Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Living Quechua

Throughout my research on Quechua as a language and culture, with the help of a library professional, I came across a film called Living Quechua that will be available to view later this year, 2015. After my travels to Peru, I have noticed what seems like a global movement for indigenous peoples to reclaim their rights to their own cultures and gain recognition as legitimate communities. I hope that this film, which has already received acclaim, will spread awareness to the struggles that Quechua-speakers and all other indigenous groups face and help move those people to hold on to their roots. Here is the description of the film from Living Quechua's website:
Elva Ambía Rebatta's first language is Quechua, but when she left her town in Peru as a young woman to find work in the United States, speaking Spanish and English became critical for her to survive. While Quechua–a language indigenous to South America–continues to be spoken around the world as a result of such migration stories, UNESCO and other initiatives recognize it as an endangered language. Now in her seventies, Elva decides to help cultivate a Quechua-speaking community in New York City. Living Quechua follows Elva through the challenges and successes of trying to keep Quechua alive.
While millions of people speak Quechua, it is still considered to be an endangered language. What has happened, which I confirmed by talking to others, is that many people from Quechua-speaking families do not speak the language very well. There are a multitude of reasons behind this. For a long time, Quechua was not recognized as an official language of Peru. It was not taught in schools, nor did parents always pass the language on to their children due to cultural stigma. Because of this, many children grow up being able to speak neither Quechua nor Spanish with desired proficiency. Obviously, this can feed into the cycle of poverty since language is a huge factor in monetary success. This is a really interesting topic, which is why I am so excited for this film.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I'm Engaged!

My lovely astronomer, Ryan, flew over to Peru to visit me. Despite us both being sick, we had many adventures traveling to Cusco, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, and finally Lima.

Ryan proposed to me in Machu Picchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes. It is the little tourist town at the bottom of the Machu Picchu archaeological site. There is a beautiful little church there that I had entered the time before when I visited the town. It was quiet and had beautiful religious art. I loved it for the life-sized crucifix of the "black Christ" in the style of Spanish Realism. The statue had real hair and a painful expression that evoked deep emotion in those kneeling in prayer.

I wanted to show Ryan this church, which had no name posted. We walked up the aisle and knelt down to pray. As we were praying (and Ryan needed a considerable amount of prayer to mull over what he was going to say), he leaned over to me and whispered to me to ask if he could interrupt me. Then, he asked if he could be my life companion in marriage. It was a beautiful moment that I will cherish my entire life.

Now we're both back in the US. It feels strange to be home and about to start classes again. All of my adventures abroad have ceased, and I feel as if I've awaken from a dream, and instead of feeling like being home, I feel a sense of nowhereness. 

I suppose this "nowhereness" could also be categorized as "inbetweenness." I am in between states of being. I carry the experiences of Peru in my heart, and nobody around me will fully understand. I am now an engaged woman, which is not quite single but not quite married either. I am young—young enough to be looked at as a "young person" but old enough to deal with adult responsibilities. And yet, I still feel ill-prepared. I come back to my home feeling like I don't belong. However, when I look down at the ring on my finger, I start to think fondly of what the future could bring—a true home and a companion in the struggles of inbetweenness that will likely not stop, but metamorphose, perhaps into something quite beautiful.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Long Awaited Rain Forest Post

When I got the email from the study abroad organization asking if I would like to spend extra money to visit the Peruvian Amazon, I asked, "Will we be visiting la Isla de los Monos?" "Yes," they replied. I was sold by Monkey Island, the place where multiple breeds of monkeys saved from poaching dwell. It was a dream for the little Katie inside my heart who said this is your chance to become their monkey queen and feed them and hold them and love them. I didn't hold them, but I did feed them, as glimpsed in the video below. 

You see, the Amazon wasn't exactly the trip that I had hoped it would be, mostly do to diarrhea. Sometimes that occurs when one travels and happens to unsafe food that was deemed safe by the host organization. Not thinking anything of it at first because I already have issues, I let it go until it was too late to see a doctor due to the nonrefundable Amazon trip. So, I spent a lot of time in the jungle either in pain, on the toilet, avoiding food, and/or sleeping.

When I did venture out with the group to go on an incredible jungle trek, I felt like I was Indiana Jones. By the way, the movies don't show the after effects of very realistic parasites that Indiana Jones must have had. If you want a simple introduction, everything in the jungle can kill you! We walked through the mud for two and a half hours. It was mud that was so thick that it ate someone's boot. I got stuck in the mud twice and needed to call for reinforcements to help me out. The mud was also slippery when it coated other surfaces, so it was incredibly difficult to keep from falling into the mud pits. This would naturally force you to have to cling on to nearby tree trunks, but wait! If you clung onto certain tree trunks, giant ants would come out and vigorously defend their homes by biting you into oblivion! Other tree trunks had two inch black spikes covering the trunk. I learned that the hard way!

Finally when we made it out of subtropical purgatory, after glimpsing sloths, aardvarks, and other creatures, we emerged through the trees to explore Lake Sandoval by boat. We saw caimans and a variety of birds around the lake while we got to sit in the boat and take a break.

"Stinky Bird," which looks like a phoenix
After we boated along the large and thriving lake, we arrived to the entrance of a lodge, where I claimed a comfortable hammock. My body molded to that hammock like melting butter, and I took one of the best naps. 

When we got back from our trek, we did a little zip lining up in the canopy, and I climbed across a wobbly rope bridge to a beautiful lookout. I stayed at the lookout for a few minutes to sit and reflect on the sheer volume of wildlife around me and how blessed I was to experience it, but there was a tinge of sadness in the feeling of awe. This was truly a privilege, thinking of the future generations who will not have the opportunity to witness it in the same condition that I had due to deforestation, mining, oil, and other factors contributing to the destruction of the Rain forest.

What an interesting thought that if I return, the Amazon rain forest will be weaker than it once was. The air will be a little less clean, the forest a little less abundant, the animals a little more threatened, and the uncontacted tribes a little more aware of the outside world and the slow death of their home. There will be a day when the Amazon rain forest dies, and I hope I never live to see that day.

What a sad and beautiful world in which we live.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What Next?

I am back in the States now, but I still have a few more Peru posts I have not uploaded. I will upload those and maybe some reflection posts on the whole experience. I would like to keep this blog going in the future as I consider applying for a Fulbright grant (most likely in Peru). Stay tuned!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Where Have I Been?

Whoa, the time has passed! Ryan is coming tomorrow, and I still have not posted about many things. I will in due time. I've been very busy lately. I will explain:

So, after a month and a half of living with my host family, I decided to leave their home. I had a lot of problems with the host mother, so I packed my bags, left a note on my bed, and left. I don't want to go into too much detail, but my host mother was very controlling and demeaning and accused me of things I did not do. I felt uncomfortable in the home, and I finally decided to leave for a new host family where I could enjoy the last two weeks of the program.

This new host family has been great! They make me feel like a part of the family, and I feel comfortable being in the home. Meanwhile, I had been fulfilling my requirements for the service learning placement at the school. I made friends with teachers and got into the swing of things just to end so quickly! It is bittersweet that the program has to end so soon.

This week is going to be very special not only because Ryan arrives, but also because Peru is celebrating their independence. There are going to be parades and big celebrations. Speaking of, I got to march with my volunteer placement like a true Peruvian! Afterwards, all the teachers ate Chiriuchu (a vegetarian's worst nightmare) and drank booze courtesy of the school into the evening, and I got to dance Salsa with the director.

The kids of HVU in the plaza

Until next update...

¡Viva el Perú!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Not Another "Vamos" Tour: Chacan and Devil's Balcony

This trip has been filled with "vamos" tours. At Machu Picchu, the act of taking a picture or slowing down was followed by "vamos!" At Pisac and Ollantaytambo, "vamos!" was all we heard. It was "vamos!" all the way from the bus and back. Coming out of the restaurant at Urubamba, I was heading to the bus and got told "vamos" when I wasn't even the last one out. We did a lot of hurrying up just so we could wait. Taking in the sites was not an option unless you wanted to be left behind, and I have been a couple of times! I am sick of hearing "vamos," so this trek to Chacan and Devil's Balcony was a nice change of pace.

We took a taxi to the bus stop for Sacsaywaman, and just before we got on the bus, a mother carrying a little boy on her back passed us. This little boy had a had with a bear and the embroidered numbers of "222" on his hat. This may sound strange, but these numbers repeat themselves a lot through my life, and they're appeared at odd moments. I heard they symbolize the Trinity, and I saw them just after I prayed for our safety and being able to feel connected to God on this trip. It was uncanny, the way it happened. 

We hiked up through Sacsaywaman, stopping to explore a little on the way. Then, we followed our little hand written, scavenger-hunt style directions. Some of the directions said things like "pass the jumbled stone blocks," and we kept seeing stones and thinking "which ones?" We hiked up a steep hill and past a herd of sheep and an unhappy sheep dog. As we trekked on, looking at all the beauty around us, we got closer to a small village. When we reached the village, we followed a water channel all the way up to the site. 

Along the way, we encountered many obstacles, including animals. It was like being in The Odyssey. A barking dog kept us from taking the wrong path, and then we happened upon a field of bulls. We saw llamas and donkeys grazing as well as a group of pigs. Thanks to Sarah, my hiking partner, we found the actual site past the group of pigs. 

We climbed through a small cave at the top, which overlooked the gorge. When we got out and walked down to the water, we peeked around the corner to see this huge cave appear from nowhere! We tried to enter inside, but steep smooth rocks and a waterfall drop off kept us from going further, for the time being. I managed to find a way inside. We had to take our shoes off and walk through the creek into the cave and out to the other side. 

When we came back out of the cave, we encountered a shaman ceremony, and a random dog led us to Incan stones and to the path we needed to get back. We foraged our own Andean mint, we scaled the side of a wall, and we found our way back wandering through terraced farms with the sounds of donkeys and goats and the smell of mint and eucalyptus in the air. Aside from the farmers and shepherds, we hardly saw anyone. We did all of this by ourselves without the help of a guide, and we succeeded. It was the most memorable part of the trip.

We got the chance to feel the stones and sit for a while and listen to the sounds, eating kiwis and trail mix in the grass. It was time to absorb the energy around us and reflect. This is what hiking in the Andes should be about. It should be about walking on foot, perhaps getting slightly lost, and having a personalized experience without someone yelling "vamos" in your ear. I felt like I experienced authentic Peru, and I will remember this for the rest of my life.