Returning from a journey to the past, we call an end to our Peruvian adventures for now and brace for Bolivia. The first half of the gap semester has concluded in understanding, growth, and new inquiries. For me, my primary interests were to experience the high altitude life style and practice the language through cultural, historical, and social lenses.
Language Fluency was the first step to everything. Whether it was at the language school of Urubamba, or the market in Calca, I found myself immersed into an ambient so foreign yet so close. My unpolished Spanish was refined by patient locals who generously accepted me into their world. Communicating with my host family, I gained perspective into a nation and culture of people. There were no barriers and only a mutual sharing of two cultures separated by the Pacific. A month is only the beginning to an exchange of years to come. The tranquil township witnessed my transformation in cultural understanding as I ventured beyond my native grounds and comfort zones. Before the trip, I often thought that homestay was going to be hardest part of my journey. Afterwards, I could not have disagreed more with my pre-conceived notions. The simple interactions in daily life could not have more profoundly developed my perception, whether it was trying the fruit “tuna” for the first time with my host sister, playing basketball with my host uncle, or cooking with my host mother. I will bid farewell for now to the huerto filled of palta, to choclo, to chicha morada, and to the hospitality of the Rodrigezs.
Machu Picchu and Q’eros were the cultural highlights thus far. Machu Picchu needs no further introduction as the Maravilla del Mundo. Seeing it in real life only evoked more awe and amazement from within. However, Q’eros was a completely different experience. We were fortunate enough to be invited by Siwar, a native of Nacion Q’eros and good friend of Dragons. The five mountain communities situated between 3000 to 4000 meters of altitude are home to the posterity of the Incan people who fled Conquistador persecution hundreds of years ago. Their resilience is demonstrated through their utmost respect to Pachamama and Padre Inti as well as the great Apus. Living with my Q’eros papas and mamas, I partook in some daily routines of trekking, cooking, and even the Pre-Incan ceremony of Pachamanca. The breath-taking views and delicious potatoes are just a glimpse into their way of life passed down from their ancestors through generations of collective knowledge.
Nowadays, they face new challenges as they begin to open their communities to outside influences. The new solar panels provide families with conveniences while also raising the question of how to adjust in the face of integration. As we departed the final community Yapu through the Carrera, the mist gradually covered the entire valley, closing the gate for now to these communities, only until the next time a truck comes through with, for better or for worse, commodities of the Western World.