By Isabella Spivey
Saludos de Peru!
Isabella here, to update you on our adventure from the past week. Our second to last day in Ecuador, we said a bittersweet farewell to Sarah Beth, and joined her and her family for dinner and shared our gratitude for having her as part of our Inti Family. As sad as it is that she will be leaving us, we are all holding out hope for a speedy recovery, which we know with her spirit of positivity will be no problem.
The next day we had mostly free time to contact family and friends, buy snacks for our long day of travel to Peru and explore a different side of Quito while staying at a comfy hostel and enjoying our final moments in the country. In addition to having free time, we discussed our potential itinerary for student-directed travel, which is fast approaching. That night, we packed up a tried to get some sleep before leaving at a very early 1 am in the morning. We all hopped into taxis and drove to the airport to catch flights to Lima and then on to Cuzco, Peru. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a basket of coca leaves and were encouraged to take some to help with the dramatic change in altitude. We found our bags and then were transported to a hostel where we would stay overnight before moving on to a much smaller indigenous community. That evening we rested, were given more coca leaves and prepared for the week ahead.
The next morning we left Cuzco, met Carmen and David, our local contacts and traveled together by van to the small town of Quenqo, a Quechua speaking village about 2 hours away. During the trip, we stopped and took some photos of a cliff that overlooked the Sacred Valley, before continuing on to Quenqo.
We finally arrived in the community and were greeted by our host families, who threw flower petals on our heads as a welcome and introduced themselves. This would be the first time that Carpe Diem has stayed with this community and to commemorate, they invited us to break a beer bottle over the doorway of one of the houses with a hammer. Alex had the privilege of doing the honors, and thus, the week of homestays and cultural exchange had commenced. We had lunch and then were shown our rooms and in our houses. We said goodbye to Carmen and welcomed David who would be staying with us for the week. We ended our first day with a beautiful hike overlooking the village and a delicious dinner and cake to celebrate our arrival.
The next morning we woke up early and began our first day of work by helping herd llamas and sheep alongside our host families and some children from the community. The hike took us out to a beautiful lake and a series of rolling hills and larger mountains behind us, which were breathtakingly beautiful. Some of us decide to brave the cold and take a polar plunge in the lake, which wa quite an experience as it was absolutely freezing. The rest of the day was spent helping to construct a house, mixing cement, loading bricks and working in small groups digging trenches for waterlines and preparing our families gardens for the planting season.
Our next day in Quenqo was another early morning, where we all participated in a planting project in the community. We had three different groups stationed at different places painting murals or depictions of Incan ruins and animals. In my group, Marco Sarah Lee and I, all hiked up to a cliff that overlooked the entire town and did a rough sketch of what we saw and then transferred our drawings onto a larger piece of paper which we then colored. Another group painted a landscape of the lake that we had visited the day before, and the mountains in the background. The rest of the day was spent in groups again, tilling the land in greenhouses to prepare for planting lettuce and helping with any other outside chores. We then transitioned to a weaving workshop where we learned how the people make a lot of the wool and alpaca products through tedious and complicated work all done by hand. After, we had the opportunity to purchase some of their products – hats, gloves, scarfs and more. We then joined some members of the community for a soccer match, which lasted until dinner. By that time it was dark and we were all exhausted cold and hungry. We had our last dinner in Quenqo as a group and then began to pack for the next day.
We had an early breakfast as usual, and bid farewell to our host families, the people that had cooked for us and all the others had made our stay in Quenqo one to remember. Before we left though, they dressed us all in traditional clothing and played music which we all danced to. We all had so much fun and the people really appreciated us embracing the culture in this way. Before we left, we all said another goodbye and shared some of our gratitude to those that had made our visit possible. It was a very emotional farewell, especially for the community, us being the first group to stay a week with them.
Stay tuned for more updates!