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The Andean Youth Program has big news to share! Cara, our new Andean Youth Programme Manager, has arrived and is settling in to life with Mosqoy and Cusco very nicely. As Cara is slowly taking over all the tasks involved with running the AYP here, this will be my (Kristina’s) last blog. After almost two years in Peru, I have made the decision to move away from the Andean highlands. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, as I have made my life here and have experienced so many amazing things with Mosqoy, our students and their families, our weaving communities, and the entire NGO network that bases itself in this region. I am leaving this position with nothing but gratitude and love in my heart for everyone I have had the chance to work with. I truly benefited from this experience, learning every day about Peruvian culture and obstacles to community development. I’ve learned from the field team I have been honoured to work with, from having in depth academic discussions about development work, to discussing our health issues and laying out our general maladies like playing cards around the dinner table. I’ve learned from the team in Canada, who, despite not having met many (or any) of our students or weavers, are inspired to dedicate their precious free time to our programs and to indigenous rights. I’ve learned an unbelievable amount about myself, what I can adjust to and what I simply cannot wrap my head around.

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to several communities and I remember, as we jammed eight people in a 5-seater station wagon, along with packed mantas (typical cloths used to carry things on their backs) and other assorted materials, to climb up a gravel road along a particularly precarious mountain, listening to stories about how a car went over the cliff a few years ago with students who were trying to get to school. I remember thinking, “Will there ever be a time when this will not seem normal to me?” A few days later, as we packed seven people in another 5-seater station wagon to visit the Amaru weaving association, I climbed into the trunk and banged my head, thinking, “What is it like to have a personal motor vehicle that isn’t packed to the hilt every time you want to go somewhere?” Let's not even talk about biking! As I’m counting down the weeks until I pack up my things, my house, and my dog, and fly to Canada until I figure out my next adventure, I’m seeing things that I used to take for granted in a new light, and am truly grateful for the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have here in Cusco. Thanks again to all of our supporters and those who have made my work in Cusco meaningful!

Moving on to AYP happenings in the past month (there have been many!):

We have welcomed our new Communications and Program Assistant, Jordan. She has already written a blog sharing her first experiences and impressions of Cusco, including explaining the need for rocks in backpacks and how to maintain hygiene when water doesn’t work. She will be working on projects that both Clara and Erick had begun this summer with their internships, including student profiles (so you can all get to know Mosqoy students!) and alumni network (so you can see where our previous participants have landed!).

We successfully re-started our intercambio program with two schools in town: San Blas and Maximo Nivel. Carmen gave a great presentation about Kings Day on January 6th in Ollantaytambo. She described what the festival entails and gave a small demonstration of a dance she did as a child for the holiday. We plan to continue this program with monthly dinners at Casa Mosqoy to share Quechuan culture with foreigners who are studying Spanish, including the potential re-invigoration of our sports night with a different school!

We have also begun the selection process for our next generation of students: Mosqoy 7. Our selection process usually starts about eight to ten months before classes begin so we are looking for students that will be entering in September of 2015. Cara and Kristina have travelled to Ollantaytambo, Amaru, and Huaran to give a presentation about our program and to settle on a time to give our exam. We have delivered the exam to most of our communities, and are looking forward to a double weekend extravaganza heading out to the Mapacho River Valley to deliver the last of the exams. We will hold a meeting with our pre-selected students at the beginning of December, and have our final list to share with you all in March, after home visits and some activities!

As we do every year, Mosqoy also participated in the Ollantaytambo Anniversary Parade on October 29th. Our students were looking very put together in their ternos (or suits for school). We walked in front of the municipality for the region and got to be famous for about a minute! After the parade, the plaza starts to fill with people selling chickens, pork chops, beer, chicha and ice creams. Electricity in the air becomes more tangible as the party starts to get into full swing. Mosqoy volunteers enjoyed some delicious burritos at a local restaurant and went back to Cusco early, but the students were welcome to stay with their families and enjoy the holiday.

Our programming at the house is becoming more developed. Just this past week, the students enjoyed a workshop about non-violent communication. Nora, our Textile Coordinator, put a lot of effort into the activity and the kids interacted with the concepts particularly well. Stephanie developed a great workshop with the girls to improve relationships and avoid unnecessary conflict in the house. Everyone watched the movie ‘Mean Girls’, and really enjoyed the movie and discussion afterwards. Overall, communication in the house has improved immensely and the general atmosphere is getting more positive every day!

Finally, at the beginning of November, we held elections for the new student cabinet. The students vote in a new President, Vice President, and Treasurer every six months to be in charge of Casa Mosqoy with Stephanie. Congratulations to Alex from Amaru (President), Cristian from Tanccac (Vice President), and Carmen from Ollantaytambo (Treasurer)!

November will see another pollada organised by our students to come up with the funds for the chocolatada in December, more selection activities and treks to communities, and a fun movie night at the house to celebrate all the birthdays we’ve missed in the past few months.

Thanks again for all of your support of Mosqoy!

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