Hello family and friends from the beautiful town of Ocongate,
We took a night bus from Puerto Maldonado and arrived here Saturday, at 4:30 in the morning. Walking off of the bus, we were all a bit shocked. In Puerto Maldonado, it was warm and humid all of the time, but here, it’s the opposite. We’re at around 11,000 feet in elevation, so it’s much more dry and pretty chilly (especially at night and in the mornings before the sun comes out). It’s been tough getting used to the elevation, but we’ve been trying to hydrate ourselves as much as possible.
On Saturday, we began our homestays with Quechua families in this region. It’s hard to describe our homestays, because they are so incredibly different than anything we’ve ever experienced. In the past 4 days, we’ve learned so much, spoken lots of Spanish and tried to speak & understand Quechua, experienced so many new ways of living, and peeled more potatoes than ever before.
We are trying our best to understand their ways of life and live alongside them, instead of being treated like royalty. Consequently, we’ve tried to help cook every meal and clean lots of dishes in the cold morning air, with water that is even colder. We’ve washed our clothes in buckets of water and hung them up in the yard to dry. We’ve sat by our homestay mom (Elena) and grandma (Victoria) while they were weaving clothing and bags to sell. The older women in the household don’t speak much Spanish, but we’ve been able to communicate with the limited vocabulary we both know, hand gestures, and lots of smiles.
Even though this experience has been a total culture shock and nothing like we’ve ever known, we’ve noticed striking similarities between family life here and at home. The family we’re staying with could not be more warm and friendly to us. When we told the grandpa, Asensio, that we we’re staying two extra days because of our change in schedule, he responded with, “¡Perfecto! ¡Todos son familia!” They welcomed us into their lives like family, and we’ve formed bonds with all of them super fast.
In our homestay, there are two young girls who live there. Flor, 8, a vibrant and happy girl, who has a great desire to learn, and has filled up the pages of our notebooks with drawings, and Nina, 11, a beautiful, strong, and intelligent girl with a soft smile and a fantastic role model for Flor. We’ve been able to play with the girls and talk to them in Spanish. On our first day, they came to our group meeting in town with us, a 45 minute walk from home. We’re grateful for their enthusiasm and friendship.
Today is our last full day here, and we’re super sad to leave but excited to venture into Nacion Queros. We’re preparing for our trek today, and hoping that all members of our group will be healthy enough to join us.
Sending lots of love, we’ll keep you updated as we continue to travel through beautiful Peru.
Anso and Teva