The Story

Alicia was a 12-year-old girl. She was as beautiful as the morning star, and on her face freckles were hilariously at odds with her dark skin. Like all indìgenas, the native women of Otavalo, she had long black hair. It shone almost blue and came down to her hips, hidden by a colorful scarf which wrapped it up in a ponytail. I had been living in that little village at 3000mt altitude in the Ecuadorian Andes for two months and Alicia and I had become good friends. I was working with her at the Pizzeria Siciliana, a Sicilian pizza restaurant run by a mestizo woman called Aida. Aida had learned how to knead pizza dough from a cooking. She had never eaten this dish anywhere else, but I must admit that her pizza was pretty good. I really loved watching Alicia work and listening to her words. She was skilled, quick and in her own way also wise. While looking at her, I often considered how differently from us women mature in those countries. One day, after work, we took a walk towards the countryside at the end of the village. Another woman joined us and we walked on, chatting. The gait of the two Otavalo women and mine were definitely different. There was me, with my usual fast pace, surely influenced by the place I come from, where everything is speed, efficiency and no waste of time, a bit of a German style… And there was them, Alicia and Marcela, who calmly walked slightly dragging their feet along the road. Without even realizing it I always found myself a few meters ahead and I had to stop and wait for them. They caught up with me, I managed to walk a few steps with them and then I found myself in ahead again. While waiting for them I remember thinking to myself “Good heavens! They are so slow, we’ll never make it!” Then Alicia smiled at me and asked: “Where do you have to go, Katja?” The world instantly froze in front of my eyes… where was I running? Why was I so unable to walk slowly and wander about enjoying the moment and the company? Wasn’t I able to relish the moment? Weren’t the sweet company and the gorgeous landscape enough? Why must there be a practical goal to walk for? I think I uttered no more word for the rest of the walk. I just kept quiet … listening. Alicia, a smiling 12-year-old girl had just given me one of the most important teachings in my life. After 8 months in Otavalo it was time for me to leave. Alicia took off the bracelet she wore around her wrist, put it on mine and said: “Katja, this gift for you is the symbol of the Otavalo women. I give it to you because you are the only gringa with the heart of an indìgena.” It was a significant moment to me, full of meaning, gratification and thanks. And I was happy. Otavalo women wear these red beads bracelets on both wrists. The red beads are an imitation of red coral. They call it “the other coral”. It is a mixture of clay and glass, it’s roughly cut, which makes it very similar to coral. (Very few women wear real coral bracelets.) I have been wearing Alicia’s bracelet for 20 years now. It was on my wrist when I got married, and when my children were born. On every important occasion I looked at it, and called for it in my mind. I rarely took it off or wore something else. It was an important object and I felt its strength without exactly knowing why until I met Cristina and Andi’s circle of sisterhood with the teachings of Diane See Dancer ( Sacred Circle of Women) In the bracelet I recognized the red line that connects women to Mother Earth, and so, ten years later, I finally understood the meaning carried by the red bracelet. Last year my husband and I separated after 23 years relationship. I thought I was ready for this step, but I found out that I wasn’t ready at all. It isn’t easy to part from someone who has been close to you in good and bad times for so long. I went through a very dark period, I had a hard time. I lost my job and found myself lost and alone. The bracelet I was wearing broke. Luckily it happened at home. I could collect all the beads, sit at the table and start fixing it. It couldn’t let me down… not now! The bracelet is almost two meters long, so while I was stringing all of those red beads I started fantasizing and meditating. I lost myself in these thoughts to the point that all of those beads became women… who knows, perhaps this one is crying like me, this one is getting married right now, this one is giving birth, this one is teaching, this one is a grandma lulling her grandson, this one is cooking, this one is singing and dancing, this is the wise one, this one is the student… and so on for about one hour. I was just half way with the bracelet. At that moment I stopped and thought “And what about me? Where am I?” I added a silver bead and I said “There is me among all these women! This bead represents me and reminds me to give myself all the attention and care I need. I cannot and I must not forget myself, who I am, the strength I have inside and all those Beads around me!” Then I finished stringing the other half of the bracelet. After having worn the bracelet even more intensely I felt the need to share it. I thought it could be something important also for the other sisters, that’s why I posted it on facebook with the help of a dear friend. Now the bracelet is spreading all over Italy. I am grateful and honored, …with Love Katja December 2013