Friday, January 31, 2014

Fiber: Chapter 1--Quechua Weaving

This post is written especially for my fiber-loving friends. As many of you know, my original intention for traveling to Peru was to experience the fiber arts--especially knitting and spinning. 
I visited Michell’s mill today where they have a museum, Mundo Alpaca, dedicated to alpaca fiber and the milling process. I will post more about that on another day, but today, I got a little infactuated with the traditional Quechua weaving demonstration. Each month Michell employs two women from fair-trade organizations in the Cusco area to demonstrate their craft for museum visitors.

I sat down beside this beautiful woman and watched her work for a little over an hour. We spoke little:  I told her in my broken Spanish that my Spanish is very poor, and she replied that hers was too. Her principle language is Quechua. We laughed.

She had recently completed the warping process (winding the lengthwise yarns around the beams on each end of the loom) and she was now ready to prepare her heddle. That process alone took about 45 minutes.  Then after carefully measuring everything to be sure it was all square and even, she could start weaving. While I was there, she completed weaving about 1 inch of her project.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Food: Chapter 2--Chinese-Peruvian Fusion: It's Nothing New

Adela's Lomo Saltado
Last night at dinner at my guesthouse, Adela made a traditional Peruvian dish, lomo saltado. This is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian food. It starts out as a stir fry of marinated beef loin (lomo) stir-fried with onions and tomatoes. But there's a Peruvian twist: I was watching Adela cook and I gasped in surprise as, at the last moment before serving, Adela mixed the french fried potatoes, that I thought would be served on the side, into the stir-fried meat! You almost cannot eat food in Peru without having potatoes (except at breakfast). Along side was a serving of rice. Again--two starches on one plate!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Benefits of Coca

Last Sunday, Blanca, Manuel's sister showed me her package of pulverized coca leaves that you can purchase in specialty herb stores here. (Manuel is one of my hosts at the guesthouse where I am staying.) We talked about the benefits of coca. 

The traditional medical uses of coca are as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is also been used as an anesthetic and can reduce headache pain. Before stronger anesthetics were available, it was used for broken bones and during childbirth. It contains a high calcium content which is another explanation as to why it is used for broken bones. (I wonder if it would be good for all us “older” women who are concerned about bone loss.) Modern studies have supported many of the applications that the indigenous people have used coca for for thousands of years: constricting blood vessels alleviate bleeding, treating malaria, ulcers, asthma, improving digestion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Ship in the Harbor is Safe...

This blog is a bit embarrassing to write, because I have to admit how timid I can be when I end up in an environment I am not used to. Whether a situation is frightening or not is relative depending on who is experiencing it. But stepping outside one's comfort zone is so very empowering--all of us must do so every once in a while! As my mother would tell people when they asked her if she worried about me traveling back when I was much younger: "Well, she can't live in a cave!" Thank you, Mom!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Food: Chapter 1--Avoiding McDonalds in Arequipa

A lot of cool things happened to me today, but I will save most of them for later because I thought it would be fun to share my first foray into finding my afternoon meal. Living at a B and B is great because breakfast is served first thing in the morning and you don't even have to think about it. But the other meals are not included, so I have to find other possibilities. Yesterday, I accompanied another visitor to one of his favorite places to eat, but today I was on my own. Luckily, I can eat a nice meal in the middle of the afternoon and be done for the day. I am trying to keep my expenses way down and my pre-trip research revealed that excellent meals can be very cheap here. So I have budgeted between $3 and $4 per day for meals. Sound astonishing? Well read on...


After waiting 10 hours in the Lima airport--on the floor; 4 more hours in the hot bus station, and 16 hours in the bus--my body was really tired of sitting and what do I do when I finally arrive in Arequipa? Take a nap! Actually, take two naps in one day! And then slept all night! And so ended my first day in Arequipa Peru.

But before that, I had an interesting, and exhausting trip from Corpus Christi, Texas (where I visited family for a few days) to Lima. As the plane landed in Lima at about 11:30 pm, I said to myself, "Well, there's no backing out now!" Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze. A very cute young man saw me through immigration. I told him that I would be here until May 5. He insisted on giving me a 5 month visa--"just in case...Welcome to Peru!"