Monday, February 12, 2018

playing with kids

Beautiful children are the best part of Taquile

We have several children in our immediate extended family, plus many others who have blessed our lives.
Here Erica and Bretta know how to concentrate on their work as they make new chucos for themselves for Carnaval.

But they are also chemists, having made a mixture of shampoo and dish soap to create the perfect bubble blowing solution. A cantuta flower makes an excellent bubble making tool.

Erica knows all the plants and all the trails, and teaches us as much as we can learn: 

Erica and Bretta are hot-shot volleyball players. Sam always carries a ball in his daypack, and we have given them softer, smaller balls that are fun in a small patio setting. We play a cooperation game where we count how many hits we can make before the ball hits the ground. Their little sister, Yaqueline, is getting better all the time, if she can get a hit in with her sisters' multiple volleys. With the three girls and Sam and I, our current record is about 36 hits!

We met these three little girls at the February 2 celebration on the Plaza, together with Catarina (an adventuresome woman from Italy, who was staying at our family's bed and breakfast). The next day  they are walking along the path and we begin a new set of kid friendships.

 Sometimes friendships start just because moms are playing volleyball on a Sunday Sport day at the school, and kids are happy to have someone play ball with just them, giving them fun attention.

 Lisbet is a family member; we have known her mother, Alicia, since she was about 4 years old in 1996. We had a great day at the beach with their little neighbor girl, Estefani. Even the grownups made sand castles and buried each other's feet and legs in the sand. Taquile has several sand beaches and this one is just below the house of Alicia and her husband, Santiago, where they also keep a fishing boat.

 Lisbet's brother, Bryan, and cousin Jhon, also came to the beach that day and all the kids got to climb into the boat.

We did set the fishing net, but only caught a dozen tiny fish. Not enough for a meal. The kids helped untangle and put the net away. 

The path to the beach has a slow-moving stream full of tadpoles! These are all the beach kids of that day:
Beach kids with house in the background

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Weaving for Carnaval

Active weaving for Carnaval
As we walk around Taquile Island these weeks, we hear the click-click-click of a highly polished llama bone against wood. Women are working hard to create mantas and chuspas (coca purses) in time for next week's Carnaval Celebration.  The bone pounds in the threads of these very fine and tightly woven textiles.
Each thread of the double warp pattern is picked out by hand. Then pounded tightly into place with the llama bone. When Celbia was in the United States in 1988, teaching weaving workshops, one of her students wanted to buy her llama bone and she didn't want to sell it. Finally, when offered a substantial sum, she agreed. It is a very important tool.
Ruperta has a long way to go to finish these coca purses.
Kusi is almost finished.

It's pleasant to weave outdoors under a soft shade
Celbia' house has an easily installed shade cloth over a comfortable grassy area. Kusi, Celbia and Alicia get together to weave and chat.

Even more pleasant to weave together with friends.
Our youg girl friends are making themselves new chucos, the traditional head coverings, carefully pulling threads to create a multicolored border. We interrupt them to play volleyball, but they get right back to work after the break.

Muscle Power

Everything is Carried
Lake Titicaca lies at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) above sea level, so when the boat arrives at the port on Taquile Island, everything is carried by people up to the house. Some wheelbarrows are in use on the island, but with the various stairstep trails, they have limited use. One interesting historical fact is that the wheel was never used by the Inca or pre-Incan people.
Items ready to bring to the boat
We always buy lots of good food when we are in Puno. Here shows our load last trip, which included solar panels and eggs, besides fruit and cooking oil and much more.
loaded up with beer bottles

Tuesday half the community waited on the dock for the beer/market boat, everyone preparing for the week-long Carnaval celebration. Sam is loaded with two cases of beer bottles (Ivan in the foreground), ready to carry it the mile or so to our house. Carnaval is a progressive party when we will dance from one house to the next. At each house food and watermelon and beer are served.

rain barrel
With so much cloudy weather, the solar water pumping project has rationed water. Our rain barrel had been used up at Delfin and Eufrasia's store, but we carried it the 3/4 mile down to our house for rain catchment. Luckily, it's been raining ever since and the barrel is refilled every night.
Delia moves her storage chest
 I didn't check to learn the weight of this storage chest. Delia stores her many full skirts and other clothing in it. It has been at her grandmother's house and now she is moving it the mile and a half to where she lives with her new husband.
Reeds on the lake
We do get help from the lake. This small boat is carrying totora reeds, quite loaded down. Our collective boats carry huge cargos, as well as tourists and locals from Puno port to Taquile Island every day.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Maintaining Paradise

Quarterly Island Cleanup
Every three months, the whole community gets together to pick up litter. We have participated in past years, and here we are again. While we were walking around, we connected with a couple of tourists from Spain who were so enamored of Taquile, the man kept saying, "This is paradise; Taquile is paradise."
Each of the six sectors of the island had their own territory and everyone participated, even children:
 We brought the sacks of trash to a small dock and waited for our reward;
Add caption
 The reward was a bag of sugar! Alicia, sister to my son and comother of my blood-nephew, Nathan, was in charge of dishing out the sugar.

When we finished at the port, we hiked back up the island to Alipio's house where we refreshed ourselves with a watermelon that strong, young, Ivan had carried in Sam's backpack all day, even as he carried trash. I told about the Spaniard who kept repeating that Taquile is paradise and asked the group of Taquileños if they were cleaning up the island for their bag of sugar, or to maintain paradise.
The resounding reply was !Maintaining Paradise!

They know what they have here and it is wonderful.

On the way home, Big Samuel helped carry little Samuel who had been walking with his mother helping pick up litter all day. Two happy, if tired, Samuels:

Preparing for Solar Installation

A household of single women will receive a solar installation, thanks to the YouCaring fundraiser created by Empowered Energy Systems, Brad and Danielle Burritt (see blog post December 2018).

Our dear friend, Fredy Huatta, is now married to Rita and they have a sweet a little 2 year old. Her mother and sister live in a house with an ancient, cracked and barely functional solar panel. Rita sometimes stays here when Fredy is working with his boat and as a guide from Puno.

When we came to measure the house for wiring, and plan the installation, the women made us a fantastic meal:
Chicken Soup and Trout--with potatoes and chuno and corn
We also made a coca-leaf ceremony, offering our prayers for a successful installation, as well as blessings on the union of Rita and Fredy.

So our first trip to Puno includes buying solar panels and batteries:

2018 First week

Arrival on Taquile
We arrived in Puno on Thursday, January 11, after over 24 hours of travel, we met at the Juliaca Airport by Silvano (our son by virtue of being his padrinos de matrimonio) and Fredy, beloved young man we've known since baabyhood. A happy, happy reunion. Friday was a day of shopping for supplies and then immediately on Saturday to Taquile, where the rest of the family helped us carry all the bags and bundles up to the house where our old room and lunch were waiting.

After lunch, a volleyball game broke out. One wonderful thing that happens while we are here is that extended family and friends get together in ways they never do in ordinary daily life. Rains have been regular and everything is green and beautiful.

We slipped away from the games to visit our goddaughter, Natalia, who has recently given birth to a baby boy, Roland Bradley, here wrapped in a crocheted blanked made by my mother, Irene Miller:

Taquile citizens have learned that we bring solar gear for sale or trade, this year our goodies include charge controllers and inverters, efficient LED lights, USB ports and battery voltmeters, as well as rechargeagle headlamps and flashlights. Within a couple of days we have traded or sold a large percentage of what we brought.
controller, inverter and lights traded at Rosa's family
The winter season, is the time to preserve their staple, potatoes.  The technique is to freeze the potatoes at night and then, after they thaw in the day, step on them to break the membranes so the water can evaporate and dry. Thus they can be stored for years. Since global warming, they can no longer do this job on the island and the family has to take their potatoes to a higher altitude place on the mainland to make chuño, or freeze-dried potatoes. To help make this more comfortable, we brought a tent!

The various families will share the tent, and, ¡wow! were they happy!

We also brought gifts of objects and money donated by the many godparents and friends of Taquile who help us make a difference here. !THANK YOU!

It wasn´t all trades and gifts, though, Clever turned Edith's plate of egg and potatoes with tomato into a bearded face!
 And some baby chicks were hatched at Celbia's house. Lizbeth loves their soft fuzzy life:

The school system suffered a teacher's strike last year, so the school year went late. This is the first time we have been privileged to witness the closure of the school year, something like graduation in the US, with honors presented to special students. Our grandson, Ivan was president of the school last year and this photo shows him passing his regalia of office to next year's president, a girl for the first time in history. About time, I say, but Ivan says the boys aren't so sure.

Back at home, Clever and Ivan are in a fierce competition, a chess tournament:
They take time to teach young Charles how to play the game.
Everywhere we go, women are weaving, getting ready for Carnaval:
Kusi has almost completed this chuspa, or coca purse

Alicia, Celbia and Kusi get social with their weaving
And, of course, we meet up with our little kid buddies and play games.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Solar Classes on Taquile

Taquileño Solar Professionals -it's about time
We sometimes claim (without data) that Taquile is the most intense use of solar energy in the indigenous world, with their three community water pumping projects, some hot water systems, and almost every household with their small PV systems, adequate for lights and music.
240watts for the freezer at the tienda of Eufrasia and Delfin
Now, as Taquileños want to add more amenities to their lives, such as refrigeration or even blenders, and PV systems get bigger, it is time for a few local Maestros to be available for safer installations and troubleshooting.
We have an incredible opportunity in association with our Colorado professionals who visited last year (see their amazing story: ) Brad and Danielle's son, Asa, is also a professional solar installer and speaks Spanish fluently to boot! We have launched a crowd-funding site to bring this talented young man to teach, first an advanced course for a few, and then more general maintenance classes for the general community. That site is   [UPDATE: We made our goal in 10 Days!!! Stay tuned for stories about the workshops when they happen in February.]

German already has a lot of experience
Sam and I are preparing to buy our tickets for a mid-January to early-April trip in 2018 so we will be present in advance of the Burritts' arrival to make sure all plans are in place. I will now quote, below, Brad's letter to his family, friends, and solar clients with their point of view of their experience in Peru, and excellent details about the plans for solar classes:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Peru solar classes

Friends and Family,


Danielle and I are working on a modest project to do solar electric classes on Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, and we would appreciate your support.  Last February, we visited Taquile Island for a few days at the invitation of our friends Tara Miller and Sam Brown of Paonia, who have been visiting the island for over 30 years.  We were blown away.  The people are some of the friendliest we have ever met.  There are no roads and no dogs on the island.  The same families have owned and worked the land since before the Incas.  Everyone walks, and there aren't even many wheelbarrows, partly because the trails are so steep.  Most amazingly, there are no powerlines!  Many homes have small solar electric systems; some have none.

It's amazing how grateful folks are when they get set up with a small solar electric system.  While we were there last year for just 5 days, we helped Sam and Tara set up two different solar systems.  (Sam and Tara have been helping folks there get solar for decades, and they help the community in a myriad of other ways, too.)  One of the families we installed solar for includes a single mother, her parents and her daughter.  Sam focused on this family because it is very poor, and the school-age daughter needed light to study with at night.  (We also put LED lights in some other rooms, including the "Inca" kitchen which was tiny and dark as a cave.)  The other family we helped install solar for needs electricity because they are setting up a small hospedaje, or bed and breakfast, for income so the father can be home more since he now has to leave for weeks at a time to go away and work in others' fields.  (If a hospedaje qualifies, it gets government promotion, but it has to have a tiled kitchen, flush toilet and shower, and electricity for lights and cell phone charging for the visitors.  They had boot-strapped for years and had everything installed but the electricity!)

The work of Tara and Sam and some others have been incredibly beneficial, but we saw a big need for more focused education for the islanders on solar electric systems.  Almost all the systems are tiny or very small (20 watts to maybe 500 watts), and while the residents are of course intelligent and resourceful, they don't know much about the general theory or design principles of the systems they have or are getting.  (For instance, while I was there, I gave maybe a dozen lecture-ettes on having appropriate overcurrent protection for any circuits connected to a battery.  If you know what this is, you know how important it is; if you don't know, you are in the same boat as many of the islanders are!)  Also, the systems are gradually getting larger as prices come down.  And as system size increases, their complexity increases, and their danger, both regarding fire potential and shock hazard, increases even faster.

Our plan is to go back to Taquile Island this February and provide some classes so the islanders have a better handle on this technology.  One class will be small, for 3 to 5 locals who already have some knowledge of solar principles, installation, and troubleshooting.  (We worked with two such folks last year, and they have voracious desires to learn more.)  The second class would be bigger and would include folks who already have solar systems for are planning to get them.  Our plan is to have the participants of the first class help teach this second, more general class since they know the folks, and they will practice what they learned in their higher-level class, and finally, they would gain credibility as the knowledgeable go-to solar folks when we leave.

Sam and Tara are going back in February and will help us put the classes together and help with them on the island.  Danielle and I will do the same, on our own dime, like we did last year.  But for the classes, we hope to be able to bring our son, Asa, down to help teach the classes.  (He's very fluent in Spanish; he's taught numerous classes as a tutor and as a chemistry grad student at Cornell; and, he's super sharp with solar, having worked with us over the years, having worked as a lead installer for Namaste Solar in Denver and Boulder for a year and a half, and last year, getting his NABCEP certification in solar installation.)  We hope to raise $2500 so we can fly Asa down with us, and also take a couple of suitcases of solar charge controllers, LED lights, cell charger outlets, 230-volt inverters, and a couple more Spanish language SEI textbooks (to add to a couple we mailed down this year already!).

Will you help us??  We set up a fundraising site:
It's easy to donate there, but it costs us a bit to use them.

If you want, you can just send us a check in my or Danielle's name, and we will put it in our Taquile solar fund.  Here's our address:

Brad Burritt and Danielle Carre'
12125 Burritt Rd
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

I attached a great brochure Danielle put together for this project - check it out!

Thanks for taking a look, and for considering helping us out with this project!  Email or call with questions.


Brad Burritt
Empowered Energy Systems, LLC
12125 Burritt Rd
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

NABCEP Certified PV Installer #091308-5
NABCEP Certified PV Tech. Sales #PVTS01911-3

Checks can also be sent to
Tara Miller
41342 O Road
Paonia, CO 81428