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The cold morning air greeting us as we arrived at the Calca market at 5:00 am. People were setting up their breakfast stands, fruit stalls, and shouting out bus destinations. Our bus to Amparaes did not leave for another two hours, so we milled around buying fruit and watching the town burst into life as the sun rose.

When we arrived in Parobamba it was apparent the community was happy to see us, as food was prepared and we were treated as honoured guests. During the meeting many weavers were spinning wool into yarn with a drop spindle. Ashli led the meeting, I took notes, and Karina did the Spanish/Quechua translations. After the meeting the weavers showed us their textiles. Slowly I am beginning to understand the amount of work and expertise that goes into making the textiles that Q’ente sells. First, the weaver has to either shear or buy wool, whether sheep, alpaca, or baby alpaca. Then they hand-spin the wool into a fine yarn using a drop spindle, they dye it with natural plant dyes, and they weave the yarn into complex textiles with numerous symbols and patterns. Amazing! When these textiles are purchased the buyer is literally saying to the weaver that made the textile: "your culture and your traditions are valuable, keep doing it."

Ashli pointed out an especially interesting symbol to me, it is the new book (education) symbol. It is a contemporary symbol that means education. Therefore, according to what is important to the weaver new symbols are made and incorporated into their textiles.

Book (education) symbol

When we arrived in Bombón the next day, warm food was waiting in a small adobe house. The door frame was small and as I entered I could not see a thing because it was pitch black inside, but soon my eyes adjusted. I saw a small wood fire with a woman and two children tending to it as well as a baby rabbit hopping about and chickens entering and exiting as they pleased.

After our morning meeting in Bombón we hiked to Pitukiska. It was pouring rain, foggy, and cold, but we trudged onwards. When we finally arrived in Pitukiska the sun came out! We felt we deserved a rainy, cold, "look how hard this trek was" photo but instead we got a "three girls wearing rain gear in the sun" photo!

Ashli, Karina and I

In Pitukiska the meeting was held outside in the fading sunlight; the members clapped at every announcement. They were a happy group, clapping enthusiastically when I was introduced at the new Textile Field Coordinator. After the meeting, food was prepared in a community member’s house and beds were set up in the local community church. Yes, we got to sleep in a church! Have you ever slept in a church? I thought the experience was pretty unique.

The next morning we hiked out of Pitukiska back to Amparaes with Melchor, his wife and four year old son.

Melchor and his family showing off their beautiful textiles!

It was drizzling and foggy but a joyous hike. At the top of our climb we stopped to have lunch. David burst into tears and kind of grabbed his jaw. Upon asking what was wrong I asked to see his teeth, most of his teeth had cavities but one especially had a notably infected cavity that was causing him quite a bit of pain. Later in the hike I pulled out my toothbrush and David pulled out his new toothbrush (one that Ashli had given to him the day before), and I gave him a little tutorial about how to brush his teeth. I told him how fun and easy it is, and I will be sure to remind him to brush his teeth upon every monthly visit I make to Pitukiska.

Soon after I saw my first herd of quirky yet graceful alpacas rummaging for food along the mountainside. Another hour of hiking and we arrived in Amparaes. After three days of hiking we had come full circle! What an amazing trip!

Curious herd if Alpacas!

Also, below are a few photos I did not find a place to put in the blog but I wanted to share!

Karina and I
Ashli and I with a scowling David (he was smiling the rest of the time!)

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