Dear family and friends,
We spent the past week truly surrounded by the spirit of the Andes in the community of Paru Paru at Parque de la Papa (Potato Park). We spent four nights sleeping under heavy wool blankets in handbuilt adobe homes. We helped prepare dinner, sort potatoes, herd animals, and make bricks. We played games with host siblings, chewed coca leaves, and drank many cups of tea. We learned over 25 varieties of potato, the planting and harvesting cycles, and the ways in which the people of Paru Paru are affected by and adapting to climate change. We learned the names of the local mountains (Apus) and how to make offerings with coca leaves. We tested our fitness at high altitude by hiking to Pumaqocha (14,000 ft), a sacred lake. We learned about the medicinal properties of native plant species and plants that can be used as soap. We learned about traditional methods of shearing sheep, washing and spinning wool, the plants and minerals that can be used as natural dyes, and the backstrap method of weaving. We tried on traditional clothing (skirts, shawls, ponchos, and hats) and danced traditional steps to the rhythms of flute and drum. Our hearts are filled with so much gratitude for the many ways we were welcomed into the community of Paru Paru. We are still processing the lessons we learned, especially about living in reciprocity (ayni) with pachamama. We look forward to sharing more stories and memories with you soon!