On a bright and bumpy bus ride to the Mapacho River Valley, I shout across the empty aisle to Mosqoy's Andean Youth Program Manager, Kristina Zoller, “I will always remember these moments, regardless of how challenging they may be, I will reflect on these experiences for the rest of my life!” Kristina gives me her half smile, and we carry on a sleepy conversation as we embark on our journey.
During a community meeting in Huaran, Rosa randomly picks up a cat and makes it dance to the Huayno music coming from the radio; next a gangly adolescent chicken, and then a rusty coloured puppy. She makes them all dance while the rest of the weavers laugh.
In the community of Cancha Cancha each weaver takes a turn cooking a meal for the association and Q’ente volunteers to share together. Once, the weavers gave me some delicious freshly made cheese. I loved it and asked what it was made with. Vicentina looked slyly at me and the corners of her mouth slightly lifted as she said, “Baby Alpaca”. Everyone burst into laughter!
I recall, in the Mapacho River Valley, the strangers I met on our hikes, strangers who enthusiastically shook my hand, speaking Quechua, believing I may understand them. I did not understand them, although I saw the “flash of the human spirit” that Wade Davis describes in his book, The Wayfinders, when he touches on the importance of language diversity. This same linguistic spark lightens Brigida’s face as she explains the iconography behind the beautiful symbols she weaves or when she tells her famous motorcycle joke: "tomorrow you will leave on your burrrrro," exaggerating the R to imitate the sound of a motorbike ("burro" means donkey in English). Even recounting the story now makes me giggle! It is these moments of honest joy that I will miss the most.
My time here has been challenging yet rewarding. Recently, my sister said to me, “travelling is like a University without walls.” This statement resonated with me because making the decision to come to Peru and work with Q’ente has provided me with learning experiences that I could not have gained in University. I have learned: interpersonal skills, public speaking skills, and organization skills. I have collected and identified 8 dye plants, created a short video, conducted weaver interviews, and notably improved my Spanish. These learning experiences were only possible because my co-workers and the Q’ente weavers were kind enough to share their time, knowledge, and friendship with me.
I will forever keep the experiences I have gained in Peru within my heart and hope to return someday soon. For the time being, I hope to stay involved with Q’ente in Canada.
With that, I leave you, faithful reader, with a poem.
Do you love to walk?
Inside hearts brilliant red, cochineal
Running across the green barren Andes
Do you love to pray?
Cupped hands holding, exhaling mists
Three folded coca leaves
Do you love to speak?
Fresh from the dew, pounding rain
Wrapped in Quechua sound and song