Each of these posts was written by different members of the Reach Out Volunteer team. It has been an enriching experience for me capturing their work, travels and experiences for our film and pleasure to have gotten to know them a bit.
The train ride back from Machu Picchu was bitter sweet. I was happy to be heading back to Cusco and to get caught up on my correspondence… but I knew that I may never again get the opportunity to visit all the amazing places that we had been too. These posts will be a lasting memory of those days. Posts for Day 1 through 3 have already been put to my facebook, but are also available on the wordpress site.
We are on our final 2 days of the 14 day journey… today we visit an animal rescue center, an artisan center that fabricates silver jewelry and a baby alpaca factory for tapestries and textiles.
Today I ventured out solo on a day trip to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. I had been introduced to Caroline Putnam via a mutual friend on Facebook and wanted to hear about her experiences living and working with the Q’ero (an indigenous tribe living at over 15,000 and in one the most remote areas of the Andes) Since she is originally from Louisiana I was able to interview her without needing an interpretor.
As per the usual drill, I took a taxi from the house, it cost me more than usual since I got the tourist rate, then caught a van to valley. I sat beside the only other fair haired girl, Katrina from Germany. We instantly struck up a conversation, exchanged ideas and shared experiences on the hour long trip through the mountains. It’s always such a treat to connect with kindred spirits on my journeys and Katrine was no exception.
When we arrived in Urubamba about half the passengers got out while Katrine stayed to continue on to Ollantaytambo. I admire women who travel solo in foriegn lands, especially in countries where they don’t speak the language. I wished her well, paid the driver, then searched for a payphone to contact Caroline. The phone was out of service so I was directed to another, also not working. Three men had been watching me and when I walked toward them in hopes of being directed to a functional payphone one of them pulled a cell phone from his breast pocket and handed it to me.
Wow! I didn’t even have to struggle with trying to make myself understood in limited spanish. I made my call and minutes later Caroline pulled up on her motorcycle and handed me a helmet.
Her house was nearby and I saw my first glimpse of North and South American fusion.
Caroline has lived in Urubamba for 2 years with her partner who was from the Q’ero nation but whom she originally met in Lima. They have plans to marry soon and it will be the first mix of an outsider into the strictly closed Q’eros indigenous community. We spent several hours talking about our goals and priorities then moved from the kitchen/dining/living room to her meditation room (an outbuilding on the property) where she had invited me for a sonic healing session.
Using voice, drum, bells, rattle, smudge stick, insense and essential oils, Caroline called upon the sonic vibration and energy within and surrounding me to facilitate a healing and unification of my spirit. It was an enriching experience and I enjoyed the sensations created by her intentions. I recorded the session so will try to post a soundbite later.
When she was finished we sat quietly for a few minutes then talked about our experiences during the ceremony and gave thanks for the experience. We returned to the house where she shared a meal of vegetable soup plus avocado and salsa wrapped in seaweed with me. I gathered my notes from our earlier conversation, my camera and recording equipment then we chose the meditation room to film the interview. It was interesting to hear a North Americans’ perspective of the indeginous people of Peru, especially from someone so spiritually attuned and in a serious relationship with one of its natives.
I could easily understand her attraction to the people and the culture since I myself was falling under their spell. Her insights and perspective however, seemed to come more from a point of a local than that of a foriegner. After we finished her interview I had an opportunity to speak with her brother in law who was in the process of searching for land to relocate his family from their home in the hilltops down to the town of Urubamba. Ricardo is a Maestro (medicine man) 24 years old with 4 small children. He needed to find practical work to augment his earnings as a maestro (master)
He sat chewing coca leaves while Caroline interpreted for me.
I learned more about the coca leaves from Ricardo and Caroline. A vital part of the Indigenous culture, they help not only with problems associated with high altitude but a host of other health concerns. Plant based medicine is the primary basis of the Maestro’s arsenal of cures. The knowledge is passed down from generation to generation but there is danger in losing these traditional ways since the young people today are more interested in technologies and modern affairs.
Today as we continue to review the footage from Day One and Two, I am reminded of the beauty and innocence of the children of Richard’s village. Here is a picture of a mother escorting her child to school. Few of these children have been exposed to the big city and even fewer have seen foriegners. Richard has two daughters, the eldest is 5 and attends kindergarten. She she is dressed in her traditional clothing.The younger daughter is only two but speaks Quechan very well and is a bright and sensitive child. She was very shy around me, probably because I looked so different than anyone she was used to.
Richard’s eldest daughter was eager to show me how she could weave (braid) as well. She was fascinated with the camera and was much more confident than her little sister.
Yesterday was a great day because we had many unexpected surpirses. Today we are reviewing the footage of the past 4 days… a complicated task because everything is in a language that I don’t understand. We have over 1,000 photos so far and I do understand them. Like they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. So today instead of a big story, I will share some images from Patabamba.
In the morning, the women move the livestock to the pasture land. They use the wool from the Laamas and sheep for making textiles.
We tried to speak with the president of the village but he refused to give us his time. At first we were dissapointed but instead we headed to the school to see about interviewing someone there. The principal, Juana Sulema Carrasco Cruz, was more than happy to share her time with us and gave us fantastic insight into the local community and the problems there.
This was the grade 3 classroom. Major problems at the school are, limited supplies, no library, one computer for the entire school, very few books. Problems for the children are, absent parents (they must work out of town and are often gone overnight) poor nutrition, no money for uniforms, unequal financial status (some families are self sufficient while others live in extreme poverty).
Some of the young girls end up having babies are welcome to bring them to school. They bring them into the classes with them.
We noticed a huge gap in abilities when Yieber was teaching the older boys how to play a new card game. Simple skills like following directions, remembering rules, number sequences and manipulating the cards in hand were very difficult for some of these boys. It was nice to see them support and cooperate with each other. No one shamed another for poor play… they were cheerful and having fun!
The Kindergarten was in a separate location. Getting an early start is crucial to their success but not always available to every child.
The women of Patabamba are fully aware of the problems in their community and have banded together to form a council that meets each week. They share a meal, teach each other spinning and weaving techniques and plan stategies to help bring their families back to the traditional ways.
These women have little or no education and zero access to technology (computers or internet) but, they know that to succeed they must assimilate into todays society. They asked us to help put them in contact with tour companies and people who can buy their products. They are determined to create a better life for their families and we’re going to do what we can to make that vision a reality.
Yieber and I spent most of the day yesterday trying to sort out the many details of our film before our first day of shooting on November 2nd. It was a long but productive day and in the end we managed to squeeze, 11 main locations into the next 2 months of filming. We´re going to have many challenges…
Lack of power to charge batteries for camera and sound equipment
We have to carry everything on our backs
Remote locations that can only be reached by 4×4, boat, walking or flight
Language barriers, (well… Yieber speaks all three languages, English, Spanish & Quechan, but I will have absolutely no idea what our interview subjects will be saying)
Unlimited topics to cover… there are so many people, places and subjects we want to include!
Limited time in each location
Limited hard disk space
We´re up for the challenge though and we invite you to come along for the ride (or trek in many cases)
We´d love to hear your input and feedback on this project so please comment and share this blog with your friends and family. If you don´t hear from us for a few days it´s because we´re off the beaten path and have no access to internet.