Q: I am planning a trip to Peru and keep hearing conflicting rumors about the safety situation there. Have there been any problems in the last six months to a year, and, if so, where have they occurred?
A: The two most visible causes of concern, the activities of the Shining Path guerrillas and a recent border war with Ecuador, have largely been eliminated.
The Maoist guerrilla group has never really recovered from the capture by the Peruvian military in September 1992 of the group's founder, Abimael Guzman Reynoso. After that, thousands of its members were jailed or turned themselves in under a government amnesty program.
Last March, however, just before the election, the group showed it was not entirely a spent force by launching a series of attacks in villages and in Lima, the capital. But tourist areas, including Arequipa, Cuzco, Iquitos, Paracas, Puerto Maldonado, Puno and Trujillo, have generally been free of terrorist activity.
Last September, in what is still its current assessment of the situation, the State Department said that while terrorist violence had diminished in the previous year, it continued to occur in many parts of the country. The department said foreign visitors had not been specifically targeted and tourist areas were largely safe from terrorism.
A monthlong border war was ended March 2 when Peru and Ecuador signed a cease-fire. Until then the State Department had warned Americans not to travel to the border area and said they should avoid the Amazonas Department of Peru.
These two obvious concerns aside, the department says street crime is very common. Robberies are a serious problem in Lima and in Cuzco and Iquitos, the department added. Smash-and-grab attacks on cars, where any item within reach is stolen, have also become common.
The department also warned that counterfeit U.S. bills in $20, $50 and $100 denominations were often encountered and that travelers should be extremely cautious when changing money with street-side money changers.
Q: I will be spending a week in London in November and am especially interested in seeing exhibits and collections of contemporary ceramics. Can you help?
A: The two shops and galleries in London operated by the Crafts Council, an independent body financed by the government that helps promote and support crafts people, would be good starting points.
The council's headquarters, at 44A Pentonville Road, Islington, in north London (44 171) 278 7700, contains a gallery presenting major craft exhibitions and a gallery shop where a changing display of craftwork is available for sale, including works on exhibition. They are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
The council's other shop and gallery is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday and from noon to 5:30 p.m. Monday.
The council also publishes a free map listing 80 craft shops and galleries in England, Wales and Scotland. The map should be ready by September. Meanwhile, the council can supply the names and addresses of the shops and galleries to be listed. They include the following:
* Contemporary Ceramics, William Blake House, 7 Marshall St., Soho, (171) 437 7605, a gallery that specializes in domestic pottery, studio ceramics and jewelry.
* Gallerie Besson, 15 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond St., off Piccadilly, (171) 491 1706, has the work of classic potters as well as work from Denmark, Russia, Spain and Japan.
* Contemporary Applied Arts, 43 Earlham St., Covent Garden, (171) 836 6993, has domestic pottery, studio ceramics, glass, wood, metal, jewelry, textiles, knitwear and furniture.
Another body that helps support people engaged in arts and crafts, the Crafts Movement, will be staging a fair at the Concert Halls in Blackheath, southeast London, Nov. 11-12. A number of ceramicists will be represented.
More information on this and other shows can be obtained from the Craft Movement, P.O. Box 1641, Frome, Somerset BA11 1YY, England; (44 1373) 453153.