This is one of my newer ornaments. My last big travel adventure was spending 3 weeks touring Peru. I never like carrying very much in the way of souvenirs on my travels, but always look for a refrigerator magnet and something that will work as a Christmas ornament. This little reed boat is about 4" long, the people less than an inch tall.
As part of the trip, we spent a night in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and then a night out on Amanti, a rocky island in the lake, the group split up into different people's homes. On our way back to Puno, we made an afternoon stop at one of the floating reed islands of the Uros tribe.
Everything on the island is made of reeds, including the islands themselves. The islands are 2 to 4 feet thick, anchored to poles stuck in the lake bottom, and can be moved when necessary. As the bottom layers rot away, they add more to the top, creating a dry, spongy, bouncy surface (kinda like walking on a waterbed). Next to the dock where we pulled in were some of their traditional reed boats, these decorated with puma heads at either end.
First stop for our visit was a circle of reed benches, where we learned about life on a floating island. A little toddler girl came by, and was totally fascinated by me and my sunglasses. She climbed up next to me, holding my hand to keep her balance, for the entire presentation. Afterwards, each of us went to one of the islanders' homes - basically their chance to sell things to the tourists.
I speak quite a bit of Spanish, so the woman I went with (to the house in the photo, the pointy building next to it is her kitchen) and I ended up doing more visiting than vendoring. Seeing that she had a TV (solar panels provide power), I hummed the theme song from Bonanza (my universal way of getting folks to understand where I'm from - never fails), and we talked about my home, our families, and her home there. She showed me the various handcrafts she'd made to sell - lots of decorative bags and textiles, and some long hanging strings of little bits and pieces strung together like wind chimes and sun catchers. Those were too big and too fragile to try and carry the rest of my trip, but at the bottom end of one was a little reed boat, llama heads on either end, and carrying two teeny-tiny people she'd dressed in hand-woven traditional costumes. I loved it as soon as I saw it. She agreed to cut just the little boat off the end for me. Tucked into one of my shoes in my duffle bag, it made the trip home in fine shape, and now brings back wonderful memories every Christmas.