Intrepid Crooked Trails travelers Sue (whose dispatch from Bhutan you may remember from earlier this year) recently returned from Peru as a participant on our volunteer service program this fall. Here’s some of her Peru highlights!
“It was mid-afternoon when Julio and I had finished helping Lucha’s husband and son with the last bit of adobe on the new “cocina mejor.” During the construction process, Lucha quietly drifted in and out of room where we were busy with bricks and mud, watching her new cocina take shape. With the family poised to pose for the photos, she gestured for us to wait a “momentito”. She slipped into an adjoining room and quickly traded her more modest hat for an elegant tall hat with an impressive ribbon decoration. Now she was ready for the photo, proud of her new cocina.”
“As an environmentalist, I am concerned with invasive species and always have viewed eucalyptus in non-native locations as a “weed” and a problem. However, after seeing how well it serves the dual purposes as a source of fuel and a source of building material for the Andean farmers, I look upon it as a mixed blessing. Many farmers seem to be aware of eucalyptus’s propensity to suck water out of the ground and have tried to limit its growth near their fields. I was also intrigued to hear that the Australians, who evidently introduced eucalyptus 150 years ago to Peru, now are considering removing it and replanting with a native cedar species. Compared to rural Guatemala, where I observed the very elderly and very young hiking 2 to 3 hours a day into the mountains to procure firewood for cooking, having a cord or 2 of eucalyptus stacked next to the huts in Vicos is a great improvement. Once again, I realize that “black-and-white” issues are, in reality, shades of grey.”
“I amazed myself at how quickly I settled in to the village – took about 5 minutes after arriving until I felt at home surrounded by mountains, glaciers, braying burros, roosters, piglets, and some of the friendliest, loveliest people I have ever met. “
“Julian and Maria were very attentive and welcoming. One afternoon a beautiful bouquet of fresh gladiolas appeared on our bunkhouse’s table. The food was plentiful, tasty, and healthy, and Maria graciously went out of her way to prepare us cuy for dinner one night after I asked if we could try it.”
“The chance to spend a day working with members of a family in their home, laughing together, mixing straw into the mud, slapping adobe over the bricks, and sharing lunch was worth every nickel the trip cost.”
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