I wrote this last night, September 14th.
Today, a group of volunteers went to a small village called Patacancha for weaving lessons, lunch, and to see the village. Patacancha is about an hour drive from Ollanta, so we took up a large van full of us. This is one of the main places where the weavings are bought from in the organization. When we got there, several women were outside weaving and also had many pieces along with them which were available to buy. After looking around, most of the people had a weaving lesson with an individual weaver. I opted out of this, but it was good to watch (and I got to help out with preparing the lunch). The weavings done by the women are extremely well made and are very nice. They make everything from small bracelets to bags to ponchos. Watching them spin the wool, start weaving, and then watching the process was very cool to see. They make some amazing things.
For lunch, we (or mostly the locals) cooked something they call pachamanca. Pachamanca in Quecha, I believe, means Earth. So this meal is actually made using a bunch of earth. What they do is build a big sphere of rocks 2 feet tall or so, light a fire the middle, and the let the rocks get extremely hot (this is the same process you can use with coals in a grill). After they get hot enough, you break down the rocks, then throw in your chicken wrapped in foil, and then put some bananas on top. After this, put some hay on top, then plastic coverings, and then cover it with dirt. So then all you see is what looks like a big pile of dirt. After about an hour or a bit more, finished! Kind of like the rotisserie, “Set it and forget it!”. Then you have delicious chicken, bananas, and potatoes that were cooked on it before.
When buying chicken here, the skin is always on it along with some extra feathers that weren’t taken off. So beforehand, we were pulling out the feathers of the chicken while getting a decent amount of blood on our hands. Just made the process even more fun.
It was definitely a good experience going here. It’s a very different way of life there, and it really makes me question the way we live. Most of the houses here don’t have electricity, and of course no TV and obviously not many radios. But the people are happy. They live off their land and the animals they raise. They’re extremely community and family focused. What they have seems to be quite enough for them. I think it’s easy to look at them and feel sorry that they don’t have the same standards of living as us. Besides the health issues (in general, just the lack of knowledge of what to do and not to do), maybe there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Maybe they feel sorry for us when we come into their village with all these cameras and cell phones and we focus more on those than anything else. Just something to think about.