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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Q’eros changed me

Reflecting on our 5 day glimpse into the beautiful Naciones Q’eros, here is an idea of how Qeros has and will continue to change me:

After an incredibly long 5 days, my life has been changed. As cliche as it sounds, everything about my time in Q’eros has changed me.

The weather: the rain, the snow, the hail, the fog, the cold, the glimpses of sun. The weather in Q’eros was something that I was worried about before we arrived. Before entering Q’eros, we were warned many times of the extreme cold and wetness of Q’eros. As it is now rainy season in Peru, and the high altitude of Q’eros, I was expecting some rain and cold nights, however never could i have imagined or expected the amount of rain and the cold the wetness would make me feel. My time in the Nation in the Clouds specifically changed me definition of wet and concept of cold.

The animals: the llamas, the alpacas, the vicunas, the sheep, the cows, the dogs. The animals in Q’eros were so much more than what I expected. The llamas, alpaca, sheep, and cows were all grazing the green terrain of the deep valleys and massive mountains that surrounded us as we hiked from community to community. The llamas also carried our belongings as we traveled between communities in los Naciones for the 5 days. They struggled through the rain with our packs on their backs to make it easier for us. The rare sighting of 2 wild vicunas on our way out was also something very special to see. The dogs that welcomed us into each community also bravely protected their people, land, and animals. Finally, the sheep, especially the 3 that were sacrificed in a Pacha Manka, so that we, and the community could enjoy a very special lunch. The sheep taught us the sadness and pain that so many animals experience for the sake of food, but also the honor and bravery of being part of being part of a ceremony to honor, respect, and thank Pachamama (mother earth). It was my first time seeing an animal die like that, and my first time being a part of an animal sacrifice. With silent tears streaming down my face, I cried for the animals while I honored them as a sacrifice. At the beginning of this program when we discussed our comfort levels and the parts of the trip that might be difficult for us, this animal sacrifice was something I expected to struggle with. I did not think I would be able to watch, and I never expected to actually eat a part of the animal sacrifice (especially as a vegetarian), however Q’eros changed me. The respect for the animals and the land in this sacrifice for Pachamama made this experience so important. My time in Q’eros changed the way I see and appreciate animals and life.

The landscape: the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the greenery. The landscape throughout Q’eros never stopped to amaze me. I have never seen a land so beautiful, with the snow in the mountain peaks and the height of everything that surrounded us. It was like a piece of heaven on earth. Everything so green with waterfalls flowing into rivers flowing into lakes that pooled at every low point. The basically untouched beauty with potato fields near the small rock homes with thatched roofs only added to the spectacular scenery around us. Q’eros changed my expectations of nature and everything that it can be.

Last but not least, the people. The people in Q’eros changed how I saw indigenous people and their lives. They lived so simply, but with so much joy.  It was not the physical things they had that filled their lives, but the family and community that surrounded them. I can never be grateful enough for the opportunity to catch a glimpse into their lives, even just for a short amount of time. My experience in Q’eros was beyond what I could have ever imagined.