As I settled into my peruvian lifestyle, I became very aware that the trip I was on was not meant to make you feel settled (in the best way possible). On Tuesday March 4th, after another great breakfast (the food was always fantastic), we met our host families outside of our hotel rooms, and they helped us carry our things a few blocks away to their homes, which were spread out all over the small town. Our group had been divided into groups of 2 or 3 and each assigned to a family. I was lucky enough to be roommates with Newell! I had become increasingly more nervous to meet the family, mostly because out of all the groups, Newell and I had the least amount of spanish experience; me having none, and Newell being in Spanish 2. Leaving the hotel was completely throwing me out of my comfort zone and I have to admit, I was scared. Babina, my host mother, greeted us with a big kiss on the cheek and Poncho, my host father, a friendly hug. Their house was very cute. Newell and I shared a room with two very comfortable beds. Most of the houses in Ollantaytambo had an outdoor center. In my house, there was an outdoor courtyard with all of the room surrounding it, meaning that all of the doors to each room you had to go outside to enter. I didn’t understand much of what they were saying, so I just smiled and nodded. They sensed how tense I was and offered to play UNO. Once my host siblings, Yessica and Yack came home from school, Newell and I soon learned that UNO was a household favorite. We played for 2 full hours! I wrote in my journal that night, “I am starting to realize that their family is so similar to what we know as a family, along with their traditions. I am beginning to understand the uniqueness of the experience I am having. Even though I cannot understand almost all of what they are saying, to be able to sit and observe is the most influential thing. It is so cool to realize that they are just a small loving family living in this big world, and I already know that I will think of them when I go back home.”
Here is picture of the happy family who, although we had trouble bonding with, grew increasingly more comfortable with and accustomed to living with. I realized over my 6 days with Poncho and Babina, that I never really felt in my comfort zone, but I learned so much about life of the people in Ollantaytambo. The most important thing I took away from them was that people share and spread love all around the world no matter the circumstance, level of education of financial situation. I feel truely bless to be pushed into this opportunity where I would take so much. Even though we were maybe not the greatest match for each other, I am really thankful they were able to open up their home and open up my eyes to their lifestyle.
Over the next few days, we started our service project. It was very exciting! The town of Ollantaytambo had just finished a brand new high school. It was beautiful, and everyone was so excited for the opening day! Our task was to help build a wall on the back side of the school. Over the next couple of days we would unload 1,000 cinder blocks from the back of a truck, move 2,000 cinder blocks from the front of school to the back of the school where the wall was being built, carry dirt, cement, and rocks and get very dirty. It was quite the task. Our group had moments of high tension, laughter, arguments and collaboration. My one wish for the trip would be that we could have made more of an impact on the wall, but unfortunately because of the time consuming labor we didn’t get to see it finished. Overall it was a wonderful experience because we all really came together as a group.
The most influential experience over these few days was the Weaving Community. On March 6th, after a long morning of service, we boarded a little bus and took a very bumpy, very scary ride up the side of a mountain to the community. It was incredible. The women were seated, all in traditional dress, working very hard on their pieces. We all gathered and watched them, snapping pictures and listening to our guide explain their lifestyle to us. They used all natural dye’s and carefully spun the llama fur into beautiful yarn. We were each paired up with one of them, and they helped us weave our own bracelets! It was so cool. The woman I worked with was so sweet. I had no idea what she said at all, but I just kept telling her things about our trip and how great things were in english even though I knew she didn’t understand either. She had a great smile and it was great working with her.
After we finished weaving our bracelets, I thanked the woman I was working with and we walked through cluster of houses where they lived. We went inside a house and got to look around. It was then that I realized that what I was seeing was unbelievable poverty. The house was hardly big enough for a few people, and had no furniture. There were no windows or chimneys, and the people often had respiration issues. There was no running water. It was hard to understand and accept that people were living in these conditions. I realized that these women put on their traditional dress and work hard on their beautiful creations for people like me and the rest of the group, who have come to learn about peruvian culture. It surprised me that people with such unique and incredible talents are forced to live in such poverty. But at night, when they go back to their houses, they have to live in these conditions, without a bed, water, or even fresh air. I was truly taken aback, and humbled to have met such simplistic happy people who live with so little, and wish so badly that I single handedly could have helped them in that moment.