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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Paru Paru Homestay

Allin Punchay from Pura Pura.  As the bus slowly wound its way back down from “our” village of Pura Pura perched amidst 13,500 foot peaks, each of us sat quietly exhausted, but deep in thought processing our homestay experiences, all rich and each unique. We were assigned individual families who embraced us as one of their own and integrated us into their daily lives. Our days were filled with soil prep and potato harvesting, learning about the art of shearing sheep, the spinning and dying of wool and the intricacies of weaving, understanding the rigors and daily demands of animal husbandry-guinea pigs, burros, alpacas, llamas, sheep, cows, tasting and testing every type of potato imaginable, drinking tea, chewing and activating coca leaves, meditating, and journaling. We hiked eight miles high up into the Andes over 14,400 feet with breathtaking views of lakes and waterfalls capped off with an Andean picnic prepared by our wonderful hosts from Paru Paru. We learned how to request permission from the Apu mountain spirits with coca leaves before planting potatoes and about the ancient Incan tools still used to hoe and till the rich soil. We “guests” attempted to plant a variety of potatoes using the same technique quickly appreciating the amount of strength and finesse it required. Mornings and evenings were spent playing soccer, helping with homework, language learning both in Quechua and Spanish with host families’ children, while helping to chop vegetables and drink tea with the host parents. Our last day was spent learning about the art of weaving from the sheep sheering to the making of dyes to the Incan meanings of the intricate symbols within the textiles. Our kind community hosts hosted a farewell lunch featuring quinoa, Peruvian potatoes, trout, choclo (short pieces of corn on the cob), peppers, Peruvian potatoes, tea, coca leaves.  With full stomachs, we donned indigenous costumes and danced until twilight fell as we headed homeward for our last evening.  Paqarin Kama.