Brent Akins in Peru – PART II
Master weaver, board member, student sponsor, and father of Mosqoy’s director – finally made a trip to Peru, to see the impact Mosqoy has had over the past six years. Here, he shares the unforgettable experiences that he and his wife Marka (also a student sponsor and Ashli’s mother) walked away with. Read Brent’s bio
PART TWO: We’re climbing up that???
The main reason for coming to Peru, of course, was to witness first-hand the impact that Mosqoy and Q’ente have had on the people of the Sacred Valley. We were not disappointed. Every Mosqoy student and family we met greeted us with such warmth and gratefulness; it was apparent that each family touched by Mosqoy has had an immensely positive experience, and that those experiences in turn directly influenced the communities in which they lived. By sponsoring one student, an entire community benefits.
Our first lunch with a student’s family was at the home of Eurelesis, a Mosqoy 4 student. She and Ashli walked us to her house in Ollantaytambo via the community oven (see photo below). Most homes don’t have their own ovens, so everyone brings their roastings here to be cooked. Eurelesis’ family served us our first guinea pig, or “cuy.” Cuy is a luxury in Peru, only eaten for special occasions, so we knew right away how important it was for them to meet Ashli’s parents. They gave us a tour of their house, and treated us like family. We felt like very special honoured guests.
The next day we started out on a 2-day trip to experience Ashli’s real work in Peru. Huaran is a small community about an hour’s drive from Ollantaytambo. Here, we stayed at Frida’s Place, a small farm and guesthouse run by Frida’s daughter, Urpi.
Ashli had arranged for me to take a weaving lesson that afternoon with Andres, a local weaver from Huaran. He brought all the necessary supplies. We began outside in a field, making the loom and then warping it. That was the easy part. My appreciation for Andean backstrap weaving quickly went from being amazed to being totally bewildered at how they can produce such beautiful weavings. Andres was so patient; I think in the four hours that he worked with me, I managed to weave a couple of inches of a belt! But he stuck with me and I now have a beautifully unfinished memory to hang in my weaving studio back home!
One of our priorities was to experience what Ashli does nearly every week: Hike to one of Q’ente’s weaving villages. The following morning, we began our trek from Huaran to Cancha Cancha, a Quechua village high in the Andes above Huaran. Joined by Katheryn, Elizabeth (one of our sponsor students) and Luzmila, a Mosqoy student from Cancha Cancha, we climbed and climbed. In total, the nine-kilometre uphill hike increased almost 1,000 metres, as we reached Cancha Cancha’s 4,000-metre elevation. Evidently, this is the easiest hike Ashli does, getting to Cancha Cancha in 3 hours. How long did it take us? Well, let’s just say that we started at the crack of dawn and by the time we got up there, there wasn’t much time to rest and enjoy it before returning, if we didn’t want to hike back in the dark! (Actually, we did end up in the pitch black for the last half hour!)
The view was absolutely beautiful when we rounded the corner at the top and Cancha Cancha came into view. Community members greeted us with their customary smiles and served tea and soup, while Ashli offered them cheese and bread, and we presented our ‘Canadian’ gifts of maple syrup and chocolates. It is a nice custom we’re missing in North America: Never go to anyone’s house without offering a gift! In the middle of Ashli’s meeting with the weavers, we were treated to a sampling of their wares (from which we purchased a few weavings) before heading back down the trail.
Luzmila made this trek possible for Marka. She led her father’s horse, providing great relief from hiking when necessary. It was wonderful to spend the whole day with both Mosqoy students, Elizabeth & Luzmila, getting to know them and their communities.
TO BE CONTINUED…