Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Friends in New Places

The pueblo of Maras is unlike any place I have ever visited for a number of reasons: its stillness interrupted occasionally by the sounds of farm animals, its breathtaking views of the Andes, its expansive salt flats…I could go on. However, as my classmates and I said our goodbyes and boarded our bus for Cusco, I realized what made Maras so remarkable: the people. Specifically, their humbleness, work ethic, and hospitality.
The salt flats of Maras, known as Las Salinas

I was certainly apprehensive when Profe. informed us that we would be staying in the homes of local laborers while in Maras. Eating unfamiliar meals, hiking in the sun without showering, and sleeping in a cold, firm bed was not my idea of a weekend getaway, but I tried my best to keep an open mind. After spending just a few minutes with our hosts for the weekend – Don Amilcar, Jesusa, and Vicky – my hesitations were long forgotten. They were patient when we struggled to walk to the salt flats, when we drowned their Andean songs with our irregular drum-beats, and when we balked at their guinea pigs. They kindly served us four-course meals and made us comfortable despite the night chill by building a fire and distributing blankets. Certainly, I felt the most connected to our hosts when I fully immersed myself in their routine chores and practices – setting the dinner table, picking up a pitcher of chica from a neighbor, and (my favorite part of the weekend) donning in a traditional Quechuan costume and dancing to Amilcar’s ukulele and pan-flute music.

Posing with Vicky (left) and Jesusa (right)
It was a strange feeling, visiting a village that has resisted the modernization and conveniences that I take for granted – Wi-Fi, central heating, even round-the-clock running water. Without a doubt, living without these amenities, even for a day, was a sacrifice. However, I don’t think that I would have appreciated or embraced the culture and people of Maras without the tradeoff. While I was initially reluctant to venture so far out of my comfort zone, I am now immensely grateful for my new Quechuan friends and our incredible moments of connection in the most unlikely of places.
Dancing and playing music with Jesusa, Vicky, and Don Amilcar

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