Posts tagged ‘community’

September 8, 2012

Cast on, Baby!!

A good knitting friend of mine shared a link to a video made by her local yarn store. Not only do I love the video for its sheer love and joy in all things fiber and yarn, but I love the community that clearly exists in that yarn store. What a great and diverse group of people all joined together by their love for creating things, for making something of beauty and for sharing that experience. So, so cool.

This video isn’t for everyone, but it is worth devoting a few minutes to just to share in their sense of fun and enjoyment. Who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?

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July 18, 2012

Greetings from Cochapata

Ellie returns from Peru on August 8th. It will be a joy to see her. She will have been gone two months and, with few exceptions, she has been out of touch for the entire time. In our contemporary world of Twitter, Facebook, email and texting, it seems even more odd to be “off the grid” as it were for so long.

Happily, last Saturday we did have a chance to hear from Ellie. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook Video chatting, we spent about 90 minutes talking to her and we got to see her at the same time!

It was a sort of mid-term break and Ellie and the other volunteers gathered back in Cusco to touch base, re-connect and get a shower. Ellie said the minute they hit town they went from Starbucks to McDonalds and to virtually every fast food place in Cusco. It was a riotous re-connection with civilization.

Ellie says her family is nice. In fact most people in her community seem to be pretty welcoming. The Peruvians tend to be a bit reserved and there is the language barrier, but overall she said they feel welcome. She is called “Gringita.” I can imagine that with her height and blonde hair, she stands out a bit.

Living conditions in her community are pretty primitive. Her family has a dirt kitchen floor. They do have electricity in the form of one hanging bulb and a tv which receives two channels. Ellie shares a room with the 16-year-old daughter in the family. She said the daughter seems very reserved, but Ellie had launched a charm offensive and was determined to make friends.

Ellie and her two partners take meals with different families to spread the burden of feeding extra mouths. She said the primary diet is potatoes and they have potato soup for all three meals most days. Her host mother was incredulous that Ellie was so inept at peeling and cutting potatoes. After some translation issues, Ellie deduced that her host mother was asking if Ellie had kitchen servants. Well, I suppose she does in a way, Jim and I have both had a turn in the kitchen. I don’t think that’s quite the same. Ellie’s host mother was equally incredulous to learn that Ellie’s father cooked and her mother worked in an office. That is only one small indication of the cultural gulf between the community Ellie is visiting and the culture in which she grew up.

Running water in Ellie’s house is the pump in the yard. There are no showers or baths. Obviously, this limited availability of water impacts many aspects of their lives including cooking, cleaning and washing clothes.

Ellie and her partners teach English in the local school and help their families with their animals. School is only held four days a week and some days the teachers don’t show up. The women tend to leave school early because they are needed tending the animals.  Almost every man in the village is a farmer and they are in the fields all day. The children care for the animals which include sheep. Aside from potatoes and the animals which are raised and slaughtered for food, the diet is pretty unbalanced nutritionally. Ellie said the men and women in the community are all very strong from working so hard, but the high percentage of carbohydrates in their diet makes them a little puffy.

Ellie said it is pretty stressful living in such a different environment, but she also feels she has learned a tremendous amount about how many people in the world live and the tremendous challenges people face who live in poverty, cannot afford to get an education and are basically destined to stay in their villages. This is all quite different from the expectations with which we grow up in our society.

The day that Ellie and her partners were to head to Cusco, they were delayed. Their host family for breakfast had killed a sheep in their honor. Ellie watched it being butchered and then they were served sheep’s liver for breakfast. I asked how it was and her response was, ” After three weeks of potato soup three times a day, it tasted pretty darn good.”

As of last week, Ellie was writing in her journal each day. I think she will be grateful to have this account of her adventure. There are bound to be many events which slip her mind. I am very proud of Ellie’s strength, her respect for the culture in which she now finds herself, her newly gained recognition of the benefits she enjoys in life and her desire to contribute to the world. I think that she will have learned so much in the weeks she has spent in Peru and that it will impact her for the rest of her life. I am both filled with admiration of what she is doing and a little envy.

January 9, 2011

Fiction for knitters (and quilters)

Today’s New York Times featured an Op-ed by Ann Hood on knitting and crafting and recovery from grief and loss. It was a nice piece and it reminded me instantly of the novel Ann wrote THE KNITTING CIRCLE.

This was clearly a somewhat autobiographically inspired book quite unlike most of Ann Hood’s fiction. As Ann relates in the New York Times piece, she came to knitting as a solace and haven having lost her young daughter suddenly and tragically. In THE KNITTING CIRCLE the protagonist turns to knitting to deal with the loss of her own daughter. She is helped both by the zen-like past-time of knitting and the community of women she encounters at her lys (local yarn store for those not in the know).

Ann’s op-ed reminded me how much I enjoy reading fiction about my favorite hobbies. Not only does it extend the pleasure I get from the craft itself, reading crafting fiction surrounds me with a feeling of community. Reading about characters who share many of the same interests–interests not always shared by those around one in real life–presents much the same emotional satisfaction as hanging out in a favorite knitting haunt. 

 Community is a key aspect to all fiction which deals with crafting. While many crafts are practiced individually, they need not be practiced alone. While quilting is well known as a potentially communal activity, gathering to share lives and information while crafting is a long-time tradition. Not everyone has a crafting community, crafting fiction can take the place of the physical community.

Debbie Macomber and Kate Jacobs rank as two queens of knitting literature, but there are many other novels about knitting. And I must confess, some I have enjoyed more than those of the doyennes of the genre. A great reading list is featured on Good Reads http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/knitting-fiction.

THE BEACH TREE STREET KNITTING SOCIETY AND YARN CLUB by Gil McNeil was a great read set in the U.K. about a woman rebuilding her life after her marriage ends unexpectedly and irrevocably. Again, the book features the key themes of a woman finding her way after great loss, finding a community to support her and discovering happiness.

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