Crumbling houses made from red adobe clay dot the countryside. Roofs, unfurled in the colder months, are blue plastic tarps. Sometimes the more permanent option-- tin roofs--are held on by heavy stones from the mountains. Most houses don’t have windows (too cold, or too wet, depending on the season). The floors are dirt, and most here co-exist with livestock wandering in and out of the living quarters. Kitchens often house a stove or fire pit (and an average of 20 cuys--guinea pigs reserved for roasting on special occasions-- scurrying around). There is often no ventilation, due to the inclement weather, so respiratory problems abound.
Based on American standards of living, simply put, these folks are dirt poor. So, after stating the obvious, let me tell you a story about their rich character: When Laura had her baby, I wanted to buy her flowers. Michael and I checked with several tiendas around the village about where to pick some up. No luck. Out of options, we went by the market to buy some fruit for dinner, and we asked the vendor if she knew of a place. Another negative, but she said, in broken Spanish and Quetchua, that she would help.
She consulted with a few women in the market and then motioned for us to follow. Leaving her stand unattended, she guided us across the village, where we finally arrived at a rickety gate and a slim, stinky dog standing guard.
She hollered in Quetchua. A few minutes later emerged a weathered old woman. With at least 100 years to her credit, she hobbled to the gate. A few words were exchanged, and then we waited. We watched the old woman retrieve a rusty scythe. We peaked through the slats in the gate and saw her head toward the back of the shack where nature bowed some of her most gorgeous foliage. Slowly and precisly, she cut 12 of the most beautiful blooms we'd ever seen from her trees.
Brimming with flowers, she came to the gate and laid them in my arms.
WOULD THIS EVER HAPPEN IN THE STATES? Michael and I were shocked by her kindness. (Isn't this sad that we were shocked??)We've become so cynical about our fellow man given the Bernie Madoffs of the world, the increasing crime in our neighborhood, the school shootings, etc. that when someone went out of their way to help us (and then refused to take any money for it), we were surprised by their grace. But this has happened over and over again to us in Curahuasi. The people here have such generous spirits.
photo captions: cuy (guinea pig) for dinner. an ancient incan tradition on special occasions. this little guy was prepared for us by the sweetest peruvian family on the night before we left cusco. the floating reed islands of uros on lake titicaca. the lost city of the incas- machu piccu. random shed- a lawn mower, some trash, a skull. yikes!