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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quilt for Water for People

As most of you know, Matt and I have asked friends and family to sponsor our trip as a means of fundraising for an exemplary NGO called Water for People (www.waterforpeople.org). As a special thanks for the highest donation, we have a beautiful quilt made of cloth and weavings that we have collected throughout the trip. This quilt represents the large community of people we met and are hoping will benefit from the work we are supporting at Water for People. Below is a picture of the quilt (made my my wonderful Aunt Crystal), along with photos of, and information about, the women who sold us their artwork.

We started the project in the white, colonial city of Sucre, Bolivia, where we meet Emiliana Yankee and her gregarious husband. Though we spoke in Castellano (Spanish), as that was our only common language, Emiliana's mother language is Aymara (the main language of indigenous Bolivians) and her second language is Quecha (the language of the Incans and indigenous people throughout the Andes). A few decades ago they moved from Oruro to Sucre to start her weaving business and raise their family. Most of her children live near-by but never learned to weave. The skills she learned from her mother and grandmother will end with her. The piece we bought from her cost 180 Bolivianos (approx. 25 USD) and is made by hand out of Alpaca wool. She showed us how long it takes to weave by comparing it to out a belt that took a week for her to make. She also demonstrated how to use the spindle to make the yarn.

We met Prema outside of the 'witch market' in La Paz, Bolivia, next to a stall of coca leaves and dried llama fetuses. Prema learned to weave at the age of 10, taught by her mother in her home town of Oruro. She has 5 kids (ranging from 25-19 years old), but none of them want to learn to tejir (weave), just to study. The piece we bought from her took 6 weeks to weave, cost 120 Bolivianos (approx. 17 USD) and is made of llama wool.

Gregoria was particularly shy. It took a minute for my Aunt Jeannie and I to coax her into letting Matt take her picture surrounded by all of her art. Eventually she obliged and proved to be very sweet. She sells her work on the tourist track around the Sacred Valley (a collection of villages and ruins between the Incan capital city of Cuzco, and the lost city of Macchu Pichu). The colorful scarf we bought from her is made of Alpaca wool.
Mili's piece is my personal favorite and makes up the focal point of the quilt. We met her on the Bocas del Toro islands of Panama near the Costa Rican boarder. Though her mother helped her a little to learn to sew, she is mainly self taught, beginning from age 10. She loves to learn and try new things, but most of all she likes to make the designs and patterns and cut the fabric, giving the pieces to her sisters and other women to help with the sewing. While some of her designs are geometric, like the one in the quilt, she mostly makes animals, like the strawberry poison dart frog that is famous on the islands. Mili is 29 years old and has one son who probably won't learn to sew (some men do, but it is mostly a business for women). This piece took one week to sew, cost $10, and is made of cotton.
Julia had a thriving business in the town of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan in southern Guatemala. She sold her own weavings as well as that of her mother and grandmother and various women from towns around the lake. She learned to weave from her mother and grandmother at the age of 12. The piece we bought from her took 5 days to weave using a belt system. It is made of lana (wool), though not from sheep (that's all I could figure out...my Spanish isn't PERFECT, give me a break!).

The same day we met Julia, Maria approached us with her daughter. She is originally from Santa Catalina (another town on the lake) but lives in Panajachel with her daughter for her business. She learned to weave at the age of 8 and is currently teaching her daughter to continue the business. The piece we bought from her is made of cotton and took one month to make by hand.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friends actually...

...ARE, all around.

I suppose I should start with a profound apology to all my avid readers who have not blog cheated on me by giving up on me to read my bros blog (just kidding, I actually encourage it), for neglecting an update on my adventures the last 2 1/2 months. And thank you for not assuming we are dead and calling the Bolivian embassy after 6 days (Momma!). I am going to go ahead and blame med school apps and my lazy reliance on Matt to thoroughly document our journey.

I believe I left you lovely souls hanging after our fantastic trip to teh Bolivian salt flats where we met the lovely Frenchy and the spunky Karina. From there we spent about a month exploring the rest of Bolivia (two words: beautiful, cheap). the majority of which we spent in Cochabamba taking Spanish and Quechua lessons while volunteering in an orphanage in the afternoons.

We crossed the boarder into Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and on our way to Cuzco to meet our wonderful Tia Jeannie we made a few-day pit stop in the White City of Arequipa and the deep gorge of the Colca Canyon (2x deeper than the Grand Canyon). With Tia we explored the Sacred Valley and trekked 5 days via the very high (4,600 m) Salkantay Pass to the PHENOMENAL ruins of Machu Picchu. After leaving the tia :( we made our way to Lima by first hopping over to the coast, flying in a 4-seat Cessna over the mysterious Nazca Lines and dune-buggying through the sand dunes outside Huacachina oasis. in Lima we met up with Matt´s good high school buddy Chris, had a few fun nights and a few good laughs (with me acting as the perfect wing-woman for the boys, as per usual), and set off for Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca to do another beautiful 4 day trek. Huaraz is where we met Team Stretch (see below), taught the locals how to play Twister, and where I said goodbye to the bro for 2 weeks as we went our separate ways: he to Quito to meet another old friend, and Chris and I back to Lima to meet a few of his med school classmates. After a few more laughs in Lima we headed to Iquitos, Peru accompanying some Denver Docs on a medical mission to remote villages on the Amazon River and its tributaries. MUCHO MUCHO more about this later as the experience definitely deserves its own entry.So, if you want more details and pics of any of the above experiences I encourage anyone to visit my bro´s blog (myhighwayhome.blogspot.com) as he has not become the 4-star slacker general as I, and also, it is kind of sick how good he is getting at photography (if you like the pics he is trying to sell them to get a portfolio together, so just let me or him know and he can matte (sp?) and frame it for you when he gets back!). Since I can´t go into detail about 2+ months in one blog I have decided to pick my favorite theme of that time period: FRIENDS. New friends, old friends, cute friends, cold friends. Below are a few pics of awesome people and a quick profile of each:

This is Emiliana, a cute Bolivian weaver from whom I bought the first piece of cloth for my quilt project! She and her husband were super sweet, thought not sweet enough to give me a sweet discount. haha

This is Carola (short for Carolina), one of the little girls at the Orphanage we volunteered at in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She was a fire-cracker, always keeping me on my toes....this pic is about 5 seconds prior to our Elmer´s Glue explosion fiasco.
This is Carola´s little sister Julie. Dirtiest kid I have ever met, but you can´t tell because they just put on her brand new dress in this pic. Too cute.
I don´t know if this pic will come out, but this is my beautiful American friend Katelyn (don´t let the crack-head appearance mislead you, as she is one of the sweeter souls I have ever met) in Cochabamba who was also volunteering through Sustainable Bolivia.

This is Gregoria, a Peruvian weaver who supplied another one of my pieces for my quilt project. She was a little shy.

TIAAAAAAA!! Nuff said. Rock on. (At Sacsayhuaman)
This one may not turn out either, but it is the after shot of our Salkantay trek team. Including our Peruvian guide, two aussies, and two other Americans (from good ol´Phila! No wonder I was craving a cheesesteak when I got back!)
The two aussies on the trek (Patty spent about 7 minutes trying to get the timing right for Rene to jump....I got it on the first shot. I know, gangsta)
This is Tia with JESUS the donkey (he was my aunt´s savior going up the tricky parts of the pass: hence the name)
Hamish, trying to keep warm playing his guitar and wearing Chris´ socks and my flip-flops after his valiant attempt to save his hacky-sac from the rapids of the river.

Team Stretch trying to keep warm as we wait for the mules to arrive with our tents.From left to right we have yours truly, our futbol crazed Northern Irishman, three of the four Kiwis (Hamish, his brother Blair, the lovely Jaz), Chris, Matt leaning in the background, and I am assuming Steve (the other Kiwi) stretching....but wait, where are the Swede and my favorite Japanese dude?! Hope they didn´t fall in the river too!
Bonding around the fire the first night, whittling sticks, burning socks, and stoking the fire.
My spunky roomie Murial (left) and her daugher Gail (Doc Z´s wife). Two truly beautiful ladies.
All smiles, this one. I laugh thinking that my first impression was that he is a hard-ass. How could I ever think such a thing of a caring Buddhist? Maybe because he is also a monster that scares little Peruvian children so that it makes my job to weigh them all that much harder. Thanks for all the help, Ro ;)
Charlie looks cute, but don´t be fooled. His farts can kill. He is also the biggest rodent in the world, so that might give you a clue. I will also add that he likes beer, so don´t go leaving any bottles under your hammock while you sleep!

This is the second village we visited that made us presents (beaded dolls and jewelry...some with Pirahna jaws on them) to thank us for visiting them and caring about them. I am assuming the little boys are not excited about anti-parasite meds and vitamins, but psyched that they get a day off of school (we always conducted the mission in the school houses).
Once again, don´t be fooled by the pretty feathers. This parrot can sneak up on the best hammock sleepers and eat Harry Potter books....he can also drive doctors to passionate arguments with only two words: Hola, and Whatever.
These boys taught me how to play marbles while the lines for the docs dwindled. Little do they know that bocce balls is in my blood...better watch out, boys!
This is my boyfriend, the Peruvian look alike to the little actor in the 2 and 1/2 Men sitcom. He latched on and didn´t let go. Those of you who know of my baby fever are probably not surprised that I didn’t mind.

Side note: Did I mention we biked the deadliest road in the world? This is a pic of the crew gathered around one of the CURVES OF DEATH! There are 70 or so cars at the bottom of one of them.
Until next time.....UN ABRAZO!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Salty, I shrunk the French!

Before heading to Bolivia we dipped into Chile one last time and picked up a passenger, our new friend the Afro-portuguese Londoner. Though we have only been friends with the lovely Carina for little over a week, there are few people I can reminisce about the sand, salt and candle wax surfacing in places that they shouldn’t. Our friendship started with sandboarding in Chile, crossed the train tracks to get to the customs office at the boarder, and survived multiple crazy-french-headlamp-candlelight-card-games in Bolivia (with interspersed, open-minded discussions of gun control and veiling in french schools).
After arriving in Uyuni, Bolivia, having the best pizza ever (yay for crazy Bostonians who marry Bolivians and move down to the middle of nowhere to make really good pizza for tourists), we were fortunate again to pick up two more random friends (yay for adorable French couples) and set off on a private 4 day adventure into the salt flats. It was just the five of us--Hueona stayed behind under the care of the Bostonian.
Our driver was 16---just kidding Mom! He was 21. Haha, that didn´t make us feel much safer until the cooks (his young wife and 5 month old daughter) hopped in the car with us! (Yay for the big happy multi-ethnic family we became!)

Though we had only known our new family for a few hours we broke the ice like many do: with food. First I ate my brother. Then my brother tried to eat the girls. Then the condor tried to eat us all.
Of course, you all know that my happiness would not be complete without lots of cute little kids running around the salt hotels, which are made entirely--walls, beds, tables, chairs--of salt. Learning that playing hand-games is universal was the icing on the cake.

Oh, did I mention the flamingos in the red laguna the primordial soup and the 10,000 year old mummies (this creepy pic thinks it´s too good to load)? Nuff said.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Don´t cry for me Argentina!

(Note: being able to stop at random wineries composed of a small shack and courtyard = the reason we decided to do this trip by car! )

We combined celebrating our last few days in Argentina and the beginning of our training for the Inca Trail by ditching our comfy 4Runner and getting our butts on bikes. Granted, the real intention for the bikes was to ride to 7 wineries scattered at the foot of the Andes outside a beautiful little town called Cafayate. We sampled a FEW wines and bought a FEW bottles ;) Our favorite was the organic wine…though I will admit it was the last bodega we entered, so there is no guarantee my taste-buds were sober. I’ll let your imaginations give you the giggles with images of me tipsy on a bike.

Alas, the next day we traded in our bikes again for the comfort of our beautiful Hueona (now heavy with wine bottles) and headed along a beautiful dirt road with varying landscapes. Although I hate to equate the unique beauty of a landscape to any other in the world, this small corner of Northern Argentina really made me reminisce about our Eid vacation 4-wheeling in the desert in Egypt (here’s another shout-out to my anti-struggle partners in crime). Though, it was a bit windier.

We had to make a pit stop in the city of Salta to patch our first flat, rotate our tires (10,000 mile marker, baby, yeah!), and refresh our spirits with much-needed Chinese food. Then it was off to spend our last night in Argentina at the base of the Cerro de Siete Colores. We think whoever named it was as bad at counting as Matt (hint to this inside joke: refer to my Antarctica blog).
But don’t cry for me Argentina…my brother fell in love with your Buenos Aires. I’m sure I’ll use him as an excuse to return sometime very soon!

Friday, April 11, 2008

One bug Two bug, Red guts Blue guts

Again, sorry this has been so delayed, friends! The last few weeks have been characterized by lots of changing scenery! Since I last wrote about our drive from the south of Chile and into Uruguay we have done a lot more driving and seeing! First we spent a week in Buenos Aires brushing up on the Spanish that I lost years ago and getting involved in the Mafia (Fooprints Guide hit it spot on when they described the Tango show we went to as äuthentic¨!....see pics here http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2148655&l=adf2c&id=606158).

The finale to this awesome week was the arrival of our lovely parents with whom we spent a relaxing week on the beach in a quiet town--made quieter by the fact that it was the off-season and absolutely NONE of the restaurants or shops were open...suffice it to say it is a good thing mom brought us a lot of Easter candy! (I miss you already Mamita!) Shout out to all you PEEPS lovers out there!

After returning them to the Buenos Aires airport and getting lost trying to leave the city (only and hour detour, or so!) we had our longest driving day yet: 14 hours through farmland and getting lost in more urban centers! Slowly, but surely we started to see the scenery change (even the color of bug guts on our windows went from boring black mosquito to rainbow-sparkly butterfly...I am absolutely not exaggerating, ask my bro!). Even the road-kill started to change...from dogs and foxes we started to see coatie (a racoon-like species that we could have sworn was a monkey from behind!) and toucan (okay, that wasn´t road-kill but for all that know my mother I just had to add it in!). We stopped by some awesome Jesuit missions with these cool trees that some call parasites but they are more like Anacondas as they wrap themselves around other things and suffocate them (pic: trying to suffocate the stone pillar of a Jesuit mission). Then we came upon our goal: the CATARATAS (waterfalls) of Iguazu (as you can imagine....the number of bird and insect species here were enormous!)I think I will let the pics speak for themselves (the one with me squinting in the sun is next to the appropriately named GARGANTA DEL DIABLO (devil´s throat) portion of the part. Technically it was on the Brazilian side (which we didnt go to because the VISA was too expensive and they didn´t have the right gasoline for our car), but the Argentinians have taken advantage of an awesome walkway over the river and through the woods....to this awesome mirador (viewpoint).

The next fews days showed another change in scenery (that is, of course, after we got around the our second 2 hour demonstration), this time from east to west instead of south to north. Starting in the sub-tropical climate of Iguazu (meaning BIG WATER....touche).....through farmland and chaco (wetlands)--talk about two inch long grasshopers!....to what I am going to go ahead an stereotype as typical Mexico. Of course it is just the dry climate and enormous cacti that gave me this initial impression. We also got to explore the ruins of a city that resisted both the Inca and the Spanish for 130 years before being marched to Buenos Aires on their own Trail of Tears. (Beware of the donkeys that will beg at your car window=.We camped a little. Stopped to futbol a little.And we museumed a little. (I am going to take it as a benevolent sign that I decided to pose under this statue, considering I later found out it was the figure of a Shaman. At this point the bugs were not Kamakazi-ing our windshield, but rather our headlamps. (Did I mention Matt killed a bird?).

I think that´s about it for the last three weeks.