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Ute The Papier Mache Travel Goddess

Evelyn Hannon

Being a solo traveller I try to incorporate at least one classroom experience into each of my journeys. I do this primarily to meet other like travellers and simply to have fun. Recently, I enrolled in a papier mache class in San Miguel D'Allende, Mexico. My plan was to enjoy new company while creating a colorful, make-believe animal for the kiddies back home. What evolved from that experience was the totally unplanned birth of Ute The Travel Goddess.

A shocking pink pig...

I popped into Lisa's studio on Saturday, the day after I arrived in San Miguel.

"Have you thought about what you'd like to make?," my instructor asked.

"A Travel Goddess -- someone who looks out for all journey women everywhere," I replied without skipping a beat.

A Travel Goddess? What had happened to my plan for a purple panda or a shocking pink pig for the kiddies? Was I channeling someone else's thoughts or simply suffering from jetlag?

"What a fabulous idea," enthused Lisa.

Now, I definitely had no choice. A pig was probably good for a laugh but my Travel Goddess (not yet created) was already being given high marks. Suddenly, the fate of all travelling women everywhere weighed heavily on my shoulders. This Goddess better be good; females worldwide would be counting on her to protect them from crummy hotel rooms, lecherous tour guides and bad bouts of Delhi Belly.

Cluttered table tops and inspiration...

Lisa's inviting studio space was a hodge podge of inspiration and informality. A melange of papier mache projects in different stages of production lay drying on shelves. Table tops were cluttered with paint, light wire, brushes, strips of newspaper and pots of paste. Three other women were already hard at work.

My mentor walked me patiently through all the steps needed for my papier mache project. I started with a wire figure, a ball of paper for the head and then made connections with masking tape, strengthening joints and adding detail. I tore newspaper into strips, painted the pieces with paste and built the body by layering these gooey bits. Before I left class that day Lisa suggested that my Goddess should have wings. Would I consider some homework?

"Make your changes, then let her dry in the sun. You can paint her next class," advised my teacher.

The Goddess dangled from my balcony...

The next morning I gave up my sightseeing and created cardboard wings instead. How else could our Divine Lady flit from country to country ministering to all those travelling women who needed her? Before leaving my hotel, I unceremoniously tied the Winged Goddess to my balcony railing where she dangled and dried under the perfectly blue Mexican sky.

The first clouds appeared around five just as a girlfriend and I were setting off for a glass of wine. The first drops appeared on the taxi's windshield as we sped to my hotel with visions of the soggy Goddess mess we were sure to find. We needn't have worried. Clearly this 'deity in the making' already had divine connections. Not a single drop had fallen on that hotel balcony. She was totally intact and ready for the Mexican colors I would clothe her in -- bright yellow, hot pink and turquoise.

Our Goddess wears army boots...

Over the next two days our Goddess took on her final shape and name. I was introduced (perhaps not by accident) to another journey woman in a cafe. She said her name was Ute (Ootah), from the German word meaning 'prosperity.' Ute regaled me with intriguing travel tales and offered maps to fatten my creation's skinny arms and legs. A wonderful contribution! In return, I promised to name my Goddess after her. With coffee cups held high, we toasted our chance meeting and our newly named divinity.

Sifting through the wares at a San Miguel market, I found Goddess Ute's appropriate footwear -- a five peso pair of miniature, rubber army boots. They turned out to be a perfectly funky fit for our Lady of Travel.

In that same market, I found an artist who earned her living by painting lovely faces on plaster angels. We chatted using a funny mix of Spanish and English. She gave Ute heavily-lashed eyes and graciously declined any payment for her offering. The nose and mouth were donated by a young painter who didn't look old enough to have fathered the four beautiful little girls playing under his table. They all came out and giggled as their daddy provided the rest of Ute's face.

Ute sits with Air Canada crew...

An old lady in a tiny shop sold me a multi-colored feather duster. The yellow, pink and green feathers promised to be perfect covering for the cardboard wings I'd created. In Mexico City's airport, a bubbly schoolgirl fixed a Red Cross donor sticker onto our Goddess. An Air Canada attendant gave up one of her uniform buttons to add to Ute's growing connection to female road warriors everywhere. And, to ensure a safe flight home, that same attendant surrounded Our Lady of Travel with pillows and let her sit with the rest of the flight crew.

Ute the Travel Goddess now resides in the Journeywoman office and she's taken on a life of her own. She still requires a lot of work before she's completely finished but I swear she's watching over me already. I've just snagged a ridiculously low plane fare to New York and next month one of my latest travel stories is being published in a national newspaper. All hail Ute, the Journeywoman Travel Goddess.



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