Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sewing and other occupations

This week has been a series of dizzying highs and terrifying lows for Papillon as we float here in Portobello and the howler monkeys bellow through the hills.  The good: Stylish writing notes to the family in Cuneiform.  I asked Stylish to tell Erik what we had been talking about in school that day, and Indy burst out: “Hammurabi!  Babylon!”  The bad: I came within a hair’s breadth of permanently breaking the generator.  (Who knew that water + diesel engines = apocalypse?  I guess I kind of forgot.  I have been sentenced to learn and internalize the diesel engine chapter of Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual.  It is going to be a slog, but I suspect I got off easily.)

At least I wasn’t in front of that cannon.
But let’s take a step back in time and talk some more about the San Blas islands.  We did more than read and dig sandcastles, you know.  Oh, yes!  We also bought molas.

For those of you unfamiliar with Panama, Kuna Yala is an autonomous province east of the canal on the Caribbean side, and the San Blas are a part of it.  The Kuna Indians live there.  And while their old way of life is slowly falling away, the Kuna still make reverse appliqué fabric art pieces called molas.  This involves many layers of fabric, tight stitching, and obvious artistic flair.

These are normally worn by the ladies as a panel above the waist on the front and back of a blouse.

And, inevitably, some are sold to gringo tourists.

My mother is a quilter.  No, a Quilter.  Perhaps even a QUILTER.  In short, she sews any bit of fabric she finds that isn’t otherwise occupied, as well as some that are.  She attends a quilting camp with her buddies for two weeks every summer, learning fancy sewing stuff from other experts.  It’s like that.  So Mom had molas on the brain before she even arrived.

I knew that was coming.  What I didn’t expect was Erik’s interest.

We arrived in the San Blas about a week before my parents.  From the first day, the cayucas were padding up to our boat, and the ladies showing off their wares.  Normally, the ladies would have a five gallon pail neatly filled with molas.  We would invite them aboard, they would show us their stuff, we would get excited about a piece or two, buy them, and everyone left happy.

Except this was happening every day.  By the third round, the cayuca arrived, and I said to Erik, “No, we have enough.  No thank you.”  “Okay,” he nodded, then invited the ladies aboard and bought a mola anyway.  Ugh.

It only got worse when mom arrived.  Some of the master mola-makers came out of the woodwork, and who were we to decline the chance to see their wares?  And some of their traditional pieces were truly beautiful.

By the end of my parents’ visit, we were all getting strict with each other.  “No more molas.  No really, no more.”  Then we went for dinner with a family on Miriadiadup.  And while some people were focused on the right things, like making friends and seeing birds...

Priorities straight.
...some of us looked at molas.

Hey, look!  Molas!

By the time my parents departed, we had accumulated a dizzying number of pieces.  Sure, some were gifts, but most of them were just too pretty to pass up.  If you ever visit the future Casa Schaefer and find a room covered in fabric, that’s why.

This was our combined total.  And I wish I could say they are almost all Mom’s, but a lot are ours, too.

I know, I know.

My parents went home with all of the molas, so they don’t rot on board.  Phew!  Mola-free.  We got ready to check out of the San Blas, when master mola maker Lisa knocked on our hull.


Two more molas.

How could I refuse?


Tamara said...

This just might be my favourite post to date. Thank you for keeping up the blogging. Your audience appreciates it!

Anonymous said...

I want more, more I say. I hope that you bought some for me too.
Love Mom

Kate said...

Thank you for the mola that came our way - I recognized it in the picture. Will need to go find it in Beth's room and check it out now that I know what it is.
Love to you all,