Today was a great day. After a short run with Joaquin, and a break as everyone else got ready, we headed for Quiquijana (think of saying it like Kiki-hana), a small down about an hour out of Cuzco. Wow, the drive was incredibly beautiful. Driving through the Andes mountain range proves to not disappoint. I’ve been thinking about good ways to connect with God while I’m here, and seeing natural beauty like these mountains just screams of God’s majesty to me. The sheer power and intimidation of the mountains is so great, yet in the Bible it says that He is strong enough that he could even pick up mountains and throw them in the see. In addition to these natural wonders, we passed by some Incan ruins as well. My family was impressed that I knew some of the Spanish songs on the radio, and I knew about the terraced agricultural system when I saw some of them along the side of the road too. I tried getting some good pictures, but it’s always tough in the car. Here’s my favorites of the travel group:
Peruvian road safety...
Mountains and corn fields.
When we got to Quiquijana, we realized we didn’t actually know where to meet everyone. This little town is different than Cuzco. Definitely more impoverished. Many houses seem to be more of the mud-and-stick variety, but that would do in this kind of place. Most are still pretty decent, but they don’t look as sophisticated as most of the Cusquenean houses look. Eventually we went to a little church where everyone was gathered. I spent a few minutes talking to Sandro’s relatives when I just met them, then had the privilege of hearing a worship song in Quechua, the main indigenous language of Peru. That was awesome to me. I’ve always absolutely loved giving praise in languages other than the one I know, but hearing it in such an ancient and eloquent setting was very neat and eye-opening. After the service, I found that it was very easy to distinguish between people groups based on clothing. Those of rural, mountainous backgrounds will wear very bright colors all over, including some very cool hats. The people from the town itself are similar, but they don’t dress in quite as colorful clothes. All of them come to the main plaza on Sundays to sell and buy. This would be a hard life for an Andean native. Only very basic houses, then you would need to walk for 3-4 hours (one way) to get all of your stuff to and from market. To them, I’m sure it’s just their life though. Their Spanish is fairly basic since their main language is Quechua, so it’s hard to communicate well with all people.
With these groups as the backdrop, allow me to paint a picture of how the church segment transitioned into the next phase. People hung outside the church door for a long time. Again, also seems like typical Cuzco. When the church service ended, most people poured out the door to greet the rest of the family. There were non-relatives mixed in too, but the relatives were most important. They have some people of different background, but today the nice suits and nicer clothing dominated. To get to the little party place, we were part of a procession down the road; music and all. It was crazy, walking through those ancient and basic looking streets with a group or people to music. Almost surreal to me. It even started raining lightly at the end, signifying the drama of the situation. Just before arriving, I got to look inside one of the homes with an open door. It didn’t look like anything but adobe with a door cut in it. Dirt floor, no electricity, and I can’t imagine they had running water. This is new territory for me. When we got there, they did some talking about the blessings of Christ on the family and such. Not a format I’m familiar with, but that seems like a cool way to celebrate with your family on an annual basis. My family and I then broke off and went to Sandro’s aunt’s house, where we had some great soup. The dishwasher was a sketchy looking brick sink and the kitchen wasn’t much better. Apparently Sandro spent a good amount of time here during his pre-teen days; no water, no electricity. Can’t even imagine. It was here that I really came to the realization that I’m in a different place. For a long time. This kind of poverty is almost unheard of in the US… Adobe homes, tiny kitchen, and only running water outside. Here’s 2 pictures to illustrate this place:
Later we returned to the main group. This was great fun. They spoke more of the blessings of Jesus, then cracked open the beers and other alcoholic beverages. I was almost surprised at just how much alcohol was there. I had some, but I did manage to fight off some of the rest that was offered to me. Food I can always take, but not beer or liquor. I was pulled onto the dance floor several times by people I don’t know, but the older ladies here are just sweet. The little bit of liquid courage in my veins apparently wasn’t enough to help me dance. Still super awkward and different. I think everyone else enjoyed my feeble attempts, and I was happy to feel like I was a part of what was going on. I love how welcoming everyone has been to me here. Not any family reunion would be that fun and easy for me, especially as a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language perfectly. But I really did enjoy myself. I can also tell that this culture has a higher value on the older individuals than the US often does. Some kids and teenagers danced with their grandparents joyfully, and I just got the feeling that they were respected highly among the community members. I like that too.
This was the party than never ends. After about 6 hours in one place with the live band, we (I was dragged in again) formed another procession, this time to the city square. They danced around there (I attempted, but I don’t think calling it dancing is a fair assessment of my performance) for another hour at least. They also have these annoying little confetti-like things that they throw in everyone’s hair to celebrate the new year as a family. It looks fun and cute since it’s so colorful and exciting, but I imagine I’ll be finding them in my hair for some time. Overall, it was a fantastic day for me. I’m exhausted though… Meeting so many new people is tiring, and even more-so when it’s in another language.