by Emma, Civic Semester Participant
Excerpts from my journal, pieced together:
“I can’t believe I’m here, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Paru Paru is a community located about 3,800 meters above sea level. Paru Paru has a cold climate, surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes used for planting and fishing. It is located inside the national potato park, and most of the citizens work in sustainably cultivating the land using ancestral knowledge and traditions passed down from the Incas. This past weekend, we stayed with the family of two brothers, Mario and Celestino. We were instantly welcomed as a part of their family, following their routines and experiencing all the different aspects of their lives.
“I feel like here I have experienced so much life.”
I reconnected with a sense of childhood.
“Today I was running around freely without feeling like it’s work, just experiencing and indulging in that urge. I was chasing Nica, both of us laughing the entire time. Usually I hate running, but today I couldn’t stop.”
I was a playmate.
“I love hanging out with the kids. I love seeing how Dabi laughs when we are sitting outside tossing bottle caps to each other, pushing Romario in his toy car, having Andrea braid my hair because she loves to (and is really good at it), asking Norma questions about her day, picking Diego up when he falls in the water and cries, and having Gabriel come sit on my chair and talk.”
I experienced fishing.
“Today we went fishing using cans, wire, metal hooks, and live worms. Veena caught a big one! I was so close to catching a little fish but then it passed me by. For lunch later that day the family prepared Veena’s fish into a ceviche dish for us to try. It was amazing to be eating such fresh and delicious food, where we knew every location that fish had ever been. That’s not something I am used to in the United States.”
I was a hiker.
“We went on a beautiful hike through the mountains and arrived at a lake. It was so hard, informative, and lovely. Along the way, when the incline was too intense for our wheezing lungs, Mario would tell us stories about the land and medicinal plants. They wait seven years before reusing any plot of soil, and in that time they ensure that animals walk through the land in order to re-fertilize it. In the end, we went for a cold dive in the lake. Our systems were shocked, our limbs frozen and tense, but we could not stop smiling.”
I experienced farming.
“Potato farming was very cool. We learned that there are over 100 types of potatoes here, all different sizes, colors, flavors, and textures. Before every planting, the community honors Pachamama (Mother Earth) with coca leaves, placing them under rocks. We tried cultivating the soil, which looked easy but required coordination and power that some of us (including me) unfortunately did not have.”
I was a traveler.
“I love trying new foods. Almost every meal we had a soup appetizer, with different types of beans, squash, and potato mixed in every time. Waking up to a view of mountains and water I have never seen before, and being exposed to a new climate, has been so thrilling.”
I was a friend.
“Here it is SO COLD, at night especially because the heat from the sun is stolen. I am in the room with four other cohort members, and last night we all pushed our beds together to create what we call the ‘mega-bed’. This way we are all a little warmer, or at least a little more connected.”
So, in conclusion:
“The trip here has been so amazing, so short, so tiring, so long. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want this to be my last encounter with this family I already feel so a part of. The mountains and water are so beautiful. The people are so beautiful. Even the cold is so beautiful. Even though this was an excursion, not an organization visit or class, I’ve learned so much.”
I am so grateful for Paru Paru, and to all of Mario and Celestino’s family. I hope to you see you all again 🙂