Seeing as it’s Peru, the ceremony couldn’t have started before a full two hours had elapsed past the hour indicated on the invitations. Anyway, I had had the pleasure of watching one of the students first thing in the morning disemboweling a guinea pig with morbid fascination, so my appetite was drained and I wasn’t impatiently awaiting the beautiful feast their families had cooked us. It didn’t occur to me to be impatient anyway. Peru has generously fostered many lessons in patience to my benefit, and by now I’m starting to assume the attitude myself. Why worry about punctuality, after all? It’s only a worry if your expectations are otherwise, or your attitude unyielding. And Ollantaytambo is a beautiful little village I don’t mind at all having more time to explore.
At long last everyone has arrived, those classically tragicomic Peruvian ballads set to an electronic orchestra fade out, and the ceremony begins. Kristina welcomes the crowd, presents a bit about Mosqoy, and introduces Ashli via the miracle of technology. Ashli says a few things about how these students now have this great power of knowledge and ability that no one can ever take away from them, so go forward into the world and grace it with your gifts. Elizabeth, one of the students, spoke Cuy, of course, the celebratory staple, and chicha morada, and other things I cannot name but heartily enjoyed.
next, and said some really lovely things that both merited and elicited tears. “Mosqoy is a family,” she said. “We live together, share our meals together, share our problems and pains and joys and growth. You will be terribly missed, brothers and sisters. The doors of Casa Mosqoy will forever be open to you. Make us proud.” At this point Elizabeth was becoming too teary to go on, so she wrapped up and the ceremony moved on to the presentation of diplomas, and gifts – embossed pens with each of the graduates’ names etched on – and photographic moments with Kristina, each student, and their parents. The first mother who came up was shy and demure, and then out of nowhere unleashed a fistful of confetti on Kristina’s head without batting an eyelash. Kristina took it in stride, and carried on festively for the rest of the evening with confetti on her head. The mayor spoke some congratulatory words in Spanish and Quechua both, and then a few mothers came up to give heartfelt thanks and aspirations in Quechua with more tears flowing on all faces. And then, at last, the feast commences.
Cleaning up becomes intertwined with dancing, first with brooms, and then brooms forgotten, with hips and hands and hearts, with mothers and children and gringas alike. The culmination of any festivity in Latin America with dancing must be compulsory by law by the way it proliferates, it seems.
The last act of the night is a man who must be someone’s father (though it’s possible too that he just wandered in) who gives a speech in Quechua. He seemed a tad bit more than enthusiastic, and I leaned in to ask a student what he was on about. “Well, he writes with his right hand,” she says, “and plays football with his right foot as well, he says. More or less.” We burst into a fit of giggles. Suspicions confirmed. But it wouldn’t be a Peruvian party without someone having a few beers.