It was dark out as we trudged uphill watching the storm roll in from across the lake. We had to hurry to make it in before the rain. The local people helped us sit in an open trailer, pulled by nothing more than a small scooter. Thunder crashed as the six of us visitors held onto each other with the trailer hugging the side of the narrow twisting road. At one point our scooter stopped working and the trailer we were in started to roll down the hill towards the cliff. They jumped out preventing the trailer from falling or rolling backwards and a few minutes later we were back up and running. They dropped us off in groups of two; my roommate Esther and I were last. Just missing the rain we were shown into our bedroom and asked to wait.
The room was large, clean, had two nicely made beds and an ensuite bathroom (though bucket flush toilet). Our bedroom took up 1/3 of their house and so it was evident that running home-stays like this was a large part of their income and not a true example of how they really lived. Lightning crashed and our power flickered out. We had no idea what to do so we sat in the dark room waiting. A young girl, around 12 years old came into the room, she did not speak English, we did not speak Spanish, but we were good enough at charades to we understand it was time for dinner. We grabbed our headlamps and headed into the kitchen.
The kitchen was small; not nearly enough room for a 5 person family. After giving our newly acquiredhome-stay momma the gifts we brought her from the market in Puno, we were ushered into our seats at the table against the wall. Our adopted papa sat at the table with us and the 3 kids took their seats on small stools in the corner. We hung our headlamps from a lamp for some light and our momma passed us around bowls of potato soup. We all attempted to communicate throughout dinner and laughed at our misunderstandings. It was strange to me to see the small dirty kitchen with all the food being cooked on an open fire and our momma cooking a second course as we sat joking. This was definitely a different experience for me. When it was bedtime, we peered into the main room of the house; pilled full of things, furniture, general clutter, not nearly enough space again for the 5 people who lived there.
Partly due to the fact that we had gone to bed at 9:00 the night before and because of the donkey who brayed outside my window I was up at day break. I came out of my room to enjoy the view from the top of Anamanti. Momma was making fresh bread and the 2 little girls came over to play with me so I showed them some gymnastics outside until out papa came and asked us to feed the donkey. I followed my 12 year old guide to pick up some reeds and run them up the hill to the donkey. Lake Titicaca sits at 4000m and I couldn’t help but be out of breath and struggling to keep up with my new friend who would turn back to giggle at me as we climbed. Evidently she had done this before. Once we were returned from our task the girls brought me a bucket of water which they used to wash their arms and faces. They gave me a comb and I put their hair into traditional braids for them. Esther was up by now and so we crammed back into the kitchen for breakfast, fried bread with delicious strawberry jam. It was time for the kids to go to school so they came out and gave us a hug goodbye. They walked to school here almost 5km one way; every day because that’s just what they did. This was far from my normal routine at that age, getting up and watching cartoons until my dad drove us to school.
After breakfast we followed our papa up the hill; we were going to herd the sheep. He instructed us on how totie a single rope onto one of the sheep’s leg and so we snuck up on them grabbing and tying the legs as we were taught until we had finished our task. Then we waved goodbye to momma who stayed home as we herded the sheep with open arms and an “sshhhh shhhh” sound. We must have walked like this for an hour or so until we found a spot and the fun started. We were to sneak up and then dive bomb the sheep 2 at a time staking them to the ground. Only somewhat successful, as we snuck, dove and missed. It was clear that our papa was enjoying this as he would dive, miss, and roll on the ground laughing. Just because he works all day doesn’t mean he does not enjoy himself. It took us a lot of running, falling and laughing but eventually we got all the sheep tied down.
When we finished our task, our papa decided to let us enjoy the sunny day by inviting us on a walk up and around the island to point out different places of his past. We talked about his wife and his family, sat and enjoyed the sun, and even took a bunch of selfies. We casually walked down to our family’s farm land where we were taught to dig potatoes. After a couple attempts at digging them up from the land our papa laughed at our fails and took the pick away from us. We then cleaned out our crops, put them in a bag, which we tied to our backs and walked uphill (out of breath again) and home.
Momma was happy to see our crops and brought us a bucket ofwater and knives to peel them with. We washed MOST of our potatoes and pathetically attempted to peel them. We sat giggling as they made jokes about our bad kitchen skills until we ran out of peeling time. We went to clean up and get ready for lunch where we were served our own boiled, mangled potatoes. After some tea it was time to go home.
This was one experience I really appreciated as it provides some insight into lives outside of our own. Growing up in a middle class western household makes comfort the norm. It is in places like these that we appreciate where we come from the most. The hosts however share their smiles with us every day, our papa and momma clearly in love and the children as happy as can be. It just goes to show, it is not about what you do, it’s how you do it and who you share it with; Lesson’s from the Road.
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