So this is me, 20 years old, tall and blonde (so to speak: undoubtedly foreign) and another time falling in love with South America. After way too many options for my indecisive mind, I ended up spending my summer in Cusco, the middle of Peru, and I must say it was a great decision. A lot has already happened in the month since my arrival, and I’m looking forward to two more months full of adventures in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.
What has fascinated me the most so far was the contrast: the contrast of Inca Capital Cusco and rural villages, the contrast of generations, the contrast of tourism and history, and the one of tranquility and festival beats.
Visiting many different homes in Andean mountain communities, I was able to experience the traditional lifestyle, their daily routine, way of thinking and positive attitude. What a unique little world! All of a sudden, you realize, how little actually is necessary to live. A thought, that totally left the mind of citizens of today’s commercialized, fast-moving and globalized world. Even though I could buy the same shampoo and Cornflakes somewhere in the middle of Peru, most families I got to know here still live from what they grow in the fields in front of their house. They use their bulls and wooden instruments (that I remember from agricultural museums back home) to work their fields. And instead of markets, they just trade crops and meat with neighbors. The houses are simple, with dirt floors and self-made stoves that use wood fire to cook. Bathrooms consist of a hole in the floor hidden by a wall and a piece of plastic. Rural community politics are mostly under the oldest man’s rule, and everyone in the village lives together like a family.
It’s is a different world, but a lovely one. It might sound uncomfortable, boring or way too simple for most of us coming from the western world, but it is amazing. Tranquil. Beautiful. And much less stressful. The problems we are used to face in our rushed cities, the stress caused by the strive for success, superiority, wealth, happiness, health or perfection, don’t exist somewhere like Tanccac, where animals and humans live under the same roof. You sleep and wake up with the sun shining from the mountains and work hard until harvest season. There is no noise at night, but there clearly is the Milky Way. On the other hand, medicine, education and development are as backwards as the housing. And the young generation wants to get out, do something different, change things. They dream of opening businesses, market their products, work with tourists or improve their country’s health system. There are many dreamers, but also doers. The NGO I do communications for right now helps those 18-25 year olds to chase their dreams and go to university in Cusco, get a degree and a better job in the future. One day they might come back to their community and support the local development. With no economic resources and extremely limited access to public universities (the acceptance rate is around 0.01%), most people have no chance to get higher education. Rent in Cusco is expensive, and the fees for private institutes even more, so the only chance for them is to go through NGOs and other social programs. Living in the same house with such students, I can tell how ambitious and clear their goals are, and how much they deserve being here in the Sacred Valley Capital, that I am so happy to spend my summer in.
Cusco itself is amazing: It is a vibrant mix of culture, history, traditions, colors, and nationalities. The center is full of people from all over the world, many of which have come to stay. The combination of Incan traditional architecture with Spanish settlers’ construction lets no doubt why most of the city is UNESCO heritage. And the sights… Cusco, even though already on 3500m above sea level, is surrounded by mountains to all sides – and the flight to get here is absolutely spectacular! But what makes it a special destination in the South American winter month June, are mainly the festivals: Corpus Cristi, Inti Raymi, and many many other Senhores, Senhoras and Santos. Basically every day of my fist month here, there were parades with beautiful colors, dresses, Quechuan songs, and traditionally themed dances. Festival days mean happiness, fireworks, roasted guinea pigs, tourists and traffic jams; and that even in the Incan Ruins of the silent little mountain communities. They are days of celebration and bring talents on the street, but honestly, after one month of blocked main squares etc. I am kind of happy they are over (so everyone can focus on the world cup). German happiness is spreading through the city, especially since the Semi-Finals game and the final victory on Sunday. Oh how I love my home country!
Now though, Cusco is slowly getting back to its normal tranquility, peace and beauty. I find time to write the Mosqoy student biographies I came for and plan the next travels. Lake Titicaca, the jungle, Huacachina desert, beaches, Lima and of course famous Machu Picchu… I will let you know where I end up!
By: Clara Bütow