From the minute we landed in Chijnaya we have been welcomed with open arms, hugs, smiles and laughter. Talk about being enveloped in the arms of an entire community. Our welcoming reception was so much fun, with hugs, confetti, a special band, dancing, and a communal meal with the entire town. Lots of the usual flowery, lengthy speeches by the mayor and other local dignitaries, a declarative poem by a 9-year old boy (who forgot the words half way through but received warm applause nonetheless) and a seemingly unending national anthem. TWICE as long as the Salvadoran anthem, which we always thought held all records.
Huge soup pots were carried from different homes to the community center where we all ate together. First, alpaca stew (gosh, and they are so cute...) with reconstituted dried purple potatoes and regular white potatoes with quinoa as a thickener. Then a separate dish of rice and yet another member of the potato family which looked much like a Jerusalem artichoke, with some carrots. Both were delicious, and no harmful effects today. More speeches after lunch, and then the 10 families whose turn it was to host a volunteer took turns drawing names out of a hat to see which of us stayed with them. Photos, laughter, and applause. The only young man on our team was assigned to a single young woman through this lottery system and everyone one loved it. (She is Zenobia, the Chijnaya representative at the Folk Art Market last year in Santa Fe). This is truly a dirt poor village, and I am so hoping to be able to help them increase their income. They have so many hopes for me -- I was a bit terrified after their inspirational speeches about my being here, but I have decided I am just going to do what I know how to do, give it my all, that I am here for a reason in the larger sense, and just let things happen.
My family is an extended one as are most families here. The parents are about my age, their son and his wife and their child, a little girl of about 7, all live here. It's so much easier now than it was in the Peace Corps to always be the center of attention, to be their entertainment. They want to watch, look and listen at everything I do, wear and have! The house has a wondeful blue door. My room is great, adobe brick floors, stuccoed adobe walls painted mint green, a comfortable bed (hopefully), a desk, and....a television in my room??? There is one satellite receiver in town, and one channel changer, so........the images are sent into each home and everyone watches the same channel for one whole week! A comittee decides which channel is next. No women on that committee, lots of soccers games are the choice or so I am told. I am leaving mine off. No cell phones here,there was one computer for village use in the school but the government (who paid for it) cancelled as there wasn't enough usage. I brought school supplies for gifts and will go wander over today.
No way to bathe that I can determine. The bathroom is hardly that, just a hole in the ground in a tin hut. With a hose from the well. Sufficient, if kept clean. We were told to bring lots of Purell and baby wipes, which we did. I'll probably wear the same clothes night and day to stay warm! Always interesting to remember how lucky we are in our country. And how really simple subsistence level existence is for so many billions of people in the roughly $1 a day and under category of our world.
I couldn't ask for anything better in a counterpart.He is the president of the artisans committee. Hugo is 35, married, and I go their his house today for our first official meeting in town. We shopped together in Cuzco for a day for materials for our pillows, looking at all the color choices, natural dyes, alpaca yarns, etc. and feel at ease with each other. He is bright, quick and completely enthusiastic. Last night he watched the demonstration video that I made of Herbie in Santa Fe about how to create covered pillow cording on a continuous bias strip (TMI, I know) and got it instantly. He sews on a Singer sewing machine, which is HAND powered, he embroiders, and he also does the macho thing with his own cow herd. Delightful guy and quick to respond.
Speaking of cows, the definitive aroma in town, in my room, and soon, I am sure, in my hair, is that of cow dung, fresh and dried. Add into that alpaca, donkey, pig and sheep dung. Cow dung is used as fuel, and so the flavor is constantly enveloping the town. Guess I'll learn to not even notice it.
I brought a mummy bag, a fleece outer bag, and my own pillow, and they put about 50 pounds of blankets on my surprisingly comfortable bed, so cold I was not during the night . They scrubbed everything so well, and bought a new plastic tablecloth for my desk. I have my own little desk and chair for working on images, and pillow designs, and I'm completely comfortable. The family just opens my door and comes in without preamble, so I asked if they wouldn't mind knocking first. Of course they would knock first! So they knock and instantly burst right in with about 1/2 seconds' notice.......
Their day starts when the sun comes up, around 5:30, which is also when it goes down. They milk the cows between 6-8 and take the milk to their 'queseria' or cheese factory, which is their major source of income in additional to folk art. They milk by hand, and earn S 1.20 (soles) or .$35 cents American for each litre they bring in. About $20 a day. My neighbor milked 60 litres this morning from the cows in her yard. Everyone jumps on their bikes at around 8 - 10 am and drives the heavy plastic covered buckets filled with milk to the factory. Then, they all walk their herds out to pasture (no horses) for the day and it starts all over again tomorrow. Quite a phenomenon!