¡Buenos días! Yesterday our morning started bright and early, heading out of Casita Huarán at around 8am. Our lovely friend Jesus drove us to the trail head where we started our journey to Cancha Cancha. The way up took us about three hours, and the trail was largely uphill, all of us climbing up and sniffling a lot (a cold spread its way through our group these past couple of weeks)! We had our first llama and alpaca sightings along the way, and took plenty of breaks to shed and put on layers of clothing as we ascended to around 13,000 feet.
Our arrival to Cancha Cancha was a relief and a joy. We were greeted by a few of the locals and three young boys that wandered out of the kindergarten building at just the right time. The village consists of about 50 families, most of which are just young children and adults because the local school only goes through elementary school. The schoolchildren were about to eat lunch, which for them was a sopita (soup) and some goodies that the owner of Casita Huarán, Tania, had brought up for them. Four of us went into the small room where all the students were eating and passed out oranges, apples, passionfruit, bread, hard-boiled eggs, and some dulces (sweets). Cancha Cancha is a Quechua speaking community, but the older kids spoke a little more Spanish than the younger ones so we were able to communicate just enough to learn a few names and ages. They were very patient with our broken Spanish, and had a blast laughing at our accents!
After sharing a meal with the teachers and students, we started getting ready to head back to Huarán when one of the teachers came out and told us that the kids wanted to dance for us! We went inside, sat on the floor of the classroom, and were treated to a very sweet traditional dance performance. The teacher also gave a touching speech in which he welcomed us all back to Cancha Cancha at any time. Afterwards, I went over to the giggling group of girls and boys and snagged some high fives. Turns out high fives translate across all languages!
Our hike down was dusty, talkative and hilarious, pensive and calm. We shared laughs and observations, took pictures with llamas, and reflected on the meaning of our visit to Cancha Cancha. Seeing the way the community opened their arms to us with genuine compassion and respect and shared their culture with us was truly moving. During the return a few friends gave me the “No Drama Llama” award for not complaining and maintaining a positive attitude despite being a self-proclaimed hater of hiking (the name of the “award” came from a luggage tag that hangs from my backpack).
Upon returning, our instructors told us that they had donated a part of our budget to Tania in order to buy the children warmer clothing. This was the first time that we as a group had been involved in learning service, and in this final reflection circle together we were able to think on what we wanted our impact to be here in Peru and how we could accomplish that. Right before we all went to dinner, our instructors lit five candles on the table in front of us, and for the next half hour or so the room became a quiet, meditative space for those who chose to be in it. That day and evening was the most connected I’ve felt to our group since arriving in Peru, and it reminded me of why I chose to be here and the many amazing things we still have ahead of us in the coming months. I am so grateful for the community we have formed together, the ones we’ve gotten the opportunity to be a part of, and those we’ve yet to encounter. Here’s to the next three months!