Monday, December 6, 2010

Ccaccaccollo Homestay - A Planeterra/GAP Adventures Community Project - Day 1

A little bit of background on one of GAP adventure's project (taken from the Planeterra website)
Since 2005, we have been working with the Ccaccaccollo community to develop a women’s weaving cooperative. Most Gap Adventures groups are able to visit this community as part of the Sacred Valley Tour where they meet the women and learn about all the stages of the weaving process; from hand-spinning the wool, dying the wool using natural dyes, and participating in a weaving demonstration. Travelers are also given the opportunity to purchase high quality textiles directly from the women who made them. By working with the women of this community we are encouraging them to be proud of their cultural heritage by showcasing their intricate weaving skills. This also enables the women to help provide for their families and benefit from tourism in a way that avoids negative social and cultural impacts.

We left Cuzco in the early afternoon, winding up the hills out of the city. The views were amazing, and the hills were incredibly steep. We drove past the Christ, which we hadn't been able to visit the day before due to the massive hail storm, and caught glimpses of people farming the hills and other small communities.

The drive to the homestay took about an hour, though it really wasn't terribly far from the city, just that the roads were windy and up and down. The road to reach the community itself was slightly terrifying, built into a hill with about a 60 degree angle. All the people on the outward facing side of the bus peered over the edge apprehensively to make sure we weren't going to topple over. 

As we reached the top of the hill, the bus pulled into a large open square, with homes made of adobe bricks and thatched roofs that sprawled out over the hills. We unloaded ourselves from the tour bus and Barbara our guide spoke to one of the young children running around where Pedro was. The child said something back and ran off to find Petro. Shortly after people from the village started to emerge from their homes. All of a sudden we were greeted with the sounds of drums and panflutes, played by Andean men in traditional dress accompanied by women also in traditional dress with flowers in their hands. 

Barbara introduced the people from the village to us and directed us to our respective new homestay moms and dads. Erin and I were to go live with Hilia (Julia?) and Victor. Victor works as a porter on the Inca Trail (with GAP) and Hilia makes woven and knitted goods for the travellers that come to the community. We were led up a massive hill, with stairs cut into the hillside, huffing and puffing the whole way. We were shown our room, the upper half of a small building. The buildings were all created with adobe bricks (mud and straw mixed with water and then baked in the sun). The upper level of the building had a wooden floor, but the lower level was just concrete. The rooms were furnished very modestly, with basic beds and a basic table. The rooms weren't very high either, as people from Peru aren't super tall to begin with, and both Erin and I hit our heads almost every time we went into the room. 

Our homestay Mom showed us around the house, where the bano was (right beside the sheep paddock!) as well as the kitchen, where the food is cooked over a basic wood oven. It was amazing, really. We were invited in for some tea (coca tea!) and popcorn, so we sat down and tried to make conversation. However, neither of us have any Spanish skills, so we weren't sure what was going on. Hilia showed us a skirt like the one she was wearing, in traditional style, and said something about a fiesta. We suspected that she meant we were to WEAR the skirt she was holding but weren't entirely sure.

After settling in we were supposed to meet back at the square and then head off to the fields to help with the farming. However, once we arrived in the square it was raining pretty hard, so the decision was made to skip going out to the field as it might be too slippery to make the trek up the hills. We were joined by the other people from the group, all wearing traditional outfits. Crap! We WERE supposed to put on the outfits!! Thankfully we were soon joined by our "mom" and she had clothing for us - skirts and shawls to put on over our clothes. The skirts were tied up around our rib cages, crushingly tight. How do these women work in these things?! The shawls were stiff, almost like blankets but surprisingly warm!

Because we weren't going out to the fields we all went back to our respective homes and hung out. Erin and I both had a nap, underneath a ton of llama blankets. After an hour we both got up and made our way downstairs to see if there was anything we could do to help make dinner. Hilia showed us the food she was making (cauliflower, rice, some kind of soup) but didn't require any help, but instead instructed us to sit in the "dining room", the small room below our bedroom that had a table and 3 small chairs, each with a lambskin or goat skin on to help cushion. 

While sitting there, we heard the strangest sound - sounded like vigorous beating of something. Not long after Hilia came in beating a bowl full of egg whites. She said something about putting the egg whites on the cauliflower. Erin and I looked at each other apprehensively but smiled and tried to look excited. 

Not long after, Victor came in with a couple bowls of soup for us. We looked at the bowls, not really sure what we were about to eat. Floating on the top were french fries, and there were other veggies and little grains in the mixture. Unidentified bits of meat were in the bowl as well. Despite the fact that the soup was a bit strange looking, it actually tasted pretty good. Best I can figure is that the meat was mutton, since the family had their own sheep, and that the little grains were cream of wheat or something similar.

We finished our soup and then were brought plates filled with rice and these strange little balls of what looked like dumplings. Surprisingly, the "dumplings" were actually cauliflowers that were battered in the egg whites and then fried. And I thought they tasted awesome!! After dinner we had some more tea before getting ready to head to Petro's house for a fiesta. 

The walk to Petro's was a bit scary, since even though the houses have electricity the outside of the buildings do not. We had small flashlights to guide us, but the hill was still treacherous! On the trip we passed a couple of donkeys that seemed to pop out of nowhere! Eventually we got to Petro's house where we settled in. The rest of the group slowly joined us and when we were all there the men from the community started to play some music! After a bit the women got us up dancing. The night was fantastic, even though I was exhausted. 

Around 10pm we headed back to our house, past not one, not two, but 3 donkeys (burros) that seemed to pop out of nowhere. We were told that wake up time was at 7am, breakfast at 7:30 and that we were meeting in the square at 8am... Erin and I made our way to the bathroom, held the flashlight for each other and then went back to our sleeping room. Crawled in under our 5 llama blankets, said good night and went to sleep!

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