come in also looking for food and then she settled down in the box for a nursing session. I couldn't resist but had to give the little ones not yet in the box a hand - I 'flew' them in, so they could partake too.

And the bands I wove with Juana, the wide one that was my first choice to the very right. Closest to the side of the photo is the back of this wide band, then the front - then comes the yellow/red band which worked up reasonably fine and fast without too many hickups to weave, the side with the narrow zigzag being the front of the band, the back has long floats and a wider yellow zigzag. Finally the orange and black band - the front is the diamonds and the back is the longer rather hickuppy floats. Looking at all three bands ..... I cannot believe how lucky I feel to actually have sat there in the kitchen at Juana's - working, learning and weaving up these bands. Soon I will have to redo them here at home, that is.... make new warps and sit down focused on these particular patterns trying to do them with no mistakes this time!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Three weaving days in Huaran instead of Canchacancha!

Photo by Emerita
As it happened having to leave the village up high in the sky did not mean that I lost out on any weaving lessons. The Peruvian people is a very very flexible people. The people at Apulaya are very very flexible people too - and so since I was relying wholly on their guidance and knowledge during my stay here ..... it was totally wonderful for me to realize that within 24 hours of returning to my room at the hostel in Calca all was organized - I was going to Huaran to weave with Juana the three first days of the following week - first though I did get to enjoy another day at school at Apulaya, then two weekend days of .... walking in town, reading, weaving, spinning at home and hanging out in the garden with some of the other visitors at the hostel.

Photo by Emerita

Monday morning early Emerita knocked on the gate and I came out with sunhat, sun screen, small backpack and much joyous anticipation as to how my weaving would go today. I had vivid memories of the beautiful wide band which I had started up in Cancha Cancha - mostly because I had taken it home and had looked at it long and hard trying to decipher what I needed to do next - hm - I would not say I had been extraordinarily successful.
So it was quite a relief to say hello to Juana and realize that she had started another band for me. This one more narrow and with a pattern more easily manageable for learning the technique her hands work so deligently.
A light and happy feeling spurred me on and on, especially when I realized that.... this was a pattern which I could wrap my head around without too much headache.

Photo by Emerita

These photos were all taken within the first hour of getting acquainted with this particular pattern. There were wrinkled brows, thoughtful glances and maneuvering of the the warp threads and ... after a while some laughter, quiet and then louder - laughter of wonder and laughter of aggravation when part of the pattern has to be taken out again.

If I am not mistaken too much I believe that I managed to finish this band on this day and I was very happy with myself and my magnificent abilities - or perhaps I finished it early on the next morning - it left me with a good singing feeling inside.

The next band ..... was another story..... not really a difficult pattern but ..... I was having a lot of trouble balancing the pattern correctly - and again, I remind myself and everyone else, my active language Spanish/Quechua was ... pretty small and my teachers' Danish/English capabilities are even smaller - so ..... learning here is about eye/brain coordination - it is intense, tiring and absolutely wonderful and fulfilling when the light-bulb suddenly goes on and a positive power-surge carries one over the hump of tiredness and confusion into light and beauty.

Retreat from Cancha Cancha

7:30 am, heading down - sad sigh!
As it was - my stay in Upper Cancha Cancha didn't last long .... only just under 24 hrs - I loved being there, I was amazed that I had made it there and I sat and wove with Juana and her daughter many hours on the day I arrived. The pattern was not exactly easy peacy pumpkin pie, it did make my brain curl and twirl but once again I had a most patient teacher sitting right next to me keeping an eye on my hands and the finger manipulation of warp threads up and down mostly not in the right sequence. Supper was eaten in the kitchen house as the dark had fallen outside. Two of Juana's daughters had come to join us, one had herded sheep all day and the other had been out with the alpacas and the llamas.
The little red dot at the bottom is the roof of the school
 I was taken to my sleeping quarters (the door in the photo above where you can see the tail of a hen) and tucked in well and thoroughly, I was warm and comfortable in the storage house, surrounded by skins and hats for special occasions, supplies .... it was lovely. And I was in my sleeping bag under lots and lots of warm blankets and covers.  I woke in the middle of the night with a funny tingling in my upper lip and I realized that.... my face was beginning to swell again - that is, it was only my lip at this point - I got up in the dark with my headlamp guiding me to antihistamines and cortizone cream and then.... I had a long discussion with myself - would it be enough eat antihistamines and to wear hat and sunscreen to prevent another swollen face or.... what was the likelihood and .... how would it be if I had to walk all the way down the mountain with the swollen face! It was hard to decide, I knew that there was a special dinner planned for me with alpaca meat the next evening but.... in the end I took a deep breath, made a decision and rolled over to sleep until it was time to get up and ask to be taken back down the mountain again ASAP before the sun got too high in the sky.

 After breakfast we headed down - this time my back pack was packed in Juana's carrying cloth and although she is 5 years my senior and she gave birth to many more kids than me .... well, she was much more of a mountain goat than me. She was moving at a good clip, for she wanted to get me down and out of the sun before the day was very old. I took a few photos on the way down, with sadness, I would have loved to have stayed - perhaps next time I will bring a sunscreen which is more than 45 or a hat with a bigger brim. For make no mistake I am planning and scheming on a 'next time' only when next time comes... I will also bring my husband who would love and thrive to go and experience the magnificence of the Andes and their people.
Juana with my backpack wrapped in her carrying cloth. 

About half way down we met a pre-teen girl out with her sheep for the day, stopped for a brief chat with her and then it was again onwards and downwards!
I made it all the way to my house in a little less than 5 hours and that included bus and taxi ride - going down is definitely faster, although, my legs and hips were some sore for quite a few days after.

It was a privilege to be allowed to share a minute detail of the life of a 'mountain dweller'  - Thank you for welcoming me, Juana, Dorothea, Alejandro and Jose!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weaving with Juana in 'Upper' Cancha Cancha

Photo by Emerita
Waking up the next day... there was a different light and bounce in my eyes and step again. It does a world of good to have a good long night's sleep behind you, even if in your sleep there are moments of loud weather noises and it was not easy to know if the roof would blow off or not. Back in the kitchen we enjoyed a steaming warm plate of vegetable soup and a big cup of  morning tea, more cat purr and  since Valerio, Emerita and Anais were on their way back down the mountain again and I was scheduled to continue up the mountain for another hour... Dorothea found her weaving to show us what she spins and weaves.
 It was time to head out into the beautiful wild and new landscape again, I knew that ... Upper Cancha Cancha was .... just around the corner and so .... with Jose being kind enough to carry my backpack we set out. After a few minutes he swung in to have a chat with some friends behind a fence pointing me ahead - and true to form I kept putting one foot in front of the other - staring ahead of me, not in a discouraged manner but in a determined manner, I won't be needing so much time today .... I won't be needing so much time today. And I didn't, for we didn't have far to go. Jose trotted past me with  my backpack and then I just had to keep my eyes on his rapidly shrinking body blending better and better into the colours and textures of the mountains surrounding me. I was not left all alone though - behind me at an equally brisk walk came Dorothea - she had had a few things to do before being able to head out for Juana's (her mother)  house.

When I looked behind me there she was a colourful dot, rapidly gaining size in the landscape. Dorothea caught up with me and we walked (slowly) and talked, across the language barriers - using the few words that I knew in Quechua and trying out a few Spanish ones and then..... Dorothea getting me to try out a few new ones. It was hard work getting up the mountain path and she saw my tiredness and suddenly as she was walking and spinning (and with the end of her spindle digging out a few useful herbs that had just come to the surface in the hope of rains - and stored them under the brim of her hat) she also began to hum and sing - I was so pleased to be able to engage my ears and tried to not loose momentum, one foot in front of the other and repeat! Then we got to the point where we could see the homestead of her parents and I pulled in a big breath and stopped - we were almost there - I was however panting for air - D looked at me and said something which I understood as a question as to whether I could sing or knew a good song - I stood there in the middle of the Andean mountains, at high altitudes and then I began to sing In Dublin's Fair City - a song I used to sing to my kids with great gusto when they were little. Dorothea lifted her hand and gently massaged the top of my breast bone through the jacket and sweaters I was wearing and when I had finished up one verse it seemed that I breathed much easier and  ..... we could go on. It was quite a surreal moment - and when I think back to it I have to smile in wonder that I was able to sing and at the choice of song. But what does it matter, it was what came out and D's gentle touch helped settle my struggling system.

This is a 'stripe' on a bag Juana had for sale - it was the pattern I chose when asked what I would like to weave.
It looked interesting and different from what I had been working on with Apolonia down in Calca and ..... how hard can it be anyways! (rhetorical question)

Dorothea at work

Dorothea and Juana started out making a warp for me - as per usual custom all happens on the ground. They had two large iron spikes which were hammered into the ground.

Juana at work at the other end

Then some discussion ensued about how to set up the warp, the sequence and number of warp threads needed and .... the balls began to roll back and forth. I was pleased to participate only with my camera - although the walk this morning had only been about an hour or so I was exhausted. It was lovely to watch and listen and my ears were quite enjoying the whole experience not to mention my eyes which were full to the brim of new impressions and yet another warping technique.
And this is a favorite photo of mine - two hands meeting in the middle to make sure that they had the cross as organized as they wanted it, checking out to see that ... it would all work out.
Talking hands at work!

Walking to Cancha Cancha - just past 4200 and something meters!

Photo by Emerita

This is where I am going somewhere up there in the  'V' between the two mountains on the left side of the photo - up at a little over 4200 meters elevation. We had walked for about 45 mins or perhaps a bit more already and .... this is where we were going - somewhere off in the distance - still quite unimaginable for me but I had made a promise to myself that if I really couldn't do it it would not be a defeat to turn around and come back down - that is....if I decided that it wouldn't work while there was still daylight enough to make it back down the path safely.

A horse can be the best of friends - this is Alejandro's horse - the father in the family I was going to stay with up there on top of the world - he had come down to Huaran to see if he could bring anything up to the village for us. Since I had said right from the start that I was in no condition to both walk and carry it was arranged that the horse would take my load. For a while Emerita had carried my back pack, this had made me a little upset, since I didn't want anybody to have to walk and carry on my behalf.  I had tried very hard to pack as sensibly as possible knowing that I was not going to be the one to carry it but it still had some weight to it - after all I wasn't sure if I would be staying for two nights or 6 nights - it would all be figured out when I could tell how my body would react to the altitude, the 'lack' of oxygen and all that jazz. 

We walked and walked and about three hours into the walk we happened upon this beautiful trunk, the texture of which was delicious - the peeling bark and the interesting plants which had decided to put down root in the cracks of the bark and thus extract their nourishment from a decaying and very nutritious beauty.

We hit the lunch time spot and I would be fibbing  if I said that my body was not welcoming this rest. There were juicy sandwiches in Valerio's backpack, I had water in my flask, there was soft dry moss to sit and rest the weary bones on .... and ... the six year old Anais went exploring by the creek, climbed and jumped, over and right next to the rushing water - helping my heart race a little extra at times but.... she never fell in, she is a nature child used to moving about outside and with full control  of all her body parts - (unlike someone else who might not have fared so well on the trunk balancing over the creek part  had there not been a sturdy bridge already)

Photo by Valerio

And after a chew of sandwich or perhaps it was before - Emerita and I posed while Valerio clicked to make yet another piece of proof that ... Pia really is doing this - and at this point I can say - Pia actually did do it! she did not turn around.
At the depicted moment in time the air was fresh, not too warm, the water was rushing over the rocks, very cold water indeed, it is glacier water coming down the mountain. Soon the rain season will begin - as it is I was lucky that I had a day as beautiful as this to walk to Cancha Cancha - The temp was just right, not too warm and not too cold.

Photo by Emerita

The bugs weren't too bad either - only in one area were there lots of giant black flies - and that was another layer to the walk, as you ascend a mountain there are so many micro climates to pass through, every once in a while vegetation changes completely - until finally it is very clear that ... we are up by or above the tree line - I was .... in awe and pushing every thought of my own 'limitations' aside.
For I would like to stress that I am not really an avid mountain climber, a runner, or a very active sports person. I am passionate about weaving of all sorts and about international folk dancing  and love to learn new dances and rythms and then I can go on and on for something like hours but.... walking up hill - ha - the 5km I walk several times a week down our road to the stop-sign is a piece of pie now - As the hours passed by and we were still on the way up the mountain I started moving slower and slower. I also started to not have quite as much energy for admiring my surroundings or even getting astounded by them.

Photo by Emerita

Emerita and Valerio had taken Anais along on this long walk. Anais had never been to Cancha Cancha before and she is 'only' 6 years old! For me the wonderful thing about this was that when Anais was not quite 'cooperative' - you know those moments .... are we there soon? I want to be there now! The three of them would make little stops - and I .... I kept going, one foot at a time in front of the other, right, left, right, left for I was beginning to fear that if I stopped even for a moment I might not be able to get my butt in gear again. I couldn't really see where we had started out from when I looked back and .... Cancha Cancha was not yet visible, although I was assured that it was ... just up there behind the nose on the left side of the mountain that is just past....

Photo by Emerita

Down there, where there is a clear green little splotch, that is where we started out - we left home at 7.30am and started the actual hike up the mountain about an hour later.

Cancha Cancha where we were headed  is one of many small high altitude communities found in the Andes Mountains - no electricity (but they do have outhouses) thatched roofs, house walls built of bricks made of mud and straw - there is a school with service from grade 1-3 - although on the day we went up apparently the teacher went down, he didn't like it up there! and so... the kids were once again without a teacher - well, without a school teacher - their greatest teachers showing them what they need more perhaps are their parents, aunts and uncles and grand parents. Without their knowledge of how to live on and in the mountains the kids would be quite lost - this is a hard and challenging life. I am not sure how long it would take me to get used to it - if I ever could.
Photo by Emerita

We are now at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, perhaps a little later - as you can see it isn't dark - yet - in the very background behind the mountains is another mountain with glaciers and the little green splotch by my elbow is Anais, still hopping along, the walls and shapes to my left are  .....our destination. Valerio has just said ... welcome to Cancha Cancha Pia, you made it and I, I began to cry - for I do not remember having been this tired - for a while I had been going only because I knew ... it was too late to turn back and so there was only one way and that was up and towards where we had planned to go.

Photo by Emerita

In Dorothea's kitchen Anais immediately picked up the fire tube to blow on the embers in the wood/cook stove. Dorothea had warm sweet tea for us and a plate of newly boiled potatoes on a communal plate which was  placed on the floor in front of our feet and then... we peeled potatoes with our fingers, put the peels back on the side of the plate  and popped the potatoes into our hungry mouths and washed them down with the wonderfully warm and delicious tea.

Photo by Emerita

It was magnificent to sit down after all that walking. Around us life continued - the guinea pigs were talking and scurrying across the floor into their secret corners (there weren't all that many left for there had been a birthday party in the family the previous week), a hen kept coming to the door to check out the potato-peel situation, there was a kitten that was all cuteness and very willing to warm a lap or an arm if one started to feel a little chilled. Jose, Dorothea's husband was braiding a llama rope, that is a rope made of llama fibres. It got braided good and hard, it was for tying loads for transportation onto the horses or llamas. See the first photo with the horse being loaded at the top of the post.
I had arrived and .... I slept indescribably well and deep - that is .... in between the thunderclaps and the loud sounds of the rain pouring down outside.