Expat · from the Latin prefix _ex_ (out of) and the noun _patria_ (home country, native country, or fatherland).
Every other week we will be focusing on the lives and stories of the Expat community in Peru. People from all over the world relocate here for many different reasons; complete a job assignment, a career change, learn a new language, open up a business, travel, volunteer, find adventure, retire or build a life. Whether it’s a temporary relocation, a long term assignment or persons seeking to build a new and permanent life in Peru, the stories are always interesting and the perspective is unique from the members of this group, the expat community.
When the name Muse Belts comes up, you may think to yourself: _a belt, is a belt, is a belt._ After you have read this story, you might change your mind.
When _Living in Peru_ met up with Karl Muse, of Muse Belts, we found him making his eco-friendly, vegetable tanned, no metal, buckle-less belts and cuffs in his workshop.
_If you think about it, a good quality leather belt will remain with you longer than any shirt, shoe or dress. Imagine the stories our belts could tell about us if they could only talk! – Karl_
Karl Friedrich Muse hails from Maryland, USA. His beloved father was an artist who taught young Karl how to craft lamps, build model airplanes and fix cars. He credits his creative father for teaching him many things: to create a unique and well-made product, consider different perspectives and be self-sufficient.
Karl spent a lot of his career in aviation, managing, mentoring and also leading quality control. Then one day, a life changing moment occurred:
_“One day I was stuck in heavy traffic. I had recently lost my father and he was constantly on my mind after his death. I remembered something my father had given me when I was a boy. A belt very similar to the ones I now design. _
The rest, as they say, is history. Today Karl’s craft graces runways, National Geographic’s Novica and Etsy. His belts and cuffs are sold all over the world. The quality of his belts and cuffs, and the pride of hand-made craftsmanship is visible in his products. They are simple, elegant and can even be worn with the most elegant of dresses!
So my three questions to Karl, as to all the expats in this series are:
1. What brought you here?
2. What keeps you here?
3. Why Peru?
What brought him here?
For Karl, he came here for love – more specifically, his German-Peruvian wife. They moved from Florida to Peru to facilitate a better teaching position for his wife. When he first started his company, the couple worked side by side, cutting the leather, labeling the Muse brand and even doing marketing, all while teaching. It was busy and hectic, but a chance to work closely together as they started their married life here in Lima.
_(Photo: Muse Belts Facebook)_
What keeps him here?
Family first, of course, having a Peruvian wife and children, who have always called Peru their home. Karl spent two years in the Navy, stationed in Europe. That is what piqued his interest to move abroad one day, and that one day turned into a move to Peru.
Although there are challenges, they are outweighed by many advantages of living here. As Karl puts it:
_ I have made wonderful friendships. I am learning another language, taking salsa classes and got the opportunity to have a role in a movie. I exercise and eat better now than when I did in the US. There is an opportunity to discover so many new things. I travel often to the jungle, which I love. There is always something going on, and life here is never dull. That is what keeps me here. _
Also, Karl feels that Peru is a great place to make his belts and cuffs with the best quality leather available. Karl explains his process with care and love:
_ I only use vegetable tanning, which uses natural plants and tree bark to create the colors. This is the most ecological leather. I work directly with a tannery that makes the tanning according to my specifications. They do so through a technique called ‘cross-dyeing,’ which results in a more consistent and lasting color. My belts are original and environmentally safe. It is safe for me to work with this leather since I am not exposed to dangerous chemical substances. They are also free of nickel and other metals. _
So maybe a belt, is not just a belt…
Karl loves the richness of the culture, the beauty of the land, the jungle, the picturesque cities that one can visit at any moment’s notice. He loves the fact that he no longer has to conform to corporate America or work in an office. He is creating worldwide fashion right here in Lima!
So imagine if your belts could talk…
_Helena Maria von Schuler was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her parents immigrated from Colombia, South America and Hamburg, Germany. An experienced employee benefits consultant, in the insurance industry, Helena holds a BS form University of California, Los Angeles in Biochemistry and a minor in English. She has lived in Los Angeles, New York and Miami and recently moved to Lima, Peru to experience her South American heritage and culture._A native of Maryland state, his talented craftsman feels secure with his decision to relocate to Peru and escaping a corporate lifestyle.