And I'm back from my blog break. Which means I'm also back from the things that were keeping me from blogging, and I can tell you all about them (lucky you, right?) - to wit, a trip to Peru (!!), and Sock Summit (!!). Between those two trips, I was out of town for almost all of July, and the brief period that I was home between trips was taken up with things like, oh say, laundry. And petting Tilly. And Sock Summit homework. And laundry.
I'm still not even close to caught up with the laundry from SS11 (not to mention unpacking the stash enhancement part of my luggage - wait 'til you see it all!). Instead, I spent yesterday unpacking my office (which has spent the last month in boxes, waiting for our move to our new building). The girls helped me get books onto bookshelves, and between us we had the whole thing ship-shape and Bristol fashion in a few hours. This is a good feeling, given how much I need to get done before classes start back at the end of the month.
But Peru! The four of us headed off on July 2nd, and didn't get back until July 18th. Peru has always been on my List Of Places To Go Someday (that list is actually rather frighteningly long - I need to start a plan to finance my extensive travel wish list)(note to self: buy lottery tickets today). This year we looked at our older daughter who will be starting high school next week (which means college in four years), and realized that if we want to take some of these trips as a family, maybe we should just do it. So we did.
There is so much to tell, but I think that I'll focus on the fiber-related goodness for now - and there was a lot of it. Peruvian textile traditions are still an ever-present and vibrant part of Peruvian life. We spent our whole trip in the highlands of Peru, much of it on the altiplano, where women still walk down the road, dressed entirely in handspun and -woven clothes, spinning while herding alpaca. Having read Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle (a book which I cannot recommend highly enough), and having seen videos of her spinning with a Peruvian spindle (she learned to spin as a child in Peru), my big goal for the trip was to find a spindle and learn more about how to spin with it - in particular, I really wanted to master the trick whereby a spinner walks her fingers, butterfly fashion, up the newly-spun yarn. (If I am being totally honest, I also really wanted to find some vicuna fiber to bring home, but I realized how unlikely that was, and I'd been told by several people that they would not bail me out of Peruvian jail should I be caught chasing Andean camelids across the highlands in hopes of snatching tufts of fiber from their fleeing fannies.)
On Day 1, in Lima (our one day in Lima), we headed to the Museo Larco where I was able to accost my first fiber artist. Many museums in Peru have a regular rotation of weavers and spinners demonstrating their arts, and the Museo Larco was no exception. When I came, this woman was weaving, but a few minutes later she picked up her spindle and set to spinning. Rick and the girls told me I was an idiot not to approach her, so I worked up my courage (and my terrible Spanish) and did just that. I learned that the word for spindle is (and this is a Quechua word, so my spelling could be completely off - any Quechua scholars out there who can tell me how close I am?) puxka (where the "x" is pronounced "sh"). I also managed to convey the idea that I really wanted to learn that butterfly-finger-walky thing, and she had me sit down to watch (she also offered me her spindle to try it, but I really hated the idea of messing up her work). Can you tell I'm just not quite getting it?
(Side note: The Museo Larco has a tremendous pre-Quechua ceramics collection - 40,000 pots strong - with pieces dating back 3,000 years. It also has a huge collection of ancient erotic pots. We wandered into that gallery with the girls, oops. Put another quarter in the therapy jar.)
The next day we were off to the highlands. We took a bus that went right through one of the camelid preserves, where we saw vicunas (!!). (Imagine a) a tilde over that "n", and b) that word all in capitals, gleaming gold, and with light streaming from it. Vicunas are awesome.)
The altiplano is astonishingly beautiful, in a sere, spare way. There was no green anywhere (it was winter, remember), and at the altitudes above 16,000 feet, there was little to be seen but rocks and snow and the occasional vicuna (no wonder their fiber is so warm and fine).
But then I would have missed so many other things, like Lake Titicaca (the highest navigated lake in the world, at something like 12,000 feet, if I remember correctly), where we did many things, including a visit to Llachon, where I was lucky enough to have an amazing conversation with a weaver and spinner there, thanks in no small part to our gracious and multilingual guide (the main languages around the lake are Quechua and Aymara, and most of the people in the villages are more comfortable in one of those languages than Spanish).
I'll stop there - there's lots more, but a little at a time does the trick, right?