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Spectacular. Intricate. Dusty..

Three of the many words I would use to describe Peru. I landed here four weeks ago, and after spending the first few weeks learning Spanish and battling illness, I am finally delving into my first week as a Q’ente Field Fellow.

My name is Katheryn Jones.

I have volunteered with Q’ente for the past two years as a retail/business consultant, and finally decided it was time to see where our products come from!

To date, the most interesting aspects of this fellowship have been attending three weaving association meetings, and one dye workshop. There are so many reasons why I find them intriguing, but just to list a few:

1) seeing the villages and meeting the weavers;

2) gaining first-hand knowledge of the physical environment; and, most importantly,

3) checking out all the textiles!

I was having difficulty understanding how come it took so long to receive an order from some of the communities we work with. Well, now I know! Over the last couple of weeks I have travelled to six campesino communities: Amaru, Parobamba, Bombón, Q’enqo, Huaran, and Pachar. Most of them are at least a one hour drive up into the Andean mountains, several hours from the main city of Cusco, following switchback roads – not for the faint of heart (or those prone to car-sickness)! And definitely not exactly accessible for anyone trying to get their products to the international market.

Now after seeing the physical landscape I understand the complexity of creating these weavings. My knowledge of mountainous areas is completely different from the Andean region. One main difference is the altitude, which was really hard for me to comprehend until I arrived. Q’enqo, for example, has an elevation of 4200m (13,779ft - according to Google- see the pic above!). Before I left Canada I was either playing tennis or hiking Grouse Mountain and working out every day. None of that prepared me for the Andes. The elevation literally takes your breath away. I am hoping my next hike to the Mapacho River Valley will be a bit easier as I acclimatize.

Next week: all about natural dyes!

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