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Lucille's Adventures in Peru Av. Fatima 820, #703, Trujillo, Peru --- www.perumission.org --- "Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Total Immersion in the Culture!!

PERU | Sunday, 13 January 2008 | Views [770]

Enis, me and Raphael

Enis, me and Raphael

Saturday was a great day!!  We started by going to the port of Puno and getting on our boat.  We rode out to the Floating Islands of the Uros people.  They are floating islands of Torta Reeds.  They are about 3 meters thick and people still live out there.   Our guide is Juan.  Very nice and we had a group of about 14?  3 Brits, 4 Argentinians, 2 French, 2 Korean, Maybe 5 American counting me?  so maybe 16 in all or just 3 americans?  At any rate, we were off on our three hour tour! 

The Uros Islands are pretty cool.  You feel them sink down a bit when you step on them and it is squishy.  We went to one island and looked around.  Met the mayor.  Saw how they lived and learned about the culure, the natural fish (including a catfish!), birds, etc.  We had time to look around and we had some bread they served us and this stalk of what looked like a huge onion, but it tasted like lettuce?  It is in the picture of me on the Torta Reed Boat.  It is what they eat to keep thier teeth clean and white.  Of course, I tried it.  Not much too it. 

We left the first island on the Reed Boat you see in my pictures and traveled on the lake to the main island.  There we had time to look around and get any last minute snacks or water before going to Amantani for our homestay.

Amantani is farther out on the Lake.  It is a small island wiht no roads, no vehicles and no dogs!! (This and Taquille were the only places with no dogs!)  We arrived and were told that we´d be staying with families from one of the nine communities.  The community we stayed with was the Comunidad Occopampa.   We arrived and our hostesses were all there in traditional dress.  Our community all worse Green skirts to show which community they belonged to.  Amantani has no electricity and is a tiny island, but you can get lost!  (more on that later)  So, each family had a representative that took you around to what all we did.  We split up into small groups of 2 or 3.  I joined the 2 Korean ladies, both of whom are actually students in the states.  We went with Jacqualyn, our guide.  We got to the house and she showed us to our rooms.  I had one by myself and they had another.  There were only 4 in the entire "complex".  3 bedrooms and a separate building that was a kitchen.  But I found out later, ours was basically a luxury house.  We had solar pannels and so our rooms and the kitchen had light at night.  The buildings are all made of mud bricks.  The bathrooms are outside.  I say bathrooms becuase we had an actual outhouse type of bathroom (check out the pictures), but they used just a hole in the ground that had a 3 walled enclosure about 4 or 5 feet high to give you a little privacy. 

Jacqualyn changed clothes from her traditional dress into something more common and started our dinner.  There is not a living room or dining room, so we just hung out in the yard while we waited on lunch.  Lunch was soup with potatoes and vegatables and then boiled potatoes and some sort of cheese thing on top.  We never did figure out if it was egg and cheese or bread and cheese.  It was rubbery, but somehow still the tastiest thing on my lunch plate.  After lunch, Jacqualyn took a bath and Enis (who I think is her sister, we never did the get family tree exactly right) did laundry outside in buckets.  (Again see pictures, but this is PG 13--a little national geographic). 

Jacqualyn changed back into her traditional dress and took us up to the community center to meet Juan.  He was then going to take us up to the top of the island to see the ruins.  We went to the Pachatata or Temple of Father Earth.  There was a concrete soccer field in front of the community center and the boys on the trip and the village boys had a nice game of futbol.  The women from all the homes sat and knitted.  It is hard to make converstation because most older people, like our hostesses, speak Quechan and maybe a little Spanish.  So, usually it was just enough to get by and communicate the bare necessities, but not a lot of conversing going on.

So, we started up to the temple and it was windy and cold!  The views were beautiful.  The lake is so big it almost looks like a sea or ocean.  We had time to look around up top; and, of course, there were women selling stuff along the path to the very top.  There was also a little coffee shop outside at the top.  Me and the Britts went and had some hot chocolate and Indian donuts (fried bread), which was quite tasty with the sugar poured over it and some even added a little syrup.  Quite a tasty treat after the bland lunch and hike up and cold windy day.  We stayed up there until almost dark.  Then we all started heading down.  Our family person was to meet us to take us back home.

I thought the Korean girls were ahead of me because I actually took my time and stopped and bought a hat.  So, I was hussling down to get home before dark.  I thought I could find it no problem if I could see.  About half way there I passed Jacqualyn and she pointed me in the right direction and I said I´d meet her there because I knew she needed to get the others and I could see the house.  But the trick is how to get there.  There aren´t roads.  Just small paths you cannot sometimes make out.  All of the sudden it got REAL dark, REAL quick. I have to admit, I was a tinge worried, but then I ran across another lady (I knew I was close, but couldn´t quite get there) and she asked what family, I told her and she pointed me in the right direction.  So, I finally made it, but it would have been real easy to be lost and wandering for a while!

So, I went to my room and was writing with my flashlight when Rafel, Enis´ papa came in.  He flicked on the light and that is when I realized they had solar power.  It had been so dark when I got in, I couldn´t see the switch!  So, we had a nice visit or as much as we could with the language restrictions and then he left.  We all gathered for dinner later.  Enis cooked, Dad sat on a chair at the table with us, who I am guessing is grandma, but may be mom, sat on the floor.  She never spoke to us the entire time.  We had seen her when we first arrived and she moved to the other side of the house shortly after we got there.  I think she is real shy.  And Jeanine ate with us also.  She ate on the floor and Enis at the stove.  The kitchen is pretty small and we were clearly the guests of honor.  Dinner was noodle and vegatable soup.  Fried potatotes.  Rice. and an Omlette.  it was actually pretty tasty.  Better than lunch I thought.  After dinner Rafel asked if we were going to the fiesta.  We said we were and he said he was going to bed.  Good Night.

So, Enis and Jacqualyn got us dressed and Jeanine changed into her traditional dress and we all grabbed our flashlights and headed to the community center.  Everyone from our group was there.  The band played all traditional music and we danced and took pictures.  It was pretty fun.  The young girls loved it!  Some of the older ladies looked like we were keeping them out after thier bedtime.  We walked back to the house (again no easy feat--it is so dark and you cannot see a thing).  But there were the most stars I´d seen in a long time out that night.  It was a beautiful night after a grand day!  We all turned in for the night and said we´d see each other in the morning.

About midnight, it began to rain and it rained HARD all night.  My bed was pretty comfy.  Well, except for the pillow.  Lumpy would be an understatement.  The actual rock I used for a pillow that afternoon in the yard was better.  I finally ditched it and just didn´t use a pillow.  It was still raining today when we got up and I was worried that we´d have rain all day, but it did clear up later.

This morning we got up and had breakfast with the family again.  Rafel worked on splitting up a piece of wood for firewood in the kitchen after breakfast.  We didn´t have much time together as our boat was leaving at 08:00.  So, we hung out just a bit with the family this morning.  I used the sink outside where they washed and bathed to brush my teeth and get ready.  I chose not to join in the National Geographic bathing and just skipped the bath/shower today.  Then we got pictures with the family in the kitchen.  And Jacqualyn appeared again in traditional dress and walked us down to the dock.  The other ladies did the same and sat and saw us off.  It had started to clear up by the time we left Amantani Island. 

I had no idea what to expect when I went in for the homestay, but it was one of the most interesting and cultural experiences I have ever had.  This trip truly has been all about the people and our stay on Amantani Island was true to form.  To see how they live and how spoiled we are and then realize we take it for such granted!  You cannot experience the homestay and not be changed!  Though I´ve tried, words--or even these limited ones--don´t come close to expressing what the experience was like.  If you ever get the chance--take it!

Tags: People


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