So Andahuaylillas…Photos at the bottom. Located about a 40 minutes drive to the south of Cusco is located in the Quispicanchi Valley is situated between two mountains in a valley coming off the main valley through Quispicanchi. There are two other towns we work with (Huaro and Urcos) that are about 5 and 8 kilometers respectively to the south of Andahuaylillas. I don’t know the names of the rivers or mountains yet, but I will be picking those up as time goes on. Everything is currently very very green and it is almost time for the corn to be picked. We’re in the middle of the rainy season and it rains every day. Some days it’s a brief down pour in the afternoon, and other days (like today) it is a slow and steady drizzle. It gets cold at night, probably around 40° or a bit lower. And when there are clouds in the morning things are slow to warm up. I’ve heard that the dry season is a bit warmer during the day and a bit colder at night (sub freezing).
We´ve been here now 8 days. The first few days were spent getting used to the altitude (around 10,000 feet) and explore our surroundings. We also took a trip into Cusco on Saturday to look around. While the school year doesn’t start until the 7th of March we started working on Monday. Mateo and Mal headed off to Fe y Alegría to meet the staff and begin prepping for the school year. Jess, Cara, and I met with Padre Oscar to discuss things that needed to get done before the students started coming. My main job will be helping to run the comedor in the parish, but there will be many other things that I/we end up doing. Helping with Catecesis, Confirmations, First Communion, El Camino Ignacio (Ignation formation for older students), after-school programs, programming for parents designed to give them alternatives to alcohol, tutoría program to help accompany the students who come to the parish after school (keeping track of their health, appearance, grades, and being responsive to their home situations)…among other things. While I don’t know yet what everything entails, it will prove to be a busy experience with programming on every day of the week.
Since Monday I have spent the days hiking up into the valley visiting the indigenous towns. Many of the students in Andahuaylillas come from these towns, and the comedor´s main focus is to provide nutritious lunches to these students. To this end we (Silvia and Yusi and I) have been taking a colectivo up the mountain for about 30 min and then hiking further up to towns we need to visit. Then we essentially knock on every door asking for the students who commute down to Andahuaylillas every day for school. Then we explain the comedor and sign up the students if the parents want their children in the comedor. Most do because it only cost about 2 USD per month for each student, and if the parents don’t have the money to pay this, they can pay in products like corn or potatoes. Yusi speaks Quechua so when we encounter parents who don´t speak Spanish she is able to communicate who we are and what we´re doing.
It has been an incredible experience to hike through the valley getting to know where the majority of students that I will work with come from. They live in a gorgeous land, but the life they lead is hard. It is a life of subsistence farming…living day to day on what you bring in from your farm. And the farms are situated in the valley as well as up the mountain sides. I think the highest up I’ve seen a patch of potatoes growing is about 700-1,000 feet up from the valley floor. Most houses are made of adobe bricks and are 2 stories (probably because of the rains and flooding that can occur). They have dirt floors and there are farm animals everywhere. I’m still trying to figure out how they keep track of which pig or chicken belongs to who because they are all simply allowed to roam free. One of the days we hiked up to where the electricity ends and thought that we had reached the end of communities in this valley, but on the way back down we learned that there was another community even further up the mountain which we will have to return to later.
— The bell tower is in the background with CCAIJO in front.
— Inside the Sistine Chapel of the Americas…the two oldest organs in the Amiercas are located to the right and left. Lots more later on the history of this church and the decorations. This is where I work!
— Found the land then a ortunatedly they are a 30 min car ride and then a 1.5 hour hike from where I live. Hoping to find some closer to home.